November 13, 2008
1114 Cooking Local Groundnut Stew
Welcome back to the kitchen everyone! This week I want to pass along a recipe that’s popular across much of Africa called groundnut stew. Over here in the states we call groundnuts peanuts, and this hearty root vegetable stew is versatile and relatively easy to make. I was first introduced to groundnut stew in my teens as a vegetarian dish, but it is perfectly suited to chicken or stew meat as well. This sweet, spicy, peanut buttery dish is a perfect meal to warm up the family on a cool evening and add some spicy bright orange tropical flavors to these darkening days.
Like a great chili or curry recipe, groundnut stew varies by region and family. This is great because it means we have a lot of room to play with the recipe. For local ingredients we’ve got lots of root vegetables, squash and spices to work with. So grab a pencil and let’s get started!
For this version let’s use:
- 2 onions, chopped up
-3-5 sweet potatoes or yams, chopped into cubes. If you want to, add some cubed winter squash like butternut or acorn in place of some of the sweet potatoes. Just make sure you peel the squash and remove the seeds first.
-2 or 3 chopped tomatoes, or we can use canned tomatoes
-3 carrots, chopped into stew size
-Classically, groundnut stew has a few cups of okra, sliced into ½ inch pieces. This tasty yet slimy vegetable will help thicken up the stew. Sometimes you can find it frozen at the market, and it can be hard to find fresh out of season. But if you can’t find okra, just leave it out and we can thicken the stew with a little flour if needed. Tomato paste can also make a good thickening agent.
-some recipes call for a couple of cups of chopped cabbage, and I’ve still got a couple chilling outside in the garden, so let’s slice some up to add as well
-other people like to use bell peppers, eggplant, turnips, or a number of other vegetables. Use what you have on hand and substitute according to your taste.
-3-4 pounds of chicken, chopped into pieces. I recommend using a whole, naturally raised chicken, cut up. It’s a lot cheaper and tastier than using only breast meat for a stew. If you want to keep the groundnut stew vegetarian, try adding a few cups of cooked chick peas or black-eyed peas instead.
-We’ll need about an inch of fresh ginger root, minced up
-also, 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
-a couple of hot chili peppers or some dried red pepper flakes or cayenne powder. I really prefer fresh chilis, and I think this recipe calls for a lot of spiciness, and I’m going to use a hellishly spicy habanero or scotch bonnet pepper with the skin pierced. Just be sure to fish it out before serving! One thing to know about fresh hot peppers is that the seeds hold the highest concentration of the spicy oil, so if you are wary try removing the seeds
-about ½-1 cup of natural peanut butter, unsweetened, chunky or smooth
-for broth we can use 3-6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, local apple cider, or tomato juice (although I don’t like to over tomato the stew) and/or some water
-For spices we’ll of course need salt and pepper to taste, a dash of cumin and cinnamon, and I like to add some fresh chopped cilantro as well. Some recipes call for a little brown sugar, but with the cider and sweet potatoes, I’m going to skip it.
-And then when we serve the stew I like to put out a bunch of little bowls of toppings so each person can customize their bowl. Classic toppings include chopped or whole roasted peanuts, fresh chopped cilantro or parsley, sliced hard boiled eggs, chopped scallions, or fresh tropical fruit like bananas, oranges, pineapples, and/or grated coconut (but remember that tropical fruit has to travel quite a long way to get to our plates).
So, there are our ingredients for groundnut stew, let’s get to cooking! To start let’s roll the chicken pieces in a little bit of flour with salt and pepper. Heat up 2 tablespoons of peanut oil over a medium high flame in a large cast iron pot. When the oil is hot, fry the chicken on each side until it browns a bit. We don’t need to cook it, just get a little bit of a crust to hold in all the juicy goodness while it stews. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Now sauté the onions for a couple of minutes, stirring. Add the rest of the vegetables and turn down the heat under the pot. Let’s also toss in the garlic, ginger, and chilis. Continue to sauté and stir for a couple more minutes.
Now add back the chicken pieces (or chick peas if you’re going veggie) and add most of the stock, apple cider, and water (enough to cover the veggies). Let that simmer for a while.
In a separate bowl mix together the peanut butter with the remaining stock and a few tablespoons of tomato paste. If you’re using cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, mix that into the peanut butter as well. Add this smooth mix to the pot and stir.
Finally, let’s season with salt and pepper, and a dash of cinnamon and cumin, and the chopped cilantro. It’s not traditional, I’m going to add a little bit of grated orange zest for extra tanginess. Trust me, it’ll me good. Bring this all up to a boil and then back it way down to a simmer. Cover and cook slowly for 2 to 2½ hours, or until all the veggies are nice and soft and the chicken just falls right off the bone. But make sure you check on it every half hour or sot to stir and add more stock or water as needed.
This smells awesome. It has cooked down to a delicious, smooth orange stew. The spiciness plays really nicely next to the sweet vegetables and tangy ginger. I’m going to serve this over some brown rice, which takes more water and a longer time to cook than white rice. But whole grains are much better for you, and I think the taste and texture of brown rice are better for groundnut stew.
Set out all the little toppings bowls of sliced egg, peanuts, cilantro, and scallions and let people dig in! I think this meal pairs perfectly with a dark winter ale, or maybe even one of the pumpkin seasonal varieties.
And if this groundnut stew sounds intimidating or complicated, just strip out most of the extra ingredients. Saute onions, add sweet potatoes, toss in some tomatoes and peanut butter, a little garlic, ginger and hot pepper, and you’re basically good to go!
Well friends, we’ve done it. Give groundnut stew a try and let me know how yours turns out. What variations are you going to try out? If you have any questions or comments, or you want to suggest a recipe of your own, head on over to www.kohoradio.com and drop me a line!
Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.