So What's This All About?

My family is traveling the world one forkful, or kuĂ izi ful, or handful at a time. Follow our blog to see what interesting facts we learn, which country's food becomes our favorite, and which cuisine makes us feel healthiest. There will also be postings of some projects/arts and crafts/activities for preschoolers that we do in our home preschool. Grab your appetite and let's go!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Groundnut Stew with Chicken

Good friends of ours are off the Zambia soon to work with children with special needs. They have developed and will begin incorporating an amazing ministry, as I believe they are flying to Zambia this week. Please check out their website: At a farewell luncheon for them, I wanted to make a dish that was Zambian. Being an impoverished country, where survival is key, googling "Zambian cuisine" was an oxymoron, really. I was able to find this dish, but it may actually be more of a common West African food than Zambian. Nonetheless, it was very good!

Peanuts and sweet potatoes are quite prevalent in many parts of Africa, as well as inexpensive. What I have been discovering about foods of different African countries is the ability to take simple, cheap foods and, with help of a few key spices, creating a tasty dish - a great lesson for us Americans immersed with such plenty and with a certain haughtiness or sense of deservedness of all sorts of gourmet and expensive foods. Another characteristic is food that is filling, as it may be the only meal for the day, and it also needs to fuel them for the hard labor that awaits them in their day.

I made this once overnight in a crockpot and another time in a dutch oven for about an hour. Both were delicious.

Remove the skin from 8-10 chicken pieces (bone-in for best flavor). Wipe dry with a paper towel, and season with a little salt, pepper, and sugar. (The sugar is a little trick from my friend's Laotian mother-in-law!)

Melt 2 or 3 tablespoons oil or butter in a large skillet, browning the chicken on all sides. This will take 5-10 minutes. Remove chicken to dutch oven or crockpot.

While chicken is browning, chop 2 or 3 butternut squash, acorn squash, or sweet potatoes (whichever you prefer), chop 2-3 onions, mince a couple cloves of garlic, and chop an inch or two of fresh ginger.

Saute onions in the pan that you browned the chicken. Add squash or sweet potatoes, adding some water so that it is slightly immmersed, deglazing the pan with a wooden spoon. Add spices: cinnamon, ginger (if not using fresh), garlic powder (if not using fresh), garam masala, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin. If you need measurements, start with 1 teaspoon of each (except the cayenne, of which you should start with 1/4 teaspoon) and add more to taste of the ones you like best!

Mix together till it starts to boil, covering it with lid and simmer 5-10 minutes to soften vegetables. Add cinnamon stick as well.

Pour entire mixture over the chicken (adding stewed tomatoes, if you'd like) and cook in covered dutch oven on medium-low heat for one or two hours or in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Serve with cooked rice to soak up the juices!
Silly me, I forgot to take a picture of the final product, but it was very good! You'll just have to trust me on that.

West With the Night

So there are many Africas. There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa... Whoever writes a new one can afford a certain complacency in the knowledge that his is a new picture agreeing with no one else's, but likely to be haughtily disagreed with by all those who believe in some other Africa.

I just dusted off a crisp book that has been sitting on our shelf for several years now, cracking open the cover and creating the first creases that accompany a first read of a paperback. The book: West With the Night by Beryl Markham. The inspiration: my husband was recommended this book after asking for a good read on Africa several years ago.

Only on page eight, and I found the above quote and much comfort (not to mention a vortex of consumption that takes over when you find a book of such excellent calibar!) Though I don't intend on writing a book about Africa, I have felt apprehension in trying to share its food and people, as it will only be "my Africa", my interpretation, my impressions. I cannot try to claim new insight, or even completely accurate ones, but I now feel at liberty to share despite those obstacles.

I'm on page 67 now, and I'm hooked. Get this book! There may be an underlying bias or European haughtiness to the author, but it must be noted that the book was written in 1942, still seeped in the general acceptance of such things as colonialism, hunting, taking Africa's resources, etc. I haven't figured out the author's take on these things yet, but it is clear her life mingles within them.

One more quote to share that I liked: Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer's paradise, a hunter's Valhalla, an escapist's Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just 'home.' It is all these things but one thing - it is never dull.

Well, there's just one more Africa sumation she makes that I was intrigued with: It is still the host of all my darkest fears, the cradle of mysteries always intriguing, but never wholly solved. It is the remembrance of sunlight and green hills, cool water and the yellow warmth of bright mornings. It is as ruthless as any sea, more uncompromising than its own deserts. It is without temperance in its harshness or in its favours. It yields nothing, offering much to men of all races.
But the soul of Africa, its integrity, the slow inexorable pulse of its life, is its own and of such singular rhythm that no outsider, unless steeped from childhood in its endless, even beat, can ever hope to experience it, except only as a bystander might experience a Masai war dance knowing nothing of its music nor the meaing of its steps.

For an overview and comments about this book, read here.