#4: Senegal – Chicken Mafe

Chicken Mafe

Many years ago I found a strange soup recipe in a Cooking Light magazine. It called for a bunch of vegetables as well as butternut squash along with one strange ingredient: peanut butter. I love peanut butter and every so often I go full 8 year-old Katie and fix myself a PB&J sandwich for lunch for a few days in a row. But the combination of this childhood favorite and ingredients I decidedly despised as a kid stumped me. This “Senegalese Peanut Stew” was my first foray into cooking African dishes and while it wasn’t the prettiest plate, it was pretty damn good.

Fast forward a decade or so and while working at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services my old supervisor and I got into a conversation about cooking and he mentioned that his wife was from Senegal. I mentioned this dish and he indicated that it had been a while since his wife had made the dish, which he called Mafe, but he would be sure to bring some in so I can try. And when he did I was blown away. It’s traditionally made with chicken and a number of starches, from sweet potatoes to yellow gold potatoes to butternut squash, and served over rice! She would grind the peanuts to make a thick paste.

Since there are so many countries in Africa to cook from (I believe 54 in total), I made a point at the beginning of this project to try to include one dish from the continent each month. This was my first and even months later, I maintain it may be one of my best. There are a lot of different recipes out there, but I used this one from the New York Times: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017950-chicken-mafe.

Overall Level of Effort (Scale of 1-5): 3

Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Would make again?: Yes, a thousand times yes.

Additional Notes: I don’t know that this was a particularly difficult dish to make but there were a lot of ingredients and it involved a fair amount of chopping and peeling, which can get a bit time intensive. You can also just use boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs to cut down on some of the prep. This savory soup had a little bit of heat to offset the sweetness of peanut butter. Since it is great to marinade overnight I’d suggest this as a perfect weekend Fall or Winter dinner and the leftovers are FANTASTIC.

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