Peanut stew, also known as maafe, is native to the Mandinka and Bambara ethnic groups of Mali in western Africa. There are many variations and room for customizations, so if you must have a source of protein other than peanut butter, lamb, beef or chicken make good additions. But our New Year’s resolution at Colavita was to figure out interesting ways to incorporate vegetables into our recipe collection to inspire you to do the same in your kitchen. What it lacks in meat, it makes up for in flavor. Thick from the peanut butter and served over rice, you definitely won’t leave the table hungry.
In this post, we show you just how easy it is to make West African peanut stew and provide some tips and tricks along the way. To get started you will need:
Pro Tip: Gather up all of your ingredients before you begin cooking and wash, chop, measure them accordingly. This is called mise en place which is French for “everything in its place.” Ever notice how seamlessly a recipe comes together on your favorite cooking show? It’s because everything is prepared and placed within reach, so that during cooking all the chef has to do is grab it and use it accordingly. This makes for a more enjoyable cooking experience. It also makes it easier to clean as you go.
Grab a heavy stock pot and sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic with the olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes … just enough time to sweat the onion and garlic.
Sweating aromatics such as onions, garlic and shallots is essential in breaking down the strong cell walls that make them crunchy when raw, so that they are tender but not browned. The reason why you don’t dump all the ingredients into a pot when cooking is because each ingredient (or set of ingredients) needs its own time to become fragrant before being layered with the next set of veggies, proteins and/or spices. Think of it as giving the aromatics their time to shine and reach peak flavor while getting to the desired texture without being drowned out by other more potent ingredients. Also, it’s important to cook with a high quality EVOO to aid not only in enhancing the flavors of the aromatics, but elevating them as well. Low quality or rancid oil can leave a dish tasting bitter and unbalanced.
Next, add the sweet potato cubes, cumin, and red pepper to the pot and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. Then add the tomato paste, peanut butter, and vegetable broth to the pot.
Peanut butter is widely used in Asian and African cooking and for good reason. It is protein-packed, rich in fiber, magnesium, iron and filled with heart healthy fats. Not a common ingredient like extra virgin olive oil (another heart healthy fat), it is definitely underutilized in savory and non-dessert dishes. For this recipe, it’s up to you if you want to go with chunky or smooth, but it can’t be skipped entirely. The roasted and salty notes of the peanut butter complement the sweetness of the potatoes, creating a salty-sweet, three-dimensional flavor.
You want to stir until the peanut butter and tomato paste have mostly dissolved into the broth. Then place a lid on the pot and turn the heat to high. Allow the stew to come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until you can pierce the sweet potato with a fork with minimal effort.
Once the stew has simmered and the sweet potatoes are very soft, stir in the collard greens. Let the stew simmer for another 5 minutes, then begin to smash the sweet potatoes against the side of the pot to help thicken the stew.
Collard greens haven’t been given their spotlight yet, but just because they aren’t as trendy as their kale counterparts doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of being in your vegetable rotation. Collards are rich in iron, a mineral that some vegetarians struggle to with getting naturally in their diets. They’re also a great source of calcium, vitamin A and C. Some southern food recipes call for them to be cooked for an extended period of time, but that’s not necessary to enjoy this nutrient-rich leafy green. Finally, taste the stew and add salt or red pepper, if desired. Serve the stew with a scoop of cooked rice (about 3/4 cup), a few chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of sriracha, if desired.