Newsletter #3

By Bill Holland

Well, I promised you on the website I’d send out the occasional recipe. I
thought about what to present for some time, and then the choice became

I was recently contacted by the Friends of Liberia, mostly Returned Peace
Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from that now-devastated country, where before the
1999 civil war they were teachers and also helped out with farming projects
and public administration. They asked me if I would list their estimable
"Liberian Cookhouse Cooking" cookbook, which I was happy to do (check it out
in the African cooking section).

Well, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia in West Africa in the ‘60s. I
still cook one or another of the traditional dishes a couple times a month.
So it occurred to me: why not a Liberian recipe? Not so well known,
authentic, easy to make, and delicious.

So here’s my version of Liberian Peanut Stew that I learned to cook in
Monrovia, the capital city, where I was based.

It is a bit spicier than the version you usually see in other cookbooks, and
its taste more complex. The one often tagged Senegalese Peanut Stew or Soup
I think is kind of colonial or Europeanized.  For example, it usually calls
for cream or in a Caribbean version, coconut milk. The version in "Liberian
Cookhouse Cooking," called Groundnut Soup, does not. Neither does my
version, which is thickened with eggplant.

Some Liberians will also add a fillet of a small smoked fish to the
ingredients, which I love, since it gives the dish a bit of funk. I have
omitted it here, but if you want to try this variant, add a small piece of a
smoked whitefish or bluefish fillet from the Deli (about the size of a
sardine) first time out.

ALL sales proceeds of "Liberian Cookhouse Cooking" go to the group’s
non-profit health and education efforts in Liberia.

Liberian Chicken Peanut Stew (Serves Four)

1 small roasted chicken (you can use store rotisserie if needed)
2 ½ -3 cups good chicken stock
½ a red bell pepper, chopped
1 or 2 habenero or Scotch Bonnet hot peppers. Be careful when you slice it
open, and wash your fingers afterward. Put your tongue to a tiny        sliver. If
it’s really hot, then carefully seed the pepper, and just use just one -- or
1 medium onion
1 chopped fresh large tomato
1 small (regular purple) eggplant
1 large fresh tomato
2 tablespoon orange palm oil, and 2 more for later in the cooking
(available      at African and Caribbean food stores). Or use peanut oil.
¼ cup peanut butter (you can add more for thicker stew).
1 tablespoon dried or crushed dried shrimp
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered.
2 scallions and a small handful of parsley or cilantro, all chopped, and
       quarters of lemons, for garnish.

Let roasted chicken cool, and cut it up roughly into leg, wing, thigh and
breast portions. Take off any very fatty skin, leave crisp skin. Set it

Chop a medium onion, ½ a red bell pepper and the habenero or similar perfumy
hot pepper.

Sauté the peppers and onion in 2 tablespoons in the oil of your choice but
preferably orange palm oil until soft. Set aside.

Chop up the eggplant. You can remove the skin or not. Set aside.

Roughly chop the large fresh tomato.

Into a big, heavy saucepan add 2 of 3 reserved cups chicken stock, and 1
tablespoon of dried shrimp or crushed dried shrimp. Add chopped ingredients
except chicken. Bring up to boil, then simmer.

Add ¼ cup of good peanut butter (no sugar added) on a spoon, a tablespoon at
a time, scraping it into the broth with a fork and stirring until
integrated. This might take a few minutes.

After ½ hour of slow cooking, “mush” softened eggplant and other ingredients
a little bit with a potato masher or fork to thicken the broth. Don’t overdo
it – you want eggplant bits.

Add cooked chicken. Stir.

Let thickened broth with chicken continue to simmer, barely bubbling, for 20
minutes, stirring occasionally (if not, peanut butter will stick and burn on
bottom of pan).

Add 1 tablespoon minced ginger and 1 tablespoon ground coriander. Continue
to cook slowly for 15 minutes. Stir a few times, checking again for bottom

Serve in a big serving bowl. On top, arrange quartered hard boiled eggs,
chopped onion and chopped parsley or cilantro, with quarters of a fresh
lemon, as garnish. Hot rice or pilaf on the side.

Extra garnishes of non-sweetened minced coconut, crushed peanuts and
pineapple rings are nice. Put a bowl of  Major Grey’s chutney on the table

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