The next recipe, a gumbo, is really a main course rather than a soup, and it makes good use of seasonal vegetables. I sometimes thicken the gumbo with filé powder, bought in America, which is the powdered dry leaf of the sassafras tree. One or two teaspoons of powder are mixed with a little water and stirred into the soup right at the end of cooking time and after the final seasoning. The soup should not be boiled after adding the filé, as it becomes stringy. Otherwise use okra, which thickens the broth to a silky rich texture. You can adapt the gumbo recipe for vegetarians quite easily, by leaving out the chicken and replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock.


  • 1 kg (2 lbs) free-range or organic chicken joints
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 500 g (1 lb) ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped, or canned will do
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 125 g (¼ lb) okra, or more 1 red or green pepper
  • 1.75 litres (3 pints) chicken stock
  • 250 g (½ lb) green beans
  • 250 g (½ lb) courgettes
  • kernels of 2 or 3 corn cobs
  • 200 g (7 oz) chick-peas or black-eyed beans, soaked and cooked, as well as the cooking liquid from them. Or use canned pulses
  • sprigs of coriander, thyme, parsley and bay leaves, tied together
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chopped parsley or coriander


Fry the chicken pieces, onion, tomato and celery in the oil until the vegetables are translucent and the tomatoes collapsed. Trim and slice the okra. Quarter the pepper, remove the pith and seeds and slice. Add to the pot together with the stock. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables, the cooking liquid from the pulses and the bundle of herbs. Continue cooking until the vegetables are done to your liking. Remove the bundle of herbs, season the gumbo and stir in the fresh herbs. You might like to add a dash of hot pepper sauce, and certainly serve hot sauce and bowls of rice as accompaniments.