For Chilly Days: West African-ish Peanut Stew

Last week, North Carolina played host to a small apocalypse. 

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The skies opened up and bucket loads of slushy snow fell (even by Canadian standards), freezing to the road. Less than an hour after the onslaught began, the streets were skating rinks. Drivers pulled over and abandoned their vehicles on the side of the road to walk home instead. In nearby Raleigh, a car burst into flame as it tried to make its way up an icy hill. 

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We walked to the nearby grocery store, police lights flashing in the distance at the scene of an accident. At 1PM on a Wednesday, the place was packed – “the busiest day next to Christmas”, the checkout girl told us – with people stocking up for the end (us included).  

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So what does one make in the face of a wintery doom? I went for West African-ish peanut stew (more on the ‘ish’ in a second). Why? It’s stick-to-your-ribs hearty, with two kinds of protein and the goodness of sweet potatoes and dark, leafy greens. It’s warming, thanks to a heavy dose of ginger and chiles. And it makes tons, which means that, so long as you’ve got a Canadian cooler (that being a chilly snowbank), you’ll eat well even in the event of a scary ice-induced power outage.  

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I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the dish, and though my snowstorm companion has in fact eaten peanut stew in West Africa, he can’t vouch for it either, thanks to a hazy memory (hence the ‘ish’). But a bit of research tells me that so long as you have the peanuts, tomato, onion, chile and some sort of protein, you’re off to a good start. Add in a hearty starch – couscous, sweet potatoes, rice and fufu are standard – and you’ll be ready to be snowed in, happily, for a few days. Just like us.  


West African-ish Peanut Stew
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Serves 6-8, with rice

Ingredients
1 tbsp peanut oil (or vegetable/canola/olive/etc.)
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced 
1 tsp hot chile flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (~3 cups)
5 cups of water
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (chunk or smooth)
1/3 cup tomato paste
1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas
5 cups loosely-packed collard greens  

To serve: Rice or quinoa, cilantro, dry-roasted peanuts

Directions

1. Heat the peanut oil over medium heat for a minute or two, just until it’s hot. Toss in the onion and fry until it’s translucent and beginning to brown (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. 

2. Add in the ginger, garlic, chile, salt, sweet potato and water, and give it a stir. Bring everything to boil over high heat, then immediately turn the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the sweet potatoes are almost tender when stabbed with a fork (this’ll take anywhere between 5-15 minutes, so be sure to check the potatoes for doneness every now and then). 

3. Bring the heat back to medium, add the peanut butter and tomato paste, and stir until the two have dissolved into the broth. Taste and add more salt and chile as you see fit. 

4. Add the chickpeas and collard greens and cook over medium-low for another 5 minutes, or until the greens are cooked but still brightly coloured.

5. Serve over cooked rice or quinoa, and top with a sprinkling of cilantro and peanuts.  

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