Groundnuts, Peanuts: an ingredient common to many cuisines, South of the Sahara. Boiled. Baked in clean white beach sand known in many parts of Nigeria as ‘sharp sand’. Ground into snack and cakes, from kulikuli to dankwa. And cooked in a soup or sauce.
My first memories of Groundnut stew are accompanied by cold weather and the kindness of a friend, ‘Layide. We’re living in Holland, The Netherlands – friends, neighbours and sharers of pot contents. She’s the friend who lives round the corner, the Nigerian friend from whom I can borrow a half pack of sugar, half a dozen eggs, salt, even stew…should the need arise. She’s the maker of an amazing rice dish which we call ‘Sweet Pepper Rice’ and we’ve long established that if anything will cause a rift between us, it is likely to be food.
‘Layide had ordered a batch of creamy, darker-than-beige-but-not-quite-brown groundnut soup from Bose, our resident Nigerian caterer. This time, it wasn’t Egusi or Okro or stew, it was Groundnut soup. Oh Lord, I cannot tell you how we ate this soup. How we savoured the creaminess, the nuttiness, the spice. How we ladled spoonfuls over freshly boiled rice, and licked the pot and spoons and gnawed on the chicken bones. We didn’t rest – I didn’t rest till the pot was clean. And it was all gone. I didn’t.
Fast forward to 2013, and I tried to recreate the same soup/ stew – forget the memories. Actually, don’t. They are the reason why I’m here…so don’t. Enter Elizabeth Jackson, one of my heroines on West African cuisine and her delightful introduction to Groundnut stew which while different from Bose’s in the colour – probably due to the addition of tomato puree, hit the same flavour and deliciousness notes. You sear/brown chicken after coating in a spicy paste.
Then you basically whip up a stew. I used homemade peanut butter, just because.
And then whipped up the base of the stew – blended tomato mixture, with tomato puree for oomph.
Some peanut butter in…
…and boiled eggs and the stew was ready.
I served it at an amazing lunch – more on that in my next post. I served it like this – full of colour, flavour and texture and everyone loved it. I mean everyone.
(PS, don’t mind my grey-ring, overcooked eggs) – they were delish still.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dried/ ground ginger
- 3 lbs (1 1 ⁄ 2 kilograms) chicken pieces, skin removed if desired
- 2 - 3 fresh tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 2 fresh hot peppers, seeded
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon ground crayfish (optional)
- 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon dried red pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 1 ⁄ 2 cup (125 grams) freshly ground peanut paste or smooth, unsweetened peanut butter
- 6 hardboiled eggs, peeled
- Mix salt and ground ginger in a small bowl, and rub thoroughly into chicken pieces on all sides. Cover and leave at room temperature for no more than 30 minutes. If you have to leave for longer, refrigerate.
- In a food processor or blender, grind tomatoes, onion and hot peppers until smooth. Set aside
- Heat oil in a large, heavy or non-stick pan. On medium-high heat, add chicken pieces and beef and sear well on both sides till brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add blended tomato mixture to pan and simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered
- Add ground red pepper, salt, thyme, tomato puree and two cups water. Mix well and bring to a boil
- Measure peanut butter into small, heat-resistant bowl. Ladle about one cup of broth from the sauce into the bowl, and mix well with the peanut butter to thin in and make it easier to incorporate. Add this paste back into pan with the sauce
- Return chicken and beef to the pot. Simmer uncovered over medium heat, 30-45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through
- Add whole, peeled eggs to sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking. You can remove the eggs after sauce is cooked and serve them sliced or you can leave them whole in the sauce
I need to make this again and have ‘Layide round, ask her to rustle up some sweet, spicy, fragrant rice cooked in a thyme stock with the finest basmati rice.
And we can relive old times and talk about which foods might cause us to part ways.