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.
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.