For St. Patrick’s Day, don’t forget to check out Chef Joey’s Irish Soda Bread recipe in this issue of InCity Times! In our city and some towns – NOW! (Joey’s so handsome! More so when he’s cookin’!)
By Chef Joey
Soul Food. The term started appearing around the American Civil Rights movement. The origins of soul food, however, are much older and can be traced back to Africa.
Foods such as rice, sorghum, okra and sorghum (a grain used in more than you think, to make molasses even alcohol. It’s the 5th most important cereal group in the world). I’ll share a great recipe using okra that’s versatile and can be vegan! These ingredients are all common in West African cuisine and obviously came to the USA because of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
These basic ingredients became a major player in the American South, in general.
Ingredients like corn and cassava from the states, turnips from Morocco, and cabbage from Portugal were so influential in the history of African-American cooking. During slavery some of the indigenous crops of Africa began showing up in the Americas.
Plantation workers were fed as cheaply as possible, mostly with leftover/waste foods from the plantation, forcing the workers to survive with what they had.
Typically in slave households, “vegetables” were the tops of turnips, beets, and dandelions. Soon, African-American slaves were cooking with new types of “greens”: collards, kale, cress, mustard, and pokeweed. Then they began incorporating lard, cornmeal, and organ meats – not to mention discarded cuts of meat such as pigs’ feet, oxtail, ham hocks, pig ears, pork jowls, tripe and even the skin.
By adding everyone’s favorite flavor enhancers like garlic, onions, bay leaves etc new foods were being created. The use of organs and small intestines, aka chitterlings, using sheep intestines dates back in recipes thousands of years before the trans-Atlantic slave trade! Because African-Americans didn’t have access to sheep intestines, chitterlings became the norm.
Some families supplemented their meager diets by gardening in small plots where they were allowed to grow their own vegetables. Many engaged in fishing and hunting, which yielded wild game for the table. Critters like raccoon, squirrel, opossum, turtle, and rabbit up into the 1950s, were common dinner items in rural and Southern African-American households.
By rendering the fat many foods were fried and that still is prevalent in today’s soul or comfort food.
My GUMBO recipe is a healthier choice, and by eliminating a few ingredients, it can be a nutritious vegan dish as well.
Here is what you’ll need. I’ll write out the vegan version and list the “Meat Lovers” additions at the end.
The meat lovers version is usually made with Andouille sausage, which originated in Northern France. It is made with pork chitterlings, onions, wine and seasonings, and just for another tidbit: the name is Latin and means “made by insertion.”
1 cup flour
1 tbsp cajun seasoning
½ cup cooking oil*
½ tsp thyme
1 cup chopped celery
2 tsp Gumbo filet (Spanish section of market)
1 green pepper chopped
1 large can of stewed tomatoes
2 or 3 cloves garlic minced
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 large onion finely diced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tobasco (OPTIONAL!)
1 tbsp sugar
12 cups water
3 tbsp vegetable base (sub Veggie broth is an option)
2 pounds okra chopped – tops removed (you can use frozen okra – thaw it out first!)
Salt and pepper to taste
* Real gumbo uses bacon fat!!
1 pound of Andouille, sliced
1 pound crab meat
3 pounds U-15 size (medium) cleaned and deveined shrimp
Make a roux by mixing over a medium heat the oil and flour in a heavy pan. Whisk until smooth, stir constantly until it starts to turn brown. This can take 15-25 minutes. Be careful not to burn it!
Take it off the stove and whisk until it stops bubbling. Take the garlic, onions, celery and peppers and add to the roux. If making a meat version add the Andouille at this point.
Place back on a lower heat and stir until the veggies are tender.
In a separate pan, heat the water and add the bouillon (you can use prepackaged vegetable about 3 quarts needed instead of water or beef broth if non vegan).
Bring to a boil and slowly add the roux to the broth.
Reduce to simmer and add everything else except the gumbo filet, vinegar, Worcestershire and okra.
Simmer about an hour, stirring constantly.
While that is cooking, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the okra to the pan and add the vinegar – cook the okra for 15 minutes and add it to the mixture.
At this point, add the gumbo filet and the Worcestershire sauce.
Add crab meat and shrimp, if you are using those ingredients, too.
Simmer for about 45 minutes.
Just before serving, add another couple teaspoons of the gumbo powder and salt and pepper to taste!