Saturday, October 24, 2015

West African Peanut Stew

I remember, years ago, watching a talkshow host (could it have been Dinah Shore? ....way before there was an Oprah or a Martha) interviewing a woman who taught the audience about this West African stew using peanut butter and heavy spices and okra.

I remember being intrigued.

From that time forward, whenever I think about okra, this recipe-memory surfaces but until today, I never pursued the activity of making it.

This morning, while out in the garden harvesting the penultimate crops, my mind once more resurrected the image and I could swear I was smelling the fragrance of a dish I have never tasted. So, I searched the innertubes and found lots of recipes to follow.

And I do mean, LOTs of recipes and they were all variations on the theme, so while I have never tasted this dish before, I want to set about making a meal using what I have on hand & (obviously) tastes great.

What is even more exciting is learning that eggplant features in the recipes!!!!!! Well, whaddaya know!!! I have all that and then some... check it out.
There are 3 different variety of eggplant we planted in the spring and two are only now bringing forth the little Japanese eggplants. The bushes are large and multi-branched but the fruit is tiny, almost absurdly so but big on taste and texture.

I start with this!

I have selected about 20 okra fingers and enough eggplant to chop & measure (about 1.5 cups of okra and eggplant each).

Bacon grease
1 finely chopped onion
1 Tbls minced ginger
1 fat clove finely chopped garlic
1 finely chopped bell pepper
1 small finely chopped hot pepper
3 - 4 tbls catsup
1  coarse chopped sweet potato or butternut squash
1.5 cups eggplant, cubed 1"
1.5 cups okra, sliced into 1/2" rounds
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup peanut butter
* Penzeys Berbere Spice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 coriander powder

In a large stock pot, saute' the onion in about 2 -3 Tbls of bacon grease (you can go olive oil if you must) for 3 minutes, and add ginger and pepper. Saute' a further 3 - 4 minutes and add all the spices. Add catsup and peanut butter. Stir well and you will see the ingredients begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the stock and stir until well-blended.

Now, add the eggplant  and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. 

Add okra and sweet potato or butternut squash. (I substituted out the potato because I have lots of squash from the garden and they have the same texture.) Cook low, for a further 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to be certain nothing sticks on the bottom.

Oh, man is this ever good! I was concerned, too, because while researching I read reviews of some of the online recipes; some people gave them high scores but others were downright abusive: "I threw the whole mess away!" really? in the same recipe? Could it be that bad with those ingredients?  No. It is aromatic, creamy, packed with flavor, exotic and I can't wait for lunch tomorrow.

Chunked chicken pieces can also be added for more protein but as a Meatless Monday, this is great as it is. Go vegetarian and use anything other than the bacon grease.
Serve with couscous or basmati rice.

* Addendum - Berbere spice is a blend from Penzeys Spices which includes fenugreek, cumin, allspice, pepper  etc. It is an amazing blend that just transports me to another continent every time I use it. I went this route because the various recipes had a laundry list of stand-alone spices, most of which are in Berbere so I just cut to the chase.

If you buy and use this spice for the first time, disregard the use instructions on the back where it suggests starting with 1 TABLESPOON and adding more. Oh dear God, no. Most people will find that so hot that it will kill off the flavors of anything else that happens to be included. I learned this the hard way. Sneak up on the heat......

I like the spices from Penzey Spices. I was introduced to this brand just after Katrina and have to say the flavor and freshness is outstanding. You can order online or find shops in large cities (except New Orleans, for some reason. I guess they don't think we're much into food down here).

HOWEVER, the political agenda coming from this business in some emails and catalogues is way over the top. If you don't want me to buy your spices because I disagree with you, I can accommodate that. I don't need to pass a litmus test to be deemed worthy.  Just sell me the spices and leave me alone and in return, I won't proselytize you or the employees. Really, I just want to cook, and spread the fragrance and share. 

"Can't we all just get along?"

huh..... I just received another email...... and it's perfectly neutral. Thank You!

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