A nutty and aromatic combination from West Africa. Sweet potatoes gently simmered in a peanut and coconut curry
West African Peanut and Sweet Potato Curry Recipe is the stuff that marriages are made of !Click To Tweet– and I am not just talking about marriages in Africa.
This is one of the recipes that is intricately woven into the fabric of my relationship with my Englishman. It is one of the first dishes I made Le Hub early on in our relationship, and dare I say, it cemented our relationship for good. Oh well, if ever there was a grain of truth to be found in the statement that the journey to a man’s heart begins with his stomach, it’s right here!
This dish is also very reminiscent of my childhood because two of its main ingredients (peanuts and sweet potato) were always lurking in our pantry, so much so that the very smell of sweet potatoes and peanuts together evokes memories of a 7-year old me, standing uneasily on a shaky wooden three-legged stool, peering longingly over the edge of my mum’s cooking pot to watch the soup simmer. If I close my eyes for a second, or two, I can perceive the nutty, aromatic flavours emanating from the pot as vividly as I can hear my mom’s voice bellowing in the background from fear that I might fall over, face first, into the steaming pot of soup.
But back to the present and let’s talk about this recipe for a minute. A lot of variations of this curry I have seen on the internet use peanut butter when making this dish, but back home in Africa, it would be considered almost sacrilegious to use commercially-prepared peanut butter for this dish.
Peanut paste, freshly made with oodles of love and TLC from batches of recently harvested peanuts is more authentic to the traditional version of this curry recipe. I will spare you the task of having to harvest your own peanuts – you can’t say I don’t love you!. Unless of course, you are absolutely in need of that challenge, then by all means, knock yourself out :).
However, I will insist that you make your own peanut paste for this recipe. And making peanut paste is darned easy – I promise! The reason I insist is because I have made several iterations of this dish – with peanut butter, and with home-made peanut paste – and the difference is discernible, I promise! Commercially-produced peanut butter usually contains sugar and salt in addition to peanut paste. The added sugar in commercially-produced peanut butter adds an extra level of sweetness to the peanut butter that compromises somewhat the final flavour of the curry. What an absolute shame, in my opinion.
The second reason I prefer using peanut paste is because you have the flexibility to roast or re-roast the peanuts (if using a packet of roasted peanuts) yourself before grinding them into a paste. The roasting or re-roasting introduces a depth of flavour that’s both rich and full-bodied, and that’s what takes this dish from good to GREAT!
And finally how to grind the peanuts? Easy – Just use a mortar and pestle and some good old brute force. Not only is it satisfying in a therapeutic kind-of-way, but it also lends the right texture to the peanuts. You don’t want them too finely ground otherwise they disappear in the curry. You also don’t want them too coarse – not good! But rather, somewhere in between.
I’ve added 2 teaspoons of fish sauce to make the most of that umami flavour. To keep this recipe vegetarian, just omit the fish sauce. The only other thing you are going to need is oodles of self-control because I usually never manage to stop myself from eating out of the pan before it is served.
Is this recipe right for you?