Recently I went on a safari in KwaZulu-Natal, on the east side of South Africa. I’ll never forget the beauty of the bush land at sunrise, the freshness of air perfumed with jasmine and dozens of other wildflowers, baby hippos cuddling with each other or somersaulting off their mama’s back (really). But no less impressive was how well I ate at Zulu Nyala Private Reserve. I have to raise my hat to the chefs for preparing a custom vegan dish for me at every lunch and dinner throughout the week. And not only was I impressed with their hospitality, I was blown away by the lovely, exotic yet immediately palatable flavors of South African cuisine. (Just after writing this, I ran to the kitchen to sneak several spoons of the stew left in the pot…Mmm!) Granted, I wasn’t dining on super specific South African national dishes–its most representative food is definitely braai, or BBQ (not really vegan, sadly). But South Africa is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the world, and has absorbed influences from the Netherlands, Britain, Malaysia, India, as well as indigenous African.
This stew is inspired by the very favorite meal I had in South Africa. The chef said she was inspired by the Malaysian and Indian spices popular in her hometown of Durban. I substituted the potatoes for butternut squash, but I think I got the flavors pretty darn close. The beautiful color, the hearty texture, and the exotic aroma will win you over. One last thing–as with almost all stews and soups, this dish tastes better once it has had time to settle down. I suggest you wait 15 minutes or longer after turning off the heat, for the flavors to properly mingle–or just make extra for leftovers!
South African Squash & Chickpea Stew
- 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1/2
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 2-3 pieces star anise (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
- 1 small or medium tomato, cubed
- 3/4 cup chickpeas (I used glass jarred)
1. Heat oil in a large pot with lid over medium heat.
2. Add butternut squash and cook, occasionally stirring, for about 3 minutes.
3. Add paprika, cinnamon, turmeric, curry powder, and star anise (if using) and coat over the squash. If the spices look too dry, add a tiny bit more oil.
4. Add garlic and toss around for 30 seconds. Add water and cover lid. Increase to high heat and bring to boil.
5. Add tomato, zucchini, and chickpeas. Add salt.
6. Once boiling hard, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
7. Turn off the heat and adjust salt to taste.
8. I suggest you wait until the stew cools down a little bit before serving. Rice or quinoa would go well with this–or just eat it on its own!
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Photo: Peaceful Dumpling