Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Vegetarian jambalaya

I've never been to the Deep South, but just mention the word "jambalaya" to me, and my imagination immediately finds itself in deepest darkest Louisiana - or as deep and dark as Gonzales is, that is. I dont know what it's like, you see, because while my imagination has set foot in the Jambalaya Capital of the World, my foot has not.

Actually, if ever I DO manage to be there (in person, that is) for the Jambalaya Festival, it would be the most pointless exercise in terms of my ability - or rather, inability - to eat this renowned Creole/Cajun dish... the reason being that I'm 99.99% vegetarian and prefer my food not to have been sentient at any point in its lifetime. I guess I could always savour the experience, if not the food...

Anyway, I decided to make jambalaya at home, as the first dish made on the first day of the new year. I had some vegetarian sausages (made of soya) that Pete had kindly bought for me on an impromptu shopping trip. While on the subject of vegetarian sausages and other meat-replacement attempts, do you know just how difficult it is for non-vegetarians to understand that genuine Indian veggies like me do NOT crave for meat substitutes, whether in texture OR taste? The mock-meats and soya/tofu products are all for former carnivores who miss their carne. It's by turns tiring or boring - sometimes both - trying to explain, and even in these enlightened days, I get the occasional baffled "But what do you eat?" question.

Digression aside, the jambalaya recipe that served as the basis of my inspiration was
Jag's, posted on his blog, Route 79. Jag's recipes are painstakingly photographed and captioned and believe me, I go there sometimes just to read his recipes and drool a little. (Ok, drool a lot. Dammit, this honesty thing is overrated.) As far as I'm concerned, everything vegetarian he has on his blog is on the list of "my favourite foods", all of them crowding for first position.

I say that Jag's recipe is the basis of mine because I had to make some substitutions and omissions for the usual reasons. For instance, I didnt have celery (mainly because I dont like it!), so I used a little 21-seasoning mix that's strong on celery seed, as a substitute. I didnt use chicken or prawns or chorizo sausage either. What I followed were the actual cooking instructions from Jag's recipe. A good thing too, because the rice was cooked to perfection. Not dry, not mushy, not clumpy - just perfect.

Recipe for:


1 cup vegetarian sausages cut into 1-cm rounds
2 medium onions, sliced into long thin pieces
1 large green (or any other colour) bell pepper, sliced long and thin
1/2 tsp celery seed (or use 1 celery stick, sliced thin)
1" piece ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, chopped or grated
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tbsp periperi, tabasco, habanero or any other spicy sauce (or as per taste)
2 cups basmati rice, washed and drained
4 cups boiling water
2 tbsp oil
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped spring onions for garnish


1. Prepare the stock using the stock cube and the 4 cups of boiling water. Stir in whichever spicy sauce you're using. Reserve.

2. Pour 1 tsp oil in a large pan (make sure it's one with a lid that fits correctly) and fry the "sausage" pieces, stirring often, till golden.

Remove from the pan and reserve.

3. Now pour the remaining oil into the pan and add the onions.

4. When they start softening slightly, add the sliced bell peppers.

5. Turn the heat up to high and stir fry till the onions and peppers begin to acquire brown edges.

6. Now add the chopped garlic and ginger and stir fry for a minute or so.

If you're using celery, add it now and stir it all around for a couple of minutes more.

7. Toss in the fried "sausage" pieces and stir it in, making sure the pieces are coated with whatever oil is left in the pan.

8. Then add the drained soaked rice, stirring it in till well distributed.

Pour in the prepared stock and stir, letting the liquid come to a bubbling boil.

9. When the stock is bubbling, add the bay leaves and the chopped tomatoes. Stir them in.

10. Cover the pot and turn the heat down as low as possible. Leave the rice to cook covered and undisturbed for 20 minutes. Do NOT lift the lid or you will lose precious steam and the rice will not cook well.

11. After 20 minutes, turn off the gas and let the jambalaya sit covered for 10 minutes in the pan. Then take off the lid (ahhhh the aroma!),

sprinkle the chopped parsley and spring onions over, and serve the jambalaya hot.


Anonymous said...

No 'but WHERE do you get your protein from'??

Jambalaya's kinda like a twist on briyani, eh? ;-)

amna said...

i love mixed rice dishes and this sure looks yummmm :)

bha said...

Nice Jambalaya recipe....i too have it in my blog, but its a basic one...urs look very inviting and delicious

Shammi said...

Shvetha: Havent been asked about protein... it's like if you dont eat meat, the only options are vegetables and greens. So MANY people need educating on proper Indian vegetarian options! :)

Nags: It tasted yum too, and it had so few spices!

Bhags: Thanks :) This one's pretty basic too. Next time I'll add more veggies!

Manasi said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO U & UR FAMILY!!!!Nice one!!! and yes, I am a 99.99% vege too and YES, it is tiring and boring to explain to people 'what we eat'!!! sigh! if they only knew the amazing variety we have!!!!

Suganya said...

How was the texture of these 'fake' sausages?

FH said...

I have never eaten veg. sausages, looks good S! I love Jambalaya, had the chance to taste the real Jambalaya in New Orleans last year.Comfort food, isn't it?:)

Rajesh &Shankari said...

Happy New Year to you & Pete! I have been wanting to make jambalaya at home. I think we get veg sausages at the co-op..so will try.
On another note, I made vendakai pitlai yesterday. I looked at the ingredients and made it without looking at the procedure. I roasted the ingredients for the masala and was wondering why the pitlai did not looks like yours...duh! I shd have read the method. But the end result is that pitlai is finished in one go..was awesome. Thank U once again.

Priyamvada_K said...

My kid LOVED this, and actually asked me to make it again. Considering how little interest she has in food in general (not for the fault of her mom, who is a decent cook :) - her asking for this dish is quite something.

I added some twists to this recipe. Couldn't get peri peri sauce, so used good old Andhra Style ripe chilli pickle. And threw in some green channa from the freezer for extra protein. Came out good.

Thank you,

kittymatti said...

wow, this is a cool idea.. I have always been thinking of trying out jambalaya.. U have done a great job!!

TheTastetinkerer said...

This post made me laugh! My husband says the exact same thing about veggie-sausages burgers etc that try so hard to taste like meat- if obelix were a vegetarian, he would say "these meat-tasting-veggies thinggy-makers are crazy!!