This month Food of the World takes us to the West African country of Senegal. Peanuts are the primary staple crop of Senegal and they’re featured in this vibrant vegetable and peanut stew flavored with peanut butter and ginger. During my research I found out yams, lentils, okra, black eyed peas, chicken, lamb and seafood are also widely used. If the flavors and ingredients remind you of Southern cooking that’s because the enslaved peoples of Western Africa retained and refined their cooking traditions in the Americas. I’ve placed some links at the bottom of this post for further reading.
Senegal’s 13.5 million people gained their independence from France in 1960. They work in a variety of industries from agriculture and fisheries to petroleum refining. It’s a secular state with Islam practiced by more than 90% of the population. Modern Senegalese cuisine shows French and Arabic influence, with lots of braised meats and stews served with a millet based couscous or rice. (Wiki)
Some resources call the meat filled version of vegetable and peanut stew mafé. My original plan was to use tofu in place of the more traditional chicken, but after I added the mushrooms I felt like I had enough in the pot and saved the tofu for another meal. My version is vegan and free of added oils, although there are plenty of fats from the peanut butter. Don’t hesitate to add chicken, fish or shrimp to the stew for an omnivore friendly meal. I served my stew over rice one night and the leftovers over noodles.
I mixed and matched recipes from Sun Basket blog (no affiliation) and Nigerian Lazy Chef for inspiration. I made substitutions to suit what I had on hand. We were happy with the result although I wish I’d used less potato even though I was using up what I had on hand. Next time I’ll swap some of the potatoes for carrots.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 -3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger (about an inch)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
- large pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 large or 2 medium potatoes, diced (peeling optional)
- 12 ounce can tomato puree
- up to a quart of vegetable broth
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (store pack)
- 2 - 3 generous handfuls of fresh spinach
- 1 - 2 limes cut into wedges
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups cooked rice
- In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, saute the onions, garlic, ginger and red bell pepper in a little broth seasoned with red pepper flakes (add more broth as necessary).
- When the vegetables have softened, add the potatoes and ginger. Add the pureed tomatoes and enough broth to cover (You might not need the entire quart).
- Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork, but not falling apart. Add more broth or water as needed.
- Ladle about a cup of the broth into a small bowl and mix in the peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Return to the pot and add the mushrooms. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.
- Turn off the heat, stir in the spinach and let it wilt before serving.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.
- Serve over rice with the lime wedges.
Be sure to drop by Food of the World for more Senegalese flavors.
And check out these articles for more information about West African influence on American cuisine.