21 July 2007

From the land of giraffes and hyenas... and Groundnut Stew

In this post, I spoke about the confluence of interests and passion. How finding a like-minded soul is such a beautiful thing. That the other two similarly fanatical friends - GM and P - were only going to be in Singapore together at the same time temporarily, was an opportunity I needed to seize before it slipped away.

By some stroke of luck, a couple of mutual friends had also just flown into Singapore either for their summer break or for to bask in Singapore's humid weather for good. GM helped arrange for a dinner potluck (on a weeknight, I wouldn't settle for less) and after some online discussion, we decided to take on the challenge of cooking from Africa.

It was serendipitous that two of the whole gang had been in Africa and stayed with a family for a while - long enough to pick up a recipe or two. One of which was for a Groundnut Stew. For some reason, the first image that popped into my mind was that of soft, braised peanuts floating freely in a thin sauce.

However, the stew turned out fairly thick but deliciously smooth. While you would assume it contained plenty of groundnuts, it actually did not. It simply contained juicy chunks of chicken, a few tablespoons of peanut butter, and a handful of peas thrown on top just before serving. GM graciously passed me the recipe, and while he hasn't exactly told me I could post it, it would seem terribly selfish not to share this with everyone else.

'There isn't really an "authentic" recipe I think. It was made for me in Ghana, and the recipe seems like what the cook told me was in it when I was there, so I think this is reasonably close. I also made some changes on my own, and much of it is to taste, so you can tweak the recipe as much as you like.' - GM

Served 6

500g chicken (I used chicken thighs), cut into small pieces
2 cups water
1/2 medium onion, quarter-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced (use a garlic press if possible)
1 tbspn minced ginger
Tomato paste,
2 tbspn 2 cups tomatoes, diced/minced finely (one can of chopped tomatoes with the liquid should do the trick)
Chili, minced, to taste (I used 2 large red chili)
Peanut Butter, about 4 heaped tablespoons (or to taste)
Some chicken powder (if desired)
sugar, salt and (white) pepper;
peas are optional (some recipes add okra or eggplant)

Sear chicken pieces, skin side down, on high heat, in 2 tbspn oil till browned.
Overturn and brown other side then remove from pot.
On medium heat, fry onion till translucent with 1/2 tspn salt, then add garlic and ginger.
When fragrant add tomato paste and fry. Then, add diced tomatoes and chili.
When everything is well mixed and fragrant, add water, deglaze, and nestle the chicken pieces in the water.
Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer.
Simmer for about 1/2 hour (to get the chicken flavour running).
Add peanut butter in batches to the mixture, stirring to get a thicker, more homogeneous sauce. (Some recipes suggest taking some hot liquid out, and adding the peanut butter to it, and then stirring it into the mixture. I don't really see the purpose of this so I'd omit this step.)
Add chicken powder (1/2 to 1 tspn), sugar (about 1 tbspn), salt (1/2 tspn), and pepper to taste.
If the mixture gets too thick at any point, add water. (I might have added more water than 2 cups, and I find reserving the tomato juice from the canned tomato is a great addition.)

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