We often say that the improved cookstoves we teach communities to build are more than just cookstoves. They are a portal to new partnerships and a way to build community around age-old traditions surviving in a rapidly changing world. Globally, sharing food is one of the most important ways that traditions live on, strengthening family ties and distributing resources.

In Senegal, cooking mafé is one quintessential dish that represents this powerful connection between food and family, and is perfect for preparing on improved cookstoves. Cooked in a large pot and served on a single communal platter from which everyone eats, mafé is a rich, peanut-based stew. Many countries in West Africa serve their own version of this dish. In Senegal, women traditionally cook it with cabbage, okra, and eggplant (popular vegetables grown in our partner communities’ gardens), and serve it with steaming hot rice.

When cooking mafé, it is served in one communal dish, shared by the whole table. (Image by Grant Cornett, New York Times)

With the annual peanut harvest coming up, many women in our partner communities will soon be preparing this dish over their improved cookstoves, sharing it among their friends, families, and neighbors.  While there are many ways to go about cooking mafé with chicken, lamb, beef, or other meats, try this recipe from the New York Times for a traditional version of the dish:


  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken, skin removed
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter
  • ½ pound green cabbage, cut into 2-inch wedges
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 12 ounces waxy potatoes, like Yukon Gold
  • Scotch Bonnet chili slices, to taste (optional)
  • White rice, cooked, for serving


Cooking Directions: 

Step 1: Finely mince 6 cloves garlic and the ginger with a pinch of salt, plenty of black pepper and crushed red-pepper flakes to taste. Season chicken all over with salt, and rub with the garlic mixture. Marinate for three hours or overnight, refrigerated.

Step 2: Finely chop the remaining 6 cloves of garlic. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the onion, chopped garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the onion is starting to become translucent. Stir in the fish sauce, then the tomato paste, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the paste and onions have combined and are a shade darker. Stir in 6 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.

Step 3: Add the chicken, bring to a boil and turn heat down to a moderate simmer. In a mixing bowl, stir a cup of the cooking liquid into the peanut butter, a splash at a time, to loosen it. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and carrots, and simmer 10 minutes. Peel and cut the sweet potato and waxy potatoes into 1 1/2-inch chunks, add them and simmer 30 minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are tender and the sauce is like a very thick gravy. (The oil will be separating in the sauce.) If the chicken and vegetables are tender but the sauce is still a little loose, remove them, and let the sauce cook down. Add the chili if using. Taste, adjust seasoning with salt and serve over white rice.