Mafe (mah-fay) is a West African root vegetable stew thickened with peanut butter. It’s spicy, delicious, and versatile for vegetarians, meat-eaters, and everyone in between. You’ll find as many variations as there are people cooking it, so my recipe takes a few flavor cues from Indian and Thai cuisines.
It’s also incredibly economical but because it’s so flavorful, you would never know it. I actually prepared it for two different dinner parties, and now I have family and friends who are committed mafe lovers!
Mafe tastes great the day it’s made and even better the next. It freezes well, too. I like to serve it over brown rice, so I’ve included a recipe for that as well. This makes 8 generous gluten-free servings.
2 cup brown rice
6 cups homemade or low-sodium vegetable stock
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
3 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and rough chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ - ½ tsp cayenne pepper (I like it on the hot side but if you’re not into heat, start with ¼ tsp)
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp dried thyme
2 heaping TBS tomato paste
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 small yellow potatoes, skin on and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 large carrots or 6 small ones, skin on and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 - 4 cups cold water
½ cup peanut butter (I prefer all-natural chunky peanut butter without sugar)
1-15 oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
Salt & pepper to taste
Juice of one lime
2 TBS toasted sesame seeds
2 TBS roasted chopped peanuts
Drizzle of olive oil
Make the rice:
Place the rice in a sieve and rinse two or three times.
In a large saucepot, add the rice, vegetable stock, garlic and bay leaf. Add a few pinches of salt and pepper. Place the pot on medium-high. Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil; be watchful because with the lid on, the rice can boil over. Reduce the heat immediately to the lowest setting. Remove the lid and stir. Replace the lid and simmer gently for 45 to 50 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the stock (the rice will be chewy).
Turn off the heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Taste for salt and pepper. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Make the mafe:
Pat the vegetables dry with a lint-free kitchen towel or paper towel (they’ll cook better).
Heat a large stockpot on medium. Add 1 TBS of olive oil and the onion. Sauté the onion for 3 minutes or until it becomes translucent. Stir in the garlic, spices, and tomato paste. Sauté for one minute.
Add the rest of the olive oil. Add the sweet potato, potatoes, and carrots. Stir the vegetables with the onions, garlic, and spices until the vegetables are coated. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent the spices from scorching. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cover the vegetables with enough water so that it sits just above the vegetables. Cover the pot partially with a lid. Bring the mafe to a boil. Reduce the heat immediately to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are fork-tender but not mushy.
Remove the lid from the pot and whisk in the peanut butter until smooth. Add the garbanzo beans. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (depending on how spicy you like your food, feel free to add more cayenne pepper).
If you’re going to eat the mafe at a later date, cool completely, cover and refrigerate. Reheat on low.
Serve individually or family style. Layer the rice in a bowl or on a plate and top with the mafe. Squeeze a bit of lime juice over the mafe and garnish it with sesame seeds, peanuts, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Don’t Freak Out!
1) Make it nut-free. If you are allergic to peanuts (and not allergic to sunflower seeds; sometimes the two allergies go hand-in-hand), substitute ½ cup of sunflower seed butter, or 1 TBS sesame tahini, or ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk for the peanut butter and of course, leave off the garnish of chopped peanuts (toasted coconut or roasted sunflower seeds would be delicious instead).
2) Make it meaty. When you sauté the vegetables and spices, add an additional tablespoon of olive oil and sauté ½ pound of cubed beef, pork, chicken, mutton, lamb or goat with the vegetables and proceed with the recipe. Or, add ½ pound of poached and shredded chicken (or roast chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken) OR roasted and shredded pork, beef, mutton, lamb or goat to the vegetables and cover with the water. You can also add chunks of fresh halibut (1/2 – 1 pound) to the mafe after you whisk in the peanut butter. Cook for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through; if you’re going to eat the mafe at a later date, add the fish when you reheat it. What the carnivores around me prefer, however, is chicken cutlets (see photo below) or baked chicken crusted with panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.
3) Try serving this over basmati or white rice or millet (all gluten-free). Or try with Moroccan or Israeli (pearl) couscous (not gluten-free). Follow the package instructions for the grains and couscous but substitute vegetable stock for the water and add the garlic and bay leaf. You could also eat this over other pasta (regular or gluten-free). I also like to make only half of the rice recipe and use buttery naan, wheat pita, or fluffy Greek pita bread to scoop up the mafe with my fingers.
4) Throw a few sunny side-up or over-easy eggs on top of the mafe, poke the yolks, and allow them to dribble into the stew—delicious!
5) A note on the vegetables. I buy and grow organic carrots so they are usually smaller than regular carrots (which is why I double the amount of carrots in the recipe). You could also use half of a one pound bag of baby carrots. Also, feel free to peel the skins on the carrots and potatoes (I like to leave them on). However, I do peel the skins from the sweet potatoes—they tend to slip off into the stew and become weird little bites.
Chop onions and sauté in olive oil.
Add the spices to the onions.
Chop the veggies, add to the onions and coat with the spices.
Just cover the veggies with water. Cook for 30 minutes & whisk in peanut butter.
Serving suggestion: Chicken Cutlet and Mafe