Years ago, we lived in Swaziland for four months on a volunteer stint. This was pre-food blog days, but even then I kept loose notes on what we were eating and loving, fascinated with the exotic-to-me combination of flavors and ingredients that were staples of the Swazi cuisine.
One such staple we often ate for lunch was a vegetable stew with a mild, creamy tomato-based curry sauce. The stew was served alongside pap, a traditional porridge made from white cornmeal that somewhat resembled a paler, blander, and grittier polenta. It was a rustic country dish. Not the most vibrant of flavors. But it was often our best option, and it provided us warm sustenance on rainy, damp days.
My loose notes of the stew from all those years ago are a little too loose to be of much help to me now. But I appreciate the many variations of African curries, and I'm using memory and creativity to reinterpret the humble Swazi stew today.
In my recipe, I made sure to use Swazi staples such as sweet potato, ginger, and spices. Ginger cauliflower rice replaces the pap. In fact, it's the perfect lighter complement for the spring months ahead. And when the stew and its juices are ladled over top and seep into the rice, it's uncanny how much the cauliflower resembles white rice in texture. In the stew, coconut milk and almond butter do a fantastic job mimicking that rich, sweet creaminess I remember. But contrary to the original, the flavor here is more dynamic with yellow curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, lime, and cilantro.
Definitely don't leave out the arugula stirred through at the end. Its slight bitterness adds balance. We often overlook arugula as a green add-in, in favor of spinach or kale. But it's a great choice for variety.
Hope you give this dish a try! It really is the perfect winter-to-spring transition meal.
African Almond Stew with Ginger Cauliflower Rice
Notes: If you don't have almond butter, peanut butter or tahini may be substituted.
- Generous knob of coconut oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. yellow curry
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne or chili flakes
- 1-660 gr (720 ml) jar tomatoes (whole or chopped)
- 1 1/2 cups (370 ml) water
- 1 large sweet potato, chopped in medium bite-size pieces
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups (210 gr or 1-15 oz can) cooked chickpeas
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/3 cup (80 ml.) almond butter
- 1 large handful arugula, roughly chopped
To finish: juice of 1 lime, chopped cilantro, toasted chopped almond (optional)
- Heat coconut oil in a large Dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and spices (curry powder through cayenne). Stir to combine with oil and cook until onions begin to soften and spices are fragrant (2-3 minutes).
- Add tomatoes (breaking them up with a wooden spatula if using whole), and stir to pick up any brown bits on bottom of pan. Add water, sweet potato, and salt. Cover and raise heat to bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add coconut milk, chickpeas, and red bell pepper. Bring back to a boil and simmer another 5 minutes, covered. Remove from heat. Place almond butter in a heat-proof glass bowl or measuring cup. Add a ladle-full stew liquid to almond butter and stir until you get a smooth sauce. Stir almond butter sauce into stew. Add arugula and juice of 1/2 lime.
- Ladle into bowls with ginger cauliflower rice. Top with cilantro, almonds if using, and more lime, if desired.
Ginger Cauliflower Rice
- 1 medium head of cauliflower
- 1 Tbsp. minced ginger (~ large thumbsize piece)
- Generous knob ghee
- 1 tsp. salt + pepper, to taste
- Roughly chop cauliflower head and tender stem into bite-size florets and pieces. Place half in a large food processor and pulse until you get a fine crumb. The pieces should be the size of short grain rice. Remove and repeat with second half.
- Heat ghee in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add ginger and cook one minute. Stir in cauliflower rice, salt, and pepper. Cook until al dente, or tender with a bite. (~5 minutes). Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add more minced ginger at the end, if you prefer a stronger flavor.