A Story from Long Ago and Far Away
Allow me a few minutes to give this recipe some historical context. I like it when a recipe comes with a story and this one does. Back in the early 1960’s, my mother-in-law sent me a recipe from Africa for something called Ground Nut Stew.
She and my father-in-law lived in Sierra Leone for two years, when he served as the first U.S. Ambassador to the newly independent country.
At the time, I was a young, haggard housewife living in Rolla with 3 kids (Robin was an infant). Lunch often came from a Campbell’s soup can and dinner might be a casserole from Woman’s Day magazine concocted with mushroom or cream of chicken soup.
So I never made the stew that had came so highly recommended. But I did entertain a couple of visiting librarians that my in-laws had come to know while living in Freetown. I remember fretting over what I should serve the couple.
I finally settled on Beef Stroganoff. It was my signature dish in the 60s—along with every other housewife in Rolla. My guests graciously ate and complimented the beef, mushroom and rice concoction. Not knowing I would some day have a food blog, I neglected to inquire about their national dish—Ground Nut Stew.
More than a half century later, I was sitting at the hairdresser’s reading a light cooking magazine, when I saw a recipe that appeared to be a riff on the West African peanut stew. My eyes lit up! It sounded like the bygone recipe I never made. I was inspired to search my old files for the original one sent by my mother-in-law. But over the years, I’ve moved more than a half-dozen times and even had a house fire. The original recipe was not to be found.
Today recipes for this staple of African cuisine can be googled. I came upon versions from Betty Crocker, the New York Times, and Food and Wine. My son, Russ, who has both an interest in history and cooking, made the one I’d found in the magazine. He liked it well enough to make it again. He brought the second batch to my condo and we enjoyed it for lunch recently.
I wish I’d cooked the tasty stew years earlier. Even so, it’s never too late to rediscover a recipe that has meaning to you and your family. This would be a great weekend to try a new soup or pull out the recipe for an old favorite.
African Peanut Stew
- 6 green onions, whites and green parts separated, thinly sliced
- 1 medium green sweet pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 Tbs. coconut oil or canola oil
- 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper (or less, to taste)
- 3 14.5-oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups cubed, peeled sweet potato
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 of a 6-oz. can tomato paste (1/3 cup)
- 3 cups shredded cooked turkey (or chicken)
- 1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or less, to taste)
- 3/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
In a 6- to 8-qt. Dutch oven, cook white parts of green onions and sweet pepper in hot oil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, red pepper, and 1 tsp. each salt and black pepper. Cook and stir 30 seconds. Add broth and sweet potato. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Ladle about 1 cup hot broth into a medium bowl. Whisk in peanut butter until smooth. Whisk in tomato paste.
Add turkey, peanut butter mixture and tomatoes to Dutch oven. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cilantro. Top with green onion slices and peanuts. Makes 8 servings.