Mardi Gras on a plate: Keshia Sakarah’s New Orleans-style recipes

Keshia Sakarah

The food of New Orleans is a real melting pot, with an array of cultures contributing to its cooking. Its inner-city food is often described as Creole, having been heavily influenced by west African communities, but it combines that with those of the Spanish, French and Native Americans. Out in the countryside, meanwhile, you’ll find Cajun, which is more rustic, less spiced and features more shellfish and game due to its rurality and proximity to the waters that surround Louisiana.

Rice and beans

Soak Overnight
Prep 20 min
Cook 2 hr 45 min

500g dried red kidney beans
4 tbsp lard
100g thickly sliced smoked
bacon, roughly diced
400g smoked ham hock, cut into large pieces
450g smoked sausage, sliced diagonally into thick chunks – a good-quality smoked andouille, ideally (Franconian sells them online)
2 small brown onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks, trimmed and finely chopped
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 green pepper
, stem, pith and seeds removed, flesh finely chopped
2 litres chicken stock, or water
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp
ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
A few fresh thyme sprigs
2 tbsp fresh parsley
, chopped
2-3 bay leaves
2-3 spring onions
, trimmed and finely sliced, to garnish
Steamed white rice, to serve

Soak the kidney beans in cold water overnight, then drain, reserving the soaking water.

Put a large, deep pot on a medium heat, add the lard and, once it’s melted, the bacon, ham and sausage. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the fat. Add the onions, celery, garlic and green pepper, and saute for about five minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the stock and beans to the pan, bring to a boil, then stir in the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, parsley and bay, turn down to a simmer and cook for about two hours, until the beans are tender and the sauce is starting to thicken. Stir regularly, and add some of the reserved bean soaking water if the pan looks like it’s drying out.

Once the beans are soft, transfer a few large spoonfuls to a bowl, crush to a paste, then stir back into the pan and leave to cook for a further 25-30 minutes to thicken.

Serve with steamed white rice and topped with the spring onions.

Shrimp étouffée (shellfish stew on rice)

Prep 30 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min

4 tbsp rapeseed oil
450-500g whole prawns, or crayfish, peeled and deveined – reserve the shells and heads to make the stock
950ml fish stock
3 bay leaves
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp cayenne pepper
200g crushed tomatoes
(ie, ½ 400g tin)
2 small brown onions, peeled and finely diced
2-3 celery sticks, trimmed and finely diced
1 green pepper, stem, seeds and pith removed, flesh finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2-3 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

30g fresh parsley
, chopped
Steamed white rice and lemon wedges, to serve

Put two tablespoons of oil in a large pan, add the reserved prawn heads and shells, and saute until they turn a pinkish red. Add the fish stock and bay leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Strain the stock, squeezing out as much juice from the heads as you can, then set aside.

In a large pan on a low heat, melt the butter and remaining oil, then add the flour and stir until it absorbs all the fat. Cook, stirring, for five to 10 minutes, until the roux turns smooth and light brown, then add the onions, garlic, celery and green pepper, and cook, still stirring, for about 10 minutes.

Gradually, whisk in the stock, then turn up the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomatoes, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt to taste, then simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the mix doesn’t catch, for a further 25-30 minutes.

Add the prawns, cook for three minutes, until they turn pink, and finish with some parsley.

Put a scoop of rice in the centre of a shallow bowl, ladle the étouffée around it, garnish with the sliced spring onions and remaining parsley, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Shrimp po’ boys

Prep 15 min
Marinate 1 hr
Cook 40 min

500g jumbo prawns, peeled and deveined
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp salt
150g plain flour
75g cornmeal or polenta
Vegetable oil
, for frying

For the remoulade
4-6 tbsp good mayonnaise
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
The juice of ¼ lemon
Salt and pepper

To serve
4 small-medium baguettes, cut in half lengthways
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Lettuce, romaine or iceberg for preference, sliced
A few large dill pickles, sliced
Potato chips or french fries

Put the prawns in a bowl with the garlic powder, cayenne pepper and salt, toss to coat, then leave to marinate for an hour.

Meanwhile, make the remoulade. Put the mayo, mustard, hot pepper sauce (if using), lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl, stir to combine, then set aside.

Combine the flour and cornmeal in a bowl, add the marinated prawns, then toss to coat.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with oil and put it on a medium heat, until it hits 180C. Working in batches, dust off any excess flour from the prawns, fry for two to three minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to a plate or tray lined with kitchen paper to drain. Repeat with the remaining prawns.

To assemble the po’ boys, spread a tablespoon or two of remoulade over the cut sides of the bread, top one side with some sliced lettuce, tomato and pickles, then top first with a few fried prawns and then the other half of bread. Serve with potato chips or fries.

Courtesy: theguardian