Chef Nina Sodji shares the recipe and her journey from Togo to Omaha, Nebraska.
Calabash nutmeg has a similar taste to that of nutmeg but less aromatic and spicier, used in soups, sauces, goat stews and desserts. Native to 19 countries in tropical Africa, the seed made its way to the Caribbean in the 18th century, during the slave trade, hence giving it a new name. In fact, Jamaican nutmeg, ehuru, efuru, ehiri, ariwo – all refer to the calabash nutmeg.
Nina Sodji comes from Togo, a narrow country in West Africa with a heavy colonial past. Germany, France, and Great Britain all influenced the Togolese life, including its cuisine, to the point that Sodji was fully convinced that sauerkraut was a Togolese relish, until she came to the United States in 1994.
Today, Chef Nina Sodji is the owner of the Okra African Grill restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska. Sodji is determined to help change the image of Africa as an impoverished continent by introducing and promoting African food.
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RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER SAUCE & GRILLED PEANUT BUTTER CHICKEN | TOGO
SPICE: CLABASH NUTMEG
Serving size: 8-10 people
To make Peanut Butter Sauce you will need:
- 3 cups African Marinara sauce (see below)
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 Calabash Nutmeg seed
- 1 quart (4 cups) water or more if needed
In a heavy pan or sauce pot, sauté the peanut butter lightly for about 2 minutes or until lightly roasted. Add water and mix well. Add African marinara, calabash nutmeg and bring to a simmer. The sauce will be ready in a few minutes. Serve the sauce on top of rice, chicken, vegetables, and fried plantains.
To make African Marinara you will need:
- 1 cup tomato paste
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic finely blended
- 2 tablespoon African Seasoning blend (see below)
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoon chicken base
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- ½ bell pepper slice (finishing optional)
- 1 habanero pepper (finishing optional)
- 1 quart water
In a large nonstick pot add all the ingredients together and stir well to blend the tomato paste. Turn the heat to medium and cook for at least one hour. Stir and taste occasionally. Adjust the seasonings if needed. Add bell and habanero pepper if preferred. Cool then cover and refrigerate. Warm over medium heat before using or add to other dishes to make quick and easy meals. The sauce can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated for future usage. You can add more spices such as cayenne pepper, thyme, rosemary, oregano or other herbs if preferred.
To make African Seasoning you will need:
- 1 whole yellow onion cut in quarters
- 2 tablespoons garlic finely chopped or 3 cloves
- ½ tablespoon whole clove
- 1 tablespoon whole black pepper
- ½ cup anise seeds
- 10 bay leaves (optional)
- ½ cup water
Blend everything well in a powerful mixer until achieving a creamy consistency. Add a little more water if needed. Refrigerate after and use as needed.
To prepare Grilled Peanut Butter Chicken you will need:
- 10 pieces chicken legs or 5 boneless breasts
- 2 tablespoons African Seasoning
- 2 tablespoons chicken base
- 2 tablespoons ground garlic
- 1 quart water
- peanut butter sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
In a large nonstick pot or Dutch oven add the meat, African seasoning blend, chicken base, ground garlic and water. Cook the meat on medium high until tender (30 minutes). Strain the chicken out of the stock and set aside. Oil a hot grid to help prevent sticking. Grill the chicken over medium-hot fire. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the doneness, carefully turning once onto the other side. When ready, brush the chicken with peanut sauce and let it heat up for 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, adding salt and lemon juice as well. Serve with a side of rice, vegetables or by itself. The stew can be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated for future usage.
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