Cajun food, starring the humble Vendée mogette
As a long-time expat and having lived many places, multi-cultural meals are a normal part of what I cook. Secretly I think it's one of the reasons my husband is fond of me. 😉 We enjoy an international kitchen! It's inspiring to prepare something that you know will evoke a memory, or certain flavors on the palete, that represents somewhere you've been on holiday or have lived for a while.
In fact. Gumbo is a perfect example of migration and the merging of cultures, combined with what is available locally, to create something entirely different and exciting. According to scholars, the dish originates in the 18th century and is first described in the early 19th (1802). The word likely knows its origin in Africa and refers to the okra vegetable which acts as a thickening agent.
Gumbo is a type of stew that can be prepared with meat, seafood, or greens, or even a combination. It combines the ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including African, Caribbean, German, Spanish, French (based on the classic dish bouillabaisse) and the Native American Choctaw tribe (based on Choctaw stew). A regular gumbo would not have beans or courgette. It would have the holy trinity of onion, green paprika/ bell pepper, and celery stewed with chicken and sausage, or shrimp and crayfish (and oysters), or chicken, sausage, shrimp and crayfish ...
The Gumbo presented here is a vegetarian version with beans as the protein because at our house I insist on having meat-free days. But there are also occasions when I combine this (bean and courgette) recipe with lean smoked sausage. It is a great meal to prepare year-round: in the autumn/winter season it warms the bones. But on rainy days in summer when you don't know what to do with the abundance of courgettes your garden is producing, this vegetarian gumbo is an option that shouldn't be overlooked.
It is delicious!
Ingredients and preparation - Gumbo with Mogettes de Vendée (vegetarian)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 medium to large onion chopped (about 1.5 cups)
- 1.5 cups of paprika/ bell pepper (I used tri-color from the freezer)
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
- 2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
- Cajun seasoning ... use no less than 2 teaspoons (I use at least two tablespoons or even more but we like it spicy)
- 4 cups of vegetable broth (if you're not 100% vegetarian or vegan, can also be chicken)
- you can also use a half cup of a mild lager beer (I always use Corona Extra in my chili con carne and gumbo)
- do check if the seasoning you're using has a lot of salt. I prefer the kind without salt.
- 2 generous green or yellow courgettes/ zucchini (if you don't use okra, definitely use 2 courgettes)
- 1 jar of Mogettes de Vendée
- you can substitute black-eyed-peas (not the band), or northern beans, or cannellini beans
- salt and pepper to taste
- NOTE about okra. Okra is traditionally a part of gumbo (since the very origins in African cultures). You can't always find okra in France, but if you can find it and like it, use about 2 cups (it is a natural thickener but it's not a vegetable everybody loves).
- I'm told Grand Frais sells it but perhaps call ahead first..
- We never use okra in our gumbo - we don't enjoy it
- In a Dutch oven (if you have it) or a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat whisk in the flour to combine.
- Whisking frequently until mixture is the color of caramel.
- This may take about 10 minutes and this is not the time to check the post! Stay with it, keep whisking to make the brown roux.
- Add onion, celery, and paprika/bell pepper to the roux
- Keep stirring, until vegetables soften, about 8 minutes
- Add drained tomatoes, garlic, and Cajun seasoning and stir occasionally for another couple of minutes
- Stir in broth, (okra) courgette/ zucchini and mogettes.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a nice simmer
- Stir occasionally, until vegetables are tender. It will take about 30 to 40 minutes.
- NOTE: In addition to the roux, the beans (and okra) should work as a thickening agent but the roux is really not **enough** to make a thick gumbo structure, especially if you don't have the okra. Personally, I NEVER add okra. As a result, this gumbo is not as thick as the traditional gumbo "stew". But that's okay. The delicious taste created by the roux base combined with the spices is omnipresent.
Serve with rice, garnished with chopped green onion. We prefer Basmati rice over any other but it's up to you!
Pair with a lager or a soft-drink like water or unsweet ice tea.
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