Quick little aside to the month of March: you are a spring month, please act like one. But since the weather isn’t cooperating, there’s more time to serve stew. The Practical Cook first encountered Mafe at a little Senegalese restaurant in Fort Greene, before it became the food hot spot it is today. Peanut butter, tomatoes, and lots of veggies over couscous, what could be better?
Though most versions of mafe include bone-in meat, the technique works well for everything from lamb to beef to all-veg. My current local African restaurant (Mawa’s Taste of Africa for those in the RTP, NC area) serves an amazing vegetarian version featuring portabella mushrooms and fufu. If you have a chance to try fufu, do it! It’s a pounded yam, which my dining companion and I likened to gnocchi in texture and flavor. But I digress.
The Practical Cook’s Mafe Recipe
This is the way I make mafe, but you can mix and match vegetables according to your preference. Potatoes would work here, as would cauliflower. We tend to make things with a 2/3 vegetable to 1/3 meat ratio. Bone-in meats are often less expensive, and the bones add flavor.
peanut oil (canola would work, too)
1 to 1 1/2 pounds beef stew, lamb stew, bone-in beef or bone-in lamb chops, or portabella mushroom caps cut into strips
1 onion, sliced in large-ish wedges
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat of your chef’s knife
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2-3 bay leaves
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups hot water, or combo of 1 cup stock (beef or veggie) and hot water
3/4 cup natural or freshly ground peanut butter (in other words, do not use Jif, Peter Pan, Skippy, etc.)
3-5 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 to 1 jalepeño, cut in half, stem and seeds removed, optional
1/2 head of cabbage, cut in 1-inch wedges
1 to 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
ground white pepper and salt to taste
1. Heat oil in heavy large pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat (or mushrooms) and onions and cook until meat is brown (or mushrooms have a good sear), stirring occasionally, around 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds.
2. Add tomato paste, cayenne, and bay leaves and cook for 1 minute. Immediate add water/stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover with a lid, and simmer until meat or mushrooms are tender (time will depend on what you’re using, from 30 to 60 minutes).
3. Stir in peanut butter and another splash of hot water, carrots, and jalepeño (if using) and cook another 20 minutes on low heat, covered and stirring occasionally.
4. Add cabbage and sweet potatoes, stirring to mix and seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Cook until veggies are tender.
5. Discard jalepeño and bay leaves and serve over rice or couscous.
Note: Adjust the liquids to suit your taste, thin with hot water or stock. However, if you use cabbage, note that you will get some additional liquid when it cooks. If you make it too thin, take the lid off and reduce the liquid.
Coming up tomorrow, we’re finishing up with the Pate of the South, Pimento Cheese, complete with a recipe and some off-book applications.
Do you have a favorite non-American cuisine? Email the Practical Cook at practical cook at gmail dot com and share the details.