A light supper dish, bringing back memories of an African childhood. Futali is a traditional Malawian food, but variations on the same theme of squash or pumpkin, and groundnuts, are found all over sub-Saharan Africa. Groundnuts are very nutritious, containing both proteins and vegetable fats (which help to dissolve vitamins and thus make them accessible to the human body). The orange flesh of squashes and sweet potato is a good source of vitamin A, so combining them with groundnuts ensures a good balance of both proteins and vitamins.
Futali is traditionally eaten as a snack: there are enough carbohydrates in the Squash to make it sufficiently filling that you shouldn’t need anything other than a bowl of steamed dark green spinach on the table (though if you’re extraordinarily hungry, rice is best). Curly kale or other winter greens are a good substitute as their slightly bitter taste goes well with the sweetness of the squash.
In Malawi, Chicken would be cooked separately as it is so scarce; and only the very wealthiest would cook with cheese; but I’ve included them here for richer Western diets. [Adding Parmesan rind during the simmering gives a lovely base flavour: freeze the rinds that are left over from each chunk of Parmesan , to use in this or other soupy/stewy dishes]. Similarly, red bell pepper and red chile are not strictly traditional, but the pepper-squash-chile combination tastes very good, and adds yet more vitamin A to the dish.
- Serves one "meatie" and one "veggie"
- 1 small or ½ a medium butternut squash or two large sweet potatoes
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 150 g peanut butter with no additives or salt
- 500 ml hot water
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 cm chunks
- 1 fresh red chile (optional), deseeded and finely chopped or 1 tsp fresh chile paste
- salt and pepper to taste
For the veggie
- 1 Parmesan rind
For the meatie
- 1 chicken breast, cut into thin strips
- Peel the butternut squash or sweet potato and set aside any squash seeds to roast.
- Chop the flesh fairly roughly into 1 cm chunks.
- Divide the squash, onion and chile (or chile paste) equally between the two pans.
- You don’t want to add any more fat to the dish by frying the onion first, as there is enough of it in the peanut butter.
- Stir the peanut butter briskly into the hot water, making sure that all the lumps are dissolved, and pour half into each pan.
- Bring both to the boil and simmer for five minutes.
- Veggie: add the Parmesanrind and several grindings of black pepper to the veggie pan.
- Meatie: add the chicken strips, several grindings of black pepper and ½ tsp salt to the meatie pan.
- Bring both pans to the boil and simmer gently, with the lids off, for 15 minutes.
- Stir occasionally to make sure the stews aren’t sticking: you may need to stir more frequently as the liquid evaporates.
- Be careful not to break up the chunks of squash when you stir.
- Five minutes before serving, divide the red pepper equally between the two pans and stir in gently.
- Veggie: remove the Parmesanrind and discard (or chew on the sticky bits, then discard).
- Taste and correct for salt and pepper or chile.
- If you do think you need to add more peanut butter, thin it with a little boiling water and then stir it in very carefully so you don’t break up the squash chunks (while you’re cooking this, clean the squash seeds, toss in hot oil and salt and roast them in a hot oven for 5 – 10 minutes, turning frequently so they don’t burn. Eat with your drinks).