As you may have noticed there is a little space in my heart at the moment and I’ve been trying to fill it with food. Not literally, of course, that would be weird! I have been loading up on the hearty, warming, nourishing variety of food. Otherwise known as, quite a lot of fat and warm saucy things.
Which of course, led me to the deep south of America, via Jamie Oliver. I have a Jamie book called, funnily enough, ‘America’. It is a book that I flick through often but like many of my recipe books they sit on my shelves and act as inspiration and visual stimulation. It is time to shake things up in my household, I am stuck in a rut of making the same old reliable dishes that have been in my repertoire for years. You know, those dishes that you make because they don’t require thought. Well, it’s high time that I exercise my brain and flex my chef muscles at home.
This brings me, of course, to how I wound up making gumbo and corn bread on a monday night! Really, you would have thought I had better things to do with my time. But no, the sad reality is, that on my days off, I relish the thought of having a little play in the kitchen. So, once I had enlisted Mr T’s help to get me and my multitude of shopping bags home, I was halfway there. First, the corn bread. I realised when I was halfway through making it that corn bread is kinda, sorta similar to making a set polenta cake. It has a lot of common denominators, polenta, for a start, milk, lots of cheese, seasoning etc. I fried my onions and corn and then made a really thick slurry with the eggs, milk etc, etc and then just popped it in a cake tin. It was all pretty darn simple, I still wasn’t sure I was going to like it, I have a love/like relationship with polenta. More of that later…
Onto the main event. The gumbo at first appeared a little daunting but the reality is, if you listed every ingredient of that curry/chilli/roast that you make at least once every week without flinching, they too would make a formidable list but you know it like the back of your hand. So, I took a deep breath and started chopping my little heart out. This brought me to the Roux. The roux as you may or may not know, is that buttery, floury thing that you do to make white sauce. Here, the only difference is that you fry a large amount of different meats with varying degrees of fattiness, ranging from slightly fatty (chicken thighs) to medium fatty (chorizo) to really fatty (streaky bacon) and this then becomes the ‘butter’ for your roux. Before I bore you all into a coma, I will quickly summate. Basically, the longer you cook out the roux, apparently the better your gumbo. The die-hard gumbo makers will apparently stir for up to an hour to get a really rich, almost burnt shortbread essence. However, what with being a gumbo virgin, I thought it better to tread carefully and be a bit lazy so I stirred for about ten minutes. Anyway, after that, you chuck in your meat and veg and stock and ultimately you end up with a really good, smoky, comforting stew with a bit of a kick.
We devoured our southern feast very late last night after a slight detour in the cooking process, which involved a blues band, a few wines, a few friends and a bubbly two-year old with more energy than most of us could muster in a lifetime. When I presented Mr T with a steaming plate of food at about ten pm, he said that he just wanted a small dinner. This is not a phrase I am familiar with, especially when I’ve put in a lot of miles in the kitchen and continued to do so, even whilst marginally intoxicated. Anyway, they were empty threats, once Mr T had introduced himself to the wonders of gumbo, he devoured the entire plate and then stood at the stove, shovelling leftovers straight out of the pot into his mouth with a rather unwieldy spoon.
Oh how we enjoyed the southern comfort… And I enjoyed the leftovers tonight for a lazy dinner. I’m craving something sweet, if only I could work up the enthusiasm to put the maple syrup, cream cheese icing on the pecan cakes that just came out of the oven. Wish me luck!
P.s. Nearly forgot to say that the corn bread was tasty but I just don’t think it’s my thing, it is very dense and the polenta was a bit clunky!
P.p.s. Can you all do me a favour? If you read this post, can you all leave me a comment? It’s really easy to do. I ask for two reasons. One, it is really, really nice to get comments from happy readers and I love the feedback. Two, I am really intrigued to know who is reading. Who are all you lovely people with nothing better to do? By the way, I can see how many people have read my blog so if I’m missing a few comments, I will know! Tell me any suggestions, comments, requests you might have…