Gumbo is a soupy stew from the southern USA state of Louisiana, where the cuisine is a melting pot of Cajun (descendants of the French expelled from what is now eastern Canada in the mid-1700s), Creole (descendants of French and Spanish settlers), African and native American influences. Gumbo features in both Creole and Cajun cooking and has been named the ‘official cuisine’ of Louisiana.
700g green prawns, peeled and deveined
2 blue swimmer crabs
1 cup vegetable oil
1.25 litres water
250g small okra, sliced crossways
⅔ cup plain flour
2 brown onions, diced
Salt flakes, to taste
3 stalks celery, diced
1 small green capsicum, diced
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, more or less to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
Handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
18 freshly shucked oysters
4 green onions, chopped
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve
Tabasco sauce, to serve
Peel and devein prawns, reserving the shells. Clean and section crabs, reserving the top shell.
Heat half the oil in a large saucepan, add prawn shells and heads and crabs’ top shells and cook for 3-5 minutes until coloured. Add water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, crushing regularly with a wooden spoon or potato masher to extract as much flavour as possible. Strain and set stock aside, discarding solids.
Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in another large saucepan over medium heat. Add okra and fry for 3-5 minutes, until it starts to soften. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add flour and stir often with a wooden spoon for 10-15 minutes, until it turns golden, reduce heat to low and stir often for another 15-20 minutes, until it’s the colour of milk chocolate, watching it closely as it can burn quickly.
Add onion and salt and stir for a few minutes until it starts to soften, then add celery, capsicum and 1 cup of the reserved stock. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften. Stir in remaining stock, increase heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Stir in tomatoes and okra, reduce heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes break down. Taste and stir in Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and salt.
Stir in crab and simmer for 10-15 minutes or so, until all shells turn red. Stir in prawns and parsley, cover and remove from heat. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes.
Stir through oysters and green onions and serve with steamed rice, with a bottle of Tabasco sauce on the side.
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