I love paella, risotto, and jambalya – all products of very different cuisines, but all equally as wonderfully ricey, gooey and savoury. Ideal for a winter’s night. This dish has something of all of them about it. It’s closest to a risotto and uses Arborio rice for the base because it gives such a creamy-with-bite finish. But the mix of spicy sausage and prawns with chilli is definitely creole influenced and the chorizo and saffron give it a Spanish flavour as well. It probably fits in most comfortably with the New Orleans crucible of Spanish, African, French and Native American influenced cuisine.
A visit I made there in 1998 made a big impact on my foodie view of the world. I had been working in a bar in Maryland for the summer and used my earnings to finance a two week train trip to New Orleans, Savannah and other parts of the Deep South – a strange and endlessly fascinating part of the US. I remember the Spanish moss hanging from trees, kudzu covered forests, swampy Louisiana bayoux, the wonderful accents and of course, the food.
I tried out a number of well known eating spots in and around the French and Garden Quarters, snacking on oyster po’ boys, but had my most memorable meals in a 24 hour cafe/bar near my hostel. They seemed to have a cauldron of Gumbo permanently bubbling away out back and I had several bowls of it at all hours with Dixie Blackened Voodoo beer – a dark German-style lager brewed by a local micro brewery.
I can still taste it – the rich, meaty stew with halves of soft-shelled crabs, whole prawns, spicy sausage and okra all floating around in a heady aroma of spice. Eaten with the Dixie beer, it was a fantastic meal – nourishing and flavourful, and quite unlike anything I had eaten up till then. I was inspired to try out something similar upon my return to the UK and my love of seafood, sausage and rice was born.
For this risotto style dish I added roast tomatoes to give it a sweet-sharp caramelised flavour to complement the spicy, smoky paprika-laced chorizo, rich saffron and sea flavoured prawns. All of these strong flavours are unified by the creamy rice which gives the dish a lovely texture. It trades on the warming, filling and smooth qualities of a traditional risotto but add bold and punchy, American and latin flavours to give you a real belter.
A sausage and prawn risotto, jambalaya, gumbo type thing
Enough for 4 large portions
This can be served with some green vegetable or by itself, it’s certainly filling enough. We ate half and I covered the rest with grated parmesan and baked it at 170oC for 45 minutes the next evening, by which time the flavours had combined yet further. The cheese crust added a real salty crunch.
1.5 cups rissotto rice (I use Arborio here)
Ideally a glass of white wine/vermouth (I didn’t have any this time round)
1 red pepper
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
2 chorizo sausages (I use ones from Brindisa)
200g uncooked king prawn
1 tsp chilli flakes
saffron – pinch infused in warm water
Roast a handful of cherry tomatoes in a 200o oven for 35 minutes or so until their skin has started to split and blacken.
Slice the sausage into rounds or half rounds about twice as thick as a pound coin. Finely dice the celery, red pepper and onion. Heat a little oil in a big frying, or other wide, pan and stir all three on a low heat until soft. Add the chorizo and stir until you can really smell the smoky paprika of the meat and the oil has turned a rich burnt orange. Add the chilli flakes and continue to stir and fry until a fruity chilli aroma joins the sausagey smells. Turn the heat up a little and add the rice, stirring until it turns opaque.
Add the wine if you’re using it and stir it in. Then start adding the stock one spoonful at a time, stirring gently as you go. As each spoonful is absorbed, add another until the mixture is almost the consistency of rice pudding – all gooey, but still with some bite to the rice. Pour in the saffron and its water and stir it in. When it’s all absorbed gently stir in the tomatoes, uncooked prawns and coriander leaves and continue stirring until the prawns turn pink.
Turn off the heat and grind over some black pepper, you can also mix in some butter at this point, cover and leave it to
micturate to add more richness to the dish, this is called the mantecatura. Or you can just dole out the rib-sticking but delicous mixture right away.