I’ve been sailing the high seas of the colourful, hearty, fairly healthy and gloriously aquatic seafood stew, from the French Bouillabaise to the Catalan Suquet de pescados. This stop – the Deep South – is for a particularly smoky, robust, soulful rendition. London-based illustrator Victoria Topping brings the bayou to life, illustrating the Creole classic Gumbo – a symphony of flavours, cultures and rhythms of the south!
Gumbo is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana, and there are said to be as many gumbos as there are mammas in Louisiana.
Not restricted strictly to seafood, Gumbo can be squirrel, bunny, chicken, chorizo, or any combination of these. It may be a thick stew served in a mound on a plate, or more of a thin soupy number, but essentially it’s a combination of: a meat, some vegetables, a thickener* (okra, filé powder, roux), and the holy trinity (onion, celery, carrots).
*The thickeners can be the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafrasleaves), or the French roux – a good indication of the culinary influences of the area.
This version is a medium thickness number. If you want it thicker, add little less liquid. Thinner, a little more 😉
Serves 6 (with bread and/ or rice)
- 600g prawns
- 1 kg mussels
- 300g barramundi fillet
- 1 squid tube
- 3 limes
- 300g prawn shells (from the 600g prawns)
- 500ml fish stock
- 1 L water
- 1 bay leaf, crumpled
- coriander stems
- 1/2 cup flour
- 125 ml vegetable oil
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 sticks celery
- 1 green chilli
- 1 green capsicum
- 445g can okra, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
- 1 400 tin tomatoes
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 teaspoons worcestershire
- 1 bay leaf
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add flour, whisk to make a paste and cook, stirring with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon for about 15 minutes, until a deep golden colour. Add onions and remaining oil and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, until onions soften.
Increase heat, add garlic, celery, capsicum and chilli and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add okra and tomatoes and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add thyme, stock, bay leaf and worcestershire, bring to boil then reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Add mussels and cook for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to open. Add remaining seafood, mix well, and cook for about 3 minutes, until just done.
Serve with lots of lime, coriander, parsley, and extra chopped chilli.
“Holding the ground prep the animal for sacrifice
Rub the body with plenty garlic and a classic spice
Holy Trinity, peppers onions celery
Every time I rap I’m on the verge to catch a felony”