The mixture of chicken, seafood, and rice suggests a close relationship to the Spanish paella, but the name is more likely to have derived from jambon (the French for ham), la ya (Creole for rice). Jambalayas are a colorful mixture of highly flavored ingredients, and are always made in large quantities for feasts and celebration meals.

  • 2 chickens, each about 1.5 kg / 3-3½ lb
  • 450 g / 1 lb piece raw smoked gammon (cured ham)
  • 50 g / 2 oz / 4 tbsp lard or bacon fat
  • 50 g / 2 oz / ½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 3 onions, finely sliced
  • 2 green (bell) peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 675 g / 1½ lb tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 ml / 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 24 large raw prawns (shrimp), peeled and deveined
  • 500 g / 1¼ lb / 3 cups white long grain rice
  • 2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 45 ml / 3 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, plus sprigs to garnish
  • salt and ground black pepper
  1. Cut each chicken into 10 pieces and season with salt and pepper. Dice the gammon, discarding the rind and fat.
  2. Melt the lard or bacon fat in a large, heavy frying pan. Add the chicken pieces, in batches, brown them all over, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and set them aside.
  3. Reduce the heat. Sprinkle the flour into the fat in the pan and stir until the roux turns golden brown. Return the chicken pieces to the pan.
  4. Add the diced gammon, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes, then add the prawns and mix lightly.
  5. Stir the rice into the pan and pour in 1.2 litres / 2 pints / 5 cups water. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Bring to toe boil over a medium heat, then lower the heat, cover, and cook gently until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Add a little extra boiling water if the rice looks as if it might be drying out before it is cooked.
  6. Add the chopped flat leaf parsley and gently stir it into the finished dish, garnish with tiny sprigs of flat leaf parsley, and serve immediately while pipping hot.