Every Saturday morning I would sit cross-legged on the sofa, coffee on the side table, cookbooks piled beside me, scrap paper on my lap and pen in hand. From this happy perch I would flip through my cookbooks, while writing, scratching out, tweaking and, ultimately, jotting down exactly what meals I would cook the next week and precisely which ingredients I required. Mark and I would then collect our shopping bags and head off for
Sure, I occasionally varied from my set schedule. Spontaneously inviting friends over might require a quick ingredient top-up at the Vietnamese grocery downstairs. Or, while trudging between the ferry stop and our flat after a late day at school, the oompah music and sidewalk-table conviviality of Lefkas Greek Taverna (and the adjacent bottle shop) might draw me in. Passing that siren call, the cocoanut-curry smells of Thai Dream would sometimes entice me to walk just a few steps past my stairs for takeaway. And, even if I made it safely to the apartment, laziness could always trump my menu plan and encourage me to boil the spinach and cheese ravioli made across town by Italians and sold at the Greek store down the street, which was always fabulous with an easily-concocted sauce of good-quality tomato paste, toasted pinenuts, parsley, basil, parmesan, and olive oil.
But, usually, I stuck to my plan. Ah, those were the days.
Now, I live in
Eventually, I developed a new menu-planning scheme. I go to the stores with the best fruit and veg, buy whatever looks fresh and beautiful, and figure out what to do with my cornucopia when I get home. The result? I love recipes that can adapt to the whims of my fridge’s most recent arrivals.
And, so, I love African Peanut Stew. You could probably throw any vegetable in here and it would taste just fine. Eggplant, corn, green beans, squash, peas, tomatoes – bring it on. Even tofu would be a welcome addition. I made this recipe last night with what I had in my fridge. This included some dried shrimp that a friend brought us back all the way from
African Peanut Stew
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large leek, white part only, well-cleaned and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 green chilies, deseeded (if you wish) and minced
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 green pepper, diced
¼ cup dried shrimp/prawns (optional)
½ cup smooth, natural peanut butter
½ cup crushed peanuts, toasted
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, garlic and ginger and cook for five minutes. Stir in the ground cumin and ground coriander and cook for one minute. Add the sweet potatoes, carrot and chilies and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
Add the salt, vegetable broth, pineapple, green pepper and optional dried shrimp. Bring the stew to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the sweet potato and carrot are soft. Mix in the peanut butter and cook for a final five minutes. If you want a thinner or thicker stew, you can add more peanut butter or, alternatively, more broth.
Serve the stew hot, with the toasted peanuts either sprinkled on top or stirred through. Fresh coriander/cilantro also makes an excellent garnish, if you have it.