Let me tell you about “Palava Sauce”; a flavorful spinach stew eaten in Ghana with steamed rice, boiled plantains or fonio and why it is a great dish to add to your diet or menu if you are thinking plant-forward & sustainability and how it relates to “RePlant Your Menu”.
Growing up in Ghana, food was a vital part of my upbringing and learning now as a chef how the foods we eat are produced and their effects on our soil, environment and the planet is such an eye-opener. Therefore, participating in RePlant Your Menu, a certificate course organized and presented by Arizona State University’s Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Envision Group and Compass at Google was a great way for me to acquire more knowledge in the effects of the types of food we choose to eat and how they can be beneficial or detrimental to our planet and health.
Why spinach stew one might ask? Because spinach is a superfood that is very easy to come by in our grocery stores, high in minerals and vitamins A, C and K, iron, calcium, and potassium and it is a relatively sustainable crop to plant because it has a low water footprint and low greenhouse emissions in terms of growing and harvesting.
Having this new information my mind quickly went to Palava Sauce, a favorite in a lot of Ghanaian homes and the numerous memories I have making it with my mom and grand-mom growing up, sitting around a big bowl of spinach stew and boiled plantains with cousins and aunties sharing folktales and laughter.
The ease of putting this dish together will surprise you and the big bold flavors will excite your mouths. I decided to feature it as the recipe for this blog to highlight how plant forward, delicious, and versatile it is to make and enjoy with your family and friends.
- 20 oz spinach fresh (or taro leaves)
- 5 tomatoes roma
- 1 fresh yellow onions large
- 3 fresh carrot
- 3 fresh bell peppers assorted
- 4 cups fresh button mushrooms
- 1 habanero pepper or more for a spicier sauce
- 2 oz fresh ginger root
- 1/2 cup palm oil plus more if needed
- 1 Tbsp ground anise seeds
- 1 smoked mackerel whole
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cubes bouillon
- 2 cups Egusi (melon seeds), optional
- Rinse and flake mackerel and set aside to drain.
- Blend tomatoes, one onion, ginger, habanero and set aside.
- Meanwhile dice all remaining vegetables and set aside (onion, mushrooms, bell peppers). In a saucepan heat oil and add tomato mixture, season with anise seeds and bouillon, cover and let cook for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Add vegetables except spinach and mackerel and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Stir in spinach and mackerel and cook sauce for an additional 2-3minutes.
- Serve with Steamed Rice, Boiled Yam, Plantain, Potatoes, Couscous, Fonio, etc.
If adding egusi, stir it into the sauce and let it cook for about 5 minutes before adding in the vegetables.
Vegan friendly option: omit mackerel.
Egusi is a natural fat and protein enriched seed found in certain cucurbitaceous plants (squash, melon, gourd) which after being dried and ground is used as a major ingredient in West African cuisine. Can be found in African markets, international grocery stores or Amazon.
Palm oil can also be found in African markets or Amazon.