Growing up, my mother’s love for cooking and exploring many different meals from different cultures all over the globe heavily influenced the way I approach cooking and eating now. Whether it was the flavoursome Filipino Adobo or creamy Italian risotto, or even the juicy Lebanese wraps — she always had something new to bring to the table (literally!). One of her own favourites would be the Cassava Leaf Stew, originally a West-African meal (primarily in Sierra Leone and Liberia), which can be cooked with chicken, fish or certain vegetables.
The cassava plant is a well-known food source around the world outside of Africa too, including certain parts of Asia and the Caribbean. While many cook the cassava roots (click here to see the quick fried cassava recipe!), cassava leaf stew has become increasingly popular over the years. An interesting fact about the cassava plant is that both the leaves and roots are high in hydrocyanic acid which is toxic, but when cooked the acid disappears — allowing it to be edible. My mother learnt this recipe from a Congolese, and her version doesn’t include butter beans or okra. However she opts to use chicken and a tad bit of chilli! When buying cassava leaves locally, it is best to go for the younger leaves as older leaves’ veins go hard with age.
The secret ingredient in this recipe is the palm oil. Palm oil, a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived from palm fruit, is native to West Africa. It is a rich red colour and is actually easily available online and internationally! When my mother went back to visit Lebanon, she took some cassava leaves and palm oil to share with our family but was surprised to find that even in the South (where I am from) you can find imported palm oil. Be sure to check out the health benefits of cassava leafs and palm oil below! <3
** Vegetarian and Vegan options available
This recipe serves 5-8.
Total prep time: ~ 10 min. || Total cooking time: ~ 2 hours
- 250g cassava leaves, pounded
- 1/2 skinless chicken cut into 8-10 pieces, or boned and shredded*
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 cups of palm oil
- 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 1 chicken Maggi cube*
- 1 liter water
- Salt to taste
- Optional: fresh okra, butter beans, chopped bonnet chilli
- Rice for serving
*Exclude the chicken and chicken Maggi cube if opting for the vegetarian option.
- Boil the chicken till cooked, but not fully tender. Set aside.
- In a large cooking pot on medium-high, heat the palm oil
- Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and sauté until soft. If adding chilli, add once the onion is soft and stir for 1 minute.
- Add the cassava leaves to the onion mixture and combine well; add the water and bring to a boil
- Once it starts to boil, stir in the chicken Maggi cube (optional) and cover to simmer for 1 hour.
- Add the peanut butter and constantly stir on low heat to allow the peanut butter to dissolve well into the mixture.
- Once the peanut butter has dissolved, leave on medium heat to simmer for 45 minutes; make sure you stir occasionally to prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom. It is important to keep the heat on medium and keep the cover on, as it bubbles and splashes oil.
- After ~ 45 minutes you will notice the oil has risen and floating on the top. Optional: Add the chicken pieces, chopped okra and/or butter beans
- Decrease the heat to low and allow it to simmer for an additional 15 minutes without the lid, making sure to stir occasionally.
- Once the surface is covered with oil — the stew is ready!
- Serve with side of your choosing, I like mine with rice!
Quick Health Benefits of …
- High in protein! Believe it or not, 100g of cooked cassava leaves contains ~ 3.7g of protein which, for green leafy veggie, is pretty good! What’s really important though is that they contain rarer proteins such as lysine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, and lots of arginine.
- High in carbs – about the equivalent to soy beans
- Low in calories – 100g of cooked cassava leaves contain about 37 calories
- High in fiber – the high amount of fiber found in cassava leaves contribute to enhancing the digestive system, as well as promoting the growth of probiotic bacteria and thus boosting immunity.
- Cassava leaves contain:
- Vitamin C: antioxidant
- B Vitamins
- Beta-Carotene: prevents and helps repair DNA damage
- Potassium: water regulation and cardiovascular health
- Phosphorus and Calcium: bone growth and strengthening
- Iron and Copper
- Magnesium and Manganese: healthy enzyme production
- Trans-fat free
- Excellent source of energy
- Contains beta-carotene
- Helps in preventing blood clots in blood vessels (anti-thrombotic)
- High in both HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol — gives a balance
- Vitamin K
- Omega 3 fatty acids (useful elements that enhance many bodily functions)
- Vitamin E