Mrs. Breakfast With Nick: African Peanut Stew

January 13, 2015

When this recipe goes on the weekly meal menu, a murmur runs through our friends and family – “The stew! They’re making the peanut stew!” – and our dining room table is suddenly bursting with very hungry loved ones the night we’re serving it. And we are happy to feed them all. After all…

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This stew is delicious. The first time I had it, we were sharing a meal with our dear friends Kim and Kurt in Portland. Kim warned us that this soup she was making would blow our minds. I was skeptical, but upon first bite, I was a believer. Creamy, spicy, warming, filling… I’m pretty sure I ate 3 bowls that night.

This stew is crazy healthy. The majority of the flavor comes from spices and peanut butter, and the bulk of the soup is veggies – tons and tons of veggies. The only other added fat is the sautéing oil. I’m pretty sure eating one bowl counts for at least one work out video.

This stew is magic. It can bend to a myriad of dietary restrictions or limitations, without losing the base flavor profile. I have included the recipe that I use for our immediate family below, but with just a few easy changes (that barely affect taste), it can be made to be vegetarian, vegan, soy-free and/or dairy-free (I’ll add these below). It is a chameleon.

It is African Peanut Stew.

First things first – prep your veg! With a freshly honed knife, chop the onion, green pepper, celery and carrots.

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The only thing to remember here is keep them uniform! This ensures that they will all cook at the same time.

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Throw these all into a big pot (I use my oval enameled cast iron casserole) with several tablespoons of olive oil, and let them simmer and soften.

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While this is happening, prep your spices – curry, ginger, coriander, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper. We have several different curries in our cabinet (there are as many curry recipes as grandmas in India – every family has their own!), but one of our favorites is from Patel Brothers grocery on Sawmill Road – $2.50 for 7oz of some of the most flavorful spice you’ll find.

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I also always use fresh ginger for this recipe (and most others). We keep a few sticks in the freezer, peel the outer skin off a few inches when needed, and use the microplane to finely shave it, while still frozen. It almost looks like snow, and melts throughout the dish perfectly. That way, you don’t end up with large chunks of ginger, or a weak flavor from the powered spice.

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For coriander, I use my mortar and pestle. Ground coriander is totally fine, I just really like the intense flavors you can get by grinding it right before you use it.

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Once you add the chopped garlic, salt and pepper, you are at almost 1/3 cup of spices – which is just right.

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Dump this entire bowl into the softened veggies and let the flavors meld, the veggies soak up the goodness, and the spice mixture heat up.

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Letting that cook, chop your sweet potatoes. When you purchase these at the store, make sure to get true sweet potatoes, which are hard tan tubers with white flesh. Most U.S. grocery stores will label these correctly, and will label the more common, burgundy skin, orange flesh tuber “Yam,” even though that’s not entirely correct. As long as you have the white-flesh ones for this recipe, you’re good. Chop them into cubes similar in size to the veggies.

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As I’m chopping, I throw the chopped sweet potatoes into the bowl with the broth. This prevents them from browning as they are exposed to the air.

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The next step is to throw in the tomatoes and bay leaves. We use our home-canned whole roma tomatoes, but you can use any canned tomatoes (without the added spices).

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Dump the tomatoes and bay leaf into the pot. I hand-crush the tomatoes as they are going in to get out all the juice and break up the whole tomatoes.

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Stir it up and let it simmer a bit.

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At this point, dump the broth and sweet potatoes into the soup and bring it to a boil.

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While that is simmering, prep your peanut butter, edamame and chicken. We use creamy natural (peanuts and salt) PB, and the bag of already- shelled edamame (when I have it). But if you have a bag of the steam-in-the-bag shelled beans, this is a great way to get little kids involved. Steam the bag in the microwave for a few minutes before you start any prep, and have your kids shell it while you do the chopping and hot-stove work. (Just beware, if they’re like my boys, only about half of the edamame will actually reach the soup…the rest will end up in their bellies!) We use rotisserie chicken if we’re strapped for time, or if we’re roasting a chicken at home earlier in the week, I’ll put in a second one and pull it for use in this soup later.

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(Side note: I always say that we know we’re eating healthy if we’re feeding the compost pile as well as ourselves!)

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After the soup has reached a simmer (about 8 or so minutes) dump in the edamame, peanut butter, and chicken. Give it a good stir to make sure the peanut butter melts and gets all up in everything.

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Gather the spinach and (sad winter) cilantro. I usually use a bag of baby spinach and throw it in as-is (no chopping), and roughly chop the cilantro.

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Just set all the greens on top of the soup and slowly mix in – it always looks like too much, but it wilts quickly and gets incorporated within seconds.

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And serve! We serve it with fresh bread, and garnish it with sour cream or goat cheese. This is a true crowd-pleaser and (if there is any left) it also freezes and reheats well. It also scales up nicely, and I find myself making double (and triple) batches most often (depending on how many people are on their way to my house for dinner!). I hope you love it as much as our family does, and that it allows you to invite your neighbors over – you know, the ones who don’t eat soy and gluten and dairy and cilantro. Because they will love it too. So, go ahead, fill your dining room table and get chopping!

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African Peanut Stew

1 red onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 c carrots, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (or 2 tsp ground ginger)
4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
1 tbs curry powder
1 tbs ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2-3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 quart crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 c natural peanut butter
1.5 c shelled edamame
1 rotisserie chicken, pulled (or 2-3 cooked chicken breasts, chopped)
1 5oz bag baby spinach
1 bunch chopped cilantro

1. Sauté the onion, green pepper, celery and carrots in a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter for 5-6 minutes, stirring often.
2. Add the ginger, curry, garlic, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper, stir and sauté another 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and cook 3 minutes.
4. Add broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce head to low and simmer 8 minutes.
5. Stir in edamame, peanut butter and chicken to combine and cook 5 minutes.
6. Stir in cilantro and spinach until wilted.
7. Season with salt as necessary, and serve with sour cream or goat cheese on top.

This soup is naturally gluten free, but follow the instructions below to alter it for various dietary restrictions.

  • Soy-free: replace the edamame with lima beans (or omit entirely).
  • Dairy-free: Make sure to use oil (not butter) to sauté the veggies, and leave off the garnishes.
  • Vegetarian: Leave out the chicken, and use vegetable stock instead of chicken broth.
  • Vegan: Use oil (not butter) for sautéing, vegetable stock and no chicken.
  • Cilantro-haters: Leave out the cilantro, or replace it with chopped parsley.
  • Spice-lovers: Double the amount of curry, garlic, ginger, and cayenne listed (this is the way I always make it).

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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