Monday, November 30, 2009
Central African Republic - Peanut Butter
I’m learning that Africa likes peanuts. It's in many of their recipes. When I was trying to decide what to cook for our Central African Republic meal it seemed like I had a choice between recipes with peanut butter or recipes with peanut butter. I could have made fuloni boullie, a porridge cooked in peanut butter, or kanda ti nyma, beef meatballs cooked in peanut butter, or spinach stew flavored with peanut butter, or vegetable leaves and yams cooked in a sauce thickened with peanut butter. I decided to go with a beef and mushroom dish cooked with – you guessed it – peanut butter.
I’ve never been a big fan of peanut butter. When I was a kid peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the staple for kids lunches and I hated it. I would say, give me mussels, artichokes, hummus or moussaka but don’t give me peanut butter! I think it’s because my mother used to use peanut butter to get gum out of my hair and I have never quite gotten over the association. Still, as much as I hated peanut butter sandwiches I would eat things that had peanut butter in them – like cookies and ice cream. Now I eat peanut butter in my stews and chicken and beef dinners.
Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Western, central Africa boarding Chad, Cameroon, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo. Formally a French colony, it achieved independence in 1960. The years since have been turbulent but it is now under democratic rule and with a new constitution. However, it is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Africa and still relies on France for financial aid. The country has little industry but it does export coffee beans, cotton, and tropical hardwoods. They also have diamonds and gold which remain virtually untouched.
When my dad was assigned to the embassy in Lagos in 1976 he was in charge of the embassy security for five African countries - Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Niger and, of course, Nigeria. He was often away on business at one of these countries but he would come home bearing gifts like: carved wooden animals, necklaces, embroidered table cloths and once brought home a lion’s tooth set in silver filigree for my mother.
In Bangui, Central African Republic’s capital and largest city, my dad sometimes stayed with the Administration Officer from the U.S. Embassy and they would breakfast on his verandah looking down over the jungle and the river while wild monkeys climbed around the vines over their heads. The country is noted for its amazing wildlife.
When my dad went to Baugui it would usually be a two-week trip, not because he had two weeks worth of work, but because once you flew into a place like Bangui, if you couldn’t complete your job in 9 hours, you would have to wait a week to fly out again. As they say in those French speaking countries, "C’est Afrique.” That’s Africa.
Beef and Mushroom in Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup palm oil (or peanut oil)
1 lb beef steak, sliced
3 tomatoes, sliced
3/4 cup peanut butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
ground ginger to taste
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Add the oil to a pot, heat and then cook the onion and garlic until soft but not colored. Add the meat and brown before adding the mushrooms, tomatoes, ginger and 2 cups of water. Cook on low heat for about an hour then remove 1 cup of the cooking broth and use this to dilute the peanut butter to a paste.
Add the peanut butter to the meat mixture and cook for another 20 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Serve on rice.