Lucie Loves… Food // Cooking up a Creole Shrimp Etouffe storm + Moroccan spiced aubergine & yoghurt dish using Spice Pioneer's tasty spice subscription service.
…and so do I! The end.
No, seriously, I really enjoyed using these products from Spice Pioneer. Aside from the familiar spices I've used a gazillion (real word) times before, I received a few curve balls, which were not only unfamiliar, but they added some real oomph (more real English) to my food too.
I fully intended on inviting some friends over for a late Sunday lunch, (I didn’t!) I didn’t get around to inviting anyone.
I was tired, I woke up late, I was under the weather, I was a little hungover… So, hungover and alone, I made myself a feast.
The Spice Pioneers had sent me two delightful spice box collections, I suppose you’d call them? One a Moroccan-themed collection, the other a Creole collection. Spices you’d use in combination of the gastronomy of both these cultures. Delicious!
In each of the boxes, contained menu cards, which gave you details, including not only for recipe ideas, but shopping lists and instructions on the process of creating the 3 course meal plans using each spice/condiment.
Now, me being more familiar with Moroccan style spices and their use, I chose to freestyle with this range. However, with the Creole range, I opted to take their lead, albeit with a little creative licence. And so, The Shrimp Etouffe was born (and made, in my kitchen).
Louisiana, and Creole Food
So, what do I know about the Creole style of cuisine from Louisiana? I knew that I was making their Shrimp Etouffe, and I knew that the spice, the heat and the exoticness comes from a dark past (it stems from West African slaves) but brings colour, flair and (more) oomph to their gastronomic culture. It was during the peak incarceration of slaves in the late 18th century, that a large number were taken from the dark Continent and brought to the States, and with them their food traditions. I also know that a lot of their cooking centres on what we can call the "Holy Trinity" – bell peppers, celery and onions – the starting point, the centrepiece of this cuisine. And why not? I'm salivating already!
So in my Louisiana, Creole range I had 6 spices and condiments. There was a Creole and Cajun spice blend, sun-dried tomato powder – a really interesting one I'd not used before, which gave a deep umami and tangy note. Tangy is a word that shall be repeated from here on in. We also had Celery seeds, again, never used before, cinnamon and a sweet spice blend for a booze coffee named, Cajun cafe Brulot.
I began with the shrimp etouffe aka Shrimp stew. Etouffe is essentially a stew, created using a technique known as smothering, and shrimp etouffe sounds way fancier and had I got it together to invite friends I'd have called it that!!
Here's how it went...
I began with my Holy Trinity. These aromatic vegetables will be the base and the deep sweet and savoury flavours will come from them, a platform for the spices to bring there A game. Slow and low. Well, that's a lie... More like medium and medium. medium heat, medium time. But slow and low sounds way better! I'm looking for a strong caramelisation. A deep chestnut colour from my onion and celery, and blistering black skin from my green peppers.
Now was the time for the Creole spice mix to do its thing. A mixture of Paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic, cayenne, thyme and oregano. You need to cook this spice mix out, just a couple of minutes, enough to release their fragrant oils and take away that “raw” flavour, and we get that beautiful smokey piquant and tangy combination.
From here on in it's plain sailing. I added my passata, reduced it by a third, then added the shrimp and applied the smothering technique and dinner done! Well, main course.
Usually in Louisiana, a dish like this would be served over rice. I didn’t though, as i am a diabetic trying to adhere to a low carbohydrate lifestyle. Instead, I took a courgette (Zucchini is the American name for it) grated it raw, and dressed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and simply had that as a rice substitute. I use this in place of pasta and rice quite often.
As nobody ever should (like I have not), and that is start at the beginning. I went back to my starter, the start of the meal. The freestyle.
I took my aubergine (eggplant) and diced it to... ooh, let's say 1cm squares, and salted for them for 15 minutes. That's to say, I seasoned with salt, left for 15 mins just to draw some of the liquid out, as I wanted to crisp my aubergine.
So my oven, in all its modern day glory, doesn't have a dial that indicates the actual temperature of the oven, so I went with HOT!! (approx 200ºc). I wanted crispy ends, almost charred, a little chewy and fluffy flesh. After they began to the colour I pulled them out of the oven and tossed them in the Ras El Hanout (said in a Scottish accent) and back in the oven to take the rawness off the spice, and we were done! and the result was a charred, chewy tangy fluffy nuggets of nightshade!
I also knocked up a delicious yoghurt dressing and with this I used the Pioneers pomegranate molasses and preserved lemon – two, wickedly good ingredients you’d struggle to find in your local shops and or markets.
Making these at home can be laborious and time consuming, so these were a very welcome treat! A few shredded spring onions through the dressing and we were good to go. What we were left with is deep tangy and sweet molasses combined with the salty, zesty (also tangy) preserved lemon all playing harmoniously with the aromatic spice blend of the mighty Ras El Hanout.
In the End
I was completely surprised, won over and left wanting more from The Spice Pioneer. Some of their ingredients were wonderful little nuggets that excited me, some were store cupboard basics. I would never had cooked a shrimp stew for dinner if it wasn’t for their recommendations. All in all, great products that brought some heat to the kitchen while taking the heat out the decision making process.
Words and photos ~ Jody McConnachie
Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. We were sent the Spice Pioneer condiments free of charge, for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions stated are our own.