Maybe I should have called this the Recipe with the Veggies Everyone Loves to Hate. But why get off to a bad start when this vegan African Peanut Stew is so, so, so very good.
Although I bashed the okra and the eggplant there, these two veggies are actually top favorites in our home. Everyone loves them, including little Jay, and Desi would lap them up if I were to serve them for breakfast and dessert.
As for me, okra was my favorite vegetable growing up (in India they go by the rather Halloweeny name "lady's fingers"), and it was because my mom knew just how to make them: the little rounds of okra, roasted in a kadhai, or an Indian wok, would be tender, perfectly crisp, and would have no scary slime clinging to them. Okra has a rather neutral taste and a few simple spices, like red chilies and mustard seeds, would add incredible, subtle flavor. It was, quite simply, the most perfect vegetable dish.
To date that is my most favorite way to cook and eat okra, but sometimes I like to stray. One of my favorite okra recipes is this gluten-free vegan gumbo, which I make again and again. Now, I am adding this African Peanut Stew to that list.
Something strange happens to okra when it is boiled in a pot of liquid-- instead of becoming slimier, as you would expect it to, it thickens the stew and becomes perfectly tender and delicious. The eggplant, another reviled veggie, makes a perfect score in this stew too, becoming soft and rather melt-in-the-mouth. If you didn't like okra, or eggplant, or both, this is the stew to change your mind. Bringing all of this goodness together is the smooth creaminess of peanut butter and the garlicky, big bite of the Harissa paste.
If you still aren't convinced, here's what this recipe really boils down to: a delicious, bubbling pot of peanut butter with some incredible spices and veggies floating in it. Could you say no to that?
African Peanut Stew with Eggplant and Okra
- 20 pods of okra, cut into thin rounds
- 10 small round eggplants, cut into a small dice (preferably, go for the small eggplants used in Indian cooking, or Japanese eggplants, which are very tender. If using Japanese eggplants, use five. The large variety is fine too, at a pinch-- use half of a large one in this recipe)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 green chili peppers like serrano or jalapeno (optional -- you also add Harissa at the the end and that has plenty of heat. If you had to pick one, pick the Harissa)
- 1 large sweet potato, diced
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 tomatoes, pureed
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato ketchup is a neat substitute-- you won't be able to tell the difference because this recipe already has some sweetness because of the peanuts)
- ¾ cup peanut butter (I like using smooth but use chunky by all means for more texture to your stew)
- ½ cup peanuts
- 5 cups vegetable stock. Use water at a pinch
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 2 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ cup Harissa paste
- Salt to taste
- Powder the fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds and set aside.
- In a large pot, heat the oil.
- Add the onions and saute over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes until they're soft.
- Add the ginger and stir to mix, about thirty seconds, then add the powdered spices and the tomato paste.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato paste is almost dry. Add the tomato puree, paprika, peanut butter and vegetable stock.
- Stir until everything's well combined. Add all the vegetables and peanuts and bring the stew to a boil.
- Cover, turn the heat to low, and let the stew cook 30 minutes or until all the vegetables are really tender. Add more water or vegetable stock if the stew gets really thick.
- Stir in the harissa, a little at a time, until you have the heat you desire. Add salt to taste.
- Serve hot with rice or quinoa.