Peanut stew is traditionally West African with every nation having its own version and claiming to be the originator of the recipe. History tells us that peanuts were brought to Africa around 1560 AD by the Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Soon after we have variations of this dish from Mali, Senegal, and Nigeria amongst other nations. Although history is important, this dish is just phenomenal.
This version is based on a Malian recipe, tender chicken cooked in a stew of vegetables loaded with spinach and peanuts (butter and whole), and topped with fried potatoes. I loved the richness of the stew, its creamy texture and its spicy-sweet flavour. This is one of those dishes that everyone must try at least once.
Marcus Samuelsson's cookbook is the original bible of African cuisine that has won practically every cookbook award that there is. Packed with recipes from across the continent, this cookbook is filled with wonderful authentic recipes. To me, this book is not just a collection of outstanding recipes, but a chef's love of his culture and origins. For those who are not familiar with the chef, he was adopted by Swedish parents from Ethiopia. He followed a culinary career and focussed on the cuisine of his origins.
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2 medium white onions, finely sliced
2 carrots, finely minced
2 Scotch bonnet peppers, or Thai red peppers seeds and ribs removed and sliced
1 generous tablespoon ginger paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
4 tomatoes, diced
4-5 cups water
1 1/2 lbs chicken, thighs, legs or breast meat, with or without bone
1 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky, depending on your preference
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
2 potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb spinach, washed, tough stems removed and sliced into ribbons
Oil, as needed
Salt, as needed
1/2 cup salted whole roasted peanuts
Cooked basmati or any fragrant rice
Combine the onions, carrots, chillies, ginger, bay leaf, white pepper, tomatoes, water, and chicken and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Scoop the scum that rises to the top. Simmer gently for 40 minutes, till the chicken is very tender.
While the stew is simmering, pan sauté the potatoes in a few tablespoons of oil till browned and cooked through. Set aside to drain on paper towels.
Add the whole spinach leaves to a bowl with a few tablespoons of water and microwave for 2-3 minutes till wilted. Alternatively, you can wilt the leaves in a pot of boiling water. Drain the wilted leaves through a sieve and set them aside.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Blend the stock with all the cooked vegetables to a smooth purée.
Add the chicken back to the puréed base and add the peanut butter. Mix well and simmer for 10-15 minutes for the peanut butter to dissolve and flavour the stew. Taste the stew and adjust salt and spice by adding ground cayenne pepper. You are looking for a stew that is delicate with notes of heat, not super spicy, but let your palate be the judge. Never boil the stew after adding the peanut butter as the oils will separate out and the stew will turn greasy, something that is not appealing to the eye and palate.
To serve, heat the stew till very hot. Add the wilted spinach and half the fried potatoes and stir in. Ladle the stew into a deep bowl. Top with the rest of the fried potatoes and the salted whole peanuts. Serve immediately with rice.