West African Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew

October 19, 2018

 

 

 

There are literally thousands of recipes like this one, all with tiny variations here or there, but this one was the perfect cross between the familiar warmth of a hearty stew and the exotic West African flavors which stole my heart in culinary school. Arguably the quickest prep time of any of the recipes this Crocktober, this recipe's creamy peanutty goodness will keep you and your wallet full. Give it a try and share with a friend or two! Remember:

 

One who eats alone cannot discuss the taste of the food with others.

~African Proverb

This recipe is made with sweet potatoes, not African yams, which will do nothing for the amazing texture or smooth mouthfeel of this stew. It is still a traditional West African recipe, despite the fact that both sweet potatoes and peanuts are native to the Americas, not West Africa. In fact, if you've spent most of your life in North America, you've likely never eaten an actual yam.

 

Let's get to the root of this (see what I did there?)

 

A true yam is a starchy edible root of the genus Dioscorea, and is generally imported to North America from the Africa, the Caribbean and other tropical climates. It is skin is rough, scaly and very low in beta carotene.

 

Archaeological evidence suggests that the orange-fleshed variety we know and love (Ipomoea batatas) was cultivated and consumed as early as 4,500 years ago in Peru, and were a well established North American crop by time the ‘New World’ was invaded by colonists in the late 15th century. The conquistadors brought sweet potatoes back to Spain, introducing them to the taste buds and gardens of Europe.

 

West African historians generally agree that early Europeans were responsible for the introduction of this crop into West Africa, (along with peanuts) shortly after they were introduced to Europe.

 

So why do we call them yams? When West Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves, sweet potatoes were the closest thing they found to the incredibly versatile “nyami” they knew from home. Recipes became ambiguous, ingredients were substituted when food was scarce, the word became “yam” for both, and it stuck. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Despite the label regulations, most people still think of sweet potatoes as yams regardless of their true identity.

 

West African cuisine is distinctive for it melting pot of cultures, influences, and it's rich history. Their signature dishes include creative use of flavor, color, and any tuber you can get your hands on! Simple ingredients, simply prepared. Brilliant flavor. Share with a friend and let me know what you think!

 

As always,

Please salt responsibly.

 

West African Sweet potato & Peanut Stew

vegan, gf

Serves 6 | Prep time: 5-10 min

 

Ingredients:

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

4 garlic cloves, halved

2 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp salt 

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, quartered

3 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

3 cups water

8 cups chopped fresh kale

 

Topping: Chopped peanuts and additional cilantro leaves, optional​

 

 

 

Directions: You will need a food processor and a 6-quart sized crockpot. Blend the first 9 ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

 

Add to the crockpot and stir in sweet potato, beans, and water.  Cook on low for 6 hours. Stir in chopped kale. Serve topped with extra peanuts or more cilantro. Serve, share, and enjoy!

 

Like, share and let me know what you think!

 

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