It took me a really long time to wrap my head around using peanut butter as a savory ingredient. I knew people did it and I knew people loved it but I just couldn’t see peanut butter without chocolate, bananas or jam. I should point out that I also used to live off of only a handful of foods: coffee, bananas, cheese, chili, soup, pasta, peanut butter, vegetables and bread. Sometimes there would be pizza, sometimes I’d eat an apple instead of a banana, maybe once a month I’d eat a sandwich. I had a very boring appetite and I rejected all weird food combinations and cuisines other than North American and Italian. I was also skinny. Very skinny.
When my husband and I started dating, he started forcing me out of my comfort zone without even realizing it. Spending a few years living in Africa and just being a lover of all food in general, he always wanted to go out to different restaurants. I, not wanting to seem picky or difficult in the beginning, happily obliged and very quickly fell in love with all the foods. It was from that point that I started wanting to cook anything and everything and combine foods in ways I previously would have turned my nose to. In that time I also kissed my size 0 pants goodbye and welcomed a more forgiving size. I’m not unhappy about it- food is amazing, wine and cider are always on tap and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a sad piece of chicken with plain steamed vegetables ever since.
That probably isn’t the best segue in to convincing you to make and eat this African peanut stew. I swear it won’t make you kiss your pants goodbye and it really truly is a pretty healthy meal. It’s also inexpensive, comforting, the spiciness is totally customizable and it couldn’t be easier to make. Leftovers will keep for 5 days in the fridge and the flavor just continues to develop. I usually make enough for 8-12 bowls of the stew and make an extra big pot of rice to keep in the fridge for easy meals throughout the week.
I often turn to making this when our food budget is dwindling throughout the month from the overzealous cheese buying, chocolate piles, bottles of wine and duck breasts. It takes humble ingredients and turns it in to such an incredibly satisfying meal that doesn’t at all make you feel like you’re eating on the cheap. I actually don’t even use any kind of broth in the stew at all – remember, this is something I make when we’re running a little low. While it’s very cheap to make your own broths and I do it often, I’m the type of person to use every last thing we have before buying anything else which means we probably don’t even have a bone or vegetable scrap left.
All we’re using is 2-3 sweet potatoes, one single red pepper, one single jalapeno, one onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, a hunk of ginger, some curry paste, water, peanut butter (Hi, Costco, thanks for your ginormous sized jars that cost next to nothing), a little sugar, juice of 2 limes (at my market, they are 5 for $1), and plenty of salt and pepper. Oh and black beans. Cheap cheap cheap black beans. Soak them, cook them yourself and it’ll only cost you pennies. Of course, if you’re pressed for time, a big can will suffice. Cook up a big pot of rice or whatever grain you have on hand- quinoa (not so budget friendly), bulgur, couscous, millet, whatever you have, and dinner or lunch are served. For days.
These are ingredients that are in my kitchen 24/7. I can almost always find at least one pepper neglected in my fridge and I often find jalapenos in the back of the cheese drawer. Why they are in the back of the cheese drawer, I cannot say. I can say, however, that there have been many, many times where my cheese has been flavored with the jalapeno and I definitely didn’t hate it. I also feel like red curry paste keeps forever in the fridge. I mean I’m sure that it isn’t true, but I swear to you I keep finding half used jars from God only know when and I open them, smell them, see that they’re still usable and, well, use them. I must buy it way more often than I realize. I must. I hope.
I also hope you make a batch of this peanut stew asap.
Don’t forget to follow me on instagram and if you make a recipe, tag your photo #thepretendbaker so I can see what you’re whipping up!
- 2 TBSP olive oil, coconut oil or ghee
- 1 large red onion, minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
- 2-3 TBSP thai red curry paste
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛-1/4 tsp cayenne, optional
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 5 cups)
- 1 540 ml can of black beans, rinsed and drained (2 cups cooked)
- ½ cup creamy natural peanut butter
- 4-6 cups of water
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1-2 TBSP brown sugar or honey
- juice from 2-3 limes
- In a large heavy bottomed soup pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.
- When oil is hot, add onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring every so often for about 5 minutes.
- Add both the peppers, ginger and another generous sprinkling of salt. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring often until peppers are soft, about another 5-7 minutes.
- Add garlic, cinnamon and curry paste, stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add sweet potatoes, 3½ cups of water and the black beans. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer.
- Mix peanut butter with the other ½ cup of water until smooth then pour in to the hot stew. Mix until completely combined.
- Check the liquid level- there should be enough liquid to cover everything. If not, add more until there is.
- continue to let the soup simmer, uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are completely soft. Check the thickness of the stew- if it seems to thick, add more water.
- Add sugar, lime juice, additional salt and pepper and, if you prefer more spice, add some cayenne pepper.
- Taste, adjust seasonings if needed.
- Serve warm with brown rice or your favorite grain, roasted peanuts and extra lime wedges.
Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days. The flavors will just continue to develop.
Stew with thicken more as it cools, you may need to add extra water when reheating if you prefer a thinner stew. We like ours in the middle... thick enough to coat a spoon but thin enough to let the rice absorb the peanut broth.
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