A week of London, seeing friends, readjusting to being home, all our washing done and I was ready to reacquaint myself with the food that we had eaten on our adventures.
First up: Gumbo.
One of the first difficulties that I encountered was the lack of certain spices and ingredients that are commonly found in the deep south. Andouille, a coarsely ground sausage, smoked raw, seasoned with classic southern spices and with a specifically crumbly texture (the ones at least I ate were) I failed to find. No sign of File at my local supermarket either, so we had to go without. As for the sausage we couldn’t not include it, so an alternative was discovered, at my local Polish deli. This sausage lacks the extra spices of cayenne pepper, thyme, garlic and red peppers that make Andouille what it is, but we tried it anyway, and added the spices ourselves.
Polsmak is found on the ugly end of Balls Pond Rd, nestled amongst Jerk chicken shops and grubby off-licences. You walk past it a million times, as I have, and never pop in. Not any more at least – This little gem has many a smoked and non smoked sausage, in various assorted sizes. Ordering what we needed we left, and then began to walk home, then turned around and bought some more for the road – greedy little piggies that we were.
With a whole chicken boned, we seared it in the hot olive oil with our Kielbasa Wegierska (actually Hungarian) sausage until it coloured golden. Removing them on to the side, we moved on to the key phase of making the base.
The Gumbo’s secret is an illusive one, mostly because everyone has ‘their’ way of doing it. Some make a roux and others rely on the thickening agent of okra. I, mostly because I am fond of the richness that roux provides went down the Frenchy’s route, looking for a colour ‘between peanut butter and chocolate’. This is quite a tricky thing to pull of with any success first time I soon discovered, and 30 minutes after confidently beginning, I began to ache in the wrist and bore of the repetition. Eventually, with a bit more flour and a little more time, the colour deepened and we declared it sufficiently dark to move on to more exciting things.
Adding the sausage and the chicken back into the pot, we added a can of tomatoes (not a traditional addition, but hey, that is ‘our’ way of doing it) and the okra, onions, green pepper or as they call it the holy trinity.
One bottle of wine later, and many curious stirs of the pot, we decreed it ready. Serving it with fluffy stubby rice, I felt quite proud of my first born. Like anything that you declare ‘yours’ I will have to spend many an evening perfecting this dish. And the best thing? Plenty more stored in the fridge for many days later for hungry friends or lazy nights.