Saturday, 26 April 2014

West African Inspired Peanut & Chicken Stew

Apart from Moroccan inspired tagine-type dishes I rarely cook African meals which is a pity really seeing as the cuisine encompasses such a diverse range of foods.

The history of West Africa of course plays a large role in its cuisine and recipes, as interactions with different cultures over the centuries served to introduce many ingredients that are today key aspects of the different national culinary traditions.

Many years before the influence of Europeans, West African peoples were trading with the Arab world and ingredients such as cinnamon were introduced. Very many years later the Portuguese, French and British further influenced regional cuisines: chillies and tomatoes were probably brought from the New World via European explorers and slaves ships. Both have become ubiquitous components additions to West African food along with peanuts, corn, cassava, and plantains alongside original African ingredients such as black-eyed peas and okra.

Peanut (aka groundnut) stews are common to much of West Africa and particularly popular in Senegal, the Gambia, Mali, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire. There exists a massive variety of recipes for the stew but at its core it is cooked with a sauce based on peanuts (natch) and the West African trinity of tomatoes, onion and chillies with a protein component of chicken, beef, mutton or occasionally in coastal areas, fish.

I think this makes for a really good introduction to (non-North) African cuisine and I will definitely be delving further. The other things is that this is so easy and makes for a hearty, delicious yet subtly different stew. Definitely give it a try.

West African Inspired Chicken & Peanut Stew
serves 2

1 tbsp coconut (or groundnut) oil
300g skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into quarters
1 small onion or banana shallot, finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
½ scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded and veined and finely chopped
175g sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced
½ red pepper, chopped
200ml chicken stock
85g chunky organic peanut butter
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cumin
200g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp picked lemon thyme leaves
pinch cayenne
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sml handful toasted peanuts
sml handful chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes until softened.

Push the onions to the side of the pot and then add the chicken thigh pieces. Brown all over.

Turn down the heat and add the ginger, red pepper, chillies and garlic; cook gently until the red pepper is softened.

Add the cumin & coriander and stir well.

Add the sweet potatoes, chicken stock, peanut butter, ground coriander and tomatoes. Scrape up any chicken bits from the bottom of the pan and then stir until it is all well combined.

Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Season to taste and then serve with rice and garnish with coriander, spring onions and peanuts.

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