April Farmers Market: Cajun Shrimp Étouffée with Creole Lobster and Hush Puppies

Once again we’ve headed down to Guildford High Street to marvel at all the delicious, locally produced foods and compiled a recipe for you based on ingredients we were able to buy – here’s our offering for the April Farmers Market. We try and support businesses by buying some tasty little treats and picking up fantastic fresh food to cook great meals for under £5 a person. Doing this, it shows that you don’t need to break the bank to eat healthy food that is locally grown, sourced, produced and manufactured.

This month I’ve gone for something that is far from being a traditional English dish. It actually hails from Louisiana, America instead, but the rich flavours and textures make this dish well worth cooking. Purchasing as many ingredients as possible from Guildford’s monthly Farmers Market like the fresh lobster, shrimp, polenta and veg adds a delicious local taste to such a far flung dish, although several of the supporting ingredients you may already have in stock or might need to quickly grab from a supermarket.

Shrimp Étouffée with Creole Lobster and homemade hush puppies is not the easiest or quickest of meals to whip up, but the time and effort invested in its creation pay off in the end result. These three dishes should be served with steamed white rice, so make sure you remember to put it on with about 15 minutes left. NB: Hush puppies are golf ball sized, deep fried donuts made from cornmeal or polenta, giving them a gritty yet comforting sort of texture that works wonderfully for mopping up leftover sauce from the étouffée and lobster.

Cajun Shrimp Étouffée
Roughly 1 pound of shrimp
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plain flour
1 small green pepper, diced
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 celery sticks, diced
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 drops Tabasco Sauce
2 tbsps everyday seasoning (available in supermarkets)
A good helping of salt and pepper
1 cup of fish stock

Lobster Creole
1 medium sized lobster
6 tbsps unsalted butter
6 tbsps all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 pint cooled fish stock
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
4 large diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 drops Tabasco Sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Hush Puppies
300g fine cornmeal or polenta
100g self-raising flour
330ml beer
100g fresh or frozen sweetcorn
4 spring onions, trimmed or finely sliced
120g Cheddar cheese, freshly and finely grated
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 litre vegetable oil
Smoked paprika

Cooking time: 1 hour 45 mins – 2 hours
Serves: 4

Lobster Creole

  • It is certainly best to begin cooking the lobster first, as it takes the longest and isn’t harmed by a little prolonged simmering on a very low heat while the étouffée is cooking.
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a heavy wooden spoon for 5 to 10 minutes to make a medium brown-coloured roux.
  • This roux is the staple of many Southern American dishes and it is very important to stir continually to stop the sauce from burning. If it begins to burn, discard and start over as a burned roux will corrupt the other flavours in the dish.
  • Add the onions, celery, peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes over a medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomato puree and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Whisk in the cooled fish stock, then add the sugar, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, lemon zest and Tabasco. Bring to the boil.
  • Add the onions, parsley and lobster meat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thick- this should take 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Continue to simmer until ready to serve – no longer than 1hr 15 minutes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Shrimp Étouffée

  • Heat the oil in a thick (preferably copper) bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Gradually add in flour and stir constantly until the mixture turns peanut butter brown or darker- this should take at least 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Once the roux is browned, add the onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper to the saucepan and cook together for about 5-8 minutes to soften. Stir in the tomatoes and fish stock and season with the everyday seasoning. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Season the sauce with Tabasco, salt and pepper and then add the shrimp. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque.

Hush Puppies

  • Put the cornmeal and flour into a bowl, add your beer and leave to sit for a few minutes. Add the corn, sliced spring onions, grated cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper and use a fork or a spoon to mix it up really well.
  • Once the batter is ready, pour the vegetable oil into a large sturdy saucepan and put it on a high heat. Be careful with the hot oil in the pan.
  • You want the oil to reach about 180c (if you don’t have a thermometer get a small piece of potato and drop it into the pan – when it turns crisp and golden and rises to the top, the oil is ready to go). Get a tablespoonful of mix and carefully drop it into the hot oil. Many traditionally roll the batter into a ball, creating a smooth, as opposed to a more rustic, appearance, but no difference is made to the taste. Keep your eye on them and let them fry for about 3 to 4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen roll.
  • Season with the freshly ground salt, black pepper and with smoked paprika for an amazing, barbecue style taste. They can be served piping hot alongside your meal, or prepared earlier in the day and served chilled.

Serve the three dishes separately to avoid the sauces combining alongside some steamed white rice, then dig in and try a little bit of Louisiana from home!

Charli Aisha Harris