During my first year at university I worked in the food services dept as a liaison between students and staff relaying complaints to the food managers to improve the quality of choices offered. On a tour of the kitchen I noticed a new dish they were trying called African Peanut Soup. Growing up I adored my peanut butter and jam sandwiches on my Mother’s homemade bread. I was initially put off by the idea of tomatoes and spicy chilis mixed in with my beloved peanut butter. Boy, was I mistaken! The soup was more of a thick, creamy broth with just enough spice to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. I was a fan from the first taste. Let us take a glimpse at a bit of history on how this soup came to be associated with West Africa.
In Africa peanuts are called ‘groundnuts’; a legume from an annual vine called ‘Arachis hypogaea’. The legume was not native to Africa, as it was brought from South America by Spanish and Portuguese colonists around 1560.
Known widely as West African Peanut Soup, this nutrient rich tasty dish can be enjoyed as an entree or served over rice, millet, couscous or diced sweet potatoes. Traditional recipes vary widely according to the region, offering variations of roasted peanuts, tomato, yams, greens, onions, garlic, chili peppers, okra, squash, eggplant, corn and beans. The piping hot bowls are topped with a choice of sliced tropical fruits, African hot sauce, parsley, shredded lettuce, chopped nuts or coconut.
Todays version is a lighter version of the peanut-buttery version I first tried all those years ago.
We chose our favorite from Angela Liddon’s ‘Oh She Glow’s Cookbook‘ sure to warm your soul on this cold October day. Enjoy!
Serves 6 or more
*2 tsp Olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves or more of garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded if desired and diced (optional)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into I/2 inch pieces
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup of peanut butter (natural)
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 x 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 handfuls of baby spinach or destemmed torn kale leaves
fresh cilantro or parsley, for serving
roasted peanuts, for serving
*The original recipe called for a tsp of oil, I used 2 tsp. This recipe is also delicious with coconut milk blended in. Add 1 can full fat coconut milk to the above recipe along with the broth and spices.
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the bell pepper, jalapeno (if using), sweet potato, and tomatoes with their juices. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season the vegetables with salt and black pepper.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and 1 cup of the vegetable broth until no clumps remain. Stir the mixture into the vegetables along with the remaining 3 cups of broth, chili powder, and the cayenne.
4. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is fork-tender.
5. Stir in the chickpeas and spinach or kale and cook until leaves are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with cilantro and roasted peanuts.