If you can get powdered filé, so much the better. This dried and powdered sassafras is what gives the gumbo its distinctive texture, somewhat thick and shiny. Extra okra can be used in place of filé. The chilli can be left out, or increased to taste.
Dice and lightly salt the aubergine, and leave it in a colander for half an hour or so, and then rinse and dry it thoroughly.
In a large casserole brown the aubergine and onion in the oil without burning them. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook until all the liquid has evaporated and they too begin to caramelize.
Add the potatoes and a third of the stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, and then add the rest of the stock, the okra left whole and the chilli. Simmer for 20 minutes, then add the courgettes and beans and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
Add the corn kernels and seasoning, boil for two minutes, and remove from the heat. Slake the file in a tablespoon or two of water, and stir into the stew, which should not boil after the addition of the filé.
Serve from the pot, with steamed or baked basmati or Carolina rice, and a sweet and sour salsa.
© 2000 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.