Monday, 16 March 2015

Maafe; African Peanut Stew

This is a dish from west and central Africa, and is also known as Mafe, groundnut stew, or several other names, as it is popular over quite a large territory. It's also highly variable because of that, although I think mine is a fairly typical version.

Mine was made with chicken, but you could replace it with lamb, or beef, or even chunks of tofu, although in that case it will take less cooking.

The green vegetable part is pretty flexible too; I used frozen spinach from our garden, but kale or chard would also work, and fresh green cabbage would be fine, although I would place it in a colander and pour generous quantities of boiling water over it before I added it to the stew. I don't know what it is about adding completely raw vegetables to stews, but they never seem to cook properly when you do that.

This is another pretty rich meal. I used 6 large chicken thighs, and I would say one made a good portion, what with all the sauce. Served with polenta or rice, it is a complete meal in itself.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 20 minutes prep time, not including cooking the sweet potatoes

Maafe; Chicken & Peanut Stew

2 large sweet potatoes (about 500 grams or 1 pound)
2 medium onions
1 tablespoon finely minced peeled ginger
4 - 5 cloves of garlic
1 kilogram (2 pounds) chicken pieces
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
4 cups crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce, or to taste
2 to 3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup peanut butter
chopped (frozen) spinach, kale, or Swiss Chard
OR about 3 cups chopped cabbage, blanched
chopped peanuts to garnish

Cook the sweet potatoes in advance; they can be roasted whole at a previous meal, or cook them in the microwave until tender.

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and mince the ginger. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the chicken pieces until browned on both sides; about 10 minutes total. Put them in a large stew pot.

Cook the onions in the remaining fat in the pan over slightly lower heat, until softened and cooked down, but not much browned. Add the ginger and garlic, mix in well, and cook for a minute or two longer. Add them to the chicken, along with the tomatoes, chile garlic sauce, bay leaves, and vinegar. Simmer for about half an hour, until the chicken is tender.

Cut up the sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Mix the peanut butter with a little of the sauce from the chicken to dissolve it, then mix it back into the stew. Add the sweet potato chunks and the vegetable, and continue to simmer the stew gently until hot through. Serve with polenta or steamed rice, garnished with some chopped peanuts.

Last year at this time it was chicken too, but one with a low-fat, low-key sauce: Poached Chicken with Dried Tomatoes & Shiitake Mushrooms .

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