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Gluten Free African Stew Recipe

by Carol Kicinski on March 18, 2011


Most people spend the two years following college graduation partying with their friends, deciding what they want to do with their professional life, looking for love, and generally being young and carefree. Not so with my little sister Karen. She spent those years in the Peace Corp in a small village in Central Africa teaching the youngsters so they could dream and reach for something more in their lives.

She lived without plumbing, electricity, internet, telephones and antibiotics. She taught the children, learned the culture and food as she gave of herself – while also gaining much out the experience.

My own trip to Africa ten years ago changed my life. The sweeping majesty of the landscapes, the primal call of the rich red earth and the African people amazed and awed me, especially the women – beautiful women, with perfect posture, grace and elegance.

When in Bamako, Mali, one of the poorest countries on Earth, I watched three women in particular. Day after day they did hard, physical work, grinding millet into a fine grain by hand just using a huge mortar and pestle, in the blazing hot sun for 14 hours a day, seven days a week – yes, seven days a week!  The only breaks they took were to prepare a meager meal of grain and water by building a fire with sticks and cooking the porridge in a crude pot.  And they did all this with babies strapped to their backs!  They worked and tended their children in circumstances few of us can imagine and yet they laughed and sang and held themselves with such honor and pride.

As I watched these women I reflected on the things I tend to complain about in my own life; the washing machine is on the fritz, poor cell phone service, and sore feet from dancing in high heels. I vowed then and there never to complain again!  While I have broken that vow from time-to-time, I often bring these women to mind when times seem unbearable to me – and I realize that nothing in my life is truly unbearable.

I did not photograph these women as it clearly would have been an invasion which they did not welcome (obviously I am not cut out to be a paparazzi) but I did snap these shots:

When I had a hankering for African stew I called my sister to get some pointers. She explained that the onions, garlic and tomatoes needed to be chopped really finely (I used my food processor) and softened in hot oil, a type of chili powder not available in the United States was added (I used 2 red chilies, again, blitzed in the food processor) and they add a combination of sweet and bitter leaves (I used spinach and arugula). To bring it all together, peanut butter is worked into the mix, however the peanut butter in Africa is different than here; it has a much more roasted flavor.

As I mentioned before in this blog my nephew Kelton has a nasty peanut allergy, so we discussed the use of Sunbutter instead and she decided this was the perfect thing. Sunbutter is made with roasted sunflowers and has a deeper, richer flavor than peanut butter and is perfectly safe for people with nut allergies. As it turns out, the use of Sunbutter was genius; it added such depth of flavor that even if we could have used regular peanut butter we wouldn’t have.

The woman of Africa would make this stew over an open fire in an outdoor communal “kitchen” using crude cutting and cooking implements. I used modern conveniences and celebrated once again the abundance of my life.

So from Karen, Kelton and I, and in honor of the wonderful women of Africa, I proudly submit to you this gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and nut free stew that is full of flavor, complex, delicious and has all the richness of the Dark Continent. Have a bowl and reflect on the richness of your own life!  (As a note, my sister does not think the addition of black beans is “authentic” but she is my younger sister and thus not the boss of me!)

Gluten Free Nut Free Dairy Free Vegan African Stew

Gluten Free African Stew Recipe

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, very finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 – 2 red chili peppers (depending on the heat-factor you like), seeds and veins removed and finely minced
1 – 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes (or blitz a can of diced tomatoes along with their juice for a few seconds in the food processor or blender)
½ cup Sunbutter
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups frozen corn
1 cup spinach
1 cup arugula

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chili and cook for about 5 minutes to soften. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine then add the Sunbutter, stirring it in until smooth. Add the water and salt, stir, then add the sweet potatoes. Cover the pan and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes.

Add the black beans, corn, spinach and arugula and cook until the beans and corn are heated through and the spinach and arugula is wilted. Serve with or with out rice.

Servings

This Gluten Free Recipe Serves 6 People.

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Categories:    Main Dishes

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather @Gluten-Free Cat March 18, 2011 at 8:52 am

Beautiful photographs! The color of life and food in one place. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be making the recipe this weekend!

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats March 18, 2011 at 9:43 am

The photographs are beautiful and I agree on the Sunbutter – much deeper flavor than any peanut butter, plus so much more allergy-friendly.

