How to make jambalaya – recipe | Felicity Cloake's masterclass

There are as many versions of the Louisiana classic as there are cooks who make it – here is our resident perfectionist’s version

Jambalaya is a hearty rice dish from Louisiana that, with its Spanish, African and French influences, reflects the state’s history – there are as many variations on the theme as there are Creoles and Cajuns cooking it (though for some strange reason, the word always puts me in mind of the Gipsy Kings). The only certainty is that this won’t be the jambalaya your momma made, but it is still delicious.

Prep 15 min
Cook 90 min
Serves 4-6

½ tsp white peppercorns
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
(or more if using a very mild sausage)
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp lard or neutral oil
2 smoked pork sausages
(see step 2)
4 bone-in chicken thighs
1 onion
1 stick celery
1 green pepper
3 garlic cloves
4 spring onions
800ml chicken or pork stock
1 tsp Tabasco
, or other hot sauce, plus extra to serve
300g long-grain rice (not easy-cook)
300g large raw prawns

1 Decide if you want it dry or soupy

This is a recipe for the drier style of jambalaya, often described as Cajun. If you are looking for the soupier, tomato-rich, red Creole version, add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes along with the stock and reduce the latter to 500ml (or consult the chef Brad McDonald’s book Deep South for a dedicated recipe).

2 How to choose your sausage

24 05 20 Guardian Jambalaya 001

American andouille are hard to get in the UK (although McDonald’s book can teach you to make your own), so Polish smoked sausage (fresh rather than dried), smoked cooking chorizo or anything with a high meat content, ideally smoked, will work. If you are using something without much spice, compensate by adding a little more cayenne pepper to the spice mix in step 3. To make this vegetarian, replace the sausage with a smoked, meat-free version, the stock with vegetable stock, and add beans or vegetables of your choice (okra would be apt) instead of the chicken.

3 Make the spice base

24 05 20 Guardian Jambalaya 002

Toast the peppercorns, paprika and cayenne in a small, dry pan over a high heat, until they smell toasty, stirring regularly to make sure the spices don’t burn. Then tip into a mortar or electric grinder, leave to cool slightly and grind until smooth. Stir in the thyme, bay and salt, and set aside.

4 Brown the meat

Felicity Cloake’s jambalaya masterclass. 24 05 20 Guardian Jambalaya 004

Cut the sausage into thick slices. Heat the oil in a wide pan (ideally one with a lid, but you can use foil if not) over a medium-high heat. Fry the sausage until the meat is browned and the fat has begun to render, then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. In the same pan, fry the chicken in the sausage fat until lightly golden all over (leave on or remove the skin as you prefer).

5 Prepare the veg

While the meat is cooking, peel the onion and finely chop it and the celery, then seed and finely chop the pepper. Peel and crush the garlic and chop the spring onion, separating the white and green parts. Add the whites to the rest of the vegetables and set aside the greens.

Felicity Cloake’s jambalaya masterclass. 24 05 20 Guardian Jambalaya 005

6 Saute the vegetables

Transfer the chicken to a second paper-lined plate and turn down the heat under the pan to medium-low. Tip in the onion, celery, pepper, garlic and spring onion whites and cook, stirring regularly, until soft (and, in the case of the onion, translucent). Stir in the spice mix and cook for another couple of minutes, being careful not to burn it.

7 Add the chicken, stock and hot sauce

Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the stock and Tabasco (or other hot sauce). Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and bubble gently for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through – it will continue to cook in the pan, so don’t worry if it is still a bit pink.

24 05 20 Guardian Jambalaya 006. Felicity Cloake’s jambalaya masterclass.

8 Add the rice, prawns and sausage

Stir in the rice, leave to simmer for 10 minutes, then stir once, cover tightly with a lid (or foil), turn down the heat and leave to steam for 15 minutes. Take out the chicken, stir the rice briefly, then add the prawns and sausage to the mix. Cover tightly again, take off the heat and leave to sit for 10 minutes.

9 Shred the chicken, return to the pot and serve

In the meantime, shred the chicken, discarding the bones. Season the rested jambalaya with salt and more hot sauce if necessary, then fold in the shredded chicken and scatter with the chopped green spring onion before serving.


Felicity Cloake

The GuardianTramp

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