In October of 2009, I spent 2 weeks in Senegal and The Gambia. Julia had an internship with GADHOH (Gambian Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) in Serrekunda, The Gambia, and I went to visit. I also helped film and edit a promotional video to support the girl’s school and I proudly watched Julia teach some science lessons in sign language with St. John’s School for the Deaf.
We met some amazing people and had some great times. The trip was a total adventure, including cross-country journeys in shared taxis, plus rides in donkey carts, rickshaws, ferries, and old school vans. I had to brush up my French to get around in Senegal, which was quite a challenge! If you know me, you know I love languages. For this trip, I even learned some Gambian Sign Language and International Sign Language so I could introduce myself and enjoy basic communications with our hosts and the deaf community.
From Dakar to Banjul to Jinack Island, then back to Dakar over to the hauntingly moving Île de Gorée, we had some great food and enjoyed the amazing landscapes and sunshine.
During our visit, we had the opportunity to experience many great West African favorites, both with family and friends, and in restaurants and cafés. We brought back lots of cooking inspiration! We experimented with cooking with peanut sauces and coconut milk, and even learned to make spicy, flavorful pasta dishes – just like at the outback eco-resort where we stayed on Jinack Island. The secret? They usually add bouillon cubes or packets, typically Maggi brand, to just about everything. I avoid MSG, so I use more organic and natural vegetable broth powder or nutritional yeast flakes to boost the flavor.
I came up with this recipe this week and it turned out even more awesome than I expected. It’s also really quick and simple. You’ve got to try it with fufu for the full effect, but plain rice or coconut rice goes really well with the greens and peanut stew, too. Check out the variations if you want to amp things up with other greens!
West African Spinach Peanut Stew with Fufu
serves 2-3 / time 35 min
- 18 oz / 500 g cassava peeled, chopped
- 1 Tbs margarine or oil
- 1 cup / 240 ml water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Bring 1 cup water to boil in a large pot. Add chopped cassava and margarine.
- Return to soft boil, reduce heat to low. Cover, steam 20 min, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat, add salt, mix. Allow to cool 5 min.
- Use an immersion blender or potato masher to blend / mash mostly smooth. Consistency should be like thick, sticky mashed potatoes. Add water to thin if desired.
Spinach Peanut Stew:
- 12 oz / 350 g spinach chopped
- 1 large / 230 g sweet potato peeled, chopped
- 2 medium / 160 g tomatoes
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
- 2 Tbs oil
- 3 Tbs peanut butter
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 2 tsp vegetable broth powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup / 180 ml water
- 1/4 cup / 30 g peanuts toasted for garnish
- Heat 2 Tbs oil in large pot on medium heat.
- Add onion, garlic, pepper. Fry, stirring regularly, 2-3 min.
- Add 1/4 cup water, sweet potatoes. Cook 5 min, stirring regularly.
- Add tomatoes, reduce to medium-low heat. Cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, 10 min.
- Mix peanut butter, tomato paste, broth powder, salt, remaining 1/2 cup water in bowl, then add to pot with sweet potatoes. Mix gently a few times. Return to low boil.
- Add spinach. Cover and steam 5-7 min, stirring occasionally. Add slightly more water if needed.
- When the spinach is done, stir a few times and turn off heat.
- Garnish with toasted peanuts. Serve with lime slices and fufu or rice.
Spice kick: Add 1 or 2 chopped, seeded chilies or 1/2 tsp chili flakes with garlic and onion. Other greens: Great with kale, collard greens, chard, arugula, broccoli. Other vegetables: Substitute carrots or parsnips for sweet potatoes. Mock-Meaty: Add some chopped seitan or smoked tofu.