Many of the iconic American foods we identify with America, where actually bought there by immigrants, or were created by immigrants taking influence from their home.
One such dish is Jambalaya, which came to be because of the many different cultures that had come to call New Orleans their home.
It is believed that the dish first appeared in the late 18th century when the Spanish held control. Unable to get saffron and make a traditional paella, they would use tomatoes.
But that’s not where the story ends.
You can also find influences from French, Caribbean, German, African and Native American cultures and cuisines.
To start, without the influence of Senegalese slaves in the region and their knowledge of rice cultivation, there wouldn’t have been rice to use.
From the French comes the use of a mirepoix, diced up vegetables to create a rich base. It’s also thought they would have brought spices from the Caribbean, which influenced many dishes in the area at the time.
Germans brought sausage, and it’s thought Native Americans added the Cayenne pepper.
With every new arrival to the area, something new was added, And over about 50 years the dish we now know as Jambalaya was created.
But we still aren’t finished.
There are actually 2 types of Jambalaya, Creole and Cajun.
This happened naturally as the dish became popular with people out of the cities.
Tomatoes would become difficult to get so they were simply left out. The cooking technique changed slightly to, with the meat being cooked first, leading to a slightly smoky flavour. It also meant that the dish was a more of a brown colour rather than red.
So which is which?
Well, Creole Jambalaya has tomatoes and can be called Red Jambalaya, and Cajun Jambalaya has no tomatoes and can be called Brown Jambalaya.
Below is my recipe for a Creole Jambalaya which I’ve put together as best i can using all the original ingredients and techniques i could find, and honestly it’s pretty delicious, a little spicy though, so if you don’t like a lot of heat take out some of the cayenne pepper.
1 large chicken breast or 3 thighs
200g of prawns
3 andouille sausage – if you can’t find these in the UK you can use Polish kabanos, or 200g of chorizo
300g of long grain rice
700ml of chicken stock
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
2 peppers, any colour
1 tin of crushed tomatoes
3 minced garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
Oil to cook
Salt and pepper to taste
Cajun spice mix
1 Tablespoon of the following
1. Add all your spices for the Cajun spice mix to a bowl.
Chop your chicken and sausage into chunks and sprinkle over half of your spice mix.
2. Heat a pan while you chop your onion, celery and peppers.
3. Add oil to your hot pan and then add your chicken and sausage, cook for around 5 minutes and then take out, putting them to one side for now.
4. Add a little more oil if needed then add your onion, celery, peppers and garlic. Turn your pan to a medium to high heat and cook until your onion is translucent.
5. Add your tin of tomatoes and half of your remaining spice mix. Let warm through for a couple of minutes before adding back your chicken and sausage.
6. After another minute or so, add your rice, chicken stock and bay leaf. Cover the pan with a lid and let simmer on a low to medium heat for around 25 minutes. If your rice feels a little undercooked and most of the stock has been sucked up by the end of the 25 minutes add a little more boiling water.
7. Add your prawns and stir through, cover again for 5 minutes and check to ssee if your prawns are nice and pink, if not leave for a few more minutes.
Serve and enjoy x