West African Groundnut Stew
Groundnut stew, or maafe, is eaten in various forms throughout West Africa. I found this stew to have a delicious complex flavor, nutty with accents of cinnamon and ginger, and a perfect bite from the peppers. It’s a meal that leaves your nose running, your belly full, and your house with a wonderful aroma. It’s perfect for sharing, as per West African food culture.
The cinnamon and cayenne take us back to West Africa’s ancient spice trade with the Arab world. The tomatoes, peanuts and chili peppers come from the New World, most likely brought over by European explorers or slave ships. These mix with local ingredients such as baobab leaves or collard greens (here replaced by chard), and groundnut (peanut) or Bambara groundnut. Despite their foreign background, today these foods are ubiquitous and dear to a cuisine which is still very distinctly West African.
Before the introduction of “American” peanut cultivation in Africa, people relied on the Bambara nut. It has great abilities to withstand marginal conditions and pests, has reported health faculties, and grows well with other commonly found root and ground crops. Today it is a food depended upon and grown by the rural poor as a source of protein and animal stock. It has been called a “women’s crop” as its cultivation provides independent income and subsidence for the rural women who typically grow it, and important nutrition for their children.
Maafe is often accompanied by the staple of the West African diet: a porridge made with millet, sorghum, cornmeal or a cassava base called “fufu” meant to be dipped in a sauce such as this one and eaten with your fingers. Here however, it is served with the more familiar white rice and can be augmented with chicken, mutton, or fish.
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Heat olive oil in a deep pot. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Meanwhile, place sweet potatoes in lightly oiled skillet and bring to medium heat. Add cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and water to pan and let cook until potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
Place sweet potatoes, sliced carrots, ginger, cayenne, pepper, red peppers, vegetable broth and tomatoes with their juice in the big pot of browned veggies.. Bring this to a boil and let simmer without a lid for about 40 minutes. Around 5 minutes before done, add chard. Whisk in peanut butter before served. Serve over rice with cilantro and crushed peanuts on top if desired. Enjoy!
Recipe Adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/west-african-peanut-soup/
Shultz, Dorothea. 2012. Culture and Cuisine of Mali. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.
USDA-FAS. 2010. “Revitalization of the Groundnut Sector in West Africa (Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal).” Global Agricultural Information Network.