This is a famous West African soup. Centuries ago, peanuts were introduced into West Africa from South America via the Portuguese and supplanted the native bambara groundnuts. At the same time, in much of Ghana, the prevalence of the tsetse fly made cattle-rearing impossible, which led to a diet without milk and dairy products. Thus, to make rich, creamy soups or stews, thickeners like ground legumes, nuts or seeds, pureed vegetables or okra, or palm butter were used. Ground peanuts were a wonderful addition.
A delicious introduction to West African cooking, this soup is very accessible to the North American palate. Commonly made from a basic chicken stock, it is wonderfully flexible: one can use more or less peanut butter, or add a variety of vegetables from eggplant to mushrooms. Also, the recipe is easily adapted to a vegetarian version. Besides the peanut butter, however, the tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions are necessary ingredients. They are a holy trinity in much of Ghana’s cooking.
Use cooked okra or fresh chopped scallions as a garnish and instead of bread or rolls, serve the soup with mini-rice balls. Serve dried ground red pepper or red pepper flakes on the side so that people can add more spiciness if desired. Nkate Nkwan is traditionally served with Ghana-style Dumplings (Fufu), boiled African yam, or Rice Balls (Omo Tuo). Boiled potatoes or thick slices of whole-grain bread are easy Western accompaniments.
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