24 February 2010

My First Foray into African Cooking

I've been hanging out at home a lot this week, and I find myself cooking up a storm. I should have been leaving for Zambia this weekend, but instead, I'll have to make do with making an West African-inspired dish in my own kitchen. I joined Weight Watchers a couple of months ago, and a couple of days ago, this recipe came through my eTools feed, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it, with just a couple of small variations. And if you clicked through the link, you're probably thinking, "Peanuts? Spinach? Sweet Potatoes? Really?" Yes!!! Peanuts, or ground nuts as they are known, feature pretty prominently in many African cuisines, and they add a rich depth of flavor to meats, or ground nuts might also bring thickened texture and protein to a vegetable stew like the one I'm about to talk about.

I blasted the Glee soundtrack as loud as I could handle (which given my ears, is not very loud for most people), tied on my Rosie the Riveter Apron, and started chopping away to make this Senegalese Peanut Stew. First things first: As Americans, our store-bought peanut butters are heavily sweetened, and lack a lot of the texture that a fresh nut butter would have. If you're thinking of giving this recipe a go, make sure that you buy natural peanut butter with no added sugar. Secondly, this recipe calls for green peppers, and I didn't have any. I did have red peppers, and in combination with the orange of the carrots and sweet potatoes, and the green of the spinach, I think that visually, the red color of the peppers cuts through nicely.

Senegalese Peanut Stew

1 spray(s) cooking spray

2 medium onion(s), roughly chopped

1 medium red pepper(s), cored and roughly chopped

1/2 pound(s) sweet potato(es), peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes

2 medium carrot(s), peeled and thinly sliced

2 medium garlic clove(s), minced

2 Tbsp ginger root, fresh, minced

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

4 cup(s) vegetable broth, reduced-sodium

6 Tbsp peanut butter, natural, creamy variety

6 cup(s) baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

  • Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the sweet potato, carrots and garlic; cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the ginger, cloves, salt and cayenne; cook for 30 seconds.

  • Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth.
  • Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer slowly, stirring once in a while, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Add the spinach; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Yields about 1 2/3 cups per serving.
And this is your finished product. All the flavors meld together nicely, and even though it seems like a lot of ginger, it's really not. I like my stew a little spicier, so I increased the cayenne pepper by 1/4t, and also added about a t of crushed red pepper. I used my own vegetable broth that I made from scratch to cut down on the sodium content. I ate some of the leftovers today, and it definitely has a nice kick to it. Also, I started running out of room in my pan, so I cut the spinach down to 6 cups instead of 8 that the recipe calls for. The total yield is 6 servings of 1 2/3c each.


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