HOW TO MAKE NIGERIAN STEW BASE (BLENDED TOMATOES/PEPPERS)
In the past I hated making stew, jollof rice, or anything that required blended tomatoes/peppers because the prep was always so messy. Even just thinking back to childhood, it was always so bothersome to watch my mom boil the blended tomatoes and peppers before making stew. I used to wonder why 1. it had such an overpowering smell and 2. it took so long! But I learned it was an essential step because without it, the jollof rice or stew would be all wrong (i.e. watery, acidic, under-cooked).
That still didn’t stop me from hating the process so I was glad to discover canned tomato sauce when I moved for university – it became my jollof/stew lifeline. But as the food gods would have it, I developed an intolerance for canned tomatoes and there went my lifeline. So I was back to slaving away, blending and boiling tomatoes for hours. Then one day, I stumbled on an Instagram photo from 9ja Foodie (I wish I weren’t too lazy to find it) and it changed my life forever. God bless her. Instead of blending then boiling the peppers/tomatoes, she roasted them and then blended them.
Yeah it may not sound super genius yet, but just try it. Here are the pros of this method:
- Eliminates the mess completely
- Reduces cooking time
- Richer and thicker product
- More flavorful
- Goes a longer way in recipes
A few tips:
- If you want a redder stew base, use more red bell peppers/tatase peppers and fewer tomatoes. Tomatoes make the base more watery and produce a duller (orange color); peppers are thicker and produce a deeper red color.
- If you get heartburn easily, also use less tomatoes
- To make the stew more flavorful, roast peppers/tomatoes with fresh ginger, garlic, onions etc. (see recipe below)
- 1 large red onion
- 5 tomatoes,
- 10 red tatase/bell peppers
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 small piece of fresh ginger (1 inch long and thick)
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers
Preheat oven to 400F (~205C) and prepare a large baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
Wash and cut tomatoes, peppers and onion into large chunks and place all ingredients on baking pan.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are very soft, then remove from the oven and blend to a smooth paste.
Use for base of stews/sauces/jollof and store the rest in the fridge or freezer.