7.22.2017

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

One day, many years ago, when I was visiting my Aunt Rae in her small rural village in Vermont, the two of us went to the Saxton's River Inn for lunch.

That was during the heyday of the Inn. It was owned and managed by Averill, and it was a top-notch operation. Beautifully appointed rooms, a great bar where all the locals gathered, and an excellent restaurant.

That day at lunch, we both ordered something that was not the norm on any Vermont menu - something the chef called generically "African Peanut Stew." Keeping in mind that Africa is not a country, but a vast continent, I did some research and discovered many groundnut stews made in different countries throughout Africa, but this one most resembles dovi from Zimbabwe.

What a revelation it was! A thick, creamy, tomato-y concoction that had me begging for more. I wanted to make it at home!

Aunt Rae flagged down Averill - who was always visible in the house - and asked if we could get the recipe. She said she would talk to the chef and see what she could do.

As we finished lunch, Averill returned to our table and brought a small scrap of paper with this written in it: "Boil chicken. Save stock. Skin/shred chicken. Add onions. Add cayenne. Thicken w/2 large cans tomato paste and # fresh peanut butter. Return shredded chicken. Serve hot." I took the chef's notes and, combined with the information I found online, came up with my own version.

It's simple and different. In fact, I have never seen it on any menu since, although we recently took it to a potluck and two different people said they made their own versions, each slightly different from mine.

Enjoy!

~ David

Dovi, a Groundnut Stew

1 pound salted peanuts, or 1 pound natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
10 cups chicken broth
3 pounds boneless & skinless chicken breasts
24 ounces tomato paste
3-4 tablespoons tamari

Place peanuts and butter in a food processor and process until it becomes a thick, crunchy peanut butter. Set aside. Alternatively, you can use a pound of natural peanut butter.

Heat oil in a large soup kettle. Sauté the onions and red bell pepper until clear and soft – about 15-20 minutes. Add cayenne pepper and stir an additional 30 seconds. Add all the broth and bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces, return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 12-15 minutes.

Remove chicken pieces to a cutting board; let cool. Don’t worry if the chicken isn’t fully cooked; it will finish in the final heating. Add tomato paste and peanut butter to the broth and whisk until smooth. Shred the chicken and add back to the pot. Heat through and season with tamari.

Serves 8-10.

Variations
 - Add diced sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin when sautéing the vegetables.
 - Stir in some chard or spinach just before serving.




33 comments:

  1. Ground almonds in Sicilian "pesto" sauces always seemed more exotic than the typical Italian pestos. That's probably because geographically speaking Trapini (the largest port city on Sicily) is closer to several African ports than it is to any part of mainland Italy. This stew seems to support the idea that ground nuts in sauces and stews were imported culinary ideas from Africa. Fascinating. GREG

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    1. I like your way of thinking, Greg - I have always been a big fan of the North African influences in Sicilian cooking.

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  2. They were some very basic instructions the chef gave you, and I like your personal additions. Nice move with the tamari! I bed this is delicious.

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    1. They were basic, but they definitely gave me the right direction, John!

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  3. This sounds so incredibly interesting and delicious! Love that the chef brought you the scrap of paper with those instructions. When I've done this sort of thing in the past, I've taken messy, quick notes and could barely read them when I got home. Love how you changed it up, too.

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    1. I have only asked the chef for a recipe three times, I think. One took me into the kitchen to show me how to make the dish, another (for a cookie) game me a recipe to feed thousands (!), and this one was so simple. I love each of these recipes and am working on making the cookie recipe a reasonable batch size!

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  4. There are several variations of this soup. I make a vegetarian version but I am intrigued by your delicious looking soup.

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    1. I have to look into the vegetarian versions, Gerlinde!

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  5. I have made an African vegetarian peanut stew and it was delicious. I'll need to replace the chicken with a different protein then this one will be perfect for me.

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    1. Emma - first, I would think the peanuts would be a great source of protein, but I also wonder about adding chickpeas and spinach. I think they would be amazing.

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  6. I have heard of peanut soup...and this variation looks delicious. What a great memory of your Aunt, sounds like you enjoyed each others company. Hope you are having a safe and beautiful monsoon.

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    1. I had a great time with my aunt - I still miss her a lot. She was also a wonderful cook, and I learned a lot from her.

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  7. How awesome is it that the chef gave you the recipe!?! That's so cool, and it honestly sounds so interesting to me! I'd love to try it, but it will definitely have to wait until the weather cools off. I can't imagine your heat if ours is this bad in July. Ugh!

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    1. Lucky for us, Christine, we are in the midst of a wonderful monsoon season. The best one since we have moved here! It helps keep the heat down and allows me to make whatever sounds good!

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  8. One unique and interesting stew!
    Bruce Baer

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    1. It is, indeed, Bruce - but it is very tasty!

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  9. This is an exotic dish for a parents date night dinner...now I just need a sitter...desperately. :) As always gorgeous pics!!

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    1. I can only imagine that if you got a sitter, Marcelle, the two of you would collapse on the sofa for a long nap, forgetting all about food!

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  10. This was delicious! The first surprise was that putting peanuts in a food processor produces peanut butter ... who knew? The second was that it wasn't excessively salty (I had thought perhaps to eliminate the tamari but it needed that extra saltiness).

    Question: are the chicken breasts bone on or boneless? and what about skin? (didn't matter, I used boneless/skinless thighs because I like dark meat, but it might be something good to clarify). Sue Agnew

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    1. Thanks, Sue - and that is a good point. I did use boneless and skinless, and want to try it with thighs. I, too, prefer dark meat!

      Glad you trusted me on the tamari! It also adds a different element than simple salt. Glad you added the kale - good idea to blanch it first!

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    2. I also used chipotle (powdered) instead of cayenne because I thought the smokiness might be really good ... are the two comparable in hotness? For myself personally I could have made it hotter (I measured!!) but if making it for friends I'd probably use what you called for.

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  11. This is a delightful recipe! I will definitely give it a try! Is the flavor better with sweet potatoes?

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    1. Hi, Agness - I love it with sweet potatoes, and I forgot to mention that it is also good with garbanzo beans. I can't say the flavor is better - but it's different and it also adds some fun texture!

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  12. I've not seen anything similar to this before, what an interesting recipe.

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    1. It is really different, Caroline - and I wonder if perhaps it isn't popular because now there are so many people allergic to peanuts?

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  13. I have occasion to travel to West Africa from time to time for work, and I can attest to the tastiness of groundnut stew. It's probably my favorite of the local dishes, in fact. The peanuts lend a wonderful creaminess ...

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    1. I hadn't thought about the creaminess, Frank. That is so true! Of the groundnut stews you've had, are there any changes you would make? Any additions?

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  14. That sounds about par for when someone runs back to the kitchen for a recipe! Glad you were able to resurrect it David--looks delicious!

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    1. I was just so thrilled that he gave me the recipe, Inger!

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  15. David, what a fun story and interesting recipe. It is not easy to pry a recipe from any baker or chef at a restaurant. Kudos to you for being able to score this winning one!

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    1. I find quite a few chefs love to share their recipes - for they know most people won't make them and that they will still come to their restaurants!

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  16. About freezing (I asked someplace, but don't find it in this comment thread so maybe it was on Facebook) ... I'm here to report that it froze and thawed just fine. Still delicious. Sue Agnew

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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