Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 23-Botswana - Chicken and Groundnut Stew - Up Next Brazil

 Bostwana Chicken and Groundnut Stew
First time trying my cast iron pot on the fire pit!!
 Buddy keeping an eye on things in the background...just in case....

Many years ago, my brother Clay (I love you, Yo) gave me a beautiful cast iron pot. The thing weighs about 7lbs and when full, takes two hands to lift. Until tonight, I haven't used it much, in fact, at one time, it held our spare change. But when I started researching how food was cooked in Botswana, I learned that stews are a national staple, and that they are often cooked in a "three legged" pot on a hot bed of coals! Yay! My sister, Anna (I love you, Gamma) suggested I include a poem she read that appears in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which takes place in Botswana, but I couldn't find it anywhere!

After consulting with my friend John, a.k.a Sparky, I set up the cooking surface by putting several flat stones right on the grill to ensure that the bottom of the pot wouldn't burn. John suggested bricks, but I didn't have any, so I used what I had - a few flat(ish) rocks I found in the yard.

I knew I had to build a really good fire because it had to be hot enough to heat the heavy pot to simmer the  stew for an hour before cooling down. I chopped up some good fire wood and collected kindling from around the yard to build a good base for the charcoal. I was advised to wear steal toe boots while chopping wood, but, well ...I admit it, I'm a chick and have chopped wood, in high heels for God sake.
The wood shed: I used a maul, 2lb. sledge hammer and hatchet to chop up nice pieces of well seasoned wood
This afternoon I built up the fire pit by adding a few more stones. I also planted  a Yarrow  my friend Sangeeta gave me and Tim's Bamboo for the heck of it.
 The Ingredients: brown sugar, ground peanuts (I ground them in a coffee grinder), cayenne, ginger, onion, tomato paste and chicken - I asked the butcher at my local grocery store to cut up a Perdue Oven Roaster ( because I'm tired of buying scrawny, fatty chickens and it was great!!

 The Peanut sauce: ground peanuts, tomato paste, grated ginger, brown sugar,  cayenne and water - well awright
I cooked the onions until they were translucent, added peppers and browned the chicken

 When the chicken was browned, I poured on the sauce and put the lid on to let the stew simmer away for about an hour

Unbelievable - It actually works!!

Now, about Botswana...
Twice the size of Arizona, Botswana is in south-central Africa, bounded by Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Most of the country is near-desert, with the Kalahari occupying the western part of the country. The earliest inhabitants of the region were the San, who were followed by the Tswana. About half the country today is ethnic Tswana. The term for the country's people, Batswana, refers to national rather than ethnic origin.

Sorghum or corn meal porridge is the staple of most Botswana meals. People wake in the morning to a thinner version of the porridge, sometimes enriched with soured milk and/or sugar, and tea. A thicker version of the porridge, known as bogobe , anchors the substantial midday meal, accompanied by a stew of meat and/or cabbage, spinach (or wild greens), or beans. People also use rice, but it is considered more expensive and associated with Europeans. Meats include chicken, goat, sheep, cattle, fish, a caterpillar known as phane and various wild game. Village evening meals may include leftovers from midday, but for many people is often just tea and buttered bread.

The interior of a hut along the Okavango Delta. Fifty percent of Tswana households are headed by women.
The interior of a hut along the Okavango Delta. Fifty percent of Tswana households are headed by women.
Final Touches

I picked lettuce and herbs from my garden for the salad

Voila: Chicken Groundnut Stew, Rice and Green Salad, eaten outside because it's too hot in the  house and there's something about eating outside that makes everything taste better.

The Recipe
Botswana Chicken Groundnut Stew
  •  Chicken, cut up 
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1/2 Cup peanut butter
  • 1 4oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper 
First, prepare the peanut sauce: in a bowl, combine the sugar, red pepper, ginger, peanut butter, and tomato paste. Slowly stir in the water, a small amount at a time, until the sauce is smooth. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, cooking 5-7 minutes until onion is translucent. Add cut-up chicken and green pepper. Cook until the chicken and the onion are brown and the green pepper is soft. Pour the peanut sauce over the browned chicken, peppers and onions and stir well. Cover the pot and and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
To serve, spoon servings of Groundnut Stew over Rice Balls, or on a bed of white rice.
Rice Balls
  • 1 Cup short grain rice
  • 3 1/2 Cups water 
  • 1 tsp salt
Cook rice according to directions on package. When rice is cooked, use a potato masher or fork to mash the rice until it begins to clump together. Wet your hands with cold water, and taking a clump of rice in your hands, form it into a ball. Place rice balls on a serving platter or individual plates.
Traditionally served with soup or stew, which is spooned over the rice.

 My in-house food critics, Tim and his best friend, Mac - diggin' the stew!

Final Assessment: I loved this meal and I loved cooking it on the fire. The flavors were rich and had that taste that only food cooked on wood and charcoal takes on. I'd make this again any day. Of all the meals I've prepared, those from Africa and the Caribbean countries have been my favorites.

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