This peanut stew: is savory, sweet, spicy, crunchy, and has an aroma that made some of my coworkers very jealous of me when I brought the leftovers for lunch. This post: has been a long time coming!
I lived in Ghana for a brief period of time several years ago. My very favorite food there was the groundnut (peanut) stew. Every region and country in Africa seems to have a different peanut based stew, and while convenient, it’s rather reductive to name a dish ‘African Peanut Stew’. So I am sticking with the specifics. This one is in the Ghanaian style, aside from my seasonal addition of butternut squash, which can easily be left out or replaced with yams.
A major staple food in the area I was living is fufu. Fufu is essentially a dough made from mashed tubers, pounded with a mortar and pestle until the right consistency is reached. The most common one I tried was from cassava (aka yuca aka tapioca root). But many starchy vegetables are used: potato; plantain; yam; taro root; possibly a starchy sweet potato.
The dough is then shaped into a ball and eaten along with a sauce, soup or stew. I’ve seen it served on a separate dish alongside a bowl of stew. I’ve also seen it placed directly into the soup bowl. But the most important thing about fufu? You eat it with your fingers. Pinch off a piece of dough, dip it in the soup, and then eat it together. It’s got an amazing chew and it’s naturally gluten-free. It’s not typically seasoned, though, so the stew has gotta be flavorful.
The reason I decided to finally share this today? I finally figured out how to make fufu from scratch with the Kitchenaid mixer. Yes, it’s kind of cheating. But it beats the hell out of working a giant mortar and pestle for an hour (exaggeration? maybe a little..). I think it’s also possible to start from potato flour, but I haven’t tried this, and at the rate we’re getting potatoes in the CSA, I won’t be trying it anytime soon.
This peanut stew is faithful to what I’d find in Ghana. However, while the coconut oil, herbs, and spices are authentic, butternut squash is very much a seasonal Maryland addition of mine, though I love the sweetness it imparts. Though pumpkin is something you would find in Ghana, butternut squash is not – agriculturally speaking it was only introduced in the past couple of years. Also, I left out the commonly included chicken (duh). I think between the fufu and the peanut butter you wouldn’t find yourself yearning for extra heft.
So how’d it all turn out? Pretty damn good! It nearly takes me back to that time in my life. I know I’m not among the swaying palm trees, the dusty streets, and most importantly, the wonderful friends that I made, but this is about as close as I’ve gotten to the feeling without dropping at least a grand on a plane ticket (fun fact – Delta Airlines flies direct from JFK to Accra!).
Step by step instructions are up next.
Purple Potato Fufu (instructions also work for other starchy tubers)
Purple potatoes, peeled (as much or as little as you like…)
Potato flour or tapioca flour/starch (not required, but can help in case of a fufu emergency)
Place potatoes (cut in half or quarters if large) in a saucepan and fill with water up to an inch above the top of the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft. RESERVE THE POTATO WATER.
Let them cool, and then remove any eye hole areas (no, I don’t think that is the scientific term).
Put them in your mixing bowl and mash them gently with your hands. Set up the mixer with a flat beater and turn it on. It will need 10-15 minutes to do the trick. Whenever the mixture starts to stick to the sides of the bowl, add a little of the potato water – as little as you can get away with. It’s finished when the mixture feels a bit like chewing gum, and is smooth throughout.
If you have added too much water: Add tapioca starch/flour or potato starch, a little at a time, and continue mixing to incorporate.
Lightly wet a large bowl, and taking a baseball-sized piece of dough at a time, roll it around quickly in the bowl to shape it into a ball. Serve next to, or in, the soup or stew of your choosing, such as the following, which like I said, is so deliciously fragrant that it had random people salivating who were waiting behind me at the office microwave.
- 3 tb. coconut oil (or substitute palm oil or other neutral oil)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ inch fresh ginger, minced
- 2 small chili peppers, minced
- 1 ~14 oz. can crushed tomatoes (or use fresh if they're available)
- 2 tb. tomato paste
- water or vegetable broth - about 3 cups, more or less according to how thick of a soup you like
- ½ c. natural peanut butter (no sugar added; I prefer chunky)
- 1 cooked butternut squash; cubed, mashed or pureed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig rosemary (or ½ tsp dried rosemary)
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- 2 tb. vinegar (any type should work)
- cayenne pepper, freshly ground black pepper, and salt to taste
- fresh cilantro for serving
- fufu for serving (see recipe in the post above)
- Warm the oil in a large saucepan. When shimmering, add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilis, and cook on medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients except for the cayenne, black pepper and salt, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bay leaves and fresh herbs. Season with cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt to taste (and more of the other spices as well, if desired). This soup should be salted rather aggressively if you are serving it with fufu, which isn't salted at all.