I have been planning a Cajun themed feast ever since I introduced my friend Kim to the joys of True Blood a while back. The foodie in me drools at all the delicious food that gets served in Merlotte’s. I often take culinary inspiration from films and literature – I feel that this article from the Times directly applies to me. However, never before have films introduced me to something that would make me completely rethink my culinary top 5. I used to be all about Greek and Middle-eastern food – now I am not so sure.
In case you are wondering, True Blood is the ultimate Saturday night in guilty pleasure grown up television, bordering on soft porn. TV seriously doesn’t get more entertaining, there are vampires, drugs, religious nuts, witches, fairies, werewolves, shape shifters, steamy sex, amazing Louisiana accents, manly men, flamboyant gays and fantastic food. The opening credits should give you a good idea of what it’s all about. Eerie atmosphere and awesome cinematography. And so on Thursday me and Kim stocked up on red wine, decided to make jambalaya and spent half the day on the sofa, glued to the screen.
I bought Jamie Oliver’s book on American food some time ago. While the TV show was a complete cringe fest, the book has redeemed him somewhat and offers some amazing recipes and lots of inspiring photography (often reason enough for me to buy a cookbook). There is a section on Southern food and Louisiana in particular. Skimming over the recipes that require you to source alligator meat, jambalaya comes out as the most accessible introduction to the fantastic Cajun cuisine. This type of cooking was a great unknown to me in the pre-True Blood era. I did not feel like plunging headlong into the unknown, so I did a bit of research, which has led to the purchase of more cookbooks. Cajun cuisine is all about simple, bold flavours, sea food, chilli, garlic and aromatic fresh herbs – all good things – and jambalaya contains them all.
So please follow our example – purchase a True Blood box set, lots of red wine, wear a checkered shirt, cook jambalaya and while away a Saturday afternoon in blissful idleness.
PS There was meant to be pecan pie for dessert but I felt so very weary having baked till late two nights in a row – I just brought along some of those amazing cookies I made for my last day at work. My next post will be all about making and eating them.
Jambalaya (serves 4)
4 chicken drumsticks, skin on
salt & pepper
200g chorizo, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 green and 1 red pepper, cut in big chunks
2 sticks of celery, chopped
4 fresh bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
3 cloves of garlic
2 fresh red chillies, chopped (de-seeded – up to you)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
700 ml chicken stock
4 big handfuls of long grain rice
150g king prawns
Start by seasoning the chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne. Heat a glug of oil in a big pan and brown the chicken all over on medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for 5 minutes – take care not to burn it. Add the veggies , herbs and check seasoning. Give it all a good stir and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring often. When the veg has softened, add the garlic and chillies., stir and add the tomatoes and the stock. It should smell truly amazing now – that’s the bay leaves.
Bring everything to the boil, turn the heat all the way down, pop a lid on and simmer for about half an hour. By now the chicken should be cooked. At this point add the rice and more stock or water if needed. At this point we left the house to procure wine. When we got back it was good to go – I would say about 20 minutes. We really should have stayed in and kept stirring the rice but luckily it did not burn. Now stir in the prawns and heat them through. Jambalaya should not be completely dry so add a bit more stock or water if it has all evaporated. Turn the heat off and give it a couple of minutes rest. Plate up and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Scoff down in front of the telly and wash it down with some lovely red wine. Pretend the wine is B negative.
Sorry about the crap photos – I was more keen to eat than to faff about with trying to get some semblance of natural light into them.