January 24, 2013

West African Vegetable Stew

For those of you living in areas that have been hit by the arctic cold weather this past week, I think you'll appreciate today's post for a big pot of healthy vegetable stew!  I made this on Sunday night and with six servings to enjoy, it's been getting me through the deep freeze this week (although I sadly just ate up my last serving for lunch today).

Ever since my trips to Zambia and Kenya this past year, I've been wanting to try cooking more African-inspired dishes.  So I was intrigued when I noticed a recipe for "mafe" in one of my new cookbooks and learned that it is a West African peanut stew traditionally made with meat, but this version was adapted to be vegetarian.

I combined that recipe with a similar one in another cookbook to come up with this variation on mafe.  The base of the stew is a flavourful blend of onion, garlic, ginger, and hot peppers.  Next, you add a mixture of vegetables - I used sweet potato, green pepper, okra, tomatoes and cabbage, which are cooked in vegetable broth and apple juice. Finally, you stir in some cilantro and a generous amount of peanut butter to thicken the broth a bit.

I was a bit nervous adding the cabbage and okra to this dish because I'm not really used to cooking with them. I also know that okra has kind of a bad reputation for being a slimy vegetable, but I had tried it in Zambia and loved it, so I was willing to give it a chance here!

And I was glad that I did - the okra basically blended in to mix with the other vegetables, adding some mild taste and texture without being too noticeable.  Actually, the okra and cabbage ended up being my favourite bits to eat in this stew!

This was definitely the kind of hearty dish that I needed this week - it both warmed me up and filled me up, and had a nice spicy heat to it that wasn't overpowering but still left me with a runny nose! Serve with some rice or couscous to help soak up the broth, and you've got a nice winter meal to enjoy!

West African Vegetable Stew
Adapted from Ripe From Around Here and Vegan Eats World

1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 small yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into ½” cubes (about 3 cups)
1 tsp cumin
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 a small head of cabbage, chopped and core removed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/2 tsp salt
1.5-2 cups chopped fresh okra
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
4-6 tbsp chopped peanuts
Cooked rice or couscous for serving

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown. Add garlic, jalapenos, ginger, and sweet potato. Stir in the cumin. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the green pepper, cabbage, tomatoes, broth, apple juice, and salt. Simmer on medium heat, covered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the okra and cook for 5 more minutes.

Place the peanut butter in a small bowl. Take about ½ cup of the hot broth and add it to the bowl. Stir until mixture is smooth, then transfer back to the pot and stir to mix it in.

Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.  Let cool slightly.  Serve over rice or couscous. Top each serving with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, chopped cilantro and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Makes 5-6 servings


  1. I cannot agree with you more! This is exactly the kind of food we need to make it through this awful cold snap! Brrrrr! -43'C with windchill in WInnipeg right now. I need to move!!! *haha*

    1. Sounds like you either need to hibernate with lots of comfort food, or just escape on vacation somewhere warm! It finally warmed up a bit here this weekend, but it's still well below zero

  2. It has been in the 30s here today & it snowed for a few minutes this afternoon and people are in a panic. I had an eye doctor appointment and it was cancelled and a haircut appointment for tomorrow and that got cancelled too. I sort of miss living up north because at least people don't freak out over cold weather! Anyway, I love African food but I also don't cook it very often myself. This stew is definitely doable though!

    1. Yeah, I can't imagine living somewhere where the littlest snowfall creates such havoc! That almost makes me appreciate the snow and cold here a bit more - *almost! haha...African food definitely doesn't seem as popular as other cuisines like Thai or Indian, but it's one that I'd like to explore more, especially since it caters pretty well to vegetarians!

  3. This looks perfect! Even the photo looks warm! I've been snowed in for the weekend and tomorrow is definitely the make-soup-for-the-week day and this was great inspiration. I plan on surviving on soup for the rest of the winter, and you've affirmed that that was indeed a wise call.

    1. Snowed in - oh no! Perfect reason to stay inside and cook and bake all day! I agree - soup is something that never gets old!

  4. This soup looks awesome! I loooove vegetable soup and all of the ingredients are veggies I have in my refrigerator at all times! Definitely excited to try a west African stew! :)

    1. Thanks! Hope you like it if you get a chance to try it...I always feel good after eating a big bowl of veggies, and I liked that this one had the peanut butter to make it even more filling!

  5. Wow all the flavors and spice in this would warm anybody up - I love the addition of apple juice - who would have thought!

  6. I made this recipe today, and it blew my socks off. It is absolutely delicious! I ate it with amaranth, and used frozen okra instead of fresh, as it's all I could find. It was also my first time cooking with okra, and was a huge success. Thanks for introducing me to West African cuisine; this is vegan comfort food at its best ;).

    1. So glad to hear that the recipe worked out well for you! The amaranth sounds like a good idea, and I've never tried frozen okra but I'm sure it doesn't make that big of a difference in this recipe. I always love the combination of spices and peanut butter that you find in a lot of African inspired dishes like this one!

  7. Oh wow this sounds lovely. will have to give this a go. Thanks for sharing.


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