Tag Archives: seafood

Seafood and Chicken Gumbo

There’s something quite romantic about a home cooked gumbo. Not Valentine’s Day romantic, but romantic in the sense that it conjures up images in your head of another place and time that you long for.  It’s certainly not a dish that you come across very often in Sydney, but it was one of those dishes that I always wanted to make.  With a week off down the coast and nothing on the schedule but cooking and eating, I had my perfect setting for making this dish.

I got this recipe from Ride or Fry by Dante Gonzales, but adapted it to what I was able to find around Jervis Bay.   It’s a fantastic book that was given to me from my beautiful wife for Christmas and its filled with American classics with hints of Caribbean, Mexican and Asian influences.  There are plenty of things I left off the list like poblano peppers and southern spices that I couldn’t find down the coast, so try to hunt everything down  in advanced before deciding on making this.

You’ll want to start this at least 4-5 hours before you want to serve.

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Gumbo Ingredients

  • 2 large green peppers
  • 500g chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 smoked sausages, chopped
  • ½ cup of peanut oil
  • ¾ cup of flour
  • 2 onions
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 capsicums
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup of okra, roasted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme, chopped
  • Spices*
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400g of raw prawns (with heads and shells)
  • 6-8 Alaskan crab legs
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • ½ cup of chopped parsley

Gumbo Stock

  • 1 onion, shopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2  bay leaves
  • ½ cup of parsley
  • 10 -12 cups of water
  • 1 Chicken carcass
  • Prawn heads and shells
  • 1 Fish carcass
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

*For the spices, add a pinch of each of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cumin, bay leaf powder, mustard seed, ground cloves, and fennel seed

Stock

Gumbo is all about the stock, so you’ve got to make it from scratch.  And if you play your cards right, it won’t cost you anymore, you won’t have any waste, and your food will taste better in the end.  Instead of just buying chicken breast, buy a whole chicken and use the carcass to make the stock.  Instead of buying shelled prawns, get them whole and use the shells and heads in the stock as well.  Most of the veggies that get thrown into the Gumbo can be used to make the base of the stock, so just make sure you have a few more on hand.

Back to making the gumbo stock.   This can be done a day in advance and you can freeze leftovers, which always come in handy when you need stock down the track.  Add some oil to the pan and throw in your garlic, onions, celery, carrots and let that sizzle for a few minutes.  Add your prawn bits (shells and head), bay leaves, herbs and chicken carcass to the pot.  You can throw in other parts of the chicken as well to later shred into chicken sandwiches, but you want to avoid adding in too much skin. If you have a fish carcass, throw it in now as well.  Top up with enough water to cover everything and then leave it to simmer for the next few hours, skimming scum off the surface once in a while.  When done, pour the stock into a large bowl through a fine sieve and keep aside.

Gumbo

Now that you have your stock, puree the green peppers with 2 cups of stock, and then add it back to the gumbo stock. Get a big pot (the biggest one you have) and heat up a tablespoon of oil on medium high and sauté your chicken and sausage pieces in batches until browned on all sides (about 5 -8 mins).  Don’t worry if you get some meat sticking to the bottom of the pan – it’ll just add to the flavour.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pot, pour in the rest of the oil and the flour as well, stirring constantly for 20 minutes until a roux forms.  This will take about 20 minutes and you’ll know its ready when it turns thickish and is the colour of chocolate milk.  This is the perfect time to break out the New Orleans jams and make the time float by.

Once you have your roux, throw in your onions, celery, capsicums and garlic, and cook on low heat for about 8-10 mins, stirring regularly.Now add your stock.  Be sure to add it slowly and stir constantly to avoid any lumps.

Return the chicken and sausage to the pot along with cherry tomatoes, bay leaves, chilli flakes, thyme and spice mix.  Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.  Take the lid off and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lastly, add the prawns, crab legs, corn, okra and parsley and continue to cook uncovered for 15 minutes.  I had some extra calamari on hand so I threw this into the pot as well.

Your gumbo is now ready!  Slop them into bowls making sure everyone gets a little of everything and serve with rice or French bread and maybe some mixed greens.  Slurp that down with your grin.

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Jams

One of the biggest reasons why I made this dish, was my love for southern soul music.  In particular, New Orleans soul music.  New Orleans is the home to so many great funk, jazz and soul artists including The Meters, Eddie Bo, Lee Dorsey, and countless numbers of jazz and big band players.

I’m focusing the mix of music more on the funk end of the spectrum as I think the raw gritty funk matches the gumbo just perfectly.  Funk heads out there will notice that most of the tracks I’ve selected in the Spotify playlist have been cherry picked from the excellent New Orleans Funk compilations by the brilliant Soul Jazz label.  They’ve recently put out volume 3 in the series and they’re all highly recommended.

Sink into the groove while you slurp that soup.

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Black risotto with squid

This is a recipe that I made with my older sister for a bunch of our friends when I was down in Melbourne a couple weeks ago.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my older sister is an amazing cook, photographer and food blogger.  Prior to moving to Melbourne a couple months ago, she was living in Tuscany for the past 5 years with her Italian husband (who is a sommelier and an amazing cook), so she knows a thing or two about Italian cooking.

Black risotto with squid

We used a risotto rice from Verona called “Vialone Nano” (as opposed to the more commonly known rices arborio and carnaroli). Vialone Nano is one of the best rices to use for risotto – it’s smaller and absorbs liquids faster but it can tend to be easy to overcook so make sure you taste as you go.  It comes from Verona in the Veneto region of Italy (where Venice also is) – and according to my sister is the place for rice-growing and the place to eat risotto.

