The Sprouts: West African Stew (Djaba Dji)


When choosing where we would visit next, Skoogie & O requested, Africa... a place they hold dear in their hearts. But we've never eaten much African food so it has been a new adventure!

This week, we pulled out our copy of Africa Is Not A Country. The book celebrates the 53 nations: exploring the cultural, environmental, ethnic and social diversity of the countries through the eyes of African children. The end of the book features country-specific information: the capital city, population, Independence Day, currency, a pronunciation guide, national flags, and unique facts about the country. It provides a nice introduction to the continent and evokes further exploration to countries of interest.

Africa is known for its folktales providing timeless lessons; we enjoyed the following West African tales by Baba Wagu Diakite:

The Hatseller and the Monkeys
The Hunterman and the Crocodile
The Magic Gourd

We also read, I Lost My Tooth in Africa illustrated by Baba and written by his daughter, Pende. While visiting family in Mali, West Africa, Amina learns that children in Africa receive chickens instead of a quarter when they lose a tooth. O is anticipating losing his first tooth (it’s loose mom…really), so we’ve read this book many times. For another great “tooth” book, I suggest Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World. We read it every time we visit the dentist!

I Lost My Tooth in Africa also includes a recipe for Djaba Dji (African Onion Sauce). The stew is a burst of flavor with chicken or beef, onions, tomato paste, an assortment of vegetables and tiny noodles. Traditionally it is served on rice, but we opted for a few extra noodles instead. I seriously thought I was going to have to write about eating popcorn for dinner when the kids said they were interested in trying it. I kid you not, before Pete & I sat down, O had eaten half of his gone…both of us stared at each other! We used alphabet letter pasta, which piqued a lot of interest and kept the spoon dipping for more letters…mixed with all the vegetables and chicken! Here is our version of the stew.


2 T olive oil

2 chicken breast

2 onions, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 t curry

salt & pepper to taste

1 ½ T grated fresh ginger

1 ½ T tomato paste

1 c chicken broth

1 c water

1 ½ c cabbage, chopped

3 red potatoes, cubed

½ - ¾ small eggplant, cubed

¼ cup edamame or green beans, chopped

1-2 carrots, chopped

1/2 c very small noodles


Heat 2T olive oil over medium heat. Saute chicken (if using meat) until nicely browned on both sides. We used breasts with skin and bone to increase some flavor in the stock. After browned and mostly cooked through, remove and set aside. You can remove some of the chicken fat if you like, or add a little olive oil. Then, sauté onions until soft, add the garlic and curry, sauté for a minute. Add chicken back, along with ginger and tomato paste. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes with lid on. Add broth, water, and potatoes, boiling for 8-10 minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally. Feel free to add more broth and/or water to cover potatoes. Add remaining vegetables and noodles and simmer for 10-20 minutes until veggies are soft. Can be made a day ahead for additional flavor.

With the eggplant, we cubed it and then salted it well letting it sit in a colander for 10-15 minutes to remove excess liquid and concentrate flavor. Before adding the eggplant, we quickly rinsed off the salt. We didn’t use all of our eggplant in the stew and with the extra, we sautéed the cubes in a little olive oil over medium heat while the stew cooked. We let it brown nicely on each side. Then before serving, sprinkle some salt on the eggplant and serve with or on the stew as a garnish.

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