It's not absolutely authentic- but then again, I am hardly Creole- I am a British-born, Sicilian guy, living in Frankfurt, Germany and miles away from Louisiana! But my version is never the less delicious!
And I did have real "Filé powder" in it, which I brought back from a trip to New Orleans... and that is more than many a gumbo might claim to have in them. Yes, this tasted pretty close to what I tasted on my trip to the Mississippi- and the memories were just as good as the flavor!
It is the filé powder that makes for the richness of the sauce- made from the dried leaves of Sassafrass, it is what is traditionally used to thicken and bind all of those wonderful juices together. Of course, the roux and the okra do that too, but I wanted to keep my gumbo just a little bit light and so dispensed with the flour and butter thickener and relied on the filé and the okra- and they did me proud!
For my generous single serving I needed a half of a spicy paprika sausage, similar to a chorizo but a little leaner. Obviously not Andouille, which is the traditional sausage to use- but simply the closest thing to it that I can find... which kind-of makes sense- no? The came 6 shrimp, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 stick of celery, 7-8 cherry tomatoes and around 200g of okra. I used 1 leaf of bay, a little parsley and plenty of fresh Thyme in the way of fresh herbs, but plenty of dried herbs- but we shall get to that shortly! And for extra spice- about a tablespoon of dried chili- yowza!
The result was tasty and spicy- but not so spicy that it was a challenge to eat... it was balanced and smooth and delicious, with the sweet and mild vegetables as well as those nice juicy shrimp- it was really not bad for a non-Cajun!
I cut the onion, carrot, celery, okra and tomatoes into small, bite-sized pieces, ready to go and then set about blending together the dried herbs and spices that would give my sauce the authentic Cajun flavor.
These were 1 teaspoon each of oregano, basil, celery leaf, dried paprika, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and thyme... all delicious stuff!
I started off by frying the sausage slices until they had given off their fat and then added the diced onion and 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme. I seasoned with some freshly ground pepper, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar and fried them together until the onion began to turn translucent.
I then added the celery and carrot and continued stirring so that they would also get nicely coated and begin to give off their own juices too.
I reduced the heat on the vegetables and sausage and got back the the spices, combining 1 tablespoon of file powder with a teaspoon of ground chili... it needs to be nice and spicy after all!
I added the herbs, spices and filé powder and stirred them in together with the tomato and okra, then topped everything up with enough boiling water to just about cover everything and let it simmer away for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, I added the shrimp, seasoned them with salt and pepper, popped the lid back on top and gave it a further 10 minutes at a low heat, just enough for it to simmer and gently bubble away.
And 10 minutes later, the shrimp were cooked-through and juicy and delicious, the rest of the ingredients were soft and tender, the okra was not so over-cooked that it had become too slimy, the sauce had thickened up nicely... and I was a very happy fellow! Because I was ready to enjoy!
Served up with some plain, steamed rice, this was the perfect dish for this cold Autumn evening- or any other evening for that matter! With a sprinkle of parsley I was ready to go- and boy did it taste good!