Our first dish is Matapa (also written matata), a seafood and peanut stew from Mozambique. This recipe first appeared on the Farmers, Food, and Vegetable in Mozambique blog, but we made some refinements and clarifications.
Let’s talk about the country first. I’ve been within a few hours of its border, but Mozambique is a country I’m just learning more about. It is a coastal country on the south eastern side of Africa just across the Mozambique Channel from Madagascar and was traditionally inhabited by hunter-gathering Bushmen eating wild game and foraging for roots, seeds, etc. Back then, it was covered in dense forest, but today 70% of that forest is gone. A big shift in Mozambique’s food culture began in 1498 when Explorer, Vasco da Gama from Portugal established a port on his way around the Cape of Good Hope to India. Trade at this port introduced foods and spices such as peppers, garlic, coriander, and onions to Mozambique and the cuisine developed from there.
Traditionally, this stew is made with local cassava leaves, shrimp, peanuts, and coconut milk. Since cassava leaves aren’t readily available in Pennsylvania, I went with collard greens. With that modification, it was easy to get my ingredients and actually makes the dish feel like it could be right at home in the American south. I’m sure kale would work equally well – both are super healthy. I’ve seen spinach also mentioned online, and it seems viable too – maybe even less work. Let me know if you try it!
Start by washing, then peeling and deveining your shrimp. If you haven’t done this before, Epicurious has an easy guide. The way I do it is simply cut the shells on the back side of the “C” shape with kitchen shears, pull off the shells and toss them into the pot. Then, use a paring knife to make a shallow cut in the tissue just below that same place to expose the intestinal track or “vein” taking care not to damage it. Then I slip a fine-tipped wooden chopstick below behind the “vein” to loosen it and then pull it out to be discarded. Easy and painless!
Bring the shells and 2-3 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan for 5 minutes, strain and reserve the liquid. Meanwhile, cut the tough ribs off of your 2 bunches of collard greens and discard them (or save for soup stock like I do). Chop the tender, leafy parts of the collards roughly and throw them into a food processor. For ease of use, after I removed the tough ribs, I rolled the two halves of the leaves up in a tight bunch and sliced them ala the French Chiffonade technique and then let ‘em have it in the food processor. As you’re filling the food processor, it’s going to look like it isn’t going to fit…that’s a lot of leafy matter! Don’t worry, it’ll fit if you have a 12+ cup food process. Don’t believe me? Run it halfway through to prove it to yourself. See? Told you. Traditionally this process is done with a mortar and pestle, which would really pulverize the leaves, so you really can’t overdo it in the food processor.
Dump the greens into a large Dutch oven, add your reserved shrimp shell liquid, 1 tsp of salt, and a can of coconut milk. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
While that is simmering, in a separate saucepan (I used the same one from the shells) bring 2 c of water to a boil with 1 tsp salt. Rinse your peeled shrimp again (in case some gunk from deveining is present) and toss them into the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes. Strain and put the shrimp in the fridge. Return the liquid to the saucepan.
Grind the peanuts in your food processor until they’re tiny – like powder. Dump them in the saucepan with the shrimp broth and a can of coconut milk. Heat slowly over medium until boiling. Be careful or it’ll scorch the bottom of your pan. Once boiling, add to the Dutch oven with the greens. Add 4 cloves of pressed garlic. Taste and see if you need more salt – I added another tsp here. Simmer for 90 minutes. During last 5-10 minutes, add your shrimp back to heat through.
I ate my stew straight up, but it is commonly served over rice. You could also add piri piri sauce if you like it hot in the final simmer.
Matapa was a delicious, healthy stew and it really grew on me. This makes a big batch of stew, so I enjoyed eating it over 4 or 5 days. You’ll find that it is really filling too. I believe that’s from all the healthy fats in the coconut milk as well as the fiber from the collard greens.
One change I would try for next time is to use natural peanut butter instead of peanuts to give it a smoother texture. It is a little gritty without rice and Jill wasn’t a huge fan of that. I didn’t mind it at all, but smooth is worth a shot. If Also, hit the greens in a Vitamix to make it perfectly smooth. Those couple tweaks would be really interesting and make a great sauce. If anyone tries it let me know!
We hope that you enjoy Matapa from Mozambique. I’m sure that there are going to be some great dishes as well as lack luster ones as we explore different world cuisines, but we’re off to a great start with this recipe. I found it to be delicious!
Tried this recipe? Let us know what you think about it and comment below!
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