Potatoes around the world – that’s what we’re talking about! Yes, everyone’s doing St. Patrick’s Day potato recipes and green drinks and, if you’re lookin’ for some of that, check out my twist on Guinness Beef Stew or super easy Potato Leek Soup and gorgeous photos of our trip to the Emerald Isle.
We always think of the potato as a staple food in Ireland, but the potato has been a staple in so many other cuisines around the world. I won’t deny you the corn beef and potato hash or Irish stew, but let’s expand our cultural horizons and see how the versatility of the humble spud has been appreciated far and wide.
When first introduced to sub-Saharan (the African countries east, west, and south of the Sahara) African foods, you might experience a feeling of familiarity. Long ago West African ingredients and cooking methods became assimilated in Southern, Creole, Soul and Cajun cooking. The five million Africans brought to the Americas during the slave trade greatly influenced the cuisine in the new country. Caribbean and Brazilian cuisines are also derived from West Africa with added French and Latin influences.
A one-dish meal consisting of a starch (rice, millet, maize porridge, or “fufu” (pounded plantains, yams, or cassava) served with a spicy stew or soup is most characteristic of West Africa. The cuisines of East and Southern Africa share many ingredients with that of West Africa. Pumpkins, yams, sweet potatoes, peanuts, corn, cabbage,and coconuts are used in all these regions. Tender greens are often added to stews just before serving. Africa has hundreds of types of greens that are not available here or in Europe, but suitable substitutes include spinach, sorrel, beet and turnip greens, chard, and collards. If you grew up in the South – “greens” most often refers to collards.
I noticed that many African stew recipes had a sweet and savory component, which I love – many using fruit juices instead of a meat broth or tomato base, fruits such as bananas and apples, and currants, raisins or dried apricots. Drawing from my pantry items, I incorporated apple sauce, tomato sauce, and dried apricots with a blend of aromatic exotic spices, including freshly ground coriander seeds, cumin, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg with russets (those labeled Idaho Potatoes are the best), yams, and cauliflower. Beside the well known russet potato, there are two types of sweet potatoes pictured above – they are both sweet potatoes, even though supermarkets and government labeling often confuse consumers by mislabeling one or the other as “yams”.
Both Don and I enjoyed the subtle spiciness and exotic flavor profile immensely. A comforting, satisfying and delicious vegetarian stew, perfect for Meatless Monday or any day and a welcome change from traditional American-style Beef Stew with potatoes and carrots. I think you’ll like it as well!
Disclosure: The Idaho Potato Commission has compensated me for the development of my Potatoes Around the World recipes.