The Proven Platter – January 2019, Niger and Togo

Happy New Year!

Starting this month, we’ll not only share recipes from the country of origin of our featured grantee, but also from our designated sustained grantee. The potential culinary mashups in 2019 at Dining for Women meetings are certainly very exciting!

January’s featured grantee, Venture Strategies, is located in Niger. Our sustained grantee, Integrate Health (formerly Hope through Health) is in Togo. While it is just a coincidence both organizations are based in West Africa, this happy accident inspires so many wonderful recipe ideas.

For me, there’s also something especially meaningful about considering the food traditions of this specific region of Africa. I live in Greenville, South Carolina. And although I did not grow up here, so therefore cannot claim to be a true Southerner, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the foodways of the South – a cuisine that is far more interesting and complex than any fast-food caricature of it might otherwise convey. Nearly 60 percent of enslaved Africans who were forced to enter North America did so through the Port of Charleston, just three hours away from my now-home. So many of those displaced human beings came from parts of West Africa. We owe nearly everything we think of as Southern food to them.

The recipes and ingredients we’re featuring this month are inspired by traditional foods in West Africa: mafé, a famous stew made from chicken, sweet potatoes, and groundnuts; mealie bread, a unique style of cornbread to recognize maize, a main staple of Togo; and a salad of millet (an important crop in Niger), collards, and black-eyed peas – for good luck in the New Year!

Food is the cornerstone of every culture. In that way, we are all connected. I hope you enjoy making and sharing some of these West African recipes.

Nothing makes me happier than getting to share ideas about food and food culture. So, feel free to drop me a line! I am especially passionate about helping people become better home cooks. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have questions about any recipe ingredient, method, etc. I can be reached at traci.dfw@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Traci Barr


Mafé – West African Groundnut and Chicken Stew

Yield: 8 servings

Cooking tips/notes: Groundnuts are peanuts – technically, a legume. In a dish like this stew, they take on a texture that’s similar to a bean. They also remind me of edamame. The overall flavor of the dish is definitely enhanced by marinating the chicken thighs overnight, or for at least several hours. My favorite brand of “natural” peanut butter to use in cooking is Smuckers; it really does seem to have the most intense peanut flavor. I highly recommend buying spices like cumin and coriander in bulk, storing them in the freezer, and then toasting and grinding them as needed.



3 pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs

3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger, divided in half

6 cloves garlic, minced, divided in half

1 tablespoon ground cumin, divided in half

1 tablespoon ground coriander, divided in half

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided in half

4 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil, divided in half

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 15.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 quart chicken stock

1 cup smooth, natural-style peanut butter

1 cup dry-roasted peanuts

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

½ cup roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish, if desired

Kosher salt, for seasoning


Cut chicken thighs into 2-inch chunks and put in a large bowl. Rub all over with half of: minced ginger, minced garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, and cayenne pepper. Season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cover bowl. Let marinate in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, heat half of canola or grapeseed oil over medium high heat in large, heavy pot. Brown chicken, a single layer at a time, in batches. Set each batch aside after browning.

Heat remaining half of canola or grapeseed oil in the same pot. Add onions and sauté until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Then add remaining minced ginger, minced garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, and cayenne pepper. Season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Sauté for another few minutes, until very fragrant.

Add canned crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, peanut butter, and peanuts to the pot. Stir all to combine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

Add chicken back to pot. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add sweet potato chunks. Continue to simmer gently until sweet potato chunks are tender, approximately 20 minutes.

Season with additional kosher salt, if desired.

Garnish with chopped cilantro right before serving.


Recipe and photo: Traci Barr