Once upon a time, clan Paleovirtus lived in Brussels.
Then, in the early part of 1999, the Dioxin Crisis struck. Suddenly, all locally sourced meat and poultry was deemed to be tainted.
We briefly flirted with buying all our meat at the Irish butcher, Jack O’Shea’s, who were renowned for the outstanding quality of their gear.
This, however, meant a daily and lengthy trail across town on the Metro with a toddler in a pushchair. It also meant often having to queue just to get inside the door – we were not the only ones thinking along these lines. Top of the range imported Irish produce may have been fantastically tasty, but, sadly, it cost a wee bit more than we were used to paying or could realistically afford.
The obvious solution to all this botheration was to switch to a vegetarian diet. So began our meat-free adventure.
One of the first cookbooks dedicated to the subject that we bought was Good Housekeeping’s “Step-By-Step Vegetarian Cookbook”, which came with The Vegetarian Society’s seal of approval. Over the years we must have cooked every recipe in that book at least four times over, so I think we got good value for our investment!
I pulled the book off the shelf and dusted it down the other day. Rather unusually I was cooking for myself alone, and fancied a vegetarian dish. Flicking through the pages, I experienced the culinary equivalent of Chapter 5 of “Wind in the Willows – Dulce Domum” , where Mole re-visits old haunts. Suddenly, there in front of me, was a long-forgotten favourite, “African Sweet Potato Stew”.
Within seconds it was all coming back to me, as Celine Dion might say, all the fine details of how I tweaked the recipe to our preferences. Thinking about it, all I would have to do to Paleoize it would be to swap out the peanut butter for almond butter.
How could I not…?
African Sweet Potato Stew
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1 inch cubes
- about 150g button mushrooms, wiped, trimmed, and quartered
- about 200g frozen spinach leaf – see Notes
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- a 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 Jalapeño chilli, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp hot chilli powder
- 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 3 tbsp tomato purée
- 4 tbsp almond butter
- coconut oil
- Defrost the frozen spinach leaf in a microwave oven. Set aside.
- Place the onion, garlic, ginger, fresh coriander, and Jalapeño chilli in a blender, and process until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.
- Heat 4 tbsp of coconut oil in a non-stick wok over medium high heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves to the hot oil. Stir fry for a few seconds. Add the turmeric, hot chilli powder, and smoked Spanish paprika. Stir well.
- Add the prepared onion paste. Stir well, and continue to stir fry for 3 minutes.
- Add the prepared mushrooms. Stir well to coat with the vegetables and spices, and then continue to stir fry for 2 minutes or so.
- Add the cubed sweet potatoes. Stir well to coat with the vegetables and spices, and then continue to stir fry for 3 minutes or so.
- Add just enough water to cover the sweet potatoes. Add the tomato purée and the almond butter. Stir well, and bring up to a low simmer. Continue to cook until the sweet potato is tender. The time taken here will depend on the age and size of your sweet potato chunks – mine took 60 minutes. Keep an eye on the consistency of the sauce, adding a splash of hot water as required.
- Add the spinach. Stir well, and cook for a few minutes more.
- Remove the wok from the heat. Garnish with fresh coriander sprigs. Serve, with cauliflower rice, or Paleo naan bread.
Instead of frozen spinach, you could of course use a similar amount of fresh spinach. Prior to adding it to the stew, wilt it by your method of choice.