One-pot dish that results in clean plates

A quick and easy rice meal with cajun and creole inspiration

Cajun or creole inspired dirty rice. Photograph: Lilly Higgins

Cajun or creole inspired dirty rice. Photograph: Lilly Higgins

 

Dirty rice is most commonly found in the creole regions of Southern Louisiana and in other areas of the American South. It’s a quick and easy one-pot meal that is nutritious and served at almost all family events.

As with all traditional foods served over generations, no two recipes are the same. The “dirty” description comes from the liver, hearts and gizzards that were traditionally minced up and fried till brown before adding to the white rice, along with plenty of cajun seasoning such as thyme, cayenne pepper and a little paprika.

Cajun and creole cooking are very similar. The main difference between the two seasoning mixes is that the creole recipes will add oregano to the spice mix, a legacy of Italian immigrants to New Orleans. A cajun gumbo is usually based on a dark roux with shellfish or fowl added and a creole gumbo usually has tomatoes and contains shellfish.

The holy trinity of creole cooking is bell pepper, celery and onion. It is similar to the mirepoix in French cuisine where finely diced carrot, onion and celery form the flavour base for many dishes, or the Italian soffritto of onion, garlic and tomato.

The finished dish is usually scattered with parsley or finely sliced spring onion before being served on a big platter. It can be a main course on its own, or served alongside pork chops or chicken.

It’s an incredibly economical dish to make, usually relying on offal for flavour and nutrition. If you are going to go the more traditional route I recommend sourcing organic chicken livers and using pork or beef mince. Of course you can do a vegetable only version and add kidney or black eyed beans, but the flavour of the chicken livers is what really makes dirty rice what it is.  

Add some extra cayenne or jalapenos if you’d prefer more heat, or just serve it with some hot sauce. I’ve included my recipe for cajun spice mix. This can be stored in an airtight jar and is delicious scattered over potato wedges.

Dirty rice

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

85g minced pork

85g chicken livers, very finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, finely chopped

2 celery stalk, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

4 tsp cajun spice seasoning (make your own, see below, or buy it)

2 tbsp brandy (or water)

600g long grain white rice

800ml stock or water

3 tbsp butter

A handful of finely chopped spring onions

Cajun seasoning mix:

2 tbsp salt

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

If you’re making the cajun seasoning, combine all of the listed ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Set aside till needed.

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. Add the chicken liver and minced pork and brown for 5-10 minutes until nicely coloured.

Add the finely chopped pepper, onion, celery and garlic. Cook for about 8 minutes. Add the bay leaves, four teaspoons of cajun seasoning mix and cook for 30 seconds, till fragrant. Pour over the brandy or water to deglaze the pan and scrape any brown pieces from the base. This is where the flavour really is.

Add the rice and stir to combine well. Pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and place the lid on the pan. Leave to simmer till the rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the butter. Taste for seasoning. Cover and leave to sit for a few minutes before serving on a large platter garnished with the sliced spring onion.

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