The Ground­nut’s Mozam­bi­can chicken and peanut stew

How an evoca­tive chicken and peanut dish made by friends un­ex­pect­edly cat­a­pulted Ja­cob Fo­dio Todd, of the Ground­nut sup­per­club trio, back to his child­hood in Mozam­bique

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - The Ground­nut sup­per­club is run by Du­val Ti­mothy, Fo­layemi Brown and Ja­cob Fo­dio Todd. Their first book is out in July. the­ground­nut.co.uk

Rosa and Maria were our em­pre­gadas in Mozam­bique. They looked af­ter my older brother Simon and me, and kept the house. The story goes that when we first ar­rived in Maputo – taken there by my fa­ther’s work – my mother in­sisted on do­ing the cooking, de­spite of­fers from Rosa to take it on dur­ing the week. It wouldn’t be nec­es­sary, my mother said, as she en­joyed it, af­ter all. So Ma con­tin­ued to cook her reper­toire of fam­ily dishes, ac­cu­mu­lated over var­i­ous trav­els, along­side English clas­sics, such as bangers and mash. That was Simon’s favourite dish.

But, in­creas­ingly, she started to ques­tion her con­tin­u­ing re­jec­tion of Rosa’s of­fers to cook for us. The smells that would come from the kitchen when Rosa and Maria cooked for them­selves were so in­cred­i­ble that, at some point, my mother sim­ply gave in. And once she had started, it would have been mad­ness for her to stop, be­cause, for one, chicken amen­doins su­per­seded sausage and pota­toes in my brother’s es­ti­ma­tion, and, for me, Rosa’s cooking firmly es­tab­lished Mozam­bique as a place of food won­ders.

Be­fore I con­tinue, I first have an ad­mis­sion. Chicken amen­doins is a mis­nomer. As a young boy, I was al­most flu­ent in Por­tuguese, but we spoke English at home, which is re­flected in my fam­ily’s jum­bled name for the dish. The dish is ac­tu­ally known in Maputo as caril de amen­doim, which trans­lates as stew, or sauce, of peanuts. It has a creamy colour, which makes it far re­moved from other peanut based sauces such as a ground­nut stew, satay sauce, or even peanut but­ter. Be­fore I learnt how to make it my­self, rel­a­tively re­cently, I had nu­mer­ous the­o­ries about what it could con­tain, and be­came con­vinced it was co­conut that

Un­til I learned the recipe, chicken amen­doins was a work of magic

gave it a dis­tinc­tive colour. It is ac­tu­ally just raw, pounded peanuts in wa­ter that give it such a un­mis­tak­able colour and flavour.

I con­tin­ued to en­joy Rosa’s chicken amen­doins, cooking and com­pany im­mensely for the re­main­ing few years we spent in Mozam­bique. We left Maputo in the early 90s, when I was seven. Ex­cept for a cou­ple of vis­its in the early pe­riod af­ter we left, we did not re­turn. My Por­tuguese was forgotten (I con­tinue to be very dis­ap­pointed about this), and my mem­o­ries of Mozam­bique faded. There was the oc­ca­sional dis­cus­sion along the lines of “re­mem­ber Rosa, chicken amen­doins and that bean soup, blah blah blah” although, nat­u­rally, over time those mem­o­ries be­came in­creas­ingly dis­tant.

I thought that was it. It had all been rel­e­gated to the back of my men­tal fil­ing cabi­net, along­side some other dusty thoughts that I’ll only ever be able to re­call in a very dim light. But that wasn’t it. I was wrong. Re­searchers have long de­bated the re­la­tion­ship be­tween smell, taste and mem­ory, and it was not for noth­ing that Proust wrote about madeleines. One sum­mer, when I was a stu­dent, my mem­o­ries of Mozam­bique were brought back in vivid HD. It must have been in my sec­ond year at Gold­smiths, Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don, where I’d be­come good friends with a guy named Miles. We had or­gan­ised a pic­nic in Green­wich Park with his brother Du­val, and Du­val’s clos­est school friend, Yemi. Miles was ex­cited be­cause they’d cooked one of his fam­ily favourites to bring along to the pic­nic – ground­nut stew, a West African sauce made with pasted roasted ground­nuts, onions, scotch bon­net pep­per, and of­ten chicken – which I tasted be­fore we packed up the food.

That was it. Right there in his kitchen, be­fore we left for the park. It was so evoca­tive of chicken amen­doins that I couldn’t be­lieve it. I still re­mem­ber cradling the tea­spoon, stut­ter­ing “bbb-but, but do you know what this is? How do you make this? Oh, Lord!” Bang! Time travel. It would be apoc­ryphal to say that this event was the be­gin­ning of our part­ner­ship, although it was def­i­nitely the first in a chain of events that led to Yemi, Du­val and me cooking and host­ing din­ners to­gether un­der the name the Ground­nut.

I re­cently had the op­por­tu­nity to meet Rosa and Maria again, cour­tesy of Eliseu, a good fam­ily friend who hosted my mother and me when we re­turned to Maputo for the first time in over 20 years. What did we do? We hugged, I fum­bled with Por­tuguese and we ate to­gether. What did I achieve? I learned to make chicken amen­doins. It was just like I re­mem­bered. In­cred­i­ble.

CHICKEN AMEN­DOINS

To all in­tents and pur­poses, un­til I learned the recipe, chicken amen­doins was a work of magic in my mind. But it is bril­liantly sim­ple. Try to en­sure the peanuts are pounded as finely as pos­si­ble to give the fin­ished dish a vel­vety tex­ture although, as you’ll see in the method, you can con­trol the tex­ture as you please.

Serves 4

1 chicken, jointed into 8 pieces 375g raw peanuts ½ tbsp salt 1 tsp black pep­per 4 gar­lic cloves, peeled and finely sliced 2 green bird’s eye chillies, left whole Steamed rice and/or steamed plan­tain, to serve

1 If your butcher hasn’t done it for you, cut the whole chicken into 8 pieces and re­move the skin. Sea­son the meat with ¼ tbsp salt and black pep­per. Cover and set aside.

2 Ei­ther us­ing a large pes­tle and mor­tar or a food pro­ces­sor, pound or blitz the peanuts into a coarse pow­der. 3 Peel and cut the gar­lic into fine slices. 4 Add the ground peanuts and gar­lic to a deep saucepan with 1.2 litres of boil­ing wa­ter and leave to cook over a low heat for 1 hour. Make sure the mix does not boil.

5 If you pre­fer a smooth sauce, at this point you can strain the liq­uid and re­move all or some of the ground peanuts, leav­ing just the milk. Hav­ing said that, I like to keep a good deal of the ground peanuts in to give the fi­nal dish more tex­ture.

6 Add the whole green chillies, re­main­ing ¼ tbsp of salt and the chicken, then leave to sim­mer for 40 min­utes.

7 Re­move from the heat and serve with white rice or steamed plan­tain.

From left: Du­val, Yemi and Ja­cob

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