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Entries in African (3)

Wednesday
Apr112012

African Chicken Peanut Stew

*Post by Angela.

I’m thinking I need to start buying peanut butter by the gallon. A fair amount of the peanut butter we buy disappears into the ether (and by ether, I mean Mark’s stomach). And that would be fine, but recently, a fair amount has also gone into making dinner, meaning that peanut butter is perpetually on the shopping list.

Not that I'm complaining. I’m really starting to love using the nut paste in savory dishes, and this chicken peanut stew (common in African cuisine, called "groundnut" stew) from Simply Recipes is no exception. While it may be a little heavy for the increasingly warm weather, it is really good, with nice layered flavors. It will also feed two people for 3 or 4 days, making this a pretty budget-friendly recipe. 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 pounds chicken legs and thighs
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
  • A 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 12 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

First, I hauled out my big stock pot and in it, heated the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. I seasoned the chicken well, then browned it in the pot in batches, setting the pieces aside once they were nice and golden all around.

 

 

Turning the heat down just a tad, I threw in the onions and sautéed them for 5-6 minutes, stirring often and scraping any browned bits of chicken off the bottom of the pot. Once the onions were translucent, I added the ginger and garlic, sautéed another 1-2 minutes, then added the sweet potatoes.

 

 

Once the veggies were all in, I added the chicken back to the pot, along with the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, peanut butter, peanuts, coriander and cayenne. I gave it a good mixing to make sure everything was combined, then brought it all to a gentle simmer and covered it, letting it cook for about 90 minutes (until the sweet potatoes were tender). Periodically, I checked the stew for seasoning and stirred.

 

 

After the 90 minutes was up, I fished out the chicken pieces and shredded the meat off the bones, then added the meat back into the pot. At this point, I let the stew cool and put it in the fridge for the next day.

When we were ready to eat the next day, I gently reheated the stew over medium low heat, then added a tbsp or so of black pepper (apparently, this is supposed to be peppery, which is just fine by me), along with salt as needed. Finally, I stirred in the cilantro and enjoyed the hearty stew over steamed white rice.

Mark noted that this recipe is a keeper, and I agree. The bold flavors of individual ingredients (garlic, ginger, coriander, tomato, cayenne, cilantro) do a nice job of adding complexity and cutting through the richness of the peanutty base. But not too much. After all, in our household, peanut butter is always the star.

 

Friday
Aug132010

Dukem

*Post by Angela.

As Top Chef has highlighted, D.C. has a rich and vibrant Ethiopian community.  The District boasts the largest population of people of Ethiopian descent outside of Africa, and at least a couple dozen Ethiopian eateries. Neither Mark nor I have been the greatest fans of Ethiopian cuisine in the past, but we decided to give Dukem on U Street (which now has a Baltimore branch) a shot to change our minds late on a rare not-too-muggy night the other week. And, as is often the case when we expand our boundaries (and our bellies), our adventurousness paid off. Dukem offers tasty, gut-bustingly satisfying food for those willing to go on a little faith.

 

 

Taking advantage of the break in the sauna-like weather conditions, we decided to sit outside on Dukem's relatively large patio, and settled in for a slow-paced, leisurely meal. We started with sambusas (a stuffed savory pastry very similar to samosas in Indian cuisine), both veggie, with lentil, onions and jalapeño, and meat, with ground beef onion and jalapeño (below). Both versions were nice, filled to the brim and very subtlely spiced.

 

 

Not being familiar enough with the cuisine to stick to one option, Mark got a combo with doro wat, a chicken stew simmered in berbere/red pepper sauce, and minchet abesh, finely chopped lean ground beef braised in milled ginger and garlic sauce, as well as five additional vegetable dishes (below). The doro wat had some shockingly good heat to it - not burn-your-mouth-off-hot, but hot enough to make you sit up and take notice - along with very rich spices and flavors, and was probably the favorite item of the night.  The minchet abesh sported more mild flavors (I loved the garlic notes) and an initially off-putting crumbly texture, but was also very tasty.  The vegetable dishes, which were mostly very lightly cooked (if at all), added a nice fresh element to the heavy and intense meat options. The combination was served on a large, spongy crepe-like flatbread called injera, which was addictive and perfect for soaking up all the flavors from the meats and veggies.


 

Because I was feeling slightly more adventurous, I made my own combo made up of the regular kitfo, a beef tartare seasoned with herbal butter and mitmita (a spicy Ethiopian powered seasoning), and cardamom, as well as the melasena sember, beef tripe and tongue cooked in a mild ginger sauce with carrot and jalepeno, and seasoned with ginger and garlic (below). As much as I love the French version of the raw beef dish, I have to say I prefer kitfo - creamy, flavorful and so deliciously spicy (for those antsy about raw meat, you can order it medium or well done). The melasena sember was good, too, but I was a little disappointed that the tripe and tongue were ground up, as the textures of those cuts are my favorite thing about them. My dishes were also served on injera, which I shoveled in my mouth with gusto.

