This has become, as they say, my signature dish. Jambalaya is a rice dish that was first served in New Orleans. You can find similar dishes all over the world. Believe it or not, I never made or even ate jambalaya until I decided to open my restaurant in Brighton. Then I did a lot of research into different ways of preparing it and came up with my own European soul version.
I have also developed fish and vegetarian jambalayas. The beauty of this easy dish is that you can substitute or add whatever you like. It’s a great way to use up what’s in your kitchen.
A true jambalaya contains gumbo filé, a greenish powder that comes from the sassafras tree, which is native to America. It is not readily available in the UK but if you are travelling to the southern states of America you will find it there. I often have problems myself finding it up north in America. There are some online suppliers that can deliver straight to your door. Do order some as you need only a small amount in this dish, and you will then have plenty left over to add to gumbos and soups.
4 chicken breasts (I prefer them skinned but you
could leave the skin on, if you like)
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons Momma’s Cajun Seasoning
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 onions, 1 roughly chopped, 1 thinly sliced
1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow pepper, half of each
diced and the other half cut into strips
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional, but it adds a nice
touch if you have them)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 chorizo sausages, skinned and sliced
1 chilli, preferably Scotch bonnet, seeded and finely
chopped, or left whole
400g easy-cook American style rice
1 teaspoon turmeric
450g mixed vegetables, e.g. 1 carrot, diced,
1 courgette, diced, a handful of peas, a handful
of green beans and a few broccoli and cauliflower
florets (or you could use a small bag of frozen
mixed vegetables) 1 litre water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon gumbo filé (if you have it)
500g peeled raw king prawns or crayfish
a handful mushrooms, sliced
First of all, you need to prepare the chicken. If you look at other recipes for jambalaya, you will notice that the raw chicken is usually added at the beginning and cooked with the rice. I find the chicken tends to stew if you do this, and the texture isn’t as juicy as it should be.
So I marinate it, then stir-fry it separately and add it in at the end. So, cut the chicken breasts into thin strips. Sprinkle over the lemon juice, then 1 tablespoon of the Cajun seasoning, and set aside to marinate while you cook the jambalaya.
Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil, followed by the chopped onion, diced peppers and crushed garlic. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the remaining Cajun seasoning and half the cumin, plus the salt and pepper, then add the chorizo. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion and peppers have softened and the chorizo begins to release some of its juices. The spices will give off their fragrance and coat the pan, which will enhance the dish.
I call this seasoning the pot.
Now stir in the chopped fresh chilli. Remember that Scotch bonnet chillies are very hot; if you have any cuts they will burn you. If you are worried about the heat level, a useful tip is to leave the chilli whole and add it to the dish with the water or stock, removing it after 10 minutes. Its unique flavour will be released, but the heat will be kept to a minimum.
Add the rice and stir well, then add the turmeric and the remaining Cajun seasoning and cumin. Stir everything together until the rice is fully coated, then add the mixed vegetables and the water or chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and add the gumbo filé, if using. Simmer, uncovered, over a low heat for 20 minutes. When the rice is swollen and is almost cooked, add the prawns or crayfish and simmer for a further 8-10 minutes, until the shellfish are cooked.
Adjust the seasoning according to taste – you might want to add a touch more chilli.
Now for the final ingredient, the stir-fried chicken. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan, add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the sliced onion, peppers, and mushrooms and stir-fry for 3 minutes more, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Place on top of the jambalaya and serve immediately.