One of the only good things about my last job was some of the wonderful friends I made. One of those, sadly now moved away, is my beloved Sarah Eckhart. I was lucky enough to see her and Josh briefly at Christmas and she has no idea how delighted I am when I get an email from her or see a comment here on the blog. She’s one of those friends I will always feel connected to despite time and distance separating us. She sent this recipe along to me the other day and it is now simmering on the stove—-it smells WONDERFUL….
Okay, this is a good dish for cold nights and it is especially nice with a tall, cold beer.
Mafe (Senegalese Groundnut Stew)
Ingredients (I often alter the balance of ingredients, hence the loose measurements. Also, chunks of vegetables can be quite large because I usually cook it long enough that they fall apart anyway.):
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 pounds chicken (I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but into chunks because the meat is nice and tender and falls apart in the stew.)
1 or 2 onions, chopped fine (around 1/2 pound)
1 large can (800 grams?) tomatoes (sometimes I drain, sometimes I don't, depending on how tomato-ey I want the base)
1 - 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt to taste
2 large bell peppers (I like red, orange or yellow, but the recipe calls for green), peeled and chopped
1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped
1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2-3 turnips, peeled and chopped
1 pound cassava root if available (I have never seen this in the US, but even when I used it in London, I didn't think it added much to the flavor.)
2 cups water
1 cup peanut butter (natural, with no sugar added)
1 head of cabbage cut into 8 wedges and then chopped in half
Put the oil in a heavy soup pot and heat to high. Brown chicken in batches and remove. Turn the heat down and saute onions until golden. Then add tomatoes, simmer for a few minutes and scrape up all of the chicken bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken back in and stir to coat. Add the cayenne and salt. Add the acorn squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, and peppers. Add two cups of water or a little more if needed. Let simmer for 45 minutes. Removed a cup of liquid and place it in a bowl. Add the cup of peanutbutter to the reserved liquid and stir until the peanutbutter dissolves. Add the peanutbutter mixture back into the soup pot. Gradually add the cabbage, stirring as it starts to wilt (it can sometimes be hard to cram it all in there). Let it cook for at least another 30 minutes or more, stirring on occasion because the bottom can sometimes start to burn.
We usually serve over brown rice.
It is great the first night but it gets better each night we serve the left overs.
The recipe is from "Best of Regional African Cooking" by Harva Hachten, Hipocrene Books, 1970 and 1998.
Here is an introductory note from the cookbook:
"Perhaps the stew best known outside of Africa is Groundnut Stew. This dish is widely prepared in West Africa from Senegal to the Congo. There are hundreds of ways of preparing it—with fish or meat or chicken, with one vegetable or many—depending on the availability of food and the cook's budget. It always, naturally, contains peanuts. . . . In Senegal Groundnut Stew is called Mafe and calls for a variety of vegetables that clearly shows the residual Gallic influence in that former French colony."
I bought the cookbook when we lived in London and I was trying to figure out how to use all of the exotic ingredients for sale in our neighborhood outdoor market that primarily served a population from Ghana as well as Jamaica. I never ventured into the land of dried fish but I did learn how to use Cassava root.
I miss you too Sarah.
Here she is catching snow flakes with Silas (although he’s still known as Baby Silas in our household). She’s one of those people that just keeps getting more beautiful. Irritating but I love her nonetheless.