 

 

Even with our prodigious appetites, our devouring of massive amounts of injera got the better of us, and we were stuffed about 3/4 of the way through each of our dishes.  But if we had had any room in our stomachs, we would have kept eating. While not for all palates, Dukem serves up enticing Ethiopian cuisine, food that really packs a power-punch in terms of flavors. Consider us converts, and don't be surprised if we post about another (two or three or four) Ethiopian adventure in the future!

 

 

Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday
Jun252010

Ghana Cafe

*Post by Mark.

World Cup fans know that after the Brits, USA's Group C competition was supposed to be a relative breeze. Come on, these are countries we've never even heard of before! First we played Slovenia - a nation with a population comparable to some American high schools. That means roughly one in eight Slovenians suits up for the national Soccer team. Yet, somehow this team of men from somewhere within a 5,000 mile radius of Russia amassed a quick 2-0 lead on the U.S. before staving off a comeback to hold us to a tie. 

Next up? The Algerians. As one of the larger countries in Europe Africa, I've at least heard of this place, but was shocked again when this nation of bleach-blonde faux-hawks held the USA to a scoreless tie (until, of course, that fated 91st minute.) Could it be that we were simply underestimating our foreign foes? 

Having lived to play another day, I decided to avoid the traps of our early matches. With a looming match against a fiery Ghana club, I decided, in the name of patriotism, to slip behind enemy lines. Never again would we be blind-sided by our own ignorance of our opponents. This time we were certain to find out what made our opponents tick. Not only would we get inside these mysterious Ghanaian's heads, we'd also figure out what continent Ghana calls home.*

Our dutiful espionage brought us to the doors of Ghana Cafe where we left our vuvuzelas at home and slipped inside the small, darkened Logan Circle eatery to sample the local fare. Most of the dozen or so brightly colored tables were taken. Jeopardy played on the big-screen behind the bar. The two servers working the floor cooled off from the summer heat with an oscillating fan in the corner. 


 

Noticing a selection of African beers, we asked our server which one was the best. He gave us his favorite two, but then told us that they were out of both. So that's how it's going to be, Ghana? Playing rough from the get-go? You may be a more formidable opponent than we first imagined. We settled for the Tusker, his favorite of the remaining choices. It was also the only remaining choice. The Kenyan brew was apparently named after the angry elephant that killed the brewery's founder. 

 

 

The menu consisted of traditional Ghanaian cuisine (or so it claimed), which I'm led to believe is plantain heavy, with lots of stewed meats, curries and bold, heavy flavors. We ordered the Kelewele as an appetizer, a dish of Ghanaian-spiced, diced, fried soft plantains served with peanuts. While the dry-roasted peanuts may have been poured out of a Planters jar, they were tremendous teammates to the sweet fried plantains, which seemed to be conjuring childhood memories for Angela. 

 

 

For her entree, Angela attempted to order the Yam and Cassava Fufu. The server kindly told her that if she'd never had Fufu before she wouldn't like it. I guess that's what the 'favorite amongst Ghanaians' blurb on the menu was getting at. Angela appreciated the insight and went for the Banku. Our server returned once again to give us the bad news on the Banku (essentially fermented balls of corn). Much like a phantom off-sides call from a Malian soccer official, the Banku was nowhere to be found.

But our server offered us the Kenkey- a very similar dish. Since the kitchen was also out of beef, Angela got her Kenkey with goat (below). The stewed meat was very tender and surprisingly not at all gamy. And the sauce? Well, Angela spent more than a few minutes trying to determine what it reminded her of - not quite like Indian food, not quite like South American food, not quite like Filipino food - but in those same flavor neighborhoods, with really strong spices. Angela liked the Kenkey, which had the texture of a firm polenta, though after a couple bites I was a little overwhelmed by its sharp fermented flavor.

 

 

I went with the Omo Tou served with chicken curry (below). The mashed rice ball it was served with had a very simple, plain taste, which made it a rather nice medium for the spicy, sweet sauce. As to be expected from any warmer climate cuisine, the flavors slapped you in the face with boldness and Angela and I reveled in the abuse. The entrees were accompanied by a glass jar of shito, a very spicy pepper paste traditional in Ghanian cuisine. Angela loved it and mixed heaps of it into her goat stew. While not as hot as the bhut jolokia curry we had the other day, the shito had quite a nice little kick (in soccer lingo, we'd say it has a nice 'strike').

 

 

Assuming dessert wouldn't be the restaurant's strong suit, we nearly passed. But we were talked into the African Donuts. Served over what I believe was a simple pineapple puree, the donuts tasted a bit like fried funnel cake, if only with a slightly heavier consistency (as if they were the whole wheat version). I was caught off guard by how good these donuts could be. Was this a sign of things to come? Could these Ghanaians catch Team USA off guard? 

 

 

After having done our homework, I'm still confident in a USA victory over the last remaining African representative. Our server had something we Americans just couldn't handle, but was too nice not to blind-side us with it. That kind of attitude might win us over as patrons, but it won't win you many soccer games. Final prediction? USA 2-1. And who knew spy work could be so tasty?

*Angela's note: Um, just wanted to make it clear that Mark is joking about his ignorance (although he does still think that I'm either Korean or Chinese). In reality, I can name every country in the world and show you exactly where it is. It's all part of my constant Trivial Pursuit training.

Ghana Cafe on Urbanspoon