I came across this dish courtesy of Food Network and I just loved the way it sounds. J-a-m-b-a-l-a-y-a. Like many Southern recipes, this dish has A LOT of ingredients. I remember making up the shopping list the first time I tried this and I kept thinking, ah, ah, just for one dish. It had better be worth it because Nigerian fried rice is not this exhaustive. You can say Jambalaya is soul food at its finest. It is not for the healthy eaters I’m afraid, but it is comfort food, something to indulge in. The next time the thought crosses your mind to make Fried Rice, can I tempt you to make Jambalaya instead? I hope you have your pen and paper ready or simply print out the list of ingredients because it is loooooooooong. Remember my Don Jazzy Stew post (HERE), I think Jambalaya is going to top that. Hence my term Designer Fried Rice!!!!
So you will need
1 pound of spicy smoked Sausage – chorizo or andouille or kelbasa – any smoked sausage you can find
1/2 pound of thick cut smoked ham – optional for muslims
1 pound of deveined shrimp
1 red onion
1 celery stick
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper – tatashe
2 pieces of Ata Rodo – scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
2 – 3 tomatoes
2 cloves of Garlic
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
3 cans of chicken stock – if you have homemade chicken stock (preferred) this will be about 5 cups
3- 4 cups of rice
Seasoning cubes – knorr chicken cubes preferred
2 stems of spring onions – scallions
1 handful of Parsley
2 tablespoons of butter
Phew! I hope I haven’t turned you off. Keep reading, a very very handy tip for cooking perfect rice is in the steps below. You will wonder how come you have never tried it before. Lol.
1. As this dish has a lot of ingredients, your first step should be preparing all the ingredients. Once you have this out of the way, it will make the cooking process quicker. So, wash all you need to wash, chop all that needs to be chopped and set aside in plastic bowls within easy reach.
2. Heat up 1 cooking spoon of olive oil in a pot, and add the roundly cut sausages. Let this brown in the pan for 5 – 7 minutes. Take it out of the pot. Add the cubed ham into the pot and do the same.
3. Now you have this lovely flavoured oil, add the chopped onions, red and green bell pepper, celery and butter and fry until the vegetables have softened. Then add the chopped tomatoes, ata rodo, garlic and thyme and let it fry. The introduction of the tomatoes will create some liquid in the pan, simply let it fry till it evaporates and enjoy the aroma wafting from the pot.
4. Add the chicken stock and bring the contents to a boil, then add the washed rice, the browned sausage and ham and 3 bay leaves. Depending on the salt and seasoning content of the chicken stock, you may need to re-season. Once you are satisfied with the taste, bring this to a boil for 15 – 20mins
5. By now the rice would have absorbed the stock and a creamy sauce will be floating on top, then add the shrimp, roundly cut spring onions, chopped parsley and squeeze in lemon juice. Stir to spread the ingredients evenly, lower the heat to let it simmer.
Now comes my tip to ensuring that you don’t get soggy rice – this will work whether you are cooking jambalaya, fried rice, coconut rice or jollof rice. I learnt this from the “Iya Alase” that cook for large family functions at my grandma’s house.
6. Pull apart the seams of a supermarket plastic bag so as to make it flat or use a flat piece of foil and place it over the rice, tucking in at the edges to ensure that the rice is properly sealed. Why you may be wondering? This is to ensure that the rice cooks in its own steam when it simmers. A lot of people tend to burn rice when not cooked as plain boiled rice. In trying to top up the rice with water to prevent it from burning as the rice hasn’t completely cooked (and it has absorbed all the stock) you make it soggy. Over stirring rice also contributes to sogginess. By covering with a plastic bag or foil, no steam escapes, so the rice doesn’t dry out and it will soften and you’ll get the grains coming out tender and perfect without clumping together. Trust me, this works. This method has been working for decades. A bonafide “Iya Alase” (commercial party cook) trick.
7. Let the rice simmer for 10 minutes or slightly longer till it has absorbed all the stock. Stir and you are done. Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving.
………..and there you have it Jambalaya. Try it out, and you will be pleasantly surprised. You won’t refer by default to fried rice after you have tried this. So, go ahead and introduce your family and friends to Jambalaya. Children will definitely love saying it. Jambalaya, Jambalaya, Jambalaya.