Food creates memories. Time spent with family and friends. Those special dinners in or out. Picnics. Holiday feasts. For those who lived for a time in a country not their own, vivid memories can be evoked by a dish once shared with friends abroad. Groundnut stew* is this kind of dish for those who spent time in West Africa .
What are groundnuts? Thought to have originated in Western Africa, the most common groundnut is the peanut, but while all peanuts are ground nuts, not all groundnuts are peanuts.** When I lived in West Africa peanuts were the groundnut of choice. Sold in bags and bottles, sweet or very spicy, in sauces of amazing heat, as groundnut butter, boiled groundnuts, fried groundnuts, green groundnuts, groundnut oil, they were found in soups, stews, salads, snacks, and sandwiches.
So what is Groundnut stew? It’s a spicy, hearty dish of whatever vegetable is on hand, chopped or diced and ready for the pot: carrots, onion, yams, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, winter or summer squash, chickpeas, okra, garlic, eggplant, hot peppers, sweet peppers, or cabbage, and spices. Spices! Ginger, cayenne, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric all of which came from the marché, sold in twists of paper. And of course peanuts, pounded to a paste with a large wooden mortar and pestle.
Ground nut stew, like traditional dishes everywhere, has as many recipes as cooks and they add what vegetables they have on hand. If there is chicken or goat handy it is cut into small pieces and added or it canbe strictly vegetarian if meat is not available.
Groundnut stew can readily be turned into a soup with the addition of broth or juice. In West Africa either chicken or vegetarian bouillon cubes are used. Whether eaten as soup or stew, it might well be served with Fufu.***
What is Fufu? It's a dumpling made by boiling cassava, yam, plantain, millet, or rice, then pounding it into a glutinous mass in a mortar and pestle. The same mortar and pestle used to pound the peanuts one day and the millet the next. It is a ubiquitous, essential cooking tool.
[Edith's note: you can also use corn flour, and a Togolese friend of mine used to approximate fufu by combining Cream of Wheat with masa farina. It's really just polenta by any other name. And a perfect vehicle for a sauce.]
So here are some recipes for Groundnut Stew, one for FuFu, and a music video that will bring back the sound of West Africa to anyone who was lucky enough to live there.
* Groundnut stew recipes
*** Fufu recipe
This post was brought to you by the folks at Cooks Inn Cooking School, whose further adventures (some of which lead to murder) can be found in SUPERIOR LONGING, the first Neva Moore mystery, written by Patricia Deuson, published by Echelon Press and available from 9/15/11 until the end of time in most fine ebook formats such as Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and Omnilit and maybe others no one told me about. SUPERIOR LONGING has its own blog and Facebook page as well: http://superiorlonging.blogspot.com/ and http://goo.gl/AfIVM. Go visit them!