Chicken, Peanut, and Yam Stew

I have blogged before about my volunteer work with the Food Chain, and about the fact that I, a Polish Jew, am responsible for coming up with tasty recipes suitable for our service users who request “African” and “Afro-Caribbean” meals. The latter are somewhat easier; while the Afro-Caribbean population is incredibly diverse, at least the Caribbean is a relatively small geographical area. The produce in the markets in Trinidad and Domenica tends to be similar, even if their roti recipes are different. But “African”? Africa is a CONTINENT. It’s taken me a long time to gain a passing familiarity with Moroccan food, and that’s one country, in North Africa, out of 53 (if you include the island nations). So time and again I find myself seeking guidance from that indefatigable source, the internet. Everything’s true on the internet, right?

This lovely chicken dish, which I’ve now cooked to rave reviews at the Food Chain (twice) and at home (once) is a somewhat-adapted “Ghanaian” stew. I feel compelled to offer a disclaimer: I have not been to Ghana. I don’t think I’ve been to a Ghanaian restaurant. I have no idea whether I’ve gotten my proportions all wrong in cooking to my Eurocentric palate. But this stew, in which chicken cooks slowly with peanuts and tomatoes and ginger and spicy peppers until the chicken falls off the bone and the sauce becomes a rich thick fatty paste, is DELICIOUS, and it’s what I’m eating for dinner. Thank you internet!

Ingredients:

8-12 chicken thighs and legs, bone-in (Or breasts on the bone if you prefer, or you can just cut up one to two chickens.  Estimate approximately 2 pieces of chicken per person)

2-3 spicy chilli peppers (you can adjust this amount depending on your spice tolerance and the spiciness of your chilis), minced

5-6 cloves garlic (about half a head), minced

2-3 inches of ginger, peeled and minced

1 large onion or two medium onions, chopped

400 ml (about half a quart) white chicken stock

400 ml crushed tomatoes

100 ml (about ¼ pound) peanut butter

70 grams (about 3 ounces) peanuts, toasted and crushed into chunks with a rolling pin

1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

2-3 yams, peeled and cut into chunks (you can use African yams, or you can use sweet potatoes (known as yams in the US))

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

a large handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped, plus additional coriander for garnish

Method:

Wash and dry the chicken pieces then season liberally with salt. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed skillet and brown the chicken pieces on both sides. Remove the pieces from the pan when browned on both sides.

In the same pan and without cleaning it, sauté the onions, ginger, garlic, ground coriander and chili peppers. Pour off excess fat, deglaze with the chicken stock, and transfer the chicken and sautéed vegetables to a pot suitable for slow-cooking.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes and peanut butter, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover.

After the chicken has been cooking for about an hour, stir in the cut up yam pieces, crushed peanuts, and chopped fresh coriander. 

Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until chicken and yam are tender. Taste and adjust salt, then season liberally with black pepper. Garnish with fresh coriander, and serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

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35 thoughts on “Chicken, Peanut, and Yam Stew

  1. Ooh I’m first. This looks amazing susan. Gosh I could definitely go for that now. I love that combination of peanut and sweet yam in a stew. Reminds me of a traditional Malay noodle gravy made of spices, roasted peanuts and sweet potato too, called mee rebus. Might actually make this, I live in se london with all these ethnic stalls touting their wares, practically pushing yams at me, so it’s no problem getting hold of the key ingredients. I’ve got frozen chicken thighs now, and the spices are quite simple, so yup, if tmr turns out to be another gloomy day I may just make this.

    • There’s a little west African restaurant in Seattle where I had my first groundnut stew. I was bowled over! I love everything about the alchemy peanuts and peanut butter create in savory food.

    • My sister’s husband and daughter are vegetarian (pescetarian, really). I’ve told her that she can just make the sauce and serve it over tofu or fish.

    • Nor do I. My older sister said this dish was like “pseudo-ethnic 70s hippie food” and reminded her of a Molly Katzen recipe she used to make for vegetarian peanut soup. (Do you remember that one? A peanut curry topped with fried banana?) She’s right. I think I am channeling the 70s. Ha! Could be worse.

    • Daisy, it is really lovely. For my last batch I didn’t include spicy chilis because I was delivering most of it to my friends with the new baby, and it was still tasty. You mentioned once that you don’t really eat a lot of spicy food, so I’m sure you could make a non-spicy version and do it justice!

  2. This looks amazing! Authentic means nothing if it doesn’t taste good. And if this is delicious, that is all that counts!

    I am so impressed that you tackle so many dishes from new food cultures. It takes a brave woman to step into the culinary unknown and an amazing cook to pull it off!

    Africa is huge. It’s so big and you’re right in pointing out that it is impossible to think of African food as all encompassing. I studied abroad in West Africa, but even then I wouldn’t say that I had much exposure to West African food. First of all, I was in college and I think I was a little too young to really start asking questions about that. Secondly, I was a vegetarian — which was both easy and hard to be in Africa. Easy because most people are vegetarians because they can’t afford meat. Hard because if you can’t afford meat, you can’t really afford other things either — which can make your diet a little homogenous. I would do it so much differently now.

    I’m not very familiar with Ghanaian food. But I have this awesome cookbook about West African food that I have to show you when you are in town. That is coming up soon! We should coordinate!

  3. It’s turned cold and rainy in Seattle again. This stew, with the chilies, ginger and cilantro, would go a long ways towards cheering me up! Love the flavor combinations going on there. Plus, doesn’t adding cilantro to most dishes make them that much better?

    • That is one of the cornerstones of my philosophy. I never can understand the people who don’t like cilantro. Let me know if you make this stew or make something like it.

  4. Love this post, Susan. I am inspired to make this and wonder how the dish might turn out with a fleshy fish like halibut (put in later to avoid overcooking it). Thoughts? Otherwise, I might just make this with chicken, and use some of that luscious sauce to pour over some fish that I prepare separately for our resident pescatarians.

    • Well, the stew needs the liquid from the stock, so you’d want to substitute a vegetable stock. I worry that halibut, which is a pretty delicate fish, might not have enough flavor to stand up to the strong spicing and rich peanut sauce; it might get neutralized. You maybe could try something like monkfish? Or even shrimp.

    • Thank you! I think the trick with this recipe is not to use too much peanut butter so the flavours stay balanced; too much peanut butter can mute the other tastes.

  5. I think it’s so awesome that you volunteer for such a great organization. They must be happy to have you, with all your skills and creativity! This looks great.

  6. Mmmmmm, this is just the ticket for cold summer weather. I know what you mean about the whole idea of ‘authentic’ cooking. But then does it really matter as long as it tastes good? Plus, so many cuisines are so malleable and cross over with so many other cuisines that often what we think of as ‘authentic’ sometimes turns out to be some wonderfully mongrel concoction (my favourite type of dish).

    That said, I have the same reaction when-ever people talk about ‘Chinese’ food, because there’s at least a dozen major cuisines contained in that idea with a whole load more. Food from Xinjiang has more in common with Central Asian dishes than those of Shanghai. I bet the same goes for ‘African’. The best we can hope for are authentic flavours/ingredients I guess. So long as it tastes good… And this sure looks like it does.

  7. Love this recipe. I currently work in Ghana and sometimes find the food too spicy. This adaptation is wonderful, not too spicy but has all the necessary flavours. In Senegal, they cook prepare a similar recipe with fish and a dash of lemon – amazing.

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