Ok, so I haven't been back to Louisiana in nearly a year, and, although I will be returning next month (with my beau in tow), I have been craving some classic Cajun-style food. Well, the last time I was shopping, I happened to pick up a bag of okra and this week I figured.... Why not make some hearty gumbo?!
If you are a Cajun enthusiast (like myself) then you will LOVE this recipe. Now, I need to add a small disclaimer that I did not have all the classic ingredients for this gumbo. In fact, I kind of substituted out what I like best in my gumbos to create this hybrid. And even though this is a VEGAN recipe, feel free to add real sausage or traditional fish if you need some extra protein. This is a judgment-free zone where anyone can come to enjoy some amazing food!
Alright, lets get started. I like chopping up all of my ingredients up first, just so I am not rushing when it comes time to start cooking. And look how pretty all of the chopped veggies look together!
Pictured above, I from top to bottom & left to right, I have a cleaver (my chopping knife was dirty....), 6 garlic cloves minced, 3 celery stalks sliced, 8 baby carrots chopped, 2 Vegan Sausages, 2 cups chopped okra, 1 large onion diced, and one jalapeno diced. Feel free to sub in two large carrots for 8 baby ones or even throw in a few bell peppers if you're feeling festive! Like I said, these are my personal favorites to add in gumbo; if you wanna throw in something else, feel free to get creative!
OK! Let's start cooking with some gas (or electric... you know, whatever you have). Start by heating a large pot (big enough to fit all your ingredients plus a couple cups of broth in at once) and adding in 2 Tbsp of flour. You're going to roast this flour by constantly stirring it over medium-low heat until it is a couple of shade darker. If you are working with whole-wheat flour like I was, it's harder to tell when it's gotten darker. I just waited to remove the flour from the pot and directly into a bowl when I saw it begin to smoke and it felt hot to the touch.
With the flour removed and set aside in a bowl, using the same pot, add your onions, carrots, garlic, and celery plus 1/4 cup of veggie stock. Season with your basic salt and pepper and cook until your onions are translucent and all your stock is evaporated.
Ok, so this is where I became crafty because the original recipie I was following called for pureed tomatoes & mushrooms (neither of which I had on hand). Don't laugh, but this totally worked! I wound up tossing in 1 cup of mushroom spaghetti sauce. Hey! It is technically just a fancier jar of pureed tomatoes with better seasoning, and the mushrooms came included. I'm going to use this from now on, maybe adding a few mushrooms whenever I happen to have them in the pantry.
After cooking the mix for roughly 5 minutes, it's time to add in all your wonderful spices that make Cajun cooking great! I added 1 tbsp Cajun Seasoning (Tony's is the best, of course), a couple shakes of Parsley and Oregano, and about 1 Tbsp of Chili Powder.
Once all my spices were nice and evenly dispersed, I tossed in the okra & flour from earlier. Make sure you evenly coat everything in the flour, and I mean everything. If you don't when you pour in the rest of the veggie stock, you will wind up with clumps of flour, which no one likes to take a bite into. Bleh!
I the flour mixed evenly? Alright, you can now add in the rest of your stock which should be about 2 cups. Let this come to a boil over medium-high heat. If your gumbo is too thick, feel free to water it down with more stock or even a touch of water. I personally enjoy my gumbo to come out more like a creamy stew than soup, so I kept it at 2 cups of stock the entire time.
Cook for about ten minutes before adding in your vegan sausage since it is the quickest to cook. If you are adding real meat, I suggest cooking it before adding it to your gumbo to ensure that it is cooked all the way through.
Add more salt if you need at the end, otherwise, you are ready to enjoy your new Cajun dish! Can we you say "Omnomnom?"
Oh, and while I was making this awesome dish, I decided to put some of my Okra aside to create pickled Okra! I have included the recipe below as an added bonus this week. Enjoy!