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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

West African style sweet potato and peanut stew

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of co-hosting a Friday night for Wandering Jews.  Wandering Jews is a groups organized by the amazing Jo and Jude, with the simple premise of getting together once a month with old friends and new and sharing in delicious vegetarian potluck in a different venue each month.  As my housemate Hannah and I are pretty new to the scene, we decided to give the evening a theme of Shehechiyanu, or newness.  The translation of the prayer blesses our g-d for having ‘granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.’  I like to think of it as a way not to take life for granted, to see the excitement in every day and to, as often as you can, really push yourself to trying something new.

I wanted to bring this emphasis on newness into my cooking with the event.  I needed something vegan and warming, which could feed a lot of people.  My fall-back dish for this kind of thing would be some kind of red and yellow dahl, but I wanted to break out of my comfort zone.  I started looking into West African recipes as I knew from various cookery programmes (mainly the hairy bikers I think) and friends’ travel experiences that it was a style of cooking which would incorporate all the things I wanted: vegan, protein, complexity of flavour, and warmth.  The following is the recipe for the dish I made, which is an amalgamation of many different peanut stews that I found online.

Feeds a lot of people

2 - 3 very large white flesh sweet potato –with purple skin, peeled and cut into large-ish chunks
3 - 4 yellow flesh sweet potato, peeled and cut into slightly smaller chunks
a couple of carrots, if you happen to have them, peeled and sliced
1-2 aubergines, diced
2 red peppers, diced into quite large chunks
1 onion, cut into large chunks
1 onion, diced very fine
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
1 can/tetra-pack of sieved tomatoes
approximately 4 tablespoons of peanut butter (depending on how much you have), smooth or chunky depending on personal preference
1 inch lump of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 fresh chilis (I used 1 red and 1 green) deseeded if you want, finely diced.
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 heaped teaspoons cumin
1 heaped teaspoon coriander
a packet of roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
the juice of 1-2 limes
big bunch of fresh parsley, washed and chopped.

You can also add in a can of chick peas for some additional bulk.

In a microwaveable bowl or small saucepan, combine the small diced onion, ginger, garic, chili and peanut butter with 1 can of tomatoes and a little water.  Cook, stirring from time to time until the peanut butter has amalgamated with the other ingredients and created a sauce. 

Add the sauce and all remaining ingredients except for the peanuts, lime and parsley to a large pot.  Top up with water – just a little, add more if it looks a little dry halfway through cooking – and cook for about 40 minutes-1 hour, until everything is cooked but not falling apart.  Just before serving, add the lime juice, parsley and peanuts, adjust the seasoning and warm through.

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