Feed all comers with a one-pot Cajun dish for relaxed summer evenings
Louisiana favourite jambalaya is a tasty rice dish and close cousin of paella
This Cajun-inspired rice dish is just what’s called for on a rainy summer’s day. It’s easy to make with pantry ingredients such as rice and tinned tomato. It also has that attractive one-pot-that-feeds-all feature, always a good thing on relaxed summer evenings.
I sometimes make a vegetarian version by increasing the amount of paprika and adding cubes of aubergine, courgettes and extra peppers. Lots of vegetables can be added, so it’s a great dish to celebrate the season’s bounty. Gumbo and jambalaya are often confused with one another. The main difference is that the rice is added to the gumbo once cooked, but in jambalaya the rice is cooked in the pot.
I always stir the uncooked rice in the chorizo juices and spices so it can absorb all of the gorgeous smoky sweet flavour. I’ve used basmati here, but any rice can be used – just increase the amount of liquid if you’re using brown rice.
Jambalaya originated in south Louisiana in the 18th century, and its key ingredients always consist of rice, spices, vegetables and a protein. Often diced ham or prawns are added too. The holy trinity of onion, celery and pepper form the base.
It always reminds me of paella and rightly so, as they’re cousins. Spanish colonists couldn’t source saffron in Louisiana in the 1700s so they used ingredients that were locally available. Smoked sausage is usually used, and I love to use Gubbeen chorizo; it has a distinctive sweet flavour that really enhances the dish.
It also has African influences, being similar to jollof rice, a west African dish that uses tomatoes, rice and locally available ingredients such as shellfish or meat. It is truly a full-flavoured melting pot of a dish influenced by many countries. Creole red jambalaya like this one is made with tomatoes and usually found in New Orleans, whereas the tomato-free brown version is Cajun and found in rural parts of south Louisiana.
This is a really great recipe to make to feed a crowd and can be made in large quantities. I’ve often made it after days at the beach, or when friends come over. It’s perfect for eating in bowls in the garden and can be served with a big green salad and crusty bread.