West African Vegetarian Peanut Stew
I think I’ve just discovered the most satisfying, hearty vegan recipe known to mankind. Imagine what you get when you cross an Indonesian satay with an Indian curry—you end up with a West African peanut stew. This traditional stew (also known as groundnut stew, domoda, or maafe) is usually made with meat and vegetables. My version forgoes the meat but bolsters it with a bounty of sweet potatoes, eggplant and okra. The vegetables are enveloped by a silky sauce of tomatoes, aromatics, a mouth-tingling spice mixture and, the magical ingredient, peanut butter. The nuttiness and richness of the nut butter provides so much depth and substance to this stew. It’s really, really, delicious. I’m not vegan, but I think I could be if I could indulge regularly in this dish.
I was inspired by a book I read for my book group (no, not a cookbook, though I have collected enough of them to stock a small store) but a brilliant novel called Americanah written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah is a smart, thoughtful, insightful story about race, class and immigration in America. I loved the book and I especially loved how the author muses about the foods and flavors of her African homeland. When the book group met at my home to discuss the book, it seemed only fitting that I serve up something from her world.
I am grateful to be part of this amazing group of smart women readers. The book group has been together for almost twelve years and I’ve been participating for six of them. We have read 140 books and counting, and there is nothing lightweight about our reading list! Had I not joined, I may never have kicked my habit of reading British mysteries or realized that absorbing cookbooks from cover to cover isn’t ever going to be as enlightening as reading War and Peace or Methland.
I wasn’t the only one inspired by this great read. Kate True, a talented artist in the group, was so moved by the book that she is working on this beautiful portrait of the author. (Are you feeling the love, Chimamanda?) Kate also helped me with some of the photos in this post. (Thank you, Kate.)
If you haven’t read Americanah yet, I highly recommend that you hightail it to the bookstore or library today and get yourself a copy. And if you haven’t ever made or tasted a West African peanut stew, stop by the market on your way to or from wherever you find it. They’re truly both a treat.