This recipe is an adaptation of the smoky spinach Stew. Built on a base of onions and ginger sauteed in palm oil, made fiery with habanero, and thickened with ground pumpkin seeds and tomatoes, the stew calls for African smoked, dried shrimp powder; its flavor is amazing. (Asian versions are typically unsmoked and chewier.) But smoked paprika and fish sauce make a serviceable substitute.
- ½ cup palm oil or vegetable oil
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons minced ginger (1 ounce)
- 1 habanero chile, seeds and ribs removed, minced (include seeds if you love heat)
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
- ¾ cup egusi or raw shelled pumpkin seeds
- 4 teaspoons African smoked dried shrimp powder (or 2 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika plus some fish sauce)
- 1 pound spinach, washed, dried and roughly chopped
- 3 large sweet (yellow) plantains, peeled and boiled in salted water until just tender
- In a Dutch oven, warm the palm oil over medium heat, and add the onions, garlic, ginger, chile and a couple pinches of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown and sweet, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and a few generous pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and partly cover the pan.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has cooked to a rich tomato-soup consistency, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pulse the egusi or pumpkin seeds in a food processor or blender to a fine powder, until it just starts to get clumpy. (Do not overprocess into a butter.) Remove to a bowl.
- When the tomatoes have reduced, add the shrimp powder (or smoked paprika and fish sauce to taste), and simmer 2 minutes.
- Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, to the bowl of egusi powder until it is a loose paste. Add the egusi paste on top of the tomato sauce, and spread it out.
- Cover the pan, and cook 5 minutes.
- Stir the sauce all together; it will look like a thick porridge.
- Add a few splashes of water, and increase heat to a boil.
- Stir in the spinach, until wilted and tender.
- Taste, season with salt (or more fish sauce, if using) and serve with boiled sweet plantains.
Spinach Soup Can be Served Over: