Ndolé (Bitterleaf/Kale Peanut Stew with Shrimp & Plantain)

It’s that time of the semester when jadedness and panic simultaneously begin to set in. While this is usually not the most lucrative grounds for productivity, I’ve managed to economise my studio time by weaving two projects into one and making it into a recipe post. What could Cameroonian ndolé stew possibly have to do with Sustainable Packaging Design and Screen Printing for Typography? Oh plenty, my friends, plenty.

Ndole

The finished projects will most likely show up on my Behance portfolio at some point down the road, but for now I’ll leave you with some pen doodles, pretty pictures, and a plate of African food. I know last week’s German Apfelküchle was more like an afterthought connection to indulgently cute Pinterest-esque apple ring pancakes, but there’s none of that today.

Ndole

Ndolé hails from Cameroon, first originating in coastal Douala but having since become a national dish of sorts. Cameroon is a sometimes referred to as “Africa in miniature” because it draws diverse influence from a central location within the country. There are residual French influences, but culinary traditions stay strong if only for the fact that white breads and pastas are an expensive luxury for a population that’s 70% subsistence farmers.

Ndole

The dish is named after what Cameroonians know as bitterleaf (Vernonia amygdalina), which is understandably not something readily accessible in markets of the Western world. It can be cultivated all over the world with relative ease, but if you don’t have access to bitterleaf in your backyard, never fear—it can easily be subbed out with any of the lovely winter greens that are abundant at this time of year. The dark and moody dino kale called out to me, but I bet collard greens or spinach would be equally excellent. If you’re using local greens as substitution, you can also skip out on the bicarbonate soda soaking and scrubbing action it takes to reduce bitterness out before cooking.

Ndole

The shrimp is a pretty touch of umami and complementary colour scheme. It’s a major source of protein in Cameroon, where bushmeat is more expensive and often blurs the line between local sourcing and illegal trade. The copious amount of crushed peanuts makes this dish hearty and rich, which means it’s usually served with some variety of plain starch—you can commit fully to the African theme by making fufu or bobolo, but a garnish of some pan-fried plantains was all I needed.

Ndole

Ndolé (Bitterleaf/Kale Peanut Stew with Shrimp & Plantain)

  • 8oz (1 cup) raw peanuts
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T ginger, freshly grated
  • 4 cups bitterleaf/kale/spinach/collards
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup crayfish (dried, ground)
  • vegetable / beef stock
  • ½ lb shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • cayenne, to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 plantain

Soak the bitterleaf overnight in water and baking soda, then rub the leaves together thoroughly until most of the bitterness is gone. If using alternative winter greens, simply chop and blanch for 5 minutes. Shell and skin the peanuts, parboiling for 5 minutes.
Pound peanuts, ginger, 1/2 onion, and garlic into a paste with mortar and pestle or blitz them in a blender/processor.
Heat up peanut oil in a pot, adding the other ½ onion along with the peanut paste and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to avoid burning. Season and add crushed dried crayfish. Add your parboiled greens and cook for 10-15 minutes until you reach a consistency of thick paste.
Meanwhile, pan-fry shrimp with garlic until pink with a seasoning of salt, pepper, and cayenne. Peel and slice plantain, pan-frying in a few tablespoons of peanut oil until browned and cooked through.
Serve ndole with fufu or rice and garnish with shrimp and plantain medallions.

Ndole

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This entry was posted in Cameroon, Fish & Game, Main, Soup, West Africa and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Ndolé (Bitterleaf/Kale Peanut Stew with Shrimp & Plantain)

  1. Alla says:

    Lovely, thank you for taking us to Africa today!

  2. Joanne says:

    I know nothing about the Cameroonian culture but I definitely feel like I’ve learned something today and have come away all the hungrier for it! Such a lovely stew!

  3. Such a beautiful dish! I’m so happy I stumbled across your blog – I will most definitely be back!

  4. Sissi says:

    You amaze me once more and make me read the post with eyes wide open! Thank you for making us travel once more! I am a bit ashamed because I have a big Cameroonian cookery book at home and even though I had lots of fun reading it (especially the dog recipes which, according to a Cameroonian friend are in reality rare), I have never tested a single dish. I am now thinking… ndolé sounds surprisingly fashionable thanks to the kale I keep on seeing everywhere this year.

  5. Hi there, this recipe caught my eye on Foodgawker because of how unique it looks! I loved how you incorporated the Cameroon culture into your recipe post- I also have a serious case of wanderlust and thoroughly enjoy learning about other cultures and what they eat. Thanks =)

  6. You take all over the world in your posts! This cuisine is totally new to me, although I do enjoy shrimp, kale, and peanuts, I’ve just never tried them together. So creative!

  7. what a beautiful dish! Love your story behind this classic Cameroon recipe! International recipes are so fun to make.

  8. I LOVE your graphics!!! Maybe I’ll ask you to make of those in color that I can hang in my new kitchen :) i’ve never heard of peanut stew but it looks really delicious.

  9. I love that whenever I come to your site, I always find something new and completely unheard of if I had not stumbled upon it here. That’s what’s great, you rock global eating/cooking :) Looove the colours in this dish too! x

  10. Wowee, great photos (again!) and what an interesting and delicious sounding dish

  11. What a terrific read! Really fun post, super recipe, and superb graphics. Loved this post – thanks so much.

  12. Beautiful photos and you make me extra happy to have another delicious kale recipe I can make!

  13. laurasmess says:

    Just beautiful Irina. Love everything. Those gorgeous pictures, the drool-worthy food… I’ve never eaten anything African before but you’ve got me running out to buy ingredients for this dish! I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to find your blog. I know it’ll soon become a favourite x

  14. Buchi says:

    I just bought kale yesterday as a substitute for bitterleaf, having heard of the healing properties of bitterleaf. I Was craving a pottage dish made with plantain. While researching more on the properties of bitterleaf I came across your recipe.I will definitely try it out! Thanks for sharing.

    • wandercrush says:

      I hope it satisfies your cravings! It’s certainly wholesome and filling. Ah I wish I had access to bitterleaf, too. If you ever get you hands on it, let me know how it goes :)

  15. You are so gifted! I love your photography, your food and now your art. What fun it was to read your post today!

  16. Noah says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I made this yesterday, it was really yummy. I’d never cooked with peanuts before but I like they way they’re used here. I didn’t have ground crayfish so I substituted a few anchovies for extra umami. Also a dab of red palm oil near the end added a nice taste.

    • wandercrush says:

      Really happy to hear, Noah! I imagine anchovies and red palm oil would do the trick. Yep, savoury dishes with ground up nuts are so rich and filling…good bang for the buck.

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