AFRICAN STEW

 

I love a stew apart from it being delicious it evokes memories of childhood, despite the fact that way back then stews always had meat in them. However a good stew needs no meat as far as I’m concerned but can benefit from being zhuzhed up with some subtle spicing. Another reason to make a big pan of stew is that it’s cheap to make, winter vegetables are very economic and last for weeks in the fridge or in a cool dark place.

 

Here is my basic recipe but remember that it’s easy to substitute ingredients, particularly in a stew, with what you’ve got. Root vegetables are good because they hold they shape and provide texture, any kind of tinned beans are good for the protein aspect and the texture, spicing is the personal element so use my recipe as a guide. Usual rules apply. I would have used carrots if I’d had any but the fridge was void of carrots on this day. Not to self ‘buy carrots’…

 

Ingredients:

 

½ Swede

1 Large onion

2 Parsnips

2 large or around 6 small potatoes

½ tin baked beans (these were already open in the fridge but a tin of butter beans or cannellini beans would be good here)

Frozen courgettes (from my garden)

Frozen tomatoes (from my garden) or substitute with a tin of tomatoes

A sprig of fresh rosemary

2 Bay leaves

Garlic ( I used a squeeze from a tube but a couple of fresh cloves crushed would be better)

Fresh Ginger (or ready chopped ginger from a jar)

Ground coriander/paprika/cumin/cinnamon

A pinch of saffron (now I know this seems an extravagance but I always have a box of saffron in my store. It’s not cheap but a little goes a long way and a small box lasts me months. I buy it in an international food shop in Liverpool because the jars in the supermarkets are extortionate. Look out for Spanish saffron it really is worth it)

Vegetable stock (fresh or stock cubes)

Coconut oil or whatever you have.

 

 

Method:

Chop the vegetables into medium chunks. The smaller they are the quicker it will cook but not so small that you end up with soup rather than stew.

Dice the onion and add to the oil, stirring until slightly caramelised, now add the saffron while there’s still space for it to heat up in the oil.

 

Add the chopped root vegetables and stir so the potatoes don’t have time to catch on the bottom of the pan.

 

Now stir in the ginger and garlic then add the dry spices, keep stirring so the spices coat the vegetables. The fragrance from the spices is like a promise of things to come. Stir in the beans.

 

Now add the tomatoes and courgettes if using. I didn’t allow the frozen vegetable to thaw but I did leave them on the worktop to loosen up a bit before adding to the pan. Keep stirring and then add the rosemary and bay leaves (or whatever herbs you are using).

  

When everything is amalgamated add the stock, again using your eye don’t drown it in liquid but make sure everything is completely covered. The tomatoes and the starchy potatoes will thicken the stew as it cooks. Simmer until the swede and carrots are thoroughly cooked through, this won’t take a long as you might think.

 

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

To serve with it I made a traditional African white maize pap (not the most appealing name for a dish but very apt but it’s simply a maize porridge). If you can’t get white maize use yellow maize (polenta) and the method is pretty much the same.

 

AFRICAN WHITE MAIZE PAP

 

Boil 750ml of water in a large pan. When the water is boiling turn down the heat and slowly add 150gr of maize stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula. When all the maize is in the pan keep stirring until all lumps have gone. Add salt to taste, it’s rather bland without it, and stir in a teaspoon of butter or good quality oil. The porridge will keep thickening so don’t make it until you are ready to serve as it really only takes a few minutes to cook.

  

If this doesn’t appeal then serve with chunky bread or a creamy mashed potato. However I would encourage you to try the maize porridge as it is a really good accompaniment to this stew. If you have an left over white not put some in containers for lunch or keep in the fridge for a quick dinner the following evening. 

 Happy spicing and remember 'be brave'.