Thiou Guinarr African Chicken Ragout
The Mother Sauce of SeneGambia cuisine and bedrock of many important dishes such as the world renowned Thieboudienne. This rustic, hearty and slow-cooked perfectly spiced tomato-based stew has many variants – from chicken (guinarr), fish (djeun), to lamb (yapp) – and even vegetarian (legumes), making it a local favorite all year round. It might remind you of an elevated and intensely flavored ragout.
- 1 jar Mombasa Tamarind Simmer Sauce
- 4 lbs. bone-in skinless chicken drumsticks or thighs
- 1 lb. yellow onions diced into ½ inch chunks
- 1 large red bell pepper, halved, each half seeded and cut into ½ inch chunks
- 1-2 habanero peppers, choose how spicy you would like it
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1 cup canola oil
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- 3 – 4 whole bay leaves
- 6 large or 8 medium whole star anise
- 2 large yucca root portioned into 6 -8 pieces
- 1 large eggplant cut into 4 pieces
- 2-3 carrots cut into chunks
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups water + ¼ cup
- 1-2 tsp. ground locust bean powder (optional)
- 1 bag 6 oz. baby spinach (optional)
- ½ tsp salt (or more as needed)
Step One – Marinate the Chicken
Ingredients for marinade
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 1-2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 2-3-inch fresh ginger
- 6-8 sprigs of parsley (stem, roots, and leaves)
- 2 Tbsp fish oil
- 2 Tbsp oil
- ½ tsp salt
- Juice of ½ of a lime or lemon
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor, except salt and process to a paste.
- Place chicken in a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt then pour the marinade over the it. Toss together until the marinade coats all the pieces.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Step Two – Cook the Sauce
- In the same food processor bowl, add half of the bell pepper chunks, habanero pepper and ¼ cup of the water. Process to a smooth paste. Set aside or refrigerate for much later.
- In a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil to medium high.
- Remove chicken from marinade, reserving the marinade. Working in batches if necessary, add chicken in a single layer and cook on all sides until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Set aside.
- Add diced onion; cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes, stirring up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, to prevent burning.
- Add tomato paste and continue cooking – stirring frequently – until tomato paste gets fragrant, begins to darken, and separates from the oil – about 6-8 minutes.
- Empty jar of Mombasa sauce into pan – pour 1 cup of the water into the jar and shake well (with lid tightly screwed on) to release any sauce clinging to the jar. Add to pan.
- Pour half of the remaining water into the reserved marinade bowl, swirl to loosen any bits clinging to the bowl. Add to the pan along with the red bell pepper puree. Pour the remaining water into the food processor bowl and swirl around to loosen any sauce clinging to; add to pan.
- Add fish sauce, smoked paprika, cumin and locust bean powder (is using). Drop in the bay leaves and star anise; stir. Return the chicken along with any accumulated juices to the pan so that it is the bottom layer inside the pan. Then add the yucca root so that it is the second layer inside the pan, then the eggplant, followed by the carrots. Bring to a boil and immediately turn to a simmer. Simmered covered with the lid tightly on.
- After 15 minutes of simmering, check the carrots –if they are cooked to your desired tenderness, remove them to a large plate and cover with foil. After an additional 15 minutes, check the eggplant – and if they are soft and tender on both sides, remove them to the plate of carrots. Give them more simmering time if needed.
- Check to see if the yucca root is cooked by piercing it with a fine skewer (some cook faster than others). The yucca root should be melt-in-your-mouth fork-tender when pierced with a fork. If it is done, remove to the same plate.
- Simmer with with lid partially covered for 40 – 50 mins – turning halfway. The cooking is complete when the oil separates from the sauce and floats to the top. At this point, stir in the cider vinegar, salt and spinach (if using). Taste test and if no additional seasoning is needed, return the vegetables along with any juices accumulated back to the pan; stir gently so that the sauce coats each piece.
- Serve over cooked jasmine rice accompanied with lime wedges and our kaani hot sauce tableside.
- The whole spices called for (star anise and bay leaf) play a critical role in the final outcome of this recipe. They are not interchangeable with ground spices, which are not recommended.
- Marinating the chicken is highly recommended, but If you are in a rush, you may reduce the length of the marinating time to 30 – 60 minutes, the chicken will still be flavorful. However, if you planned, allow the chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight or longer.
- Select star anise that is whole and intact, so that you can fish them out at the end of cooking if desired.
- Replace yucca with Dutch yellow potatoes or Japanese sweet potatoes if desired.
- This dish complements every vegetable. The vegetables selected for this recipe are very traditional, but feel free replace with your favorites, cooking them according to your desired tenderness. Other traditional options are cabbage, brussel sprouts, and squash.
- Locust bean powder known as “Netetou” in SeneGambia and “Dawadawa or Iru” in Nigeria is made from fermented bean seeds distantly related to the legume family, and is a very common ingredient used in West African cuisine – if you instantly associated it with insects, you can now relax. Once fermented, the flavors concentrate and take on a funky, pungent smell and umami-like flavor profile, that become smooth and mellow after cooking. Before bouillon cubes such as maggi and jumbo (introduced to Africa by the Swiss Nestlé Company) flooded the African culinary landscape and became ubiquitous, our ancestors relied on this native flavor enhancer derived from mother nature to season traditional dishes – to imbue complexity, depth and that fifth flavor. Purchase from reputable sources online. Please note: in our recipes we only recommend using the ground version – never the whole fresh or dried seeds. If you do not have locust bean powder on hand, you could replace with 1-2 maggi or jumbo cubes if desired.
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