Oh wow this stew is good. Everyone in my family ate their serving down to the last morsel. It’s day 2 on the pot of soup and no one has suggested freezing it or ordering in for a night—everyone just wants more stew. My kids didn’t remove the spinach—and yes even my kids like to remove cooked greens (the wilty kind, actual greens, not stuff like broccoli, which they adore) from things. Nobody is perfect—they usually don’t make a fuss about it so I consider that to be the sign of a really un-picky, “food-cooperative toddler.” But I digress.
I mentioned in my last post that I do like to stray from recipes when cooking, as opposed to baking. One of the ways in which I regularly stray, especially when cooking traditional foods, is I find the same recipe in several different sources and then I create my own version. This stew is an example of that. I have recipes for West African (Or Senegalese or Liberian or…) Peanut Stew in Barbara Kafka’s Soup: A Way Of Life, James Peterson’s Splendid Soups, Marcus Samuelsson’s Discovery of a Continent Foods, Flavors, and Inspirations From Africa, and several more traditional African cookbooks besides. I like to approach traditional cuisine as almost a subject to be studied, so that I can study all the different authentic ways of making a peanut stew in the countries of West Africa and then set about making an authentic, albeit to our tastes, version. I kept this very simple, which is to say that while all of these ingredients may not have been in any one recipe that I looked at, almost everything in this stew was in at least one recipe that I looked it. The proportions and instructions are mine. When I make this kind of dish successfully, without looking at a recipe while making it, to me it’s like acing the exam.
I think I aced this one. Try it yourself and let me know if you agree.
This is my submission to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging; I am sending it over to Gay at A Scientist In The Kitchen. The restrictions are recipes with any herb, plant, vegetable or flower—and this features some of my favorites. Yummy, heart-healthy peanuts are the feature, obviously, and although it calls for a lot it also makes a lot—so eaten in moderation this stew is full of healthy fats. The spinach is—I promise—practically undetectable other than giving the stew a gorgeous green addition—so it’s kind of like getting all of that iron for free (for some of us anyway, who, ahem, just don’t care for cooked greens much—what can I say my kids probably come by it naturally). And the sweet potatoes—Alex’s favorite part of the stew, she tried to ask for more but the rule in our home is no fishing out the “good parts” and eating them all so none are left for others (I’m talking about fishing out of the pot, not her plate—there she is free to fish)—are full of good old beta carotene. You might not have thought so when you opened this entry, but really this stew is a nutrient-rich garden in a bowl!
West African Peanut Stew with Chicken, Spinach & Sweet Potatoes
3 cups shredded chicken (rotisserie or baked or poached are all fine)
1-2 T peanut oil (actually I used regular olive oil, but peanut would be better—I just didn’t have it on hand)
1 head garlic, minced
3 inch piece ginger, minced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
2 t ground cumin
½ t ground coriander
Cayenne pepper, to taste OR hot paprika with cayenne served on the side
1 T tomato paste
1 15 oz can whole tomatoes, individually squeezed into the pot (by all means use fresh if you can get good ones)
5 cups chicken stock
2 sweet potatoes, diced
1 cup natural peanut butter
4 T dark brown sugar (less if using regular, sweetened peanut butter), to taste
1 bag of spinach, julienned roughly (1/2 – 1 lb)
Lemon wedges for serving—spritz over each dish before serving
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat it—then add the onions and cook until softened and golden, 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the sweet bell pepper and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and spices and toast for 1 minute, stirring to prevent scorching. Add the canned tomatoes and let simmer for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if it is frying too hard.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover and turn down the temperature and leave for 15 minutes.
Add the peanut butter and brown sugar, and stir the peanut butter in, making sure to get it all dissolved. Cover and leave simmering for 10 minutes. Then, taste for seasoning, especially sugar and salt. At this point, if you are not ready for dinner, cover and leave it on a gentle simmer—the flavors will just get nicer at this point.
A few minutes before serving add the julienned spinach and cover again, to let the spinach wilt, about 2 minutes. Serve with a sticky long grain rice.*
*I used Texmati and made it this way: with a 1:2 ratio, I brought water to boil, added the rice, brought it back to a gentle boil, and let it boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Then I skimmed any excess water off of the top, so that the rice and water were level with one another, and turned the heat to low, covered and left it for 25 minutes. Then I took it off of the heat and let it set for 10 minutes. Then I fluffed and served. This method, which worked really well, is based off of the Seductions Of Rice (Alford & Duguid) advice for making rice “the Senegalese way.”