After leaving university, I went on a road trip across America’s Deep South. I passed through cotton fields in Virginia, witnessed fainting goats in Tennessee and drank moonshine in North Carolina. The final stop was Louisiana, and the thing I loved the most (even more than the fainting goats) was the hickory smoke smell in the air and the deeply delicious food, from po’boys to gumbo. Today’s dish is inspired by a Creole jambalaya, a sweet, smoky and moreish one-pot phenomenon.
Creole rice with burnt peppers
To get a good, smoky flavour, I use sweet smoked paprika and burn one of the peppers over gas. If you have no inclination to burn a pepper, or you have an induction hob, just use sliced raw pepper instead.
Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
3 peppers, ideally yellow, red and green
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 large brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks (150g), finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 vine tomatoes (200g), chopped
1 ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
300g jasmine rice, rinsed until the water runs clear
500ml vegetable stock
Turn the smallest flame of the hob on to low and use a pair of tongs to hold and rotate one of the peppers over the flame until it develops some charred spots. Leave to cool, rub off any large black spots with your fingers (but don’t worry about the rest of the skin), then cut into thin strips, discarding the seeds and stalk. Deseed the other two raw peppers and cut the flesh into strips, too.
Put a large frying pan for which you have a lid on a medium heat. Add the oil and, when hot, add the onion, celery and bay leaves, and cook, stirring often, for eight minutes, until the onion is soft and turning brown at the edges. Add the peppers and garlic, cook for six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and sweet, then add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes, until they break down. Stir in the paprika, thyme, salt and cayenne pepper, then add the rice and stir again. Finally, add the stock, stir and bring to a boil. Pop on the lid, turn the heat right down to a whisper and cook for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave the rice to stand (without lifting the lid) for 10 minutes more, then serve immediately (although this rice also makes for delicious leftovers).