Lamb Shoulder Mafé with Fonio

Chef Pierre Thiam
Chef Pierre Thiam

Chef Thiam’s lamb shoulder mafé is thickened with peanut butter, a fool proof method to achieve the characteristic creaminess of this dish. Mafé is an iconic African ground nut stew, popular throughout West Africa, and made even more delicious with our grass-fed lamb shoulder chunks slowly simmered in peanut sauce: it’s the image of comfort food in Senegal.

Mafé originated with the Mandinka and Bambara people of Mali. The proper name for it in the Mandinka language is domodah or tigadegena. It spread across the region, particularly in Senegal and the Gambia, during the colonial period, when efforts were undertaken to increase production of groundnuts also called peanuts. It is generally served with rice though in this recipe fonio is substituted. Fonio is a tiny, tender, highly nutritious ancient grain similar to quinoa.  The heat from the Scotch bonnet and brightness of the lemon zest brilliantly lifts all the earthy flavors of the peanut sauce.

Serves 6

This recipe is used with permission from Chef Pierre Thiam. Find more of his recipes in his book Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl and on his website.

Lamb Shoulder Mafé
Lamb Shoulder Mafé

Sorting Groundnuts Kalana, Mali
Sorting Groundnuts Kalana, Mali

Ingredients

1 Lamb Shoulder or Goat Shoulder 

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups chicken stock, or water
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 cup unsweetened smooth peanut butter
6 to 8 okra, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, left whole
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce (optional)
Cooked Fonio (recipe follows) 
Parsley-scotch bonnet topping (recipe follows) 

Method

  • Cut lamb shoulder into approximate 1 inch chunks.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Season the lamb chunks with 1 tablespoon of salt, and brown in batches until all the meat is browned. Set aside the meat, and pour off excess fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pot.
  • Add onion, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until it turns translucent. Reduce heat to low, then add garlic, and stir well. Cook for a minute or 2, until it is fragrant, then add tomato paste, and cook for 7 more minutes, until the paste is dark in color. If the mixture begins to brown too quickly, lower the heat, and add a splash of water to deglaze the pan.
  •  Add stock to cover meat and bring to a simmer then add the Scotch bonnet, fish sauce, bay leaves, thyme and remaining salt. Slowly add the peanut butter 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly to dissolve it in the liquid. Return the meat to the pot, Cover and cook for 2 hours on low heat or until the meat is very tender.
  • Add okra and cook another 10 minutes (optional).
  • Pile bowls with fonio, top with lamb and generously sprinkle over the parsley.

Parsley Topping

1 bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped
3 scallions, finely chopped
½ of 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Combine the parsley, scallions, Scotch bonnet and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and refrigerate until it’s time to serve.

Fonio

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
½ cup frozen green peas
1 cup fonio

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and carrot, and cook for 3 minutes more, until the garlic is fragrant. Add 1/4 cup water along with the peas, and cook covered, on low heat, until the carrot is tender, about 8 minutes, then turn off the heat, and set aside until you’re ready to eat.
  •  In a large bowl, gradually add a little hot liquid from the lamb to the peanut butter, mixing it with more and more liquid until it’s thick, smooth and pour-able. Return it all to the pot with the meat, and mix well.
  • Add the okra, Scotch bonnet and fish sauce, and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or so, stirring frequently to avoid clumps of peanut butter at the bottom of the pot, until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon and a little bit of fat has pooled at the top.
  • In a pot with a tightly fitted lid, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, add the fonio, stir, cover and turn off the heat. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Fold fonio into the shallots and peas, season and taste.

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