Palava sauce (or palaver sauce), which in fact is more of a stew than a sauce, is widely consumed in West Africa. There are many variations of this traditional West African dish, namely from Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone claiming the paternity of this dish.
Palava sauce combines mainly green vegetables and a choice of protein. The two green vegetables most often used for this recipe in the West African countries are spinach and okra. Some don’t use okra but you won’t find palava without spinach! Specifically without taro leaves, an African variant of the same family.
This recipe could be attributed to several countries. So, why Liberia? It is probably a coincidence but maybe it is because it is the only country that makes palava sauce with a combination of mlokhia and spinach? Two key ingredients of Tunisian Jewish cuisine! Mlokhia is actually the Arabic word for the plant. Jew’s mallow and corchorus are the names of this plant in English.
I found out about this plant last year when I made an Egyptian mlokhia. And it was just delicious!
This is the third time I use KrinKrin in a recipe and I love the slightly bitter taste but also the thickening and silky aspect it brings to stews. Besides the many therapeutic properties of this plant including a very good remedy against toothache and acting as a strong antipyretic. So, if you experience pain and fever, make a KrinKrin soup and you’ll recover in no time!
But back to our palava! The word comes from “palaver” which is derived from the Portuguese word palavra. A palaver is a lengthy discussion or quarrel. It is assumed that this is where the sauce got its name as African would start their disputes by beating each other with green vegetables.
At our table, no palaver! Just chicken palava, which was a unanimous success.
Chicken palava is a Liberian recipe of chicken in a sauce that combines mainly green vegetables, often spinach and okra, but mlokhia is sometimes added too.
- 4 chicken breasts , cut into strips
- 3 cloves garlic , crushed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or palm oil)
- 2 scallions , thinly sliced
- 4 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2½ cups chicken stock
- 1 sprig thyme
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ lb spinach , chopped
- ½ lb Jew's mallow (mlokhia)
- 1 green chili pepper , seeded and minced
- 2 tablespoons peanuts , coarsely ground
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
In a bowl, combine garlic and chicken. Add salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the chicken over low heat, turning the pieces over. Set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Sauté the onions and tomatoes over medium / high heat for 5 minutes, until they soften.
Reduce heat and add peanut butter and half of the chicken stock. Stir well.
Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the peanut butter from burning, then pour the remaining broth, thyme, ginger, spinach, Jew's mallow, ground peanuts and chili pepper. Add salt and pepper.
Add the chicken to the mixture and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. If necessary, increase the heat toward the end to reduce the liquid.
Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds before serving.