Sierre Leone is located in West Africa and is bordered by Guinea, Liberia and the Atlantic Ocean. The name comes from the words ‘Serra Leão’ meaning ‘Lion Mountain Range’ in Portuguese. About sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with its own language and customs. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende people. Sierra Leone is considered one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. Muslims and Christians interact with each other peacefully and religious violence is very rare.
Sierra Leone’s economy relies on mining, especially diamonds. It is among the top ten diamond producing nations and is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds. Sierra Leone is known for its blood diamonds that were mined and sold to diamond conglomerates during the civil war, to buy the weapons that fuelled its atrocities. Between 1991 and 2001, about 50,000 people were killed in the civil war and hundreds of thousands became refugees in Guinea and Liberia.
The capital, Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula next to the Sierra Leone Harbour, the world’s third largest natural harbour. It has a population of just over 1 million people. The Freetown peninsula is ringed by long stretches of white sand. Lumley Beach, on the western side of the peninsula, is a popular location for local parties and festivals.
Popular staples of Sierra Leone’s cuisine include rice, cassava, peanuts and stews. Commonly eaten meats include goats, chickens and beef. Recipes include Foo-foo (ground plantain or cassava), Fried cassava bread with gravy, Stewed beans, Pumpkin “punky” stew, Pepper soup, Fry stew (onions, hot peppers, tomato paste with meat or fish), Fry fry (street food served on bread) and groundnut cakes (like peanut brittle). I opted to cook the national dish – Groundnut stew (chicken and peanut stew) which we had with rice. It was strong with peanut flavour and served as a comforting dinner.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 – 40 minutes
1 cup peanut butter
85g tomato puree
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 green chilli peppers, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
cayenne pepper to taste
Melt peanut butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in tomato paste, and blend with peanut butter until smooth
Mix in chopped tomatoes, chilli pepper and chicken stock and leave to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
Meanwhile heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and fry the chicken and onions for 5 – 10 minutes until chicken is cooked
Add the chicken, onions, and mushrooms into the peanut butter mixture, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes
Season with cayenne pepper and serve with rice