Peanut Stew.
Peanut Stew.
Image: Yang Zhao

I can clearly remember the day when I discovered a tiny canteen tucked away in the African Studies Centre on campus, which served a variety of African dishes, during my first year at varsity in Cape Town. There were mostly stews, with various meats and fish, and some sides such as spinach, pumpkin, and, from time to time, okra and even karela. I especially remember my excitement seeing karela (bitter gourd) being served. It was my favourite, and I later found out that it was used in other cuisines outside China too. The world is indeed a big place.

I’d go to the canteen and try something different when I had extra pocket money. I especially remember a spicy fish soup that I enjoyed, but also a stew that used peanut sauce that reminded me of the South East Asian satay. It made an impression on me. The peanut sauce tasted like the Asian one, but different, more acidic and savoury, whereas the Asian one is creamier and sweeter — maybe it was the coconut cream. Many years later, I learnt that this dish was called domoda, a dish widely eaten in Gambia.

My friend Parusha Naidoo, a vegan chef, travelled virtually  through Africa at the beginning of lockdown, learning about different countries and their cuisines. She wrote a simplified version of the peanut stew, with vegetables only. I have cooked this recipe many times: it has been a firm favourite veggie dish in our home and my toddler approved too.

Before creating this recipe, which celebrates the similarities between domoda and satay, I went digging for information about the peanut. To my surprise, there wasn’t much news about the peanut — it was a good crop for the soil, and a superfood for the body. The Spaniards brought them across the ocean from South America, and the rest of the world got to know about them. Perhaps some credits could be given to the Peruvians who invented peanut butter, and not Mr Kellog from the US.

Part of this recipe was based on Parusha’s peanut stew, recently published in her first eCookBook, Least Effort, Most Reward -a celebration of Afro-Asian flavours. I’m here for such a celebration. We need more during these times we’re living in. To quote Chris Ying in We all eat the same, “good food is the common ground shared by all of us, and immigration is fundamental to good food”. Movement of people, the sharing of ideas between people, create new flavours.

Yang used fresh tomatoes instead of tinned ones, cut a small opening on tomatoes for easy peeling, then boiled on medium heat for eight minutes.
Yang used fresh tomatoes instead of tinned ones, cut a small opening on tomatoes for easy peeling, then boiled on medium heat for eight minutes.
Image: Yang Zhao

The other part of this recipe was inspired by the satay, without the coconut cream, I leaned more on tomatoes for this one. Also, chicken was added, with a small tip on how to keep the chicken breast tender in the simplest way.  If you’d like to keep it veggie, remove the chicken and add your favourite vegetables, and swap chicken stock for the veggie one.

Parusha’s cookbook is available online, visit her Instagram handle. For every copy purchased, 20% will be directed to Food Forward SA, a Non-Profit Organisation aiming to end hunger by addressing the food surplus.

African-ish/Asian-ish Peanut Stew

Ingredients:

  • 500g x chicken breast, brined to tenderise
  • 250g x butternut, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 2 x cups roughly chopped spinach
  • 1 x punnet cauliflower and broccoli, chopped, blanched, rinsed under cold water and set aside
  • 3 x medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 x punnet okra (optional)
  • 2 x medium onions, diced
  • 4 x cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 x TBS grated ginger
  • 4 x TBS smooth peanut butter
  • 1 x can tomato purée OR 6 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 x cup chicken stock
  • 1 x TBS tomato paste
  • 1 x tsp cumin
  • 1 x tsp nutmeg
  • 1 x tsp black pepper
  • 1 x tsp paprika
  • Salt to season.If you want heat, add cayenne powder.

Method:

1. A way to keep chicken breast tender during cooking, is to use brine, soak them insalt water for 15 min, then pat dry with paper towel, cut into 3 cm cubes. Thenmarinade with following: oil, salt, sugar, soy, sesame oil and sriracha.

2. In pan, heat oil, simmer onion and garlic with a pinch salt, on low heat for 5 min, lowheat “sweats” the onion, naturally cameralizes it, and brings out a very gentlesweetness.

3. Add cumin, nutmeg, black pepper, paprika.

4. Add chicken cubes till seared, remove chicken and set aside.

5. Add in butternut and carrots and let it cook for about 10 min6. Add tomato puree, peanut butter, stock, stir till ingredients combine smoothly.

7. After 20 minutes, add chicken, broccoli/cauliflower and okra (optional).

8. After another 15 minutes, add chicken then in the last 5 minutes add spinach.

9. Season with salt to taste, add cayenne if you want heat.

10. Drizzle with Sesame oil, sprinkle ground peanuts on top, and serve with rice. Enjoy!

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