Making the African groundnut stew Mafé
Making the African groundnut stew Mafé (or Mafe, Maffé, Maffe, or Maafe) is similar to making countless variations of African groundnut or peanut stews. Mafé, however, has its own uniqueness and personality which has been undoubtedly imparted to it by the Wolof people of Gambia and Senegal where Mafé is said to originate. As with most foods, the origins are a little vague and would probably be debated and argued over till thy kingdom come. There is, it has to be said though a pretty strong school of thought that believes that the Madinka and Bambara people of Mali introduced Mafé to the world. Regardless of its origins I believe my taste buds are better for it and will forever be grateful!
Unlike it’s close relative, Ghana’s groundnut soup which is usually eaten with fufu, Mafé is a far thicker version and is eaten with rice. It also has vegetables such as carrots and yam or potatoes as distinguishing ingredients. What all the variations of groundnut soup have in common is the intense creamy and rich flavour that come from the groundnut paste or peanut butter as North Americans would call it. Authentic African groundnut stews in general come packed with spices and chilli and Mafé is no exception.
The recipe below has beef as meat but chicken, lamb or mutton could have easily been used. Some prefer their Mafé strictly vegetarian.
Mafé and indeed groundnut stews in general are a cheerful and substantial main. It’s one of those meals that are so versatile that you could easily turn it into either soup or stew by varying its consistency with good old water! I recall my mum a couple of decades ago, having made groundnut stew the day before, turning it into soup the next day by adding more water. Just as often, she would also “shi mli”, which is Ga (spoken in Ghana) for cooking a day old groundnut soup until most of the water had evaporated and it had turned into stew. The line between groundnut stew and soup is fine indeed.