Mafé: Senegalese Groundnut Stew

When I still lived in Baltimore, I worked at the newspaper, where one of my co-workers was a girl named Joann. Although we weren’t really friends outside work, I always thought Joann was a really neat person: I really liked her personal style, and she was very creative – during downtime at work, she made her own jewelry and she was always involved in something artistic. You could say I admired her. Joann saved up some money to take her dream vacation to Senegal, and while she was there, she fell in love. This resulted in a couple of trips back and forth for both of them, culminating in a wedding (followed, unfortunately, by nearly a year of living on different continents until her new husband was able to get a US visa). We had a bridal shower for her at work and after some research, I made benne (sesame seed) wafers to bring her good luck, as well as some other African-inspired dish I no longer remember.

For reasons I also don’t remember, Joann apparently brought food in for her own shower (unless she made this for the office at some later time), including mafé, which she made vegetarian just for me, which I thought was incredibly nice of her. It was also really good and at my insistence, she later gave me the recipe. Although I’d been vegetarian for a long time, I was a pretty new vegan and was just getting into cooking. This mafé recipe was perfect for me because it was really easy, really tasty, and it was exotic. I was at that stage a lot of new vegans go through where they realize how limited their diet was before they went vegan and how diverse it can be after going vegan. I felt like whole new worlds of flavor were opening up for me. So not only is this recipe delicious and particularly simple, it’s a meaningful one to me.

Senegalese Mafé

1/2 cup dried black eyed peas, or 1 pint fresh
2 sweet potatoes, the kind with red skin and white interiors (Joann noted I could find these in the international market and directed me to a store behind Baltimore’s Lexington Market; I used Korean yams from Super H), chopped
small piece of pumpkin, optional (Joann also directed me to an international market for this; I used a kabocha, which is a Japanese pumpkin, I also got at Super H), chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 medium onion, sliced from top to bottom (I missed this instruction today and just chopped it)
1 habanero pepper, stem pulled off, left whole
small can tomato paste
1 Maggi seasoning cube (Joann noted it was probably okay to use any brand from the regular market, and as neither Super H nor Wegmans had the vegetarian version, I used my old standby Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

If using dried black eyed peas, soak for 30 minutes. I was delighted to find fresh ones at the farmer’s market, though I had no idea how much fresh I should use. After comparing a dried pea to a fresh one, I concluded the dried one was 1/4 the size of the fresh and used about 2 cups fresh, which was what was in my pint.

This is what my Korean yam looked like inside:

And my pretty, pretty black eyed peas:

Combine all ingredients except peanut butter in a large pot. Add water to completely cover. I also added several dashes of liquid Maggi seasoning.

Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until peas and vegetables are soft. Joann noted this would be about 1 hour and 15 minutes for dried peas; it was a little less for fresh peas. Taste the concoction periodically and when it is as spicy as you want it, remove the habanero, which may have burst; if so, remove the pieces. My typed recipe from Joann contains a pretty stern caution to NOT TASTE/EAT THE PEPPER!!, but if you live with a Smarkasauraus, you might try giving it to him. Try as I might, I never found my habanero, but we are used to a lot of heat and Mark actually found it necessary to add some habanero Tabasco to his portion.

Put half of the peanut butter in a small bowl and ladle some of the hot broth into the bowl; whisking until smooth.

Add to the soup pot and do the same with the remainder of the peanut butter. Simmer 15 more minutes.

Serve over rice. Joann said she used broken jasmine rice; I used brown basmati.

I mentioned in my last post that I took the kittens outside for the first time on Saturday. Actually, it was their second time, but their first time was aborted when Gomez had a sneezing fit right away and I got nervous because they hadn’t had their final shots yet. Gomez barely fit in his tiny kitten harness the first time I tried to take him out and he didn’t fit at all on Saturday. I’m reading Beasts and Super-Beasts by Saki on my phone when I get stuck in traffic and I came across this quote, which refers to the tendency of storytellers to exaggerate:

No moderate-sized rat ever seemed to carry out any predatory operations in these regions; they were all enormous in their enormity.

… but it made me think of Gomez, who I think is enormous in his enormity. However, he’s not so enormous he fits in a full-sized harness, and I’m not sure they even make a harness that fits 5-month old kittens who are enormous in their enormity but aren’t full-grown either.

In this picture you can see how he’s worming his way right out of his harness, although he’s not doing intentionally. As soon as I realized this, I took him inside and rigged up a tighter harness using a twist tie.

Surprisingly, Gomez was less nervous about being outdoors than Torticia. Usually Torticia is the braver one. But Gomez strode right out and started rolling around in the sun like a goof.

Meanwhile, Torticia sat near the door and looked a bit skeptical. I think maybe she wasn’t too wild about the harness; sometimes they make cats not want to move.

She just sat and watched Gomez.

