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Spicy Carribean Ginger Stew

One of my favorite restaurant dishes is served at the Delta of Venus in Davis, California. Davis is a small university town outside Sacramento. The area is agriculture-heavy and, combined with the naturally liberal atmosphere of college towns, there are a lot of good food options there.

Delta of Venus is a restaurant/café just a few blocks away from campus. The best descriptor of the place would be “free spirited.” The employees are super nice, the baked goods are made by, I believe, the owner’s mother, the have live music on the weekends and the food is amazing. While they serve breakfast and lunch everyday, in addition to a lot of coffee options, it is their weeknight Caribbean dinners that keep me coming back whenever I’m in town.

All the Caribbean options are delicious, but one intriguing aspect of the Delta of Venus is that they have a lot of vegetarian and vegan options – including on their Caribbean menu. My favorite dish there is the ginger seitan. Seitan is a vegetarian faux-meat product made out of wheat and it has a very meaty texture. It also absorbs flavor easily, so it is great in flavorful soups. If you don’t want to use seitan (I found it in a natural foods store), brown some chopped beef in a skillet and add it to the vegetables before simmering the stew. My version here isn’t the same as the Delta of Venus version, not by a long shot. Not only did I not bother with the sides of fried plantains, collard greens and red beans and rice, but theirs uses different vegetables, including cauliflower and peppers, but the basic idea is very similar. I used a tiny pinch of powdered habanero peppers – it only takes a tiny pinch, since the powder is so hot – but if you cannot get it, use more cayenne to increase the heat. I like it spicy. In the same sort of way that Venus inspired Botticelli, I guess you could say that the Delta of Venus inspired me. Overdramatic? A bit. But the food really is great.

Spicy Caribbean Ginger Stew

1 medium sized onion, diced 4

cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp grated, fresh ginger

3/4 cup diced carrot (1-2 large)

2 tsp cumin

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/8 tsp dried powdered habanero peppers (trust me)

10-ounces seitan (1 package)

1 can (15-oz) drained crushed tomatoes, chopped

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups peeled sweet potatoes, in 1-inch pieces

salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven, heat a little bit of olive oil over medium heat. Sautee the onion until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, until fragrant. Add all the rest of the ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 1 hour, or until carrots and sweet potatoes are tender.Serve hot, with crusty bread, fried plantains or red beans and rice.
Serves 4.

*Note: see text, above, for instructions on non-vegetarian version

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11 Comments
  • Cathy
    April 3, 2006

    Oooh, that sounds good! And I’ve been curious to try seitan, so this gives me a way to start. I’ve never seen that powdered habanero before and I’m not sure it’s something I’d use often – I assume I could use some other source of heat without sacrificing much?

  • Nic
    April 3, 2006

    Hi Cathy. You can use more cayenne pepper, but you might need a bit more than the amount I’ve recommended for the habanero – a little goes a long way with that stuff!

  • Cathy
    April 3, 2006

    oops, sorry – I see now you suggested that in your post. Another question – in the photo it looks like the stew has tomatoes in it, or are those the carrots?

  • Nic
    April 3, 2006

    Hmm… looking at my notes, it looks like I actually did add a can of drained crushed tomatoes. It isn’t in keeping with the original DoV recipe, which is probably why I forgot to mention if as I wrote it up! Thank goodness for photos, right?

  • Tom R.
    April 3, 2006

    I tried this tonight and we both really enjoyed it. I used a pinch of chipotle instead of habanero and to my taste the stew was *plenty* hot. Also used a 1/2 lb. or so of chopped chuck steak. The stew only took 1/2 hour of simmering for the veggies to cook. Next time I’ll add crushed tomatoes. Nice recipe!

  • Miriam
    April 3, 2006

    I’ll have to try it! I’ve never even tried Carribean food before so this will be a good place to start. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  • kickpleat
    April 4, 2006

    mmm, this looks amazing! i’m definitely buying some sweet potatoes tommorrow!

  • Kitchen Queen
    April 4, 2006

    This sounds great! I like anything that helps me eat sweet potatoes more often.

  • emily
    April 5, 2006

    Oh man,this looks just like what I’ve been looking for.Yum!

  • keiko
    April 10, 2006

    Hi Nic, I’m tempted by this stew, such a great sounding combination! Although it’s getting warmer here, I still enjoy hearty stew/soup anytime…

  • connie
    April 12, 2006

    Hi,
    Forgive my ignorance but exactly is seitan? I’m usually food savvy but I’ve never heard of this ingredient before. Thanks

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