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Spicy West African Groundnut Stew

Spicy West African Groundnut Stew
Years ago, there was a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago called Earwax. Yeah, I know, appetizing name. It was a kind of dingy but lovable place with a record shop and then a video rental store upstairs and a teeny, terrifying bathroom; the tables were always a bit sticky, the wait staff often on the surly side and I had it on good authority that their kitchen was about as hygienic as one would expect, which kind of removed all doubt and killed my appetite for the place. In the years that followed a personal boycott that was spurred by a confrontation with a server who couldn’t be bothered to end his 20 minute smoke break to take our order, many more vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants opened with better food and Earwax moved across the street to a spiffier location but after some years there, couldn’t quite make it and closed. That said, for a good while, they were one of the only games in town for vegan options and I have some fond memories of the place.

One thing I remember about Earwax is that they always had a vegetarian soup of the day and it was called West African Groundnut Soup or Nelson Mandela Soup or African Soup and it was always the same thing under different names: A thick, rich vegetarian peanut butter and veggie soup with a side of rice and crusty bread. It was a nourishing and affordable meal, perfect fuel for a cold Chicago night. My version of groundnut soup is a little different in that I subbed carrots for sweet potatoes and more soup-like (less rich and heavy) and it’s spicier. For those of you feeling like you’re on the verge of a cold, give this recipe a try: the combination of peppers, ginger and garlic might just knock it out. If you want to tone down the spice, leave out the peppers and omit the red pepper flakes. This is a great, flavorful soup to take to a potluck or enjoy on a winter’s night as you contemplate the long-lost cafés that you’ve outgrown but still have a place in your heart.


Spicy West African Groundnut Stew

4 1/3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 large red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 green hot pepper and 1 red hot pepper, seeded and minced, optional
2 heaping cups carrots, sliced or cut in large dice
4 cups kale or collards, tough stems removed and cut in strips
1 tablespoon tamari
2 cups tomato juice
˝ cup smooth, natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons coriander
1 tablespoon dried thyme
˝ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked rice, barley or another grain for serving
Toasted peanuts and extra minced peppers to garnish, optional

In a large soup pot, heat 1/3 cup broth over medium heat for a minute. Add the onion and sauté for four minutes or until it begins to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, optional hot peppers, carrots and kale, stir it around for a minute, then add the tamari. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until the carrots are softened and the kale is wilted. Add broth by the tablespoon to prevent sticking if necessary.

Add the 4 cups of broth, tomato juice and peanut butter to a blender and blend until smooth and combined. Add to the soup pot along with the remaining spices. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer. Cook for about 15 or 20 minutes over a simmer until the soup is thickened. Pour into individual bowls, spoon some rice or other grain in, and garnish with the optional toasted peanuts and additional hot peppers to serve.

© 2013-2016, Vegan Street

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