Then someone started up a lawn mower somewhere and outside time was over instantly. Gomez was up and back in the house like a rocket, with Torticia right on his heels. I couldn’t even find him to take his leash off for a couple of minutes. Overall, though, it went well and I think they’ll both do pretty well on leashes, which I’m sure makes me look like a crazy cat lady.

In other news, Smucky is here for a visit right now, and he and Mark and I are going to Boston this weekend. I haven’t been to Boston in over ten years! Anything I must see, eat, or do?


  1. Jes Said,

    August 3, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    If you’re able to, check out Wheeler’s ( for a scoop of ice cream–I really dug their flavors! I bet Boston’s a lot nicer to visit during the summer than when I went in the winter! 🙂

    The mafe looks super delicious–I love peanut butter in anything, and for some odd reason I haven’t made a stew with it yet. Must do!

  2. Lisa G/K Said,

    August 3, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

    I am from Boston originally – and lived there from 1961 through 1985. I visit periodically and was just there last fall. You can take the subway anywhere – it’s an easy town to explore.

    One of my personal favorite adventures – get off on the Kendall Square stop (MIT) on the red line. Walk through MIT campus (“the infinite corridor”) to Mass Ave. Walk towards Central Square/Harvard all along Mass Avenue. Stop anywhere to eat – lots of ethnic foods, interesting stores, interesting people. Stop at the Plough & Stars for a pint of Guiness (they get kegs from Dublin). Continue walking to Harvard Square/Harvard’s campus.

    Have a fantastic time!

  3. Lily Said,

    August 4, 2010 @ 11:12 am

    I lived in Cambridge, MA for a summer, so I have lots of fond memories wandering around Harvard Square. There’s a great Thai restaurant called 9 Tastes that’s sort of in the basement of a building–I still dream about their lard na. Also, there are SO MANY bookstores (at least there were when I was there a few years ago, I don’t know how good the economy has been to independent bookstores there), so happy book browsing!

  4. Ksenia Said,

    August 5, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    Sweet potatoes, black eyed peas and peanut butter….sounds delicious! I miss having time to cook 🙁 Cooking something vegetarian especially for you was really a nice detail of her: usually when I visit the maximum people offer me are some kind of nuts (which is better than nothing though).
    I found funny the fact that Smucky has his own tag 🙂

    I wish I could help with the Boston part, but I think I know even less about it than you 😛

  5. Leigh Said,

    August 5, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    There’s a great, all vegan pizza place in Boston called Peace ‘o Pie. Check it out if you can! They also have amazing peanut butter cinnamon rolls for dessert.

  6. kylie Said,

    August 6, 2010 @ 2:41 am

    ooh I am going to try this, i LOVE black eyed peas.
    Shame about that idiot smucky though.

  7. Josiane Said,

    August 6, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

    I had something similar to your mafé several years ago, and I’ve been meaning to make something like that at home – thanks for the reminder and the recipe!
    Enjoy your time in Boston! Jess at Get Sconed! has posted about her Boston trip a few months ago. You may find these two posts useful.

  8. Zoa Said,

    August 6, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

    This is exactly the kind of dish I most like to make, and this one looks just wonderful. The combination of peanut butter and black eyed peas and yams, oh my!

    Good luck with the kittens and the harnesses. I remember this stage well…now my cats are old and seldom go beyond the patio, for which I’m very, very grateful.

  9. smucky Said,

    August 6, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

    Kylie: I reckon that smucky guy is alright

  10. Lisa G/K Said,

    August 6, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

    Looks like this Sunday’s NY Times is profiling “36 hours in Boston” in the travel section.

    Check out the Rose Kennedy Greenway link…..

  11. Stacy Said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    Wow, your blog is beautiful and this recipe looks delicious!

  12. trininista Said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

    That stew looks amazing. I really should not visit this blog when I am so hungry

  13. Mo Said,

    September 8, 2010 @ 2:28 am

    That stew looks so creamy and delicious! Mmm.

  14. Monday Baker Said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 8:15 am

    I am reading your blog backwards from about 24th September 2010 and already I am in love with your beautiful kittens! This post was really too much, they are so cute. So I just had to stop by and make mention of how sweet they are!! Thanks for sharing!

  15. renae Said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    Hi Monday Baker! Thank you!

  16. br0nn13 Said,

    October 21, 2013 @ 3:52 am

    Cooked this tonight for tea … anything with peanut butter is a winner for me … AMAZING !!! I was careful with the small habanero chilli I put in but ended up taking it out and cutting it up and stirring it through to give me the ‘bite’ I was looking for to cut through the peanut butter … Thanks Renae … I am a new vegetarian and have stumbled on your site & love it !!! I love the step by step guide pictures , the random’ness’ of how your blog reads … the personality and reality of it all is very warm … Thank you Renae

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