I think that the time in my life when I was eating the healthiest foods was when I served with the US Peace Corps in Kenya. Everything grew naturally right in my backyard with no chemicals, pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. From vegetables to goats to chickens, everything was delivered fresh from my neighbor’s garden/farm. One morning I had ordered a chicken from one of my student’s family and found a brown bag sitting on my front porch upon returning from work. With a feeling of great excitement as I thought about the delicious Kenyan chicken stew I was going to make for dinner, I opened the bag… but suddenly, a live rooster popped out of the bag and into my face. Kenyans, who assumed I knew how to slaughter a chicken, laughed at my reaction to the “wild dancing chicken”. Oh, boy, I like all natural, fresh ingredients, but I really don’t enjoy slaughtering an animal, no matter how fresh it may taste. So, when I heard about a returned Peace Corps volunteer’s annual peanut sauce competition, I decided to stick to just vegetables. In the remote Islamic village on the Indian Ocean where I served for two years, coconut was the key condiment for almost all dishes. We, in fact, rarely used peanuts. So, I substituted coconuts with peanuts on a simple Kenyan veggie dish. Surprisingly, it came out quite edible, and my dish ended up getting the 2nd place at the competition. If you want to read a newspaper article about it, here is the Mercury News / Oakland Tribune link, http://www.mercurynews.com/food-wine/ci_19233784 , where the competition was featured. For folks who want to try this Kenyan vegetable medley at home, here is the recipe.
1 Tablespoon unrefined peanut oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 lb vine ripe tomatoes (chopped)
3 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 Tablespoons fresh ground roasted peanuts
3 cups vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 long Indian green chili (chopped)
½ teaspoon ground all spice
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ small cabbage
½ lb okra
3 medium-size carrots
1 red bell pepper
- Heat the peanut oil in a pot and saute the onion and garlic over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chili, peanut butter and ground peanuts and stir well.
- Pour vegetable stock to the pot and add thyme, all spice and sea salt. Bring the mixture to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the peanut butter doesn’t stick on the bottom of the pot.
- While the tomato peanut sauce is getting made, cut vegetables in bite sizes and steam until tender but firm.
- Place vegetables on a plate, pour the tomato peanut sauce over it and garnish with fresh thyme leaves and ground peanuts before serving.
If you want to pair this dish with a wine, try a German Riesling. I like the 2009 Rudi Veit Riesling Piesporter Kabinette from Mosel, Germany. Exploding with delicious aromas and flavors of stone fruits, yellow apple and bosc pear, this off-dry white wine brings out the subtle sweetness of the peanut sauce, while counteracting the mild spicy heat of the chili. Crisp and refreshing, this cool-climate German Riesling has a great depth of acidity which beautifully balances out the the sweet fruity notes. What an amazing companion it is to the delicious Kenyan tomato peanut sauce! Enjoy and happy cooking!