I’m posting this a bit late, but this week has been American week at our house. Though Indian tacos and bannock were both Canadian and American, gumbo is totally Louisiana. I visited Louisiana once, years ago, before Hurricane Katrina changed New Orleans forever, and I loved the food. This was also before I had to worry about a gluten-free or low-FODMAP diet, so I chowed down on fried oyster po’ boys, muffalettas, beignets, crawfish étouffés, and of course, gumbo.
However, I left Louisiana feeling unsure about what a “proper” gumbo should be, because every one I had was significantly different. One was thick and stewy, another was thinner and soupy. One was full of seafood, another, if I remember correctly, featured only chicken and sausage. That’s because, I gather, every Louisiana chef has their own version of gumbo. About the only common ingredients seem to be some form of flour-based roux and okra. Unfortunately, both wheat flour and okra (it’s high-FODMAP) are out for me. So how to create an authentic-tasting gumbo without either of those ingredients?
The first of these challenges wasn’t too hard. I simply substituted a gluten-free flour mix for the wheat flour and browned it. I couldn’t tell the difference. Doing away with okra, however, presented a bigger challenge. How was I going to get the slightly… er… slimy – I’d like another word with a more positive connotation but I can’t think of one – consistency that okra imparts, as well as the texture of the stewed vegetable? Some recipes call for filé powder (apparently made from ground sassafras leaves) but I had no idea how to obtain that. So I settled on using cornstarch and chopped fresh tomatoes. It came out lovely and authentic-tasting.
My version of gumbo is rather more on the soupy side and uses a combination of chicken, sausage, fish, and shrimp. (I cooked the shrimp separately and added it directly to my bowl because my husband is allergic.) I used less oil than most recipes call for because I find oily soup unpleasant. So here goes: my version of gumbo. My whole family liked it, but I think the spirit of gumbo calls for you to create your own version, so feel free to mess with my recipe at will!
Gluten-free, low-FODMAP gumbo
- 2-3 chicken breasts, chopped
- 3-4 sausages,* sliced
- 1 large stalk celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 yellow pepper (or other colour sweet pepper), coarsely chopped
- Sunflower oil
- 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix**
- 1/5 litres chicken broth***
- 1 carton or can chopped tomatoes (mine was 390 g), with juice
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
- 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 2 small fillets mild white fish (I used coley)
- 1 cup or so peeled shrimp
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, or to taste
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (cornflour), plus more if needed
- Good handful of parsley, chopped
- Generous lashings of Tabasco or similar hot sauce
- Cooked rice, to serve
* Gluten-free if you’re gluten-free. If you’re low-FODMAP, use sausages without onion or garlic. These can be hard to find. If you’re in the UK, I recommend Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Herb & Pork Sausages. The other flavours all contain onion and/or garlic. If you’re not worried about onion and/or garlic and want greater Louisiana-style authenticity, use andouille sausages.
** I used Dove’s Farm Plain White Flour but most gluten-free flour mixes should work. I would use a mix rather than just a single type of gluten-free flour or starch. If you’re low-FODMAP, be aware that some mixes contain bean flour, which is high in FODMAPs.
*** If you’re low-FODMAP, look very hard for a chicken broth without onion or garlic (I’ve never yet found one in a store though theoretically some exist) or make your own. Homemade chicken broth always tastes better anyway. If you’re hard up, you could substitute water.
- Put a generous glug of sunflower oil into a large pot/Dutch oven (not non-stick). Brown chicken pieces well. Don’t worry if they stick a bit to the bottom of the pot. Set aside.
- Add a little more oil and brown sausage pieces well. Set aside with the chicken. Don’t clean the pot beyond scraping out meat bits.
- In food processor, finely chop celery, green pepper, and yellow processor together. Set aside.
- With heat on medium, brown flour in the pot you browned the meat in, stirring frequently, until flour reaches a medium brown colour, about the shade of peanut butter. Put in a small bowl.
- Pour a little cold water in the bowl with the flour and whisk until you have a thick paste without obvious lumps. This is your roux, made with water instead of oil. Trust me, it works just fine.
- In a large pot, briefly sauté the finely chopped vegetables in a little oil. Add in the chicken broth and canned/tetra-packed chopped tomatoes (don’t drain) and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, lower heat to a simmer. Whisk in the roux, then add the thyme, bay leaf, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chicken, and sausage. Simmer for awhile (you could do the washing up while you wait) or optionally put in slow cooker for a time (a few hours, not all day).
- Turn heat up to medium and add in the vinegar, fresh tomatoes, fish, and shrimp. Cook for a few minutes until tomatoes are softer (but still hold their shape), fish flakes easily – flake it coarsely now – and shrimp have turned colour.
- Dissolve cornstarch in a little cold water, add to pot, and stir well. If the soup doesn’t thicken up enough for your taste, add a little more cornstarch.
- Turn off heat, add chopped parsley, and serve with rice and generous lashings of Louisiana-style hot sauce.