So tasty with a complex flavour, African peanut stew delights us at any time and warms us up in long winter months of the North East. There are tangy, spicy, and nutty flavours knitted together in a wonderful creamy tomato sauce.
I first tasted the delight of African peanut stew when my Ghanaian father-in-law, living in the Netherlands cooked dinner in North East England. I wasn’t sure about some of the ingredients he asked for, but, Rachel, his daughter, my partner, said there was no problem. She got the ingredients from Westgate Road in Newcastle.
Africa and the North East met well before my first taste of peanut stew. The book From Africa to the North East gives thousands of years of history. This book, authored by African lives in Northen England was my source here.
Africans lived in the North East in the 2nd century AD
It was the Roman empire that brought African people to the North East. On Hadrian’s Wall there is evidence of military units whose soldiers included those from North West Africa. One such unit was based at the fort of Burgh by Sands in Cumbria; the Unit of Aurelian Moors is the area we now know as Algeria/Morocco.
In Arbeia in North Shields there is Victor’s beautiful tombstone. Victor was a Moor from Mauretania, servant to cavalryman, Nemerianus, who was devoted to Victor and built the tombstone.
Archaeological excavations show examples of North African type casseroles at the wall. Peanut stew would not have been on the menu as the ingredients were only available from the mid-16th century.
Peanut stew: the recipe
- Red peppers
- Tinned or skinned tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Smooth peanut butter
- Boiled eggs
- Paprika powder
- Heat oil in large heavy pan, and fry onions gently
- Add in peanut butter, paprika powder and tomato paste and stir for 5-10 minutes until deep coloured. Take care not to burn
- Add chillies, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms.
- Add water, and keep stirring
- Bring to boil
- Add chicken
- Simmer for an hour or longer
- Stir once in a while, you may need more water
- Add hard boiled eggs
Tastes even better the next day.
Some people like the soup a bit thicker, others runnier, just play about.
Freezes well. Dried shrimp adds a twist to taste. You may find in an African specialty shop a condiment called Shito: shrimp and pepper paste. Lovely accompaniment.
Africans in North East England 19th century and later.
Mary Ann Macham (1802-1893) was sold to slavery at 12 years. She escaped. She left Virginia, and arrived in North Shields on Christmas Day in 1831. She was welcomed by the Miss Spences, a Quaker family, and worked in their household until her marriage. She lived in Nelson Street, North Shields, and then in Benwell, Newcastle. She died, aged 91, and was buried in Tynemouth.
Folasade ‘Sade’ Sangowawa was born in London in 1960 to Nigerian parents who were studying. She lived in the UK, Nigeria, and the USA, where she completed a BSc in Business Management in Boston. She moved to Middlesbrough. She found it difficult to get a job, even though by then she had an MBA. Being very frustrated with the lack of awareness of different cultures in Middlesbrough, she founded Taste of Africa in Middlesbrough.
David Olusoga, a well known documentary film writer, author, and broadcaster was born in Nigeria, and grew up in Gateshead.
Irene Ighodaro Thomas was born in 1917 and went to the best secondary school for girls in Lagos. She wanted to study sciences, a subject not taught to girls at that time. In 1934 she became the first girl in Lagos to attend an all-boys school. In 1947 she went to Newcastle medical school.
Thomas was one of the early female doctors in Nigeria and became president of the Nigerian Association of University Women. She co-founded the Motherless Babies Home. She also campaigned against female circumcision locally and internationally. In 2001, she set up the Dr Irene Thomas Endowment Fund for the prevention of harmful practices against women and girls. In recognition of her service to the country, she was awarded the Order of the Niger (OON). She died on Christmas Day 2005, aged 88.
Newcastle Labour MP, Chinyelu ‘Chi’ Onwurah was born in Wallsend in 1965 to a Nigerian father and Irish mother. Chi is a proud Geordie, promotes the North East’s industrial heritage and advocates for social change.
She graduated from Imperial College London with degrees in electrical engineering and business management. She worked in Europe, the United States and Africa. She is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the institute of Engineering and Technology. She also writes for North East Bylines.
The day after Boxing Day
There are still 12 of us in the house, by the sea, in the Netherlands. We are African, Dutch, Norwegian, English-born. The languages around the table are Dutch, Norwegian, English. What do we eat? Peanut stew. No gluten for the one with celiac disease, egg with no chicken for the vegetarians, and with chicken for the rest. Sometimes a nephew is vegan, fine, we can do that as well. Happy family, then back to zoom for our family get-togethers.