If you love rice-based dishes, then it’s high time you try jambalaya, a dish originating from the cultural melting pot of Louisiana in the United States. Jambalaya is the quintessential cultural symbol of this colourful region, reflecting French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences to form a uniquely Creole cuisine.
Jambalaya was descended from the Spanish paella then adapted to the local environment so instead of saffron, it makes use of tomatoes, as well as a smoked pork sausage called andouille, which was brought over by the French. The main ingredients of jambalaya are rice, meat, and vegetables, but there is also a wide variety of what these are. It always has the holy trinity of Creole cooking—onion, celery, and capsicum—though other aromatics could be mixed in. Anything from chicken to seafood to boars and alligators (yes, apparently) can be used as well.
The secret to making jambalaya is to build up flavours by adding and browning ingredients in several steps rather than chucking them all in the pan at the same time. It is not a quick dish by any means and taking shortcuts would mean shortchanging the complexity and depth of its flavours. But the hour it takes to cook this jambalaya is surely worthwhile.
Jambalaya is filling, warming, and incredibly delicious. It is also fairly cheap to make and easy to make for a group, perfect for big families or parties. Serve it at your next gathering and introduce yourself to a new world of flavours!
- Cast iron skillet like Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet 30cm
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons
- Cutting board
- Wooden spoon
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 4 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, about 680g
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 170g smoked sausage similar to andouille, sliced
- 1 tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning
- 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
- 1 celery rib, chopped
- ½ red capsicum, seeded and chopped
- 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups raw long-grain rice
- 230ml passata
- 2 cups chicken stock, reduced-fat/low-sodium chicken broth, or water
- 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
- 455g prawns, peeled and deveined
- Preheat the oven to 170C.
- Heat the oil in the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in the oil until browned on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Discard any rendered fat in the skillet.
- Add the andouille and stir occasionally until the meat starts to brown and render fat, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the Cajun seasoning and stir to combine.
Add the onion, celery, and capsicum. Stir occasionally and cook until the vegetables start to color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add the rice and stir to coat. Stir in the tomato sauce and stock and bring to a boil.
- Nestle the seared chicken thighs in the rice, without crowding them. Tuck the bay leaf into the rice as well. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- Add the prawns and stir to combine. Then put it back in the oven to continue baking uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the rice is tender, the prawns are opaque, and the juices of the chicken run clear when pierced.
- Transfer the skillet from the oven to a wire rack to cool slightly. Season to taste. Serve immediately.
Recipe and images adapted from Lodge/Virginia Willis