Chicken and Groundnut Stew

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It’s already the first week of 2017, and as I didn’t get to eat any black eyed peas or collard greens at New Year I’ll have to make my own luck.

This week – recipe-wise – I’m taking a swing by Jamaica, via West Africa.

For this recipe post I’m ‘cooking the book’ and adapting a recipe from the cookbook ‘Jamaican cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes’ (1997) by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

If you have a peanut allergy of any type then sadly this recipe isn’t for you.

Groundnut stew is common in much of West Africa. It originates from the Mandinka and Bambara people of Mali. In Wolof it’s called Maafe.

Recipes for the stew vary, but can include chicken, tomato, onion, garlic, cabbage, and leaf or root vegetables. Other versions include okra, corn, carrots, cinnamon, hot peppers, paprika, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and other spices. Maafe is traditionally served with white rice, fonio or millet porridge in Mali, couscous, or fufu and sweet potatoes.

The African continent is the home of many ingredients now widely available in the African diaspora — from peanuts to yam, corn and pumpkin.

The use of peanuts in Jamaican cooking comes from a West African tradition. Most Jamaicans are familiar with the word pinda from a line in a children’s game, “Pop-si kai-si go pinda (peanut) shell.” 

You can add diced sweet potato instead of green beans to this recipe while the stew is cooking, or serve the chicken with a side of mixed greens, salad, and/or rice.

Although this recipe uses supermarket products – peanut butter and ketchup – those flavours blend together beautifully into a rich, semi-sweet sauce.

If you like you can use a whole chicken and cut it into 8 pieces yourself, but I’ve chosen to to adapt the original recipe and make the meal prep faster so I used pre-cut chicken thigh fillets and I’ve simplified the cooking style.

Chicken and Groundnut (Peanut) Stew

Makes 4 servings

6 chicken thigh fillets, skinless, each cut in half
1 small white onion, peeled, and diced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
2 1/2 cups water
2 T peanut oil
3/4 cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or preferably, 1/2 a Scotch bonnet chilli seeded and minced – I couldn’t locate any scotch bonnet chillies, which add a sweet smokey heat, so I instead I used half a red habanero chilli. Be careful using fresh hot chillis and don’t touch your eyes!
A good handful of green beans, cut into pieces 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thigh fillet pieces (keep them loosely rolled up) and cook until lightly browned on each side.

Add the chopped onion, and ginger, and stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and cook 3 mins more. Blend in the peanut butter, and stir in the water, salt and chilli pieces (or cayenne pepper).

Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook uncovered until the chicken for 15-20 mins, or until the chicken pieces are tender and cooked through.

If using green beans, add them half way through the cooking time.

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Serve your Groundnut stew with a side of steamed rice, vegetables, or salad.

This stew can be cooked in advance and gently reheated with a little water.

Recipe adapted from ‘Jamaican cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes’ (1997) by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

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Rose petal shortbread

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From the moment I saw a large jar of dark pink rose petals on the counter of my local delicatessen, I’ve wanted to cook with them.

I decided Rose Petals would taste nice in shortbread.

Awia’s Rose-flavoured Shortbread Biscuits
(Makes 24 cookies)

2 tablespoons of dried Rose petals*
4 teaspoons rosewater* & 1 teaspoon water
115 g (4 oz) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
10 g (half oz) coconut sugar
45 g (1 ½ oz) caster sugar
180g (6 oz) plain flour, sifted
Baking paper to line cookie tray
(*available from Middle Eastern and select delicatessens)

Preheat your oven to 160 o C (3250F)

Put half the quantity of rose petals into a cup, and using a small pair of scissors, snip into finer pieces. Mix in the remaining petals, and pour the rosewater-water mixture over and stir through. Leave to sit for half an hour until the petals have absorbed all the rosewater and are soft.

In a medium sized bowl cream the butter and coconut and caster sugars until smooth. It’s a small quantity of dough to work with, so I find it easier to just use a knife and wooden spoon to cut the butter into the sugar and beat together. Then mix the rose petals through using a fork.

Gradually work the flour into the dough mix. Then roll the dough into a ball in your hands, and place onto a floured board. Rather than using a rolling pin, I use the heel of my hand and work from the centre outwards, flattening out the dough until it is 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and rub with butter.
Use a 5cm (2 in) round cutter to cut out the cookie shapes, and a butter knife to gently lift them off the board and onto a baking tray. You can snip off any over-hanging petals, or leave them on for a more rustic effect.
Carefully place the cookies onto the baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the shortbread biscuits are just changing colour, don’t overcook them. Cool the biscuits on a wire rack then store in an air-tight cake tin.

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