Revitalising Green Gumbo

Gumbo ingredients

Traditionally, gumbo is a Cajun/Creole stew thickened either with a roux or okra and containing cured pork and sausage, green vegetables and classic Cajun spices like paprika, allspice, and cayenne. My version is a little lighter and closer in consistency to a soup (as I don’t tend to thicken it) and makes an ideal, quick midweek supper or a perfect packed lunch (which has the added advantage of making co-workers jealous)

The combination of iron-rich green vegetables, spicy broth, and tasty cured meat is a truly uplifting one. Joyful, hearty, and nourishing, this a perfect dish for chasing away late winter blues. It’s also a good way to use up leftover green vegetables. Feel free to swap ingredients around; use cabbage if you don’t have cavolo nero or courgettes in place of broccoli. Whatever you want. The recipe follows.

Shredding Cavolo Nero

Jon’s basic gumbo
300g chicken thigh fillets
200g petit salé
75g smoked sausage
1 large onion, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 red pepper, cut into pieces
100g Cavolo nero, shredded
100g spinach, shredded
100g tenderstem broccolli, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp oregano
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 litres chicken stock

First, take your chicken thigh fillets and chop into bite-size pieces. Next, sprinkle the paprika, pepper flakes, garlic powder, cayenne, and white pepper over the chicken. Turn them a couple of times to coat and set aside.

Chicken rubbed with spices

Pour a splash of oil into a large soup pan and bring up to a medium heat. While the oil is heating, chop your petit salé into large chunks and slice the smoked sausage. When the oil is hot, add the marinated chicken pieces along with the herbs and bay leaves and fry for a couple of minutes until browned. Add your petit salé, smoked sausage, onion,celery and red pepper and continue to fry until the vegetables are soft.

Frying meat. Mmmm. Meat

Turn down the heat to a simmer and add between 1.5 and 2 litres of chicken (or vegetable) stock. Continue to cook for about 45 mins to an hour or until the flavours have developed. The soup should be a brick red colour and taste great: rich and spicy with pronounced herbal notes.

Steaming hot soup.

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, add the shredded cavolo nero and chopped broccoli, stir, and keep cooking. Add the shredded spinach and half of the parsley a couple of minutes before you’re due to eat. Serve in deep bowls with a squeeze of lemon and the remaining parsley sprinkled over. You might also want a shake or two of tabasco if you like things a little picante.

Finished gumbo

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Petit Salé

Ingredients. Pork looks menacing.

I’ve been wanting to try making a basic salt pork recipe for a while now. I’ve had a real craving to cook some classic french dishes like Cassoulet and Petit Salé aux lentils but that is hard to do without the star ingredient, petit salé. Petit salé is a very basic French dry cure salt pork, cured with Sel Aromatise and generally soaked before use, As with the Sel Aromatise recipe posted earlier in the week, this recipe is an adaptation of one of Lindy Wildsmith’s. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe to save time and cut out the soaking stage, the most important of these is reducing the salt content substantially.  I’ve also used a pinch of Prague powder to ensure that the meat retains its lovely bacon pink colour when cooked. This results in a beautiful, delicately spiced piece of pork that is equally at home in a soup, stew, or used to enhance the flavour of side dishes. It’s particularly good in my basic gumbo recipe that I’ll be writing about in a few weeks.

The pork I used for this was a tasty bit of belly that came from the Sillfield farm shop in Borough Market and came with thick creamy layers of tasty tasty fat on it (as well as quite a lot of hair. It’s strange starting a recipe by shaving your meat. I should do a post on porcine grooming at some point!)

Jon’s Petit Salé
700g pork belly, rind on.
30g sel aromatise
10g dextrose
2g Prague powder #1
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1g juniper berries, crushed.

The recipe for this,like most other bacons is incredibly simple so forgive me if the below recipe is slightly shorter than usual. It’s simply a case of some basic preparation then having the patience to wait until its ready. If however, you are confused by anything, I’d recommend casting an eye over my previous cured pork posts.

Take your piece of meat and trim off any loose bits of fat. A square or rectangular piece of petit salé is easier to cut than a misshapen piece. If your meat is hairy, you can shave it or use a lighter to burn off the excess hair.

Sprinkling the meat with cure.

Take your pork and place it in a freezer bag. Next combine your seasoning ingredients and rub them thoroughly into the meat. It makes sense to do this when it’s already in the bag as that way you won’t lose any seasoning. You want to aim for about 80% of your cure rubbed into the meaty sides and maybe 20% on the skin. My skin piece came from the butcher with the skin scored for roasting so I was able to work more cure in that way.

Meat wrapped, and ready for the fridge.

Wrap your meat in the bag and place in the fridge to cure, turning occasionally and rubbing the meat through the bag to work the salt and seasonings in. After about a week, take your meat out of the bag and place on a rack to dry. Place it back in the fridge and leave for another week to dry out by the end of which you’ll have petit salé ready to go. As I mentioned earlier, this is great in cassoulet, gumbo, or with lentils. You can also use it in place of ordinary bacon and the taste of it is just great; slightly spiced, salty and deeply porky.

Finished Petit Sale

Sel Aromatise

Aromatics

This classic French seasoning salt is an essential ingredient in curing traditional French Petit Sale as it imparts the meat with a beautiful slightly spiced flavour without overwhelming its basic porkiness, My girlfriend described the smell of it as ‘like old men’ but even she had to agree that it makes a fabulous pork seasoning. I think it might also work quite well sprinkled over grapefruit or another acidic fruit as a snack but I’m yet to try that.

Either way, it’s literally five minutes work to put together and costs nothing so you might as well give it a go and see what uses you can find for it.

The recipe below is adapted from a recipe in the excellent book by Lindsay Wildsmith: Cured: Slow techniques for flavouring meat, fish and vegetables.

Jon’s Sel Aromatise

200g salt
3 star anise
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 ground cloves
3 large bay leaves, crumbled.

Take your star anise and grind them to a coarse powder in a mortar and pestle. Combine with salt and all the other ingredients in a clean dry jar. Shake until thoroughly mixed and use as needed.

Finished Sel Aromatise