I’ve decided that every now and again on this blog I’m going to combine two of my biggest passions in life; music and food. The two, when combined together in the right way, can make a perfect blend that complement each other and heighten the senses that they throw at you.
Both are creations that come from the heart, that share the same purpose in bringing people together and creating joy and happiness.
It is no coincidence that wherever in the world you get the birth of a new musical style and culture, you also see the birth of a new style of cooking. Whether the food inspires the music, or vice versa, no one is sure, but what we do know is that when you put the two together you have a recipe for a damn good time.
So we start this culinary and musical journey in a place where music and food have been the cornerstone for a society, and have not only been the root of a cultural revolution, but also the bed rock on which to rebuild after great tragedy and terrible loss; New Orleans.
Founded by the French in 1718 New Orleans became a prominent port and trading post in the south that saw it change hands with the Spanish before being purchased by the USA in 1803. With French, Spanish, Irish, German, African, Haitian, Cuban and Creole influences streaming in from all the immigrants and goods that passed through, the city developed a very unique and mixed culture that not only took from all of these backgrounds but also developed its own sense of ethnicity. Where else were you going to get the birth of Jazz. Born in its pre-American and early American days from a unique blending of European instruments with African rhythms, Jazz, a term coined by the white inhabitants as a derogatory slang term for what they heard, took hold in the metropolis in large part due to the fact that it was the only North American city to allow slaves to gather in public and play their native music. The birth place of Lois Armstrong, and countless other musicians, it is a mecca for all who want to experience and feel that sweaty, pulsating, feverish atmosphere that can only be found in the bars and dens along Bourbon Street that pump blues, rhythm and jazz into the night air. No matter what time of year you visit there will always be excellent musicians playing on every street corner and in every watering hole, but at Mardi Gras the city just pulsates to a natural rhythm that seems to seep from the pours of everyone that is there. This is somewhere where music affect everone.
Naturally food would also be hugely influenced by all these people and cultures (Louis Armstrong often signed his letters, “Red beans and ricely yours”.) An amalgamation of Cajun and French haute cuisine that used local ingredients, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun, Chinese, and a hint of Cuban traditions that combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable Louisiana flavor. With a large population of people, most of whom with very little or no money, recipes were invented that used cheap left over ingredients combined with seasonings that were spare to create a diet that would feed the people and keep them going. This was no more evident than after Hurricane Katrina when the city had been brought to its knees and the people were in desperate need of aid. The first places to get back on their feet and help rebuild their neighbourhood communities were local dinners and food counters, such as Mother’s Restaurant, where residents had been going for generations to get their fill of Gumbo, Po’ Boys (A French bread sandwich and signature dish of New Orleans. A staple meal of poor workers or children. It has also been proposed that these sandwiches would have be purchased with a worker’s tips (French: pourboire) or that they were made using the “tips” of a loaf of French bread), Beignets, Jambalaya and Red Beans and Rice. They became hubs where people could go for help and food, and piece together what was left of their lives.
So below, for your delectation, are my recipe’s for authentic Creole style seasoning that you can use to jive up any dish to give it that Southern charm, and Cajun Jambalaya for you to enjoy, all while listening to my soundtrack from New Orleans:
(A rice dish with meat or seafood, similar to Spanish paella. The word is said to come from the Provençal word “jambalaia,” meaning mish-mash or pilaf)
- 12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
- 200g chicken, diced
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 chopped green pepper
- 1 chopped celery stick
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 large chopped tomatoes
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 3/4 cup rice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 200g Andouille (or chorizo) sausage sliced
- Salt and pepper
In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add chicken stock. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
New Orleans Playlist
Van Morrison – ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’
Fats Domino – ‘I’m Walking to New Orleans’
Lois Prima – ‘Basin Street Blues’
Chuck Berry – ‘Johnny B. Goode’
Louis Armstrong – ‘New Orleans Stomp’
Harry Connick Jr. – ‘Oh My NOLA’
Topsy Chapman – ‘Baby Won’t You Please Come Home’
Kermit Ruffins – ‘Drop me off in New Orleans’
Kevin Clark – ‘The Devil Done Got Me Blues’
Dr. Michael White – ‘Give It Up’
Fats Domino – ‘Jambalaya (On the Bayou)’
Lois Armstrong – ‘Boy from New Orleans’