Palaver (or palava/plasas) is a type of stew widely popular in West African cuisine including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The word palaver itself comes from the Portuguese language, meaning a lengthy talk, debate, or quarrel. However, it is still unclear how exactly it ended up becoming a name for a stew. According to some books listed in the Wikipedia’s article on palaver, there is a theory 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. It has various adaptations depending on the region and can be made vegetarian (as in our case), or using beef, fish, shrimp, pepitas, cassava, taro (cocoyam) leaves, and palm oil. It is most likely served with a side of rice, potatoes, garri, fufu, or yams. Outside Africa, spinach is more widely used as a substitute for leafy greens, that are sometimes hard to find in grocery stores worldwide.
Long story short, this vegetarian dish will rock your socks off and will provide you with a combo of vital vitamins and fibers.
Note: The genuine taste of palaver comes from a special ingredient called “Egusi“, which is basically a ground powder of cucurbitaceous (squash, melon, gourd) seeds. It is more common nowadays and can be found in local ethnic grocery stores.
Palaver (Leafy greens stew)
Recipe type: Main
Cooking time: About an hour
Cuisine: West African
Olive or palm oil
500g Fresh spinach (or mixed/replaced with cocoyam(kontomire) leaves, if available)
1,5 Cups of Rice (uncooked)
3 Large tomatoes
4 Cloves of garlic
1 Large or 2 small onions
10 tbsp Ground egusi
2 tbsp Finely chopped ginger
1pcs. Fresh chili pepper (or to taste)
2 tbsp Soy sauce
1 pcs Fresh red chilli pepper
1 ½ tsp Garam masala powder
1 ½ tsp Curry powder
1 pcs Avocado for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Step 1: Start with preparing the rice for the side. Heat up a saucepan or a wok on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a saucepan or wok, then add the chopped slices of 1 small onion and 1 clove of garlic garlic and let it sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add 1.5 cups of rice and sauté for 5 more minutes until the oil covers the rice and the mixture turns golden. Add 3 cups of water to a rice cooker (or to a normal pot and then bring water to boil), add the rice mixture and let it boil for about 15 minutes or until the water is completely absorbed by the rice.
Step 2: Mix 10 table spoons of egusi powder with about 5 tablespoons of water and let it get fully absorbed so that the mixture looks like a paste.
Step 3: Prepare the tomatoes. Deseed and quarter 3 large tomatoes. Set the watery-seedy parts aside in a hand blender safe plastic container. Blend the tomato cores until smooth or of uniform consistency. Set aside.
Step 4: Heat up a wok or a saucepan at medium-high heat and sprinkle it with olive oil. Add 1 thinly cut small onion, 3 finely chopped garlic cloves and small thumb of ginger (about 2 tbsp ground). Sauté for 3 minutes and then add a finely chopped deseeded chili pepper and mix it for 2 or so minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and keep mixing occasionally for 5 minutes.
Step 5: Add the blended tomato cores from before to the mix. Add the soy sauce, garam masala, and the curry powders, salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
Step 6: Add the chopped roughly chopped leafy greens (spinach) to the mix and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the the soaked egusi mixture from before and let the stew simmer for 15 minutes on low heat so that the juices are reduced.
Step 7: Chop up an avocado or some fresh herbs to garnish the dish. Transfer the rice and palaver sauce to a plate and enjoy some of that goodness!
Optional step: Chop up one banana into a bowl and cover it with a glass of ice cold milk. Garnish it with a mint twig or add some sugar/syrup to taste. It goes so good together with the palaver stew!