Vegan Jambalaya

I'm slowly but surely veganizing all my old recipes. Slowly because I'm so caught up in the new foods I'm discovering that I rarely think about the meals I used to cook. Not that they weren't good - they were pretty darn great if I'm being honest - but I have absolutely no cravings or hankerings after any of the meat and dairy laden fare that once came out of my kitchen. Hubbie, on the other hand, does occasionally talk about the wonderful Carbonara's or the yummy Frittata's I produced that became firm favourites in my food repertoire. Of course, he would never really want to go back to our old ways but there is a certain nostalgia for comfort food that has brought you joy in the past. So I set about transforming some of my classic dishes into vegan wonders in their own right - it's about time we started creating some new memories so that we can look back fondly in a few years time and marvel at how far we've come. Ever the optimist!

I've racked up quite a few triumphs from Spaghetti Amatriciana to Sausage, Mash and Gravy and even making some ridiculously amazing Tofu Frittata Muffins. The one I'm going to divulge right now though is Vegan Jambalaya. Holy smokes do I love this kind of fodder - one pot wonders packed full of flavour and a bit of spice, perfect to warm those cockles on a windy evening when the ever impending Autumn is closing in.

You should know I have a major penchant for the music of The Carpenters (don't laugh, I am not ashamed!). I used to sing along to all their songs when I was young and always remember Jambalaya (On The Bayou) mainly because at the time I hadn't the foggiest notion what a Jambalaya was. When I started stretching my cooking wings and discovering new cuisines I inevitably came across Jambalaya and suffice to say  it had to be made pronto! This is such a soulful dish that evokes images of balmy nights in a world that I will never probably know - although I'm still determined to get my heiney 'Down South' to have a good old explore.

I suppose my version is more Creole than Cajun because it's tomato based. I'm led to believe that the differences are fairly subtle but Creole cuisine has more European influences and seeing as I'm nearer to Europe I'll go with that. Regardless of where it comes from or what influences are at play this is just good ole'  fashioned grub that will leave you wanting more - this is certainly something I could hanker after.

vegan jambalaya

1 onion

1 red pepper

4 rashers vegan bacon - I used Redwood VegiDeli Organic Rashers

1 cup chicken style pieces - I used the RealEat brand

1 cup short grain brown rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup sweetcorn

1 can tomatoes

1 tsp tomato/vegetable puree

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

1 red chilli

1 tbsp paprika

1 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses or a pinch of sugar

tabasco sauce (as much or as little as you like - I like a LOT!)

large handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

olive oil

salt and pepper

Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan along with some seasoning. Allow to soften for a few minutes. Mince the garlic and finely chop the chilli and add to pan along with the chilli flakes.

Cut the 'bacon' into chunks. Add to pan along with the paprika and cook until it starts to colour.

Cut the pepper into large pieces, add to pan, season and allow to soften with the other ingredients.

Pour in the brown rice, give it a stir and then add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes. Top the can with water. Season, add the molasses and water from the can. Shake in a good amount of tabasco sauce. Fill the can again - you will use this water throughout.

Allow to gently simmer for 30mins before adding the frozen chicken style pieces. If it becomes too dry add more water - like you would do a risotto. Cook for a further 15mins or until the rice is fully cooked.

A few minutes before serving add the peas, sweetcorn and allow them to cook before sprinkling in the parsley ensuring to reserve some for when you plate up. Season and/or add more tabasco if necessary.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

rice & pasta, veganAine Carlin