I tried seafood jambalaya and gumbo for the first time during a trip to America years ago. Not having the foggiest idea what jambalaya and gumbo were, I picked them simply because they had such cheerful and festive names. I absolutely loved them as they tasted similar to an old favourite of mine, Chinese Indo seafood tauco, which also has tomatoes, chillies and seafood.
Even though I enjoyed jambalaya and gumbo a lot, I never got around to cooking them at home. I recently discovered that a vegetarian gumbo recipe in one of my forgotten cookbooks. It has all the good things that I want to eat more of, beans, okra and sweet potatoes. As I was not sure how good the recipe was, I halved the amounts of the beans and vegetables to avoid wastage. The gumbo looked alright, if not slightly too red, as you can see below.
But, the gumbo was so overwhelmingly and unpleasantly hot and spicy. My chilli tolerance level is pretty high. Yet, I had burning sensations in my chest and stomach with every mouthful. I am both amused and embarrassed by the fact that I could not work out why it was so spicy until about 5 minutes into my laboured attempts to eat the gumbo. I halved the amounts of the main ingredients, except the herbs and spices. The preceding sentence is not even necessary, is it? It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what went wrong. So, in my defence, I would like to believe that it was caused by the excessive amount of spices blunting my math acuity. Or, something that would make more sense chronologically, i.e. I forgot to reduce the amounts of the herbs and spices because I was too enthusiastic to try the gumbo recipe out. It surely is a good thing to remember for the spicy recipes on my to-try list.
Black eyed beans, okra and kumara gumbo
Modified slightly (with the appropriate amounts of spices…) from a recipe in“Cook” by The Australian Women’s Weekly (2006).
100g black-eyed beans
2 tsp oil
1 brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp ground fennel
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 x 425 g canned chopped/crushed tomatoes
250 g okra, sliced
300 g kumara/ sweet potato, chopped
250 mL water/ vegetable stock
200g canned corn kernels, drained
Soak beans for 12 hours. Drain. Boil the beans for 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until onion softens. Add herbs and spices. Stir until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.