West African Gumbo
A Southern favorite dish with a smoky fish base. The tradition of this stew traveled to Louisiana from West Africa and evolved into what we know as gumbo.
Prep time: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes
- For the Fish Stock:
- 1 large fish head (about 2 pounds, or the equivalent in weight of smaller heads.)
- 12 ounces spring onions, white and green parts sliced into rings (or 1 ½ bunches scallions)
- 10 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- For the Gumbo:
- 1 recipe fish stock (see recipe)
- 1 large piece smoked, salted dried fish
- 3 Indian eggplants (about 8-10 ounces or very small conventional eggplant)
- 2 cups sliced okra, (about 6 ounces cut into ½ inch rounds)
- 2-3 small hot fresh chiles, or more, to taste (Thai bird chiles or similar)
- ½ cup Palm oil
- 1 dozen little neck clams
- ½ pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 squid, bodies cleaned and separated from their tentacles
- 6 cups cooked whole grain rice
- To get started with the fish stock, combine all ingredients in a stockpot with water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Skim the scum that rises to the surface and discard. Cook at a bare simmer for about 1 hour.
- Remove the fish head and set on a plate to cool. Remove the skin and pick the meat off of the bones.
- Now you're ready to prepare the gumbo. Keep the fish stock at a simmer over medium low heat while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Add the piece of dry smoked dried fish into the broth. Add in the eggplants whole. Cover the pot with the lid. The eggplants will braise in the liquid.
- Put the okra in a mortar and pestle. Crush it to release the “slime” and to pulverize it. Tear the chiles and add them, seeds and all, to the mortar and pestle. Smash them with the okra really well. After about 5 minutes, it should look like a gelatinous, pulverized mixture.
- Add the okra mixture to the broth. Keep at a good simmer to allow the okra to thicken the broth.
- Add the palm oil. It may seem like a lot – but it will emulsify with the okra creating a creamier stew. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes more until it’s slightly thicker.
- Add the clams and the picked meat from the fish head to the pot. Cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes until the clams open up.
- Add in the shrimp and stir, add the whole squid bodies and tentacles. Cook for 3 minutes. Both the shrimp and squid bodies should be just cooked, but not overcooked.
- Serve immediately over cooked whole grain rice.