Spicy Nigerian Peanut Stew (Groundnut stew)
I first tasted a version of Nigerian peanut stew when I was little in Lagos, Nigeria and it was terrible! It was really bad guys, I can’t lie. After that first time, it was years till I tried this Nigerian peanut stew again. Let me tell you the story…
Once upon a time, my parents loaded me and all four of my sisters into our family car, and we drove about an hour from our home to visit our distant relatives. When I say distant I mean like in-law’s sister’s cousin’s uncle’s wife’s brother… so a very long distance! While I still do not remember these relatives’ names, faces or anything at all about them, I distinctly remember my food experience at their house, so let’s just call them the Pepperless family.
I must have been about 14 years old or something, and I was enjoying the road trip with my family on our way to drop off gifts for the Pepperless family that another family member had asked us to deliver to them. The prospect of meeting new family members we had never met before, somewhat excited us and we looked forward with anticipation to what our new relatives would be like. I have a ton of family members that I have not met before even till today, so it wasn’t unusual, but it was typically nice to meet new family. Once we arrived at the Pepperless home, they were very welcoming and nice to us. I was also low-key excited to discover that in anticipation of our arrival they had prepared a mini feast for us to enjoy.
Once we arrived the Pepperless family offered us the typical Nigerian visitor drinks; 5-alive orange, Chivita pineapple, Maltina, and of course some Eva water. Their drinks were lit! If only I knew that the drinks were going to be the only good tasting thing we would have during our visit, I would have cherished them a lot more, but I just had a small splash of the Chivita pineapple, and awaited the promised meal. The grown-ups discussed politics and the condition of Nigeria, while the Pepperless children, still quite young, played with their toys and mostly ignored my sisters and I. I sat silently watching the African-magic channel on television in eager anticipation of the meal.
After about 30 minutes, Mrs Pepperless invited us to the table set for my family and I. Since we were a handful, we took up all the chairs on the dining table. The dish she introduced as peanut stew excited us since none of us had previously tried it before. The meal featured a big serve yourself bowl of fufu, and the “pièce de ré·sis·tance”: the Nigerian peanut stew and some stewed fish.
My mother served all of us, we said a prayer and started eating… sigh! Words cannot describe how bad this meal was. Thankfully, just before we started eating, our hosts had conveniently excused themselves to the living room that was around the corner. So we could all make the faces that matched our true feelings about this terrible meal we were having. I caught my parents make faces, then fix their faces quickly so as to not encourage us to express our disgust too loudly, but you know children cannot hide their feelings. One of my sisters with a stank face was the first to break the silence saying: “mommy I don’t like this, it’s not nice!”, a sentiment that the rest of us echoed with the chorus of “me too’s” that followed immediately after. My mom understanding the difficulty we felt at that moment said urgingly: “I know, just manage please, you know you are in someone else’s house”. We all sighed and joined my dad in silent contemplation at this food. Suddenly we were craving the drinks they had presented to us in the living room a lot more, but all we had on our table was water. We kids proceeded to eat our fufu with no stew or soup, and chase it down with water. Since we only had a few morsels, and with no savoring to be done with this dish, it took us all of 2 minutes to finish the fufu. Our parents had some of the fish so it looked like they had eaten something, then finished their small portions of fufu only using the fufu morsels to lightly dab the stew.
After the meal, we joyfully left the dinning table and headed for the living room to rejoin the Pepperless family. Of course my parents thanked them for their hospitality and the meal, and slyly used the phrase “compliments to the chef” to avoid giving false praise for the bad meal we had just endured.
Needless to say we were glad when we left the Pepperless’ home. On our way home we stopped off to buy suya (a local delicious barbecue), and when we got home we all had our suya with cold garri for dinner, to wash away the lingering taste of that peanut stew.
What made the Pepperless family’s peanut stew bad? It tasted like peanuts and water, contained no seasoning (no salt, no pepper, no spices what so ever) and featured a shredded vegetable that was as difficult to eat as bay leaves. The soup also contained odd chunks of peanut with the texture of boiled potatoes. The fish stew, just as bad, tasted straight up like raw blended tomatoes and boiled fish with no seasoning whatsoever.
So what motivated me to try peanut stew again years later? My Ghanaian friend Gabi. She cooks really well, and she made peanut stew one day and brought it to school. I attended the same grad school as her now husband, then fiance, so she came to see him and brought him some food. She happened to have extra and offered me some, triggering a flash back to my bad experience eating the Nigerian peanut stew at the Pepperless family home. Knowing Gabi was a good cook, I prepared to try it, even if I had to tell her I hated it. I ended up eating the whole bowl of rice and Ghanaian peanut stew! It tasted great and I loved it!
I have since learned to make peanut stews specific to different West African countries and I am excited to start with my home country Nigeria! Peanut stews differ considerably by region, so I look forward to sharing with everyone over time my discoveries of different variations of how it is prepared.
- Braised Meat
- 2.5 lbs stewing goat meat
- 1 red onion sliced
- 2 tsp bullion
- 1 tsp salt
- Peanut Stew
- 2 cups raw skinned peanuts
- 3 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers roughly chopped (use less if you do not like spicy food)
- 0.5 lbs chopped spinach (about 5 cups chopped, about 2 cups frozen)
- 2 tbsp West African dried shrimp powder aka crayfish
- 3 tbsp palm oil
- Salt to taste
- In a stew pot, braise the goat meat over low- medium heat with the onions, bullion and salt for 30-35 minutes. If you are cooking goat meat from an older or male goat, you may need to cook the meat for longer for it to be tender.
- Next, toast the peanuts in a pan, stiring continuously over low heat, till the nuts turn toasty in color. It should take about 15- 25 minutes depending on how hot the pan is.
- Allow the nuts to cool completely before grinding.
- In a blender, food processor, mortar and pestle, , grind the peanuts into a rough powder, be mindful not to blend into a butter (it really doesn't hurt if it is blended to a butter, this is just how I learned to do it.
- Mix the braising the liquid from braising the goat meat and water (should make up about 3 cups of liquid) with the ground peanuts and scotch bonnet peppers in a pot making sure there are no peanut lumps. Bring this mixture to a gentle boil over low- medium heat for about 10 minutes, mixing continuously to prevent burning.
- At this stage, you may add more or less water depending on the consistency you prepare. If you prefer a lighter soup, add more water. If you prefer a thicker soup add no more water. Note that as the stew continues to cook, it usually thickens up. It also thickens a little more once it cools down.
- After 10 minutes, add in the palm oil, braised meat, and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add in the chopped spinach and simmer for 5 minutes on low heat, stiring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Take the stew off the heat and serve.
Please let me know if you tried this Spicy Nigerian Peanut Stew recipe and if you are looking for other stew recipes, why don’t you check out the Spinach Stew: Yoruba Style recipe or the Nigerian Eggplant/Garden Egg Stew