Maafe

My first exposure with Maafe was with a Trader Joe’s frozen dinner called Grains, Greens, and Beans. I fell in love with the deep and savory peanut sauce, but found the lack of protein in it a bit unsatisfying. I did a bunch of research on its origin, and found out that it is a Western African dish originally from the Mandinka and Bambara tribe of Mali. It is referred to as groundnut stew, and various interpretations are found all over Western and Central Africa. The base is the rich and savory peanut sauce, and different proteins work well with it. The recipe also varies according to the available vegetables and spices of the region. Typically, it is made with root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Greens like cabbage and collard greens are also often used. Tomatoes, garlic, onions, ginger, and hot peppers make up the bulk of the aromatics, and spices like paprika, cayenne, and cinnamon round out the stew’s flavor profile.

It is often served in huge platters during festivals and celebrations. It’s a dish meant to be eaten and enjoyed with family and friends. It took me a few tries to get the recipe right. The traditional Maafe does not have kale or garbanzos, but rather a huge assortment of root vegetables. I wanted to lighten up the recipe as much as I could, so I cut out most of the tubers and replaced it with lighter and healthier alternatives.

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. beef (chicken can also be used)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, cut into sections
1 c carrot; chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 c sweet potato; chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 c eggplant (aubergine); chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 c kale, shredded into bite size pieces
1 small can garbanzo beans, drained
2 c beef stock, divided in two
2 tbsp. tomato paste, or a small can of tomato sauce
1 c peanut butter (unsweetened and creamy)
1 tbsp. thyme
4 bay leaves
1 tsp cinammon
salt and black pepper
1 jalapeño pepper, or 1 tsp ground red pepper (adjust to taste)
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ c cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large cooking pot or dutch oven. Sauté the garlic and onions for a minute, then add the meat. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  1. Add the vegetables and half the broth to the pan when the onions are beginning to look a bit translucent. Simmer until all ingredients are tender, around thirty minutes or so.
  1. Add and mix in the thyme, bay leaf, cumin, jalapeño (or ground red pepper), salt and pepper.
  1. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining half of the broth, peanut butter, and tomato paste together with a fork. Whisk until the sauce is smooth and there are no discernable peanut butter chunks anymore. Add the mixture to the pan. After a minute or two, the sauce will thicken up, and you will know it’s done when the sauce’s color turns a deep reddish brown.
  1. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice on the top right before serving and top with cilantro to add freshness.
  1. Serve over rice or couscous. Enjoy!

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