African Peanut Stew

Some cooks like to test their recipes before serving them to guests. I see guests as excellent guinea pigs; they get to experience my good meals and my bad ones. I like to think it gives my husband someone to commiserate with when they don’t turn out so well.

The other night, we invited our neighbor John over for African Peanut Stew. This is a recipe that I cut out of the Washington Post probably 10 years ago. I’ve made it many times and have modified the original recipe to suit my taste. It is a delicious, interesting, one-dish meal; warm, filling and healthy. It is perfect for these cold winter evenings. No problems there.

What I had never made is Ugali. Ugali is a cornmeal dish that is supposed to be like a soft bread and is often served with African dishes. It is served in the middle of the table; diners pull off bits, roll it into a ball, smash it with their thumb and then use the dough to scoop up the stew. Mine came out like over-cooked grits. After we all, good-naturedly but unsuccessfully, tried to grab a piece (imagine eating oatmeal with your fingers), I added a serving spoon. We improvised and ate it like dumplings in the stew. We did eat just about all of it, but I won’t count it as a success. At least it tasted good!

As I was making the stew, I was struck by all the healthy stuff I was adding to it — sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, turmeric, garlic, pumpkin seeds, etc. I wanted to find out just how healthy the dish was so I turned to NutritionData.com This cool site analyzes the nutritional value of your recipes. You search for your ingredients, select the amount and add it to your recipes. It’s a bit time consuming but, when you’re done, you have an in-depth dietary profile of your recipe. You can also print out a nifty nutrition label just like the ones on packaged foods. I was so proud of the nutritional prowess of this dish that I was tempted to print out a label and slap it on the side of the bowl.

Here’s the abridged lowdown:
Calories: 401; Vitamin A: 308% RDA (Wow!); Vitamin C: 51% RDA; Vitamin E: 22% RDA; Vitamin K: 231% RDA; Vitamin B6: 26% RDA; Folate: 31% RDA; Protein: 30% RDA; Calcium: 11% RDA; Iron: 32% RDA; Magnesium: 50% RDA; Potassium: 28% RDA. Not too shabby.

The peanut butter pushes the fat content to 40% RDA, but I don’t fret about that. The only fats that I try to totally avoid are trans fats. Just be sure that you are buying all-natural peanut butter with no partially hydrogenated oils. The only ingredient in your peanut butter should be peanuts (and maybe salt). Some peanut butter makers add partially hydrogenated oils to keep the peanut butter from separating. I’d much rather stir my peanut butter than ingest trans fats!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 (10-ounce) bag spinach, washed (you may substitute kale or other greens)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups diced tomatoes (or about 2 cans or one 26 ounce box)
4 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


Method

  • Heat oil in a large soup pan or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add onions and chopped sweet potatoes.
  • Finely chop the spinach (I give mine a whirl or two in a food processor) and add to pot, sauté until the onions are soft.
  • Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper, sauté for about a minute (do not brown garlic).
  • Add tomatoes and vegetable stock; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.
  • Add peanut butter; stir to combine.
  • Add vinegar, honey, pumpkin seeds and cilantro. Cook a few more minutes until thoroughly heated.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Serves eight.

This post appears on Real Food Wednesdays.