The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Kids Make Chicken-Vegetable Stew with Palm Oil

January 26th, 2010 · No Comments · Posted in kids

Angolan stew with palm oil: muamba

Angolan stew with palm oil: muamba

Continuing on our virtual world culinary tour, our food appreciation classes last week bade adieu to West Africa. But we could not leave without sampling a staple food item there: palm oil.

Palm oil, derived from the fruit of the oil palm, is immediately recognizable by its deep, red color. The color comes from a heavy concentration of beta-carotene–the same nutrient in carrots, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables with red coloring. Palm oil is a saturated fat, but unlike saturated fat from animal sources. It is full of vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients essential for good health. It has a distinctive, assertively nutty flavor that has led to a reputation for being perhaps too strong for some tastes. But we did not find it so.

In Angola, palm oil is a key ingredient in a signature stew called muamba de galinha, incorporating simple, fresh ingredients: chicken, onion, garlic, tomatoes, squash, okra. But you probably will need to find an African grocery in order to purchase the palm oil. There’s quite a lot of it in the stew. To soak up all the juices, we made our first attempt at fufu, the traditional West African starch, in this case made from manioc (cassava) and plantain.

Start with either a whole chicken cut into pieces or 1 pound boneless chicken breast cut into large dice. Season the chicken with salt, crushed red pepper to taste, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Refrigerate the chicken to marinate for about an hour, then brown it all over in a heavy pot coated with palm oil. Remove the chicken and reserve.

Now heat 1 cup palm oil in the pot and add 2 medium onions, cut into medium dice. Season onion with 1 teaspoon salt and brown lightly. Then add two cloves or more garlic, finely chopped; 1 14-ounce can diced tomato; 1/2 acorn squash peeled, seeded and cut into medium dice; crushed red pepper to taste; the pieces of whole chicken, if using; 1 cup canned palm soup base (or substitute chicken broth). If using boneless chicken breast only, wait until the stew is almost finished before adding it to the pot.

Cook until the chicken is almost cooked through (if using whole pieces), about 30 minutes, then add about 1 dozen (or more) fresh okra pods, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces. If you are using chicken breast, add that at this time as well. Cook another 10 minutes, or until the okra is tender, then serve the stew hot as is, or with fufu.

Traditionally, fufu is made by pounding starchy tubers in a big wooden mortar until they turn into a fine paste. Starchy plantains or corn can also be added. We don’t own a suitable mortar for making our own fufu, so we opted for instant fufu from the African grocery consisting of a mix of manioc and plantain. In West Africa, fufu is typically served by rolling it into balls. It looks like cream of wheat, but it is extremely sticky, with a very benign flavor. Though high in fiber and potassium, fufu is not terribly nutritious. But it does provide an inexpensive source of calories.

The finished muamba is unlike anything we’ve made before: bright red. It’s also delicious. The kids wolfed it down and begged for seconds. Now that’s one way to get kids to eat their vegetables.

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