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Karen Kraus March 18, 2011 at 10:31 am

I have a similar recipe with a few differences. I use chick peas instead of black beans, no corn and Kale.
I think the next time I make it I will use sunbutter, I love that idea.
Thanks for sharing

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Wendy @ Celiacs in the House March 18, 2011 at 11:22 am

This time of year I need a little armchair travel and some new recipes to get out my end of winter rut. You gave me both. A beautiful, thoughtful travel piece and a recipe full of things we love to eat, but combined in a new way with new flavors.

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Janet NZ March 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm

The best thing about travel is that you discover how lucky you are. This is a lovely post and the recipe sounds delicious. I have not seen sunbutter here in NZ, but if I start asking for it, perhaps someone will import it. Thank you.

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Elizabeth, blogger for SunButter March 21, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hi Janet ~ Good question! As a blogger for SunButter, ‘just wanted you to know that there’s a spot on our website where you can find where to buy SunButter. Check out the Peanut Free Planet or Amazon options near the bottom. And let us know what you think!

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Maggie March 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Yum Carol! This sounds amazing and your story was lovely. Thank you for sharing that with us. I will definitely put this on my gotta try list.

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InTolerantChef March 19, 2011 at 7:11 am

Lovely story, lovely recipe too.

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Pat @ Elegantly, Gluten-Free March 19, 2011 at 8:54 am

Love your powerful picture of those women! Makes me want to cook this up right away just to honor them somehow!

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Sheila March 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Mmmm yummy! Love the pictures. Thank you for sharing both the recipe and the perspective. It is good to be thankful for all we have!

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Doreen March 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I LOVED this post and the recipe sounds great. Thanks!

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Jennifer Preston March 24, 2011 at 4:49 am

This looks and sounds delicious….can’t wait to try it!

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Kailee July 6, 2011 at 10:49 am

A woendfrul job. Super helpful information.

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Di Says November 28, 2011 at 9:25 pm

After finally coming to the realization (and with my doctor’s pushing!) that my stomach does much better when it’s gluten free, I stumbled upon your website late last night. There are so many recipes that look amazing (and I’m a vegetarian, too) and couldn’t wait to try one. I decided to start with the Vegan African Stew (had spent 3 months living in Africa) and just took it off the stove. Love it! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

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Carol Kicinski November 30, 2011 at 8:16 am

Thank you so much for stopping by and your kind words!

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Metta December 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I love this recipe. I’ve made it several times (using kale instead of spinach/arugula and peas instead of corn) and it is fantastic!

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Ky January 2, 2012 at 12:23 am

I made this today and it was pretty easy and delicious…with a few tweeks. I had to use peanut butter cause I couldn’t find sun butter, I don’t live near a Whole Foods or any type or grocery store that has a wide variety in organic foods :(, but it still tasted right. I also used just spinach and an Anaheim chilli. I also added some spices but they really didn’t turn up the heat so in the end I just added some hot sauce to my bowl . Lastly I added (cooked) white rice, using 2 cups uncooked to be exact, to the pot. This recipe is really unique and something different without being too out there. Since I’m a vegetarian I mind myself making a lot of Mexican or using a lot of rice and beans but this recipe lets me mix things up. It’s also real hearty so when I take some to work I can heat up a bowl real quick, gobble it down and be full, I need things that are easy to heat up since I don’t get lunch breaks I just have to eat real fast if I can find the time.

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Carol Kicinski January 3, 2012 at 8:30 am

I like your tweaks! Just FYI in case you want to try it wout, Sunbutter is sold in Target (the kind with grocery sections) so if you have one of those you can check there.

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delyana January 12, 2012 at 12:36 am

Delicious!Thanks for sharing!

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Stephanie December 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Made the soup almost exact. It was delicious! The only thing I changed was I didn’t cook it with peppers (too spicy for kids, so we sprinkled a bit of cayenne pepper on our servings) I also didn’t have sunbutter, but did have almond butter. I also didn’t use any arugula. It was so simple and creamy and most importantly, the kids loved it!

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Carol Kicinski December 21, 2012 at 8:22 am

So happy you enjoyed it Stephanie!

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Tamara January 10, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Carol,
Thanks for this delicious recipe! Made it as shown except for making my own sunflower seed butter, which was easy and very inexpensive in my Blendtec blender. I love the creaminess of the tomato-nut broth without the belly-aching that milk based products would bring. It will def hit the replay list in our house

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Carol Kicinski January 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Thanks for letting me know, so happy you enjoyed it!

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