- March 2022
- Serves 4-6
- Hands-on time 1¼ hours, simmering time 1½ hours
“Gumbo is a beautifully complex dish that exemplifies the dynamic cooking of Louisiana, with influences from the many cultures that have lived and settled there. Its roots are West African, as its name derives from the word ‘ki’ ngombo’, meaning ‘okra’, which is a key ingredient. There are many variations, but two general styles: Creole and Cajun. The Creole version uses more seafood (shrimp, crab, crayfish and oysters) and tomatoes. The Cajun version doesn’t contain tomatoes and sometimes adds chicken and other meat. This gumbo recipe is more in the Creole style.” – Keshia Sakarah. Keshia is the chef/owner of Caribe’ restaurant and Baruru Supper Club in Brixton, which celebrate the Caribbean’s diverse food culture. Her writing focuses on culture and identity.
- 29.6g (10.5g saturated)
- 17.2g (3.7g sugars)
- 500g sustainable king prawns, peeled and deveined (leave the tails on, if you like; reserve the heads and shells for the stock)
- 2 blue swimmer crabs (about 500g), cut in half – see intro and Where to buy, below
- Juice 1 lemon
- 75g lard
- 20g vegetable oil
- 95g plain flour
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 green pepper, finely chopped
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 small chilli, finely chopped (remove the seeds for less heat if you prefer)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp filé powder (optional – see Where to buy)
- 2 tsp sea salt flakes
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 125g fresh okra, sliced
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- Small bunch flatleaf parsley, leaves finely chopped (reserve the stalks for the stock)
For the fish stock
- 250g andouille sausage or other smoked sausage, sliced (see Where to buy)
- About 180g reserved prawn heads/shells
- 1 medium onion, quartered, skin left on
- 2 carrots, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
- About 8 celery tops (the leaves attached to the ends)
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 3-4 thyme sprigs
- 3-4 parsley stalks
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- Begin by making the stock. Put a large stock pot/saucepan on a medium heat, add the sausage and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes to release the oils and flavours from the meat. Once the base of the pan is coated in the spiced oil, remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Put the prawn shells/heads, onion, carrots, celery tops, bay, thyme, parsley stalks and black peppercorns in the stock pot with 4 litres cold water. Bring the pan to the boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer, uncovered, for 90 minutes, skimming off any impurities that rise to the top. Strain the stock and discard the solids, then set the stock aside (see Make Ahead).
- To prepare the seafood, put the peeled prawns and halved crabs in a bowl and cover with cold water. Squeeze in the lemon juice, turn to coat and set aside.
- To start the gumbo, put the lard and vegetable oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Once melted, add the flour to make a roux and stir continuously for 8-12 minutes. Initially the flour and fat mix will start to bubble, but keep stirring to properly cook and colour the roux, which forms the base of the gumbo. Don’t turn the heat too high or the roux will cook too quickly and burn. Equally, if it’s too low the flour won’t cook enough and will taste raw. Keep the heat on medium. The longer you cook the roux, the darker and thicker it becomes. If you’d prefer a lighter roux, cook it for a slightly shorter time but you do need to aim for a rich caramel colour.
- Add the onion, green pepper, celery, garlic and chilli. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes, ensuring everything is well combined. Add the tomato paste, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, filé powder (if using), salt, pepper and 1.5 litres of the fresh stock (see Make Ahead). Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
- Return the sausage to the pan along with the okra, then simmer for a further 10 minutes until slightly thickened.
- Add the set-aside crab pieces to the pot, ensuring they’re covered in the broth (top up with a little more stock or water if needed). Put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes, then add all the prawns, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes more, just until pink.
- Serve the gumbo with rice, sprinkled with the sliced spring onions and chopped parsley.
Where to buy: You can get blue swimmer crabs from some fishmongers or from thefishsociety.co.uk (usually sold frozen) – they’re used here mainly to add flavour. If you can’t find any, use another variety of crab, sustainable Scottish langoustines or extra prawns – or even fresh crabmeat, adding it at the end. Find filé powder at Amazon and andouille sausage (NB: it’s not the French speciality andouillette) at franconian.co.uk, or use another smoked sausage such as Polish kielbasa.
Make the stock a day ahead. Portion leftovers into containers and freeze for up to 6 months.
The base of many modern gumbo recipes is a roux (flour and fat or oil) cooked until dark, a technique that speaks to the historic French colonisation of Louisiana. The stew is thickened further by okra or sometimes filé (dried, ground sassafras leaves), a herb first used by Native Americans.
During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, okra was one of the many foods that travelled on ships along the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas from the 16th century – and numerous cooking traditions and recipes made that same journey.
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