My sister pulled the recipe from Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, which was the first book that put together the varied cuisines of each region of Italy into one and called it “Italian”.  He calls this dish “Black risotto with squid, Florentine style” because the original recipe is supposed to have silverbeet in it (apparently Florentines like silverbeet!). We took out the silverbeet and served it as a side dish instead, sauteed with soaked raisins and toasted pinenuts. Yum.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole squid, cleaned (your fishmonger can do this), and shopped into rings or bite-sized pieces
  • 8 grams of squid ink (find it in Italian delis)
  • 1 small brown onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 a stalk of celery, chopped finely
  • a few parsley stalks, chopped, plus parsley leaves, chopped for garnish
  • 500 grams of Vialone Nano (or Carnaroli) rice
  • a glass of dry white wine
  • water
  • a knob of butter
  • a drizzle of olive oil

Saute the onion, celery and parsley stalks in the butter and olive oil over a gentle heat. You don’t want the onion to brown but to become slowly transparent. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil and butter for a minute or so. When this also becomes transparent, add the wine, the squid ink and and stir. The rice will take about 17 minutes to cook – maybe even slightly less with Vialone Nano – so when the liquid begins to evaporate, add some more water, about 1/2 a cup full at a time, so that there is always liquid in the pan (but not too much). Remember to shake the pan as every now and then so the rice is tossed.

About 5 minutes before you estimate the rice should be done, add the squid and continue cooking. You want the risotto to still have enough liquid it in so that when you shake the saucepan, it moves easily. Dish up and garnish with parsley.

As a side note, if anyone wants to use the silverbeet in the recipe, the proportions are 600 grams of rice, 600 grams of squid and 600 grams of silverbeet. Consider that 400 grams of uncooked rice is enough for 6 people when you’re using these proportions.

Serves 8

JAM: Tony Esposito – Pagaia

The track I’ve chosen is an 80s Italian record from Tony Esposito, and was a favourite of Italian DJ Danielle Baldelli. Baldelli made his name in the 80s playing at the Verona based club Cosmic and developed a loyal following playing an eclectic mix of slow but percussive African, Brazilian, funk, disco and synth music. Often playing records at wrong speeds (at 33 instead of 45 and vice versa), Baldelli and his ‘cosmic’ sound is cherished in certain underground circles  and the records on his playlists remain sought after items by collectors and DJs.  Baldelli played in Sydney for Vivid festival last year and still proved to be on his game with his records sounding more relevant than ever.

The track that I am showcasing is off Tony Esposito’s excellent 1982 album Tamburo and also hides other Cosmic classics like Je-Na.  It’s funky, psychedelic, a little weird, but makes fantastic dance music, which is exactly what the cosmic sound is all about.  Listen below:

You can find this album on vinyl second hand from places like Discogs or you can buy the mp3 on iTunes.  Go hunt down some of Danielle Baldelli’s mixes online if you like what you hear.

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Mussels with lemongrass and chilli

Thai food is one of those cuisines that I never bothered to learn too much about as we enjoy such a high abundance of great Thai restaurants in Sydney.  However, after spending a few weeks in northern Thailand over the new year, I developed a strong appreciation for the flavours and the culture and now I can’t stop cooking their food! It’s all so fragrant, well balanced and delicious, I’m a bit of an idiot for not learning how to cook Thai earlier.

This dish I’m taking you through today is Mussels with lemongrass and chilli.  It’s incredibly easy to whip up and even easier to scoff down.  And really, there’s nothing much better than inviting friends around to tackle a huge pot of mussels.

Mussels with Lemongrass and Chilli

Mussels with Lemongrass and Chilli

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram of mussels
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 lemon grass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 inches of galangal, cut into 7-8 slices
  • 3 long red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • vegetable oil
  • Holy basil leaves, roughly chopped

First things first, you’ve got to scrub the mussels and remove the beards to make sure you don’t have any gritty pieces in your meal.  If you’re using live mussels (as opposed to frozen ones), discard any open ones and any that don’t close when tapped on.

Heat some oil in a wok or big pot at medium heat and stir fry the garlic, onion, lemongrass, galangal and chillies for about 2 minutes.  Add the mussels to the pan and toss all the herbs in with the mussels for a few more minutes before adding the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.  Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, shaking the pan or wok frequently until the shells are open.  Discard any unopen shells.  Mix in the holy basil and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Serve immediately with a side of steamed rice – it’s fantastic to pour the juices over the rice at the end.

Serves 4

JAM

While America, Africa and Europe were being extensively mined by beat diggers in the 90s and 00s, it seems that collectors have only recently turned their attention to the funky sounds out of Thailand.  Collector/DJ/Store owner Maft Sai from ZudRangMa Records has been instrumental in getting the word out about Luk Thung, Molam and other forms of Thai funk to the masses through compilations on such labels as Finders Keepers, Soundway and Light in the Attic.

While I was in Thailand, I happened to stumble across two compilations: Luk Thung! The Roots of Thai Funk and Thai Funk ZudRangMa – both highly recommended and a great starting point for Thai funk.  Not only do you get a compilation of some of the rarest and funky records to come out of Asia, both CDs also come beautifully packaged and include posters.  One comes in a hand stitched cloth with beautiful Thai patterns and the other in a delicate bamboo casing.  Amazing packaging:

The track I’ve chosen to accompany this dish is called Noom rai poor (kenaf farm man) by The Royal Sprites from the second Thai Funk compilation.  I haven’t been able to find out too much info on this band, but they seemed to be a pretty big deal in Thailand in the early 80s and made a few crossover hits covering the likes of Boney M.  Just wait for the killer keyboard solo that comes in two thirds of the way through. Stream The Royal Sprites – Noom rai por (kenaf farm man) below:

Light in the Attic have just reissued the Thai Funk compilations on vinyl so grab them while you can here.

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