I write this exhausted, having just returned from my sister’s Hen Weekend in Bath! What a fantastic time it has been. Hen-activities aside, we already knew it would be fantastic once we got a load of the gorgeous house we were staying in, the fabulous Charlotte House:
(note: video taken at the end of the weekend… Sorry Hens!)
Friday night was the night out- burlesque, drinks and dancing mainly!
Saturday night was the night in. With my Sister being an enormous fan of rum, Monkey Island, the Caribbean and the fact that she and future hubby Iain are going to St Lucia for their honey moon, a Caribbean/Pirate theme seemed more than fitting!
As the dream home also happened to have my dream kitchen in its walls, I was pretty keen to get my hands on it! At this time the majority of the house (including Bridey!) were still sleeping off the night before! While my soon to be sort-of-sister-in-law Molly made some delicious Cajun skewers, I rustled up a Chicken and Chorizo Gumbo, each of us being well assisted by my cousin Sarah!
The last time I cooked gumbo also happened to be for my Sister when she visited me back in my London pad, to show me how to do a night out in London properly. She certainly succeeded and I must say she did a fine job of letting her hair down this weekend in Bath too! So not only is it a rum lover’s Caribbean favourite, it’s also a dish which, to my mind, is now associated with booze ridden good times with the people you love. Normally I make it with prawns too and a bit more spice, but when you’re cooking for this many certain changes must be made.
First, to save on me failing to explain properly how to make a roux (the whole base of your gumbo) let me share with you the exact video that taught me to make gumbo in the first place!
Ok, so now she’s done the hard part for me, let me cover the basics!
- Corn oil/Vegetable oil/Canola Oil
- Plain Flour
- Okra, Chopped (I couldn’t find Okra in Bath Sainsbury’s, so I substituted for mini courgettes. Seemed ok to me!)
- 1 large white onion, roughly diced
- The pepper rainbow, roughly diced
- 3 big cloves of garlic (or more or less- it’s your call!) finely diced
- 500ml of chicken stock
- Chorizo- sliced
- About 6 or so chicken thighs- diced
- A teaspoon of Cajun seasoning
- A teaspoon of Cayenne pepper
- A splash of tobasco (optional)
- A dash-o-salt
The bride-to-be will be coming downstairs in one hour. You don’t even have your pirate costume on yet. Let’s. Get. Going.
1. First, make your roux. This is equal parts plain flour and one of the above listed oils popped into a nice big saucepan. I didn’t put the measurements required above as I tend to eyeball/handful it! So if I had to guess I would say perhaps just under a ½ pint of each. Keep your roux on a medium to high heat in your pan and keep it moving constantly using a whisk. Don’t actually WHISK it! Just move it with a whisk! It’s a process of patience as you want it to get quite dark without burning it. This first picture shows how it began, and the second how it looks when I added the peppers and onion. I would also recommend, as you really need to be constantly watching/moving your roux, you get everything chopped and ready BEFORE you cook or have a cousin Sarah to help you! I will also stress again to watch the video above to have roux-making properly explained to you! It can be tricky but the woman in that video helped me loads. Plus I just love her character!
The colour shown in the pictures is not entirely accurate, what with the camera flash making everything look like paper! Basically, the darker your roux, the richer your gumbo! Denay is right what she has in her video- a good gumbo has a black roux, but who has 45 minutes spare to stir flour and oil around on a hen weekend?! Nobody, that’s who! The “hen roux”, let’s call it, was about 10-15 minutes. It’s only as difficult as you want it to be!
3. I would recommend you cook your chicken first (even if not all the way through) before adding it to the pot. I sprinkled some Cajun season on mine then cooked it in a frying pan! Add to the pot along with your chorizo slices. Have a little stir about.
4. Chicken stock. IN!
5. Let that cook for about 5 minutes.
6. Now add your garlic and seasoning. Stir.
8. Hey. YOU just made a gumbo. Serve with rice (and corn bread if you’re going for it) and enjoy with a nice Dark and Stormy (ideally served in a novelty coconut cup!)
After dinner, we received a very special guest – a Butler in The Buff- who kindly served us drinks and helped us with games for 2 hours. He was very efficient but clearly a disorganised person in general- he even forgot half his uniform!
Then my other soon to be sort-of-sister-in-law Kate gave my sister a rather fetching outfit – a fully inflatable penis costume! So, in the end, the evening was hardly your average experience of “dinner and drinks with the girls”, but definitely lots of fun and very memorable!
The following day was the perfect end to a brilliant weekend- a posh Champagne Cream Tea organised by the remaining Bridesmaid Katie. It was outrageously more-ish and a real treat for all. I think everyone was definitely ready for a good sleep at the end of it, and now all is wrapped that’s exactly what I plan to do for a good 10 hours or so!
Congratulations, Hens! I think we gave her a mighty fine send off and plenty of happy (and shameful) memories 😉 😀