I may have a thing about gumbo., but the seeming ways and means seem to obscure a straightforward DIY.
I am also not partial to okra. When I have okra I try my hand at gumbo.Otherwise...afterall okra seems a gumbo essential.
This week however, I got myself some local trawler bay prawns and thought, 'Shrimp Gumbo to go."
Since I was without okra I used bunches of Okinawan Spinach (Gynura bicolor) instead.
Why? Because the leaves have a okra-like sliminess when cooked.
It worked great. Just enough of them so that the stew/soup didn't turn green. I boiled up and concentrated the prawn shells and added the liquid to my initial fry up of onions, garlic, thyme, leaf (Chinese) celery ... and my recently made batches of Chimmichurri and fermented sweet peppers.
In a pressure cooker -- so easy peasy. I had in mind Callaloo but the final dish did not taste like spinach muck -- even though I put many Okinawan leaves into the broth.
I've made this dish before but this time I got it right. No fretting about the roux. Stock+Okinawan Spinach + Tomatoes + rice ...and flavourings. Cooked up:then the prawns.
Among the flavor enhances I reckon fried up bacon zings the dish. The folk in Louisiana use a classic French sausage. The pork adds flavour depth.
No pressure cooker? Cook for three hours...but I can't live without my pressure cooker
I do use a thickener. My favorite: potato starch.
Although many thicker stews and sauces start out with a roux base, potato starch can be added at the end of your cooking time instead of the beginning. In fact it does better that way and won't over-thicken. Because of this, you can make things a day or two in advance, or even freeze them without getting mealy. Once thawed, heat and then add your starch to thicken to your liking without your dish tasting like a science project. (LINK)
Best source of potato starch is Korean grocers. Worth adding to your diet-- see why (LINK).
Much as I love Okra, the thought of a slimy soup is off-putting. I use Okra lightly fried either whole or sliced. That way I get the flavour and reduce the slime.
Not so much a slimy soup but a gravy with stuff in it.. Technically a stew --although built as a soup. Here are some images: LINK.
Gumbo is one of the truly great 'soups' of the world. There's Vietnamese Pho, Malaysian Laksa, Moroccan Harira,Japanese Ramen, Italian Minestrone and Chinese West Lake Soup among my favs -- and gumbo is up there with them.
Of course Okinawan Spinach isn't as mucilaginous as okra. Okra is Mr Slime. So you have to adapt your recipe making.
Okra has a short season but Ok Spinach is available all year -- if you grow it. Since it is native to Indonesia maybe we should call it by one of its other names, like 'Gynura' --especially as there are far too many nom de plume spinaches out there. But there are many Gynura species as well.(LINK)
Since this was a culinary break through for me I took cuttings today of of the two Gynura I grow -- Gynura nepalensis (Moluccan Spinach) and Gynura crepioides (Okinawan Spinach). -- with reproduction in mind. I had used both in the gumbo but the Okinawan Spinach tastes better than its cousin.
Much as I love Egyptian Spinach (also called Molokhia) it is a fickle annual at my place. As for the 'others' -- Brazil Spinach , Ceylon Spinach (Talinum triangulare) -- aka Waterleaf -- and New Zealand Spinach (aka Warrigal Greens) -- I only eat the Warrigal Greens and in one dish --spanakorizo (Greek Spinach and rice).
However Ceylon Spinach/'Waterleaf' is also a useful ground cover and the chooks love it.
I'm also growing something called Tree Spinach but I'm unsure if its Chenopodium giganteum or Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius). Whatever: I like the taste. It seems to be but a variation of my much loved huauzontle.
Maybe it is all just a matter of taste and utility -- I'm not of the purslane persuasion either. But then one species of Gynura has a must have attribute -- Gynura pseudochina:
The plant has a strong smell of musk, and it is said to have the same property as garlic in protecting against crocodiles.
I'd noticed the influx of crocodiles in Beachmere ;-)
I assume if I eat a lot of garlic flavoured Gynura p. any croc will spit me out.
With so much musk on board I'm sure my pretend testosterone levels will bully me up ready for just such a possibility.
But I'd have two choices when so loaded: swim with crocs or go out clubbing.