About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, January 12, 2007
Not Your Usual Stew
I blame Rick.

I didn’t mean to fool around with a classic dish; it was just a simple day catching up with some cooking programs when Rick Stein came on the telly with his Taste Of The Sea show. He’s comfortable, kind of like an old jumper that fits just so, and I pretty much know this series as I have the book, but like a film you might have watched a few times there is always something new revealed.

Like jambalaya.

It’s sort of funny that a lad from Padstow in England has a taste for a dish from the American Deep South, but Rick is also a fan of Mexican cuisine, so it does fit with him. Of course this bloke from Australia has no real idea if what he was demonstrating was authentic or not, but when he said to use three or four cloves of garlic, but rather eight cloves was more to his taste, I was gone, there is nothing like excess to stamp yourself all over a dish.

When I watch cooking programs, a certain arrogance takes over, like I’m channelling Careme or Escoffier or any other great, departed French chef. I believe that I can recreate any dish that catches my fancy. The truth is that a certain part, sometimes the essential part of the recipe, somehow fails to imprint in my memory. Perhaps if I managed to call down an English speaking chef it would go a little better....can you hear me Elizabeth David? For the most part it’s no great disaster, like when Meg Ryan as Sally demonstrated to great effect that it is possible to fake even that most intimate of human moments, so when you produce a dish that may not be the real deal - no problem, so long as you keep it to yourself.

And of course there are no New Orleans secret food police and even if there were, they wouldn’t trouble themselves to travel all the way down under.

Now in making paella, I know that rice is an intrinsic part of the dish, but after that and saffron anything goes. In a way I knew that jambalaya needed rice, it was just that it was separately cooked, not as part of the dish. I found this out later when checking the book that I had in fact got it right. You may have cause to wonder that if I did have the book, why didn’t I just follow the recipe? Call it a memory test. Okay, I failed. There was no problem with what Rick referred to as the ‘holy trinity’ of Creole cookery, that distinctive combination of green peppers, celery and onions - certain combinations are best not tampered with and when the words ‘holy trinity’ are mentioned, it is like a red flag saying don’t touch.

But it was curious to discover that jambalaya is partly based on paella and that rice is definitely a part of proceedings. Now I know all you people from New Orleans and thereabouts are sadly shaking your heads at my ignorance, but please, I did intuitively understand that there must be some rice, even if it was served as a side. But there was a peck of smoked, garlic sausage, a flock of chickens, a school of prawns, plus a good hit of chile heat, even a tin of tomatoes that I thought Rick put in, which in fact he didn’t. All in all, there was quite a lot of jambalaya, so much in fact that I was completely able to retrieve my riceless version a couple of days later.

It was at this point that I had a breakthrough in understanding the name of the dish. There is apparently plenty of conjecture over the origin of the word jambalaya; some hold that it is a corruption of the French word for ham, jambon. When the leftovers were put in a pot with some rice and a bit of extra liquid and cooked until the rice was done, I then lifted the lid to take a look; even though I had no idea what the word jambalaya actually means, the contents of the pot in an onomatopoetic way looked like jambalaya if that makes sense - it is a dish that looks like it sounds, sort of a jumble of everything.

I have to go now; there is a knock at the door. Is that a Southern drawl I can hear….

Not Paying Attention Jambalaya

5o ml (2 fl oz) oil
1 large smoked, garlic pork sausage, diced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
8 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 large onion, sliced
2 green peppers, seeded and sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
4 small hot red chillies, chopped
1 skinless breast and 2 skinless thighs of chicken, chopped
450 g (1 lb) raw prawn tails
1 400 g (1 lb) tin tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
a few bay leaves, thyme and oregano stalks, tied
salt and fresh ground pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil and gently fry the sausage, then add the paprikas and garlic and sweat one minute more. Add the onion, green peppers, celery and the hot chillies and cook over a medium heat until all the moisture is driven off and everything is a little coloured. Add the chicken and prawn tails, cook for another five minutes, then add the tomatoes and chicken stock, season and simmer for twenty minutes. Serve with rice.

*Note: A certain Southern gentleman is suggesting that there won’t be any charges if I tell you to add 450 g (1 lb) rice and 1.2 l (2 pints) chicken stock instead of the tomatoes and the 1 cup of chicken stock, in which case simmer for only 15 minutes.

For those of you following my computer woes, this is one of the posts that was trapped in my old computer, but thanks to the magic of memory stick is now free. Maybe I should make a New Year's resolution to do a computer course, but where would the fun be? This post also serves as my entry to 'Waiter, there's something in my...' which this month is being hosted by Andrew over at SpittoonExtra.
  posted at 7:26 am

At 10:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so fun over the top!
Not Paying Attention Jambalaya is certainly properly named. Still good to eat.
The garlic is fine!!

At 10:04 am, Blogger neil said...

I reckon that's why I didn't use the book, so much more interesting this way. It was actually very good and later on I found out it's not dissimilar to a shrimp etouffee recipe that I saw at http://www.nolacuisine.com/2006/12/28/shrimp-etouffee-recipe/ I would just need to add a bit of worcestershire sauce and leave out the other meats.

At 8:25 am, Blogger Reb said...

Smells ok to me. Try Sorry I Got Distracted For A Monment Gumbo next. It should be just as good without the okra or the file :)

At 9:46 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi reb, I think someone else already did get distracted with gumbo, how else did the roux get that brown colour in the first place? I think it was a case of oops, but let's see how it goes.

At 10:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds superb one I must try out... and will as soon as I get the event write-up posted!

Thanks for taking part Neil, looks great.

At 3:02 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your style!

At 7:37 am, Blogger Elizabeth said...

From what I can gather (not having ever been to the American deep south) the only things that have to be in jambalaya are ham, shrimps (or perhaps crayfish), tomatoes, chilies and onions. And that it should probably be served on rice.

So everything looks right, to me anyway. And even if it isn't a "correct" jambalaya, it still looks right to me. Delicious even.

Great post.


At 5:06 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw the recipe on TV Saturday n looked good, thought I would give it a go ! thanks for your help, will let you know how it goes. Gordon.

At 7:40 pm, Blogger jasonbob said...

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