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?

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