I want to share with you my still-developing recipe for jambalaya.
I’ve made jambalaya a couple of times already, but I cheated and used a ready-mixed paste, so couldn’t share it as my own authentic creation.
This time, however, I had a crack at my own spice mix, and I have to say, the results were pretty good!
Jambalaya is a wonderfully forgiving dish- you can adapt it to suit what you have already in your store cupboard. The key elements are a spicy, tomato-ey paste, chicken, shrimp/prawns, sausage or salami (or all of them!), and peppers. Most recipes call for red peppers, but I think green bell peppers soak up spicy flavours a bit better and don’t add unnecessary sweetness. This is quite a heavy, filling dish, with plenty of carbohydrates from the rice, so serve it with something unfussy like a simple salad or fresh steamed greens.
Your chosen meats for the main jambalaya- about 150g-200g in total.
2 chicken breasts
1 large onion, cut into thin strips
1-2 shallots (optional)
1 large green pepper, chopped into big chunks (or two small ones- more is more)
300g white rice
Sundried tomato paste or sundried tomatoes
300ml Chicken or vegetable stock
2-4 cloves of garlic (in my opinion, more is more, but not everyone loves garlic as much as me)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 dessert spoon cajun spice mix (for the paste)
Several tablespoons cajun spice mix (for the chicken)
Chilli powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, rosemary to taste
Plenty of fresh or dried thyme- fresh is better
Plenty of black pepper
- If you really want your chicken to taste great and absorb the flavours well, dry-marinade it in the spice mixture for a few hours before cooking. If I’m making jambalaya in the evening, I like to get up first thing and fix the chicken for marinading (or do it the night before for even more flavour). Here’s how. With clean, dry hands, roll your chicken breasts in olive oil. I always use the oil from my sundried tomatoes jar, as it’s already infused with rich flavours. Then thickly coat them in the spice mixture until you have a generous, even crust and can’t see any bare meat peeking through. Place in a clean dish and cover with cling film or a lid. Rest the meat in the fridge until ready to use.
- Make your paste of lemon juice, spices, and tomato paste or sundried tomatoes. If you’re using paste, add some olive oil, too. If sundried tomatoes, don’t drain them of the oil, just flick them straight into your blender/mortar/mixing bowl with loads of that flavour-infused oil still on them!
- Gently sweat the onions, shallots and garlic until they are almost, but not quite, cooked. Add the rice and your paste.
- Add the meats (not the chicken) and your chopped pepper. Fry gently for a a couple of minutes.
- Add 450ml of water, stir in well, and leave to gently cook.
- While the jambalaya is cooking, grill, bake, or pan-fry your chicken. I’d recommend grilling or baking as the crust doesn’t stick to the pan, and you have the benefit of knowing it’s cooked through completely. Use a low-medium heat to ensure the outside doesn’t cook through too quickly. Before serving, you may wish to butterfly the chicken breasts, just to ensure they’re cooked. If they’re still pink inside, open them up and grill until you’re satisfied of their safety.
- Serve the jambalaya on a bed of simple salad, or with fresh greens. Slice the chicken breasts and present the slices on top of or alongside the jambalaya.
Final step: Tuck in and enjoy!