Generally speaking, I like to eat light, cool food during warmer months and heavier, hot food during the colder ones. So, even though it’s spring, when yesterday the weather turned a bit chilly, I realized I was craving something heartier than the things I’ve been eating lately (for example, Socca with nut cheeses and vegetables). In addition, for weeks now, I’ve had this really strong craving for peanut butter, but it’s generally not something I like to have around since it’s a definite weakness of mine. But when I had a lightbulb moment that crashed those two cravings together, I remembered the convenient excuse for peanut butter in a bowl, err, I mean, my love for African Peanut Stew, and realized I would just have to indulge myself. (It’s all about balance, right?)
My introduction to African Peanut Stew/Soup was at a Christmas celebration a few years ago. The idea of both peanut butter and coconut milk as star ingredients of a dish was truly scary (read: calories, fat), but I couldn’t exactly say no since the hostess had made a special batch vegan just for me by replacing the chicken with chickpeas. The first taste and the ones that followed were so sumptuous, I couldn’t help but relax and savor every bite. So, not surprisingly I associate that dish with happy times and cozy gatherings, not to mention special occasions. The warming aromas of ginger, cinnamon, and curry, not to mention peanut butter, makes for a decadent and soothing homey feel that is all about the pleasure food was meant to be.
Last night was just a Wednesday, but with the aromas of all that in the air, it felt like a special occasion, and the actual eating of the stew was a definite treat. And as my boyfriend eats very little of the kinds of food I eat (though he has become more adventurous and healthy over the years), I got it all to myself. Again. Even cold it’s awesome. (I checked before I had some for lunch today!) The best part is it’s actually really easy to make. You could also do in the crock pot if you wanted to go the longer and slower cooking route.
Many versions call for coconut milk and most have chicken, but I don’t eat the latter and since the soup is not the lowest-calorie soup a person could have, I figured I would leave the coconut milk out as well. In addition, just about every recipe you will see is slightly different and may include, for example, celery, red bell pepper, and other ingredients not in this one. But the stew is like a chili in the sense that you can customize it for your taste. Regardless of the way you choose to customize it for your taste, I hope you enjoy it!
(Note: You know how sometimes you meet a person in real life after seeing their photo, and you’re like, ‘holy heck, this person is beautiful and photos don’t do him/her any justice!’ Well, that stew photo up there is like that. Partly because the beauty is in the flavors and the aroma, and partly because, clearly, I need to do some food photography study. It’s on the list, I promise! But all that’s to say, don’t hold that photo against my poor little stew.)
- Olive oil for cooking
- One onion (I used Vidalia to add more sweetness)
- One sweet potato
- 3 or 4 cups vegetable broth or water (more or less depending on the thickness you want)
- 2 cloves garlic
- Approximately ¼ cup chopped ginger root (or if eyeballing amount, it’s about three thumb-sized roots, or equivalent)
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1T curry powder
- Kosher, sea, or pink salt to taste
- Fresh pepper to taste
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1tsp cumin
- 1T tumeric
- A few shakes of cayenne (about a teaspoon or so)
- 4T chunky natural peanut butter
- One small bunch of kale (lacinto, if possible)
- One bunch of cilantro (it might look like a lot, but it cooks way down, but if you’re not a cilantro lover, do use less)
- 2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, aka, garbanzo beans (or one large one)
- Approximately ¼ small jalapeño or Serrano chili (optional, and to taste)
- Sriracha to taste (by which I mean lots and lots!!)
- Crushed peanuts (optional)
- Wash all your veggies and drain and rinse your chickpeas. (Or work these steps in as you do other steps.)
- Coat soup pot with a little olive oil, then add finely chopped onion and sweet potato. Heat on low until softened. (It helps to add a splash of water after about five minutes. Also, watch closely and stir often to prevent burning.)
- Chop garlic and ginger. Add some of your water or broth to a blender, then add garlic and ginger, and blend on high until fully blended.
- Add tomatoes to blender and more of the water or broth and all spices except for the jalapeño or Serrano. Blend until smooth.
- Finely chop kale and cilantro in between other tasks.
- At this point, add to the blender the full amount of liquid you will be working with and to that add the sweet potatoes and onion. Blend until smooth and pour back into soup pan.
- Finely chop desired amount of jalapeño or Serrano. Be careful not to touch the chili—I used a knife and fork—and also be careful washing the utensils and cutting board. The juice can burn your skin, and the fumes can be hot.
- Add peanut butter, then taste and add more if desired. Add rinsed garbanzo beans, kale, and cilantro. Heat on very low for desired amount of time. This is a dish you can keep closer to raw or not, depending on how you like it. I heated mine just until veggies had softened.
- Serve hot (though it tastes delicious cold too), and top with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts if desired and lots of sriracha (which, on the other hand, is mandatory).
Serve over couscous or rice, or with toasted scali bread topped with Earth Balance.