There were certain things about Sunday Suppers that were always a juggle: the kitchen arrangements, for starters. It’s an open plan space and in large part occupied by the stove and other appliances. Working surfaces are limited, so I have to be super organised. To begin with, there was a lot of juggling which, with practise and better organisation, became a lot easier. Like ensuring I’ve got all the bits out and don’t have to go thundering around the house to fish out dessert dishes or ice bowls or… It doesn’t really matter as long as didn’t have to make like a duck, diving for food in a pond when guests were enjoying supper.
Different seasons also presented juggles of a different kind. Each week’s menu needed to suit carnivores, vegetarians and increasingly, vegans. Somehow, somehow, in summer this is easier to do. Not that I am complaining. I enjoy(ed) the challenge and I enjoy discovering dishes that are sufficiently versatile that they can accommodate a range of dietary requirements. One of these is the humble jambalaya.
A couple of years ago, I had a short stint doing street food type suppers for a friend of mine who had a little wine bar in the village. When winter approached, the type of fare had to shift from a boerewors roll (a type of hot dog) to something that might be a little more substantial and which would stay hot. For various reasons I canned the idea of stir fry (I don’t have the equipment and when the wind howls – as it does – the gas flame just blows out). Similarly, paella and risotto went the same way, but for different reasons, but my research – which was focused on the vegetarians – threw up a Jambalaya recipe.
I had only ever heard or read about Jambalaya in novels set in Louisiana or New Orleans. The word had certain appeal. I liked the basic ingredients – onions, peppers, butternut squash – and, of course – herbs and spices including chilies. I had found a one-size-would-fit-all dish: with the addition of slices of chorizo or similar some cooked chicken or shrimp, I had found the solution.
That first attempt was a hit. I came home without as much as a grain of rice. I have since looked a little more into the origin of the dish and, like the bredie* I wrote about a while ago, it’s a great example of the fusion of foods from different cultures, and reflecting the history of Louisiana:
Jambalaya has its origins in several rice-based dishes well attested in the Mediterranean cuisines of Spain, West Africa and France, especially in the Spanish dish paella (native to Valencia), West African dish jollof and the French dish known as jambalaia (native to Provence). Other seasoned rice-based dishes from other cuisines include pilaf, risotto and Hoppin’ John. (Source)
I have, since making that the first time, made adjustments, some necessitated by my own preferences and others simply because of what may (or may not be available). One of the key changes is to replace the herbs with McGregor Herbes de Provence and to roast the butternut to add later and/or to use it as a garnish. A third change, for vegetarians, has been to add chickpeas (plain or spiced – recipe to follow in time) or lentils.
So, without further ado, here is my basic jambalaya:
Basic, slow cooked Jambalaya
meat or vegetarian proteins added later
The quantities are such that the basic dish, once prepared can be split into two, making it easy to do both meat and vegan meals at the same time. It’s also done in a slow cooker which is not just easy, but really encourages great flavour development.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 sweet bell peppers (all colours, chopped)
1 chilli (de-seeded if you don’t like heat) and chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ bunch soup celery, finely chopped
1 tin peeled, chopped tomatoes or 2 – 3 fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 – 2 fresh or dried chillies, chopped
2 cups rice
2 cups vegetable stock
25g (sachet) tomato puree
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp McGregor Herbes de Provence
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tin of lentils or chickpeas or other spicy vegan substitute
1 large chorizo sausage and/or left-over bits of cooked chicken or frozen mixed seafood
What to do
- In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, peppers, and celery to oil.
- Cook onions until they begin to soften, about three minutes then add in garlic, chilli and tomatoes. Continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes
- Add the Worcestershire sauce and rice. Cook rice in mixture for 1-2 minutes before adding liquids.
- Finally, add remaining ingredients.
- Once combined, pour into the slow cooker and set to low.
- Do not disturb for 3 – 4 hours, but watch the liquid. Once it’s all been absorbed, open the lid and stir. If the rice is not cooked, add more liquid and replace the lid and allow to cook until the rice is soft.
- At this point, add your choice of additional ingredients, replace the lid and allow these to cook/heat through.
Serve with roasted vegetables like butternut, cauliflower and broccoli or a side salad to make a hearty, complete meal.
Download the recipe
A while ago, I decided (for my own convenience and yours, to create downloadable versions of the recipes I dream up. You’ll get the full jambalaya recipe here.
This is another of those posts that I’m finding and fixing. Brings back memories of a very different time. It seems so long ago, but it isn’t really. Just eighteen months.
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
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