For those of you who love ethnic food, curries, stews, sauces, chutneys, this will be comfort food. If you love peanut butter or nut butter and are intrigued by how beautifully creamy they can make a savory soup, I welcome you to embrace this recipe and to make it right away.
It’s equally fun in all seasons. In fall and winter I love to load it up with winter squash (or sweet potatoes, if not on GAPS). In the summer, zucchini and cauliflower.
Serve it as stew or pour it over cauliflower rice.
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The History of African Groundnut Stew
Before we look at this stew’s origins, take note that my version can be made GAPS-friendly or Paleo-friendly. GAPS folks don’t eat sweet potatoes. Paleo folks don’t eat peanut butter. So adjust the recipe just slightly according to your needs: use winter squash (or the summer veggies) if you’re on GAPS; use nut butter if you’re Paleo.
Peanuts belong to the original version, often called groundnuts in other countries. Groundnuts were originally brought to West Africa in the mid-16th century. (The oldest archeological remains of peanut pods date back 7,600 years to South America. The ancient Incas made peanuts into a paste.) The stew was born there, then also popped up in Nigeria, the Gambia and Senegal. Variations abound, potentially including okra, tomatoes and eggplant. Toppings may include fresh minced parsley, tropical fruit, shredded lettuce, chopped nuts and shredded coconut. I enjoy topping ours with fresh basil (because peanut butter and basil go reeeally well together).
Spanish traders and enslaved Africans first brought groundnuts to the States. (West Africa was central to the slave trade.) Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson mention the legumes as early as the late 1790s. Today the stew of groundnuts if often part of African Americans’ Kwanzaa celebrations, honoring their African roots.
Although peanut butter feels like a modern American food, and indeed it was further developed by George Washington Carver, an heroic African-American agricultural scientist and chemist, to diversify and revitalize southern crops (think cotton), ground up groundnuts were essentially the same thing. Peanuts and peanut butter are traditional foods.
Peanuts are high in protein, monounsaturated fat, B vitamins, manganese and magnesium. Antinutrients may be reduced by soaking, dehydrating and roasting. Adding vitamin C to the soaking water kills any mold that may be present. Peanut milk is now being popularized in developing countries to combat child malnutrition.
Look at that “gravy.” This sauce/stew base is delicious.
And don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Most of them are spices that are quickly measured.
Why don’t Paleo folks eat peanuts?
They’re a legume, firstly, which means they contain antinutrients (which absorb minerals instead of allowing your body to) and shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities or used as a staple food. But additionally they can contain aflatoxins, a kind of mold to which peanuts stored improperly are susceptible.
I believe that if you eat peanuts in moderation, much the way we are advised to eat nuts, they are a pleasurable food not to be missed. There are two ways to combat potential aflatoxins. One, use a mold-killing tincture, a pathogen-killing herb (like this one) when you eat peanuts or peanut butter, one dose (40 drops for adults; 20 for kids) at a similar time of day to when you eat your peanuts; OR soak your nuts in water laced with vitamin C, which will kill ALL mold. Then rinse and dehydrate the peanuts. If you roast them, too, you will have significantly reduced their phytic acid (antinutrient content) and created the best tasting peanut.
If you choose to make this recipe with nut butter instead, it will be lovely. Again, though, use sprouted nut butter for the same reasons. Otherwise, the nuts absorb minerals in your gut, don’t give you their nutrition (the nut is still dormant until it’s soaked), and are hard to digest (which means they wear down your digestive mechanism over time).