Mom’s Nigerian Stew Is Three Generations of Comfort

Courtesy of Yummy Medley blog

In light of the shelter-in-place order, many of us have resorted to cooking at home, revisiting old recipes and getting creative with our pantries. Instead of our usual Flavors Worth Finding column with recommendations from restaurants, KQED staffers are sharing the meals they’ve been making at home to find some comfort and grounding during uncertain times.

When I was about 4-years-old my mother was featured in San Francisco Focus Magazine, a publication once run by KQED. In the article, she talked about her stew and its connection to my grandmother, who was a chef in Lagos, Nigeria. Since then, my mother has taught me how to prepare the traditional dish growing up in Oakland. It came back to my mind recently after a family friend shared the article with me. 

Every Nigerian stew is different, from its ingredients to the preparation. Some Nigerians like to add fresh garlic, while others might add a sage leaf. Ultimately, most settle on a method that works for them, and I strongly believe my mother has one of the best ways of making stew. The base starts with freshly pureed organic tomatoes and an array of herbs and spices like Maggi’s bouillon cubes, Lion’s yellow curry powder, fresh basil and red habanero peppers or ground Cameroon peppers. We love ours extra spicy, so we use both peppers. 

Magazine photo of recipe
When Anthonia Onyejekwe was about 4-years-old, her mom was featured in a magazine article talking about her version of Nigerian tomato stew. (Anthonia Onyejekwe / KQED)

Depending on my mother’s stock, the stew can have assorted meats like beef, chicken, cow skin, goat meat or even fish. For this version, she used bone-in beef. First she places the beef inside a large pot filled with water, herbs, spices and fresh onions. Once that’s cooked, she begins making the stew. A cup of oil is poured into a hot pot, along with more onions, basil, bouillon cubes and curry powder. Next, she adds the blended tomatoes, salt, and ground Cameroon peppers. While the stew is bubbling, she then adds the beef. After the beef simmers and soaks up the flavors, it’s so tender that the meat is nearly falling off the bone. 

The stew is served with fluffy parboiled rice, but it can also be paired with cassava yams and fried plantain. To thoroughly enjoy the stew, it’s best to eat it with a chilled bottle of malta, Hatuey preferably.

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Just like my mother did in the article, I want to dedicate my love for Nigerian stew to my mother and her passion for loving others through cooking. Enjoy!

Here's the version my mom shared in her magazine article:

Nigerian Stew

Ingredients

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For the beef:

  • 2 lbs bone-in beef shank, cubed into 1-2 inch pieces*
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1  medium ginger root, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon Lion’s Curry Powder
  • 2 Maggi cubes
  • 2 cups of water
  • Salt to taste 
  • 1 red onion, cubed 

For the stew:

  • 1 red large onion cubed
  • 1 cup of canola oil or any other flavorless oil
  • 5 red or orange habanero peppers blended
  • 1 tablespoon of Lion’s Curry Powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 bunch of chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 8  Roma tomatoes, blended or 2 14-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • Ground Cameroon pepper to taste
  • 2 Maggi cubes 

* If getting your beef from a butcher, ask them to cube it for you.

Instructions:

In a large pot on medium-high heat,  add beef, cubed red onions, one peeled ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 Maggi cubes lion’s curry powder and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until beef is tender. Remove from heat and drain the excess water from the pot. set aside

for the stew, heat another pot to medium heat. Add oil, chopped fresh basil, red cubed onion, curry powder and Maggi cubes. Allow the ingredients to fry together until onions are translucent. Next add the fresh blended tomatoes or canned tomato sauce, then add the blended habanero peppers. Let the stew simmer for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are a deep reddish brown. Add the beef to the stew and add salt and Cameroon pepper to taste. Allow the stew simmer for another 15-20 minutes until beef is fall-off-the-bone tender. Serve with parboil rice, fried plantain, or cassava yams.