Senegalese – inspired Chicken Soup

This past week has been a whirlwind of different emotions. There were moments of extreme sadness and anger at the murder of George Floyd; but also moments of happiness and pride on seeing friends from different walks of life taking action and speaking out against the systemic racism against Black Americans. I couldn’t bear to continue “life as usual” and put a complete pause on my social media accounts. I took this time away to reflect and educate myself about the injustice and racism that still goes on in our country. My husband and I reached out to our friends, both Black and non-Black, and had some amazing eye-opening, meaningful dialogues. We discussed how as a society we have failed our Black brethren and how we can try to raise a kinder and more empathetic generation that can — must! — do better.  

Picture credit: @ohhappydani

As a food blogger, my core belief is that you can bring people closer over good food. Important discussions happen at the dining table, usually at dinner. Sharing a meal and enjoying a good conversation makes you experience a contentment that lasts. We talk, we laugh, and sometimes we even cry when we are gathered for our meals. It’s truly a time to treasure. With this belief, I started wondering why not learn about the history of African-American food. Cook some delicious traditional dishes and while we eat them as a family, discuss the legacy of African-American food in America. Once I started acting on this initiative, my husband and I reached out to our African-American friends to learn about their favorite dishes. And what a treasure box of rich and beautiful traditional recipes and history we uncovered! 
One of Khalid’s friends from college, Maurice, directed us to a wonderful documentary by Professor Skip Gates called “The African Americans – Many Rivers to Cross.” In the first episode I found out about the amazing work of Michael W Twitty, a culinary historian who focuses on the roots of African-American cooking. Reading his blog and articles I found out how little we know about the way American cuisine — especially Southern food — has been shaped by African-Americans. I highly recommend you all read Mr. Twitty’s blog and follow him on @thecookinggene
I’m sharing with you all an adapted version of Mr. Twitty’s “Senegalese-inspired Chicken Soup.”
A little background: According to Mr. Twitty, the region of Senegambia is the source of this recipe. Senegambians were brought to America to grow cotton, tobacco, rice and other grains. They were expert fishermen, blacksmiths, woodworkers and hunters. They also had a legendary reputation for cooking, and the Senegambian women were often appointed as cooks. 
This soup is extremely delicious, and the history behind it makes it all the more special. As we sat around our dinner table, I explained to my family what we were having for dinner and shared the background and story of our African-American brethren. We can’t change the past, but we can take action to create a better future. May we continue to listen, to learn, to advocate, and to keep fighting for justice and equality. May we be known for our love and dialogue at the global table. Food is after all an amazing community. 

Senegalese-inspired Chicken Soup

Recipe adapted from: Kwanzaaculinarians.com by Michael W. Twitty

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red onion diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder or garam masala powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 6 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 cups of crushed tomatoes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 lb of chicken diced (see notes below)
  • 1 cup of chopped green onions
  • Chopped peanuts, green onions and flat leaf parsley for garnishing

Method:

  • Cook onion in olive oil & vegetable oil until soft and translucent – around 6-8 minutes.
  • Add minced ginger and garlic and cook for another minute. Now add all the spices – curry powder, red chili powder, black pepper powder, ground cumin & coriander and fry for another minute. If using boneless chicken, fry the chicken with all these spices.
  • Scrape the bottom of the pan and add the chicken/vegetable stock. Add in thyme, crushed tomatoes and salt.
  • Let this simmer for atleast 30 minutes taking care that the soup does not boil. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan at intervals.
  • In a blender, combine the peanut butter and half of the liquid soup stock and purée. Add this peanut mixture back into the soup and mix well. If using boiled/rotisserie chicken, add it in now.
  • Add in the green onions and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Serve in bowls garnished with chopped peanuts, green onions and parsley.
  • Enjoy with bread on the side or boiled rice!
  • Notes: You can make homemade chicken stock by taking 3-4 chicken pieces (thigh or breast piece) and boiling it with 7 cups of water, 1 large onion, 1 small piece of carrot, 2 cloves , 2 whole black peppers and a dash of salt. Boil until you have 5-6 cups of stock left. Take the chicken pieces out, shred the meat and discard the bones. Strain the broth and use it for the soup. Alternatively you can use precooked chicken or boneless chicken and ready made broth. To make it vegetarian add any vegetables like peas, carrots, beans instead of chicken.
  • I hope that you will enjoy making and sharing this extremely delicious soup. It has become a family favorite!
  • Love,
  • Leena
  • Michael W Twitty is the head blogger at Afroculinaria.com and Thecookinggene.com.

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