Southern star

PETER MEIER relishes the robust Cajun casserole of New Orleans

Southern Star

Jambalaya serves 4

Jambalaya is one of those delicious words that sounds just like what it describes – in this case the jumble of meat, seafood and vegetables, somewhere between bouillabaisse and paella, that makes up one of Cajun cuisine’s signature dishes.

It’s origin goes back to the French Acadians who emigrated from the south of France to Nova Scotia. In 1755 they were deported for refusing to pledge allegiance to the British, and man finally settled in New Orleans. There they integrated with the Negroes, Spanish and Indians and became known as Cajuns.

Their rich, spicy, vibrant cooking is not for the fainthearted. It uses pork charcuterie items, made with rice and liberally seasoned with file powder (paprika, chilli, pepper and herbs). This recipe is a quick version of the traditional dish.


  • 600g green king prawns, peeled and de-veined, keep heads and shells fo the stock
  • 3 tblsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 200ml white wine
  • 1 chunky bacon bone
  • 3 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tblsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 tblsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 400g chicken thigh filet, in chunky pieces
  • 100g double smoked ham, in chunky pieces
  • 2 chorizo sausages, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1 medium green capsicum, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium red capsicum, seeded and diced
  • 1 stick celery, cut into 2cm slices
  • 2 ripe, firm tomatoes, blanched and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, hot
  • 1 tblsp each of chopped lemon thyme, marjoram and oregano
  • 2 tblsp chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper


Make stock by sauteeing onions and prawn shells in oil. As they brown, add tomatoes, stock, wine and bacon bone. Bring to boil and cook gently for about 30 minutes. Strain and discard solids, leaving about 400ml of stock.

When almost ready to eat, saute onion, garlic and spices in olive oil in a large skillet. After a couple of minutes, add chicken and ham. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently. After two minutes, add prawns. A couple  of minutes later add vegetables, then stock, sausages and finally, hot cooked rice and herbs. The entire stir-fry shouldn’t take more than eight minutes.

Serve with a refreshing salsa, or as they do in New Orleans, with deep-fried paprika-and-chilli-seasoned potato wedges.


  •   Article first published in the Sunday Star Telegraph, 6 May 2001.  To view or download PDF of this feature CLICK THIS LINK —> Southern star