Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Globecooking recipe : Chicken Palava aka Plasas (West Africa) #readcookeat

I first came across a mention of Chicken Palaver when reading Fractured by Clár Ní Chonghaile (click through to read my review).

p115 We had eaten thick palava sauce and fufu at a little roadside café not far from the beach where waves ended their long journey from another world by crashing exhausted on this new shore.

I debated using it as a #readcookeat recipe but, to be honest, when I looked it up on wikipedia, it didn't appeal to me, so I opted for Curried Minced Beef & Pea Samosas instead.

I did love the totally crazy description of the sauce, though : "Palaver sauce or Palava sauce or Plasas is a type of stew widely eaten in West Africa, including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The word palaver comes from the Portuguese language and means a talk, lengthy debate or quarrel. It is unclear how this led to the name of the stew. One theory is that when the stew was first made, with long, ropey greens, people would start quarrels by slapping each other with the greens from their stew. Another is that the spices used in the stew mingle together like raised voices in an argument. It has been thought of as having the power to calm tensions, or to cause them. Other names for the dish include Kontonmire, Kentumere, Nkontommire and pla'sas."

Palava sauce apparently has many regional variations and can contain beef, fish, shrimp, pepitas, cassava, taro (cocoyam) leaves and palm oil. Outside of Africa, spinach is often used as a substitute for other greens and in Liberia, the leaves are called Molokhia or Mulukhiyah

I didn't think any more about this dish until I saw a blogpost on The Daring Gourmet blog for West African Plasas (Chicken Cooked in Peanut, Spinach & Tomato Sauce), as cooked by a friend from Sierra Leone. This dish actually looked very appetising, so I decided to use it as the starting point of a #KitchenClearout recipe, using up various odds and ends that I had in the kitchen cupboards. It is a very loose interpretation of the original recipe though because, once I'd read it through, Juliette pinched my computer for doing her homework so I had to improvise - that suited me though ! 

Chicken Palava aka Plasas

ingredients :

2tbsp coconut oil
2 onions
3 chicken breasts
1/2tsp shrimp paste
2 cans chopped tomatoes
3tbsp tomato puree
1 cup frozen spinach
3tbsp molokheya powder (optional)
3tbsp peanut butter
1 cup gado gado sauce mix (ground peanuts)
salt, pepper
a shake of chilli flakes (optional)

Melt the coconut oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions. Hmmm the whole kitchen already smells of coconuts !

Chop the chicken and add it to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is totally white and cooked through.

I had a rummage through my cupboards and found several exotic ingredients that I could incorporate but you could easily use more common alternatives : some gado gado mix for peanut sauce (just add chopped peanuts or extra peanut butter, preferably of the crunchy variety, if you prefer), some powdered molokheya (which you could just leave out or add extra spinach) and a tiny amount of shrimp paste (which you could leave out or replace with a small splash of fish sauce).

Add the shrimp paste, tomatoes and tomato puree.

One of the main flavours of this dish is peanut so I finished off a jar of peanut butter and added lots of coarsely ground peanuts which made the sauce nice and thick and gave it a lovely texture.

Give it all a good stir.

Time for the greens - I had some leftover spinach from last night's merluzzo con spinaci (cod with spinach) so I decided to use that up. I also decided to use up some of my powdered molokheya.

I'm still not at all convinced by this powdered form because it has no texture and very little flavour - I'd much rather use fresh or frozen greens, but it was sitting on the shelf (I'd received it in an Egyptian-themed Kitchen Trotter box) so it was a good way to use some up.

Stir in the spinach and molokheya then season with salt, pepper and, if you want a bit of a kick, some chilli powder or flakes.

Leave to gently simmer for 10-20 minutes for the flavours to mingle (but don't let it dry out too much or it might stick to the bottom of the pan and burn). Serve with rice, couscous or, as we did, rissoled potatoes because I had some baked potatoes in the fridge that needed using up.

Fancy cooking the books? Head over to Galina's #readcookeat challenge over at Chez Maximka.

This was a great recipe for clearing out lots of odds and ends so I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky. I finished off a jar of peanut butter, a pack of gado gado peanut sauce mix, some leftover cooked spinach and some of my tub of molokheya powder.


  1. Delicious creative recipe, using all sorts of bits and bobs! I think I have the gado gado pouch lurking somewhere in the shelves, I forgot about it completely. No molokheya here though.


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