Recipes: Make it a Cajun occasion

Philippa Vine gives her English village a taste of the US with three classic American dishes.

We had a do in the village recently; it was a Cajun evening and I was cooking for 150 people. The trouble was that the most appropriate dish and second only to a Gumbo would have been Jambalaya and I’d already served up both at a previous village event.

It occurred to me that by just altering the type of rice and changing the spices and with the rest of the ingredients remaining the same I could cook a Paella instead of Jambalaya and that they are just Spanish and French versions of the same dish.

The beauty of Jambalaya is that it’s great at using up leftovers and in its native Louisiana there are probably as many different recipes for it as there are cooks. It’s also virtually a one-pot meal with vegetables mixed in with the meat and rice.

Continuing my unintentional culinary tour of the southern states of the USA are these savoury cornbread snacks called Hush Puppies. These morsels consist of a crusty, golden brown exterior surrounding a corn and onion flavoured centre.

Legend has it that the bizarre name arose from fisherman throwing some of these to their clamourous dogs with the admonition, “Hush, Puppy” although it takes more than a bit of fried corn batter to silence the latest addition to our family – a black and tan Jack Russell puppy called Mattie.

We’re travelling across to the Florida Keys for pudding with this Key Lime Pie. I usually do a lemon version of this dish and while it’s easier to extract the juice from lemons the extra zing you get from the limes is well worth the extra effort.

Serves 4.

  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 8 raw tiger prawns
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 onions
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 50g (2oz) chorizo sausage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 red chilli
  • 175g (6oz) basmati rice
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) chicken stock
  • 3-4 spring onions
  • Chopped parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper, salt and Cajun spice

Cut the chicken breasts into strips. Chop the onions, celery and red pepper into small dice. Crush the garlic and cut the chorizo sausage into chunks.

Heat a large frying pan and using 1 tablespoon of the oil fry off the strips of chicken until they are cooked through and golden on the outside Fry the chorizo with the chicken for the last few moments.

Remove from the pan and set aside. Next fry the onions, celery, pepper and half the garlic over a lower heat until the vegetables start to look translucent. Next put in the rice and fry to get hot.

Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan with the chicken stock. Add some finely diced chilli (less or more depending on how hot you like it) and season with the salt, pepper and a teaspoon of Cajun spice. Crumble in the bay leaves.

Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. When all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, put the chicken and chorizo back into the pan and cover with a lid. Remove from the heat. Taste for seasoning.

Slice the spring onions. In another pan heat the other tablespoon of oil and fry the rest of the garlic, spring onions and the prawns until the prawns are cooked.

To serve, spoon the Jambalaya into deep bowls and spoon the prawns, spring onions and garlic on the top. Have some tabasco or chilli sauce for those who like it extra hot.

Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies

  • 350g (12oz) polenta flour or corn meal
  • 150g (5oz) plain white flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500ml sunflower oil
  • 1 small onion, cut into fine dice
  • 1 egg
  • 425ml (3/4 pint) buttermilk

Place the dry ingredients into a bowl with the finely chopped onion. Make a well in the centre and put in the egg. Start to mix adding the milk as you go. Hold back some of the milk, and judge the final consistency. What you want is a soft dough of dropping consistency. Heat the oil in a pan to about 375-385F. Drop in spoon-size dollops of the mixture and fry for about 5min until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot with the Jambalaya.

Key lime pie

Key Lime Pie

  • You will also need: 8in x 1½in deep sponge tin. Serves 6.
  • 250g (9oz) Hobnobs
  • 100g (3½oz) melted butter
  • 397g can of condensed milk
  • 5 juicy limes
  • 275ml (1/2 pint) double cream

Crush the Hobnobs and mix with the melted butter. Use them to line the tin. Refrigerate to set. Using a zester cut the zest from two of the limes and set aside. If you don’t have a zester cut the zest from the limes with a peeler and cut into fine strips.

Grate the zest from the other three limes with the fine side of the grater. Squeeze the juice from the limes. Mix together the condensed milk, cream, grated lime zest and the juice until it thickens.

Pour into the biscuit case and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. Toss the strips of lime zest in a little caster sugar and use to decorate the top of the pie. Thin slices of lime can also be used for garnish.

See more