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Gumbos are true Creole cooking, with the flour always browned slowly to a chestnut colour roux. As the word gumbo means okra in Africa, you would think that it should always include that vegetable. Well some do and some don't - and this one does!

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of watercress, washed and trimmed
  • 1 bunch of parsley, washed and trimmed
  • 1 bunch of spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 10 spring onions, green ends only
  • 1 bunch of chard or beet greens, washed and trimmed
  • 500g uncooked, unpeeled prawns
  • 1 litre chicken stock or water
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of marjoram
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter or peanut oil
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 crab claws, preferably uncooked
  • 250g Creole smoked garlic sausage (andouille) or Polish sausage, cut into 1cm slices (optional)
  • 2-3 dozen clams
  • 8-12 medium okra
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce



Pour 500ml lightly salted water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Press in the watercress, parsley, spinach, spring onions and chard or beet greens. Cover and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Strain through a colander, reserving the cooking water. Chop the greens and set aside.

To make the stock, peel the prawns and put the shells and heads, if any, into a large saucepan or casserole dish. Add the reserved cooking water, stock or water, thyme, majoram, bay leaves and allspice. Simmer for 15 minutes and set aside. Strain the stock into a saucepan, return to the boil, reduce the heat and keep the stock warm.

Meanwhile, heat the butter or peanut oil in a large casserole dish or Dutch oven, add the flour and fry very slowly until the flour becomes a hazelnut colour, about 10 minutes. Do not let the butter burn. Add the garlic, onion and cayenne pepper and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the crab claws to the casserole, then add the reserved hot stock. Add the sausage, if using. Bring to the boil.

Add the clams, return to the boil, then simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until the clams open.

Meanwhile, to prepare the okra, trim minimally around the stalk end, without cutting into the middle.

As the clams open (they will do so in stages), remove them to a plate with a slotted spoon. This will stop them overcooking. Add the okra to the pan.

Return the reserved chopped greens to the casserole and bring to the boil. Add a dash of Tabasco sauce.

Share the seafood, okra and greens between 4 large bowls, ladle the stock over the top, then serve with steamed white rice.




This Texan classic is one of the most satisfying dishes of all and is justly world-famous. For timid tastebuds, adjust the quantity of chillies or chilli powder to suit.

Serves 4-6

  • 500g dried red kidney beans, washed, or canned red kidney beans
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp shortening, corn oil or beef dripping
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1kg braising steak, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 -1/2 tbsp chilli powder, dried chilli flakes, or 1-4 whole red serrano chillies, deseeded if preferred, then chopped
  • 1 green pepper, halved, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • Sea salt, to taste

To serve

  • A little chopped coriander
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Flour tortillas, warmed, or crackers



If using dried kidney beans, put them in a bowl, cover with cold water and let soak for at least 3 hours or overnight. (If short of time, put them in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil, simmer for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cover and let soak for 1 hour. Drain.) When ready to cook, drain, then rinse in cold water.

Put soaked beans in a pan, cover with water, bring to boil and boil hard for 15 minutes to remove toxins. Drain, cover with fresh water and return to boil. Simmer for 1-4 hours or until tender, topping up with boiling water as necessary. Add 1/2 tsp salt 15 minutes before the end of cooking. Set aside. Put the shortening, oil or dripping in a large frying pan and heat until melted. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep them warm.

Add the steak cubes to the pan, in batches if necessary - do not crowd the pan. Fry until browned on all sides.

Stir in the flour and mix well. Add tomato paste, chilli powder or flakes or fresh chillies, green pepper, cumin and stock and strain in any cooking liquid from the can if using canned beans. Bring to the boil, transfer to a casserole or saucepan and simmer on top of the stove or in a preheated oven at 150·C (300·F) Gas 2 for 1 1/4 hours, or until the meat is tender.

Remove from oven, season to taste, stir in the beans, return to the oven and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with coriander and serve with a spoonful of sour cream, if using, and warmed tortillas or crackers.




A gentle casserole curry with plenty of flavour, especially if you can marinate it overnight. The recipe comes from Gujarat, one of the northwestern states of India, and shows several typical methods of cooking casserole dishes in the area.

Serves 4

  • 1kg leg or shoulder of lamb, boned and cubed
  • 750ml canned coconut milk
  • A handful of fresh coconut slivers or 1 tbsp desiccated coconut, pan-roasted
  • A handful of coriander leaves, fresh methi (fenugreek) or curry leaves, to serve


  • 2 tbsp mustard oil or peanut oil
  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp mustard seeds

Spicy masala paste

  • 6 tbsp peanut oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 5cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt



To make the spicy masala paste, heat the oil in a karahi (wok), frying pan or metal casserole dish, add the onions, ginger and stir-fry until lightly browned.

Add the ground cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander, cardamom, tumeric and chilli flakes and cook until the fragrance is released, about 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar and salt.

Add the lamb to the pan and fry, turning frequently, for about 10 minutes until lightly browned on all sides. At this point, you may remove it from the heat, let cool, then chill overnight to marinate and develop the flavours (if time is short, this step may be omitted).

Add about 600ml of the coconut milk. Add water to cover, heat to simmering, then cook until the meat is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir from time to time to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan.

Stir in the rest of the coconut milk and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the coconut in a dry karahi or frying pan and stir-fry for a few minutes until lightly golden: take care, the pieces can easily burn. Set aside.

To make the tempering, heat the oil in a karahi or frying pan, add the onion and mustard seeds and stir-fry until the onion is softened and dark golden-brown around the edges. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the lamb to a serving dish, spoon the tempering over the top and the coconut on top of that. Add the coriander, fresh methi or curry leaves, if using, and serve the spiced lamb with other Indian dishes.

Preparation time: approx 20 minutes
Cooking time: approx 5 minutes
Approximate nutritional values per person:
150 calories, 9g protein, 60g fat, 34g carbohydrate