Monday, 8 February 2010

Navajo Stew

My culinary experience of Native American cuisine is zero and experience of the culture and its people nil. Like many people people, my experience is limited to watching American cowboy films with actors like John Wayne playing the good guy and the 'Red Indians' being the bad guys, of course these biased depictions have since been redressed with blockbuster movies such as Dancing with wolves, and Last of the Mohicans. In my youthful naivety I was under the impression that there weren’t any historical links or experiences between the British and native Americans, but of course later I learned there were many connections. The first that came to my attention was in my student days when I moved to Glasgow for university. I clearly remember going to the Museum where they had exhibited a native American Indian ‘ghost shirt’. I remember finding this extremely moving and had actually been moved to tears. I learned at the time that members of the Lakota Sioux tribe and The Wounded Knee Association were campaigning to reclaim the ghost shirt and other artefact's that arrived in Scotland in 1891 with the Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West travelling show. The shirt is believed to have been taken from a fallen warrior at the 1890 Battle of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. The museum acquired it a year after and it had been there ever since. It was in 1991 when an American visitor realised the cultural significance of the shirt for the Sioux people that campaigning began to return it to its home. The Ghost Dance shirt was finally repatriated to the Lakota Sioux people in 1999.

Other historical links of Britain with native Americans were highlighted through various media sources, one of which was of Pocahontas not the Disney cartoon, but the movie The New World. Did you know that there is actually a statue depicting Princess Pocahontas in Gravesend near Kent.
Although I learned a little at college through American History, my real knowledge and appreciation of native American history was to increase through D. In the late 1980s, D went to Europe and the States as a fresh faced backpacker, D has had the fortune of going to many places, including New Mexico and this experience impacted on his worldview dramatically. He doesn’t have many souvenirs from his time there, except these two picture frames from a Reservation. Each is made from sand collected from the dessert and mountains of Southwestern United States, which he treasures to this day and the much popular dream catchers, which hangs in one of our cupboards, all dusty now. He also has a couple of well-read, dog eared books The Crazy Horse and Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
I don't know how authentic this dish is, but i've adapted it from the Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers. This one is inspired by a Southwestern Native American dish. The dish was substantial and packed with flavour.
Navajo stew
Serves 4
Ingredients1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 red and 1 green peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, cut it stem side up and then into thin wedges
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 x 400g can of tomatoes
1 tablespoon canned chipotles in adobo sauce
Generous handful of chopped coriander
1 x 400g can of black beans, drained and rinsed
Flatbread (tortillas, lavash or pitta)
Plain yogurt or sour cream to serve or vegan equivalent
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4-5. Lightly oil a baking sheet. In a bowl toss all the vegetables including garlic, oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Spread on the baking tin and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Turn the vegetables over and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are just tender. While the vegetables roast, puree the tomatoes, chipotles and coriander in a blender until smooth. Set aside. When the vegetables are tender, put them in a large ovenproof baking dish, stir in the tomato-coriander sauce and the beans, and put in the oven until hot about 20 – 30 minutes. A few minutes before serving, warm up the bread in the oven. Serve the stew in bowls topped with cream of your choice, with warm flatbread on the side.


  1. Oh, very nice and yummy comfort food!

    Mangocheeks, I checked and the giveaway is for the US and Canada sorry, but I do APPRECIATE your comments though!


  2. Hey Congrats on your winning of "No Croutons Required"!....very nice!


  3. I love colorful, healthy dishes like this!
    Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee is on my bookshelf, but I haven't read it yet.

  4. That looks and sounds delicious and it is a really interesting post. I had no idea about Pocahontas, unfortunately we have the Disney version on almost permanent playback at our house! Excuse my ignorance but what are chipotles in adobo sauce and where can you get it? I am intrigued.

  5. The Stew looks yummm!!!!! the veggie pic is beautiful!

  6. Hi there! Thanks for all your lovely comments over the past few weeks. I know I don't respond as much as I should but it is very much appreciated! The yurt was at lovely place, you can just walk into Cirencester for the day... if you don't mind long-ish walks!
    And what a fantastic recipe too! :)
    Sarah x

  7. This dish looks and sounds yummy, I'm not sure if cumin is a Native American herb though.

  8. I received my "pay it forward" today. Thank you so much. I love the tea towels. I have two from Scotland, a thisle one and a funny one about "How God Created Scotland". I will frame these and put them in my kitchen. It is the best. And I love the utensil. It is too pretty to use. :) That may be hung on the wall for display as well. I am going to post about all this tomorrow. Thank you again. And the boys are wearing the bracelets.

  9. That stew looks and sounds so authentic to me eventhough my experience is zero too, hehe!!! Your stew looks absolutely beautiful and I love all the ingredients you used. You did such a great job, Mangocheeks:)

  10. This looks wonderful, and I loved the bit of history alongside. Fantastic idea.

  11. Interesting post - I dont know anything about Native American cooking either so I was interested to see this one - most of my ideas about this culture come from films but I have heard a little about them from colleagues too which is a lot more realistic than celluloid - am sure D's experiences were interesting

  12. Npow, this is a stew that I love,...all of those yummie flavours match beautifully!!!

  13. Thanks for checking Pam.
    I understand, just thought I'd ask anyway.
    Thanks for the Congrats on winning NCR. I am really chuffed about it.

    Thank you Janet.
    The books on my bookshelf too, barely holding together :D

    Thanks Kath.
    I've have watched the Disney Pocahontas too :D
    A few years ago, I didn't know what chipotles in adobo sauce was either. To my knowledge they are jalepenos that have been smoked and become known as chipotles which are then put into a spicy red sauce. I got my tin at a shop in Glasgow called Lupe Pintos. You can see what the tin I bought looks like if you follow this link.
    I am sure you can order some on-line, and may be able to purchase some if you live near a city with a diverse ethnic population.
    I am hoping to make some of my own in the near future, as there are a number of recipes on the net.

    Thank you so much Rachana.

    Hi Sarah,
    It is such a pleasure to read your comment. You are so wlecome. I do enjoy reading your blog and have done so over the past couple of years. Thanks for sharing the info. about the yurt. I don't head in that direction often, but who knows - oneday it may happen. I do enjoy long-ish walks, esp in pretty and quiet places!

    Thank you.

  14. Thanks Kella.
    Maybe not, but you'll be surprised the number of Native American dishes that do contain cumin.

    Oh Krys,
    Your welcome.
    I am so pleased. I did pack them pretty compact. More tea towels for your kitchen :D
    Thanks for sharing details of the others, so amusing "How God Created Scotland".
    I'll come by later to check them out and your boys with the wrist bands.

    Thanks Oraphan.

    Thank you Moy.

    Thank you Johanna.
    I think most peoples experience and knowledge about Native American cooking and culture comes from films. Its just the way it has been, but things are slowly changing.

    Thank you so much Sophie.

  15. What a lovely colourful stew. Many years ago when I was going through a spirtual phase I spent a weekend in Derbyshire learning Navajo dancing, chants and painting. Can't remember what we had to eat though.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences Choclette, shame you can't remember what you ate.

  17. I made this for my first ever winter! I couldn't find Chipotle and Black Beans where I was, but it was still good. Thanks for sharing this.
    By the way, can I link this blog to mine?
    Thanks again

  18. Hi thoughtsthatdance.
    So good to hear from you. Its been awhile.
    I'm sorry to read that you couldn't locate chipotle or black beans where your were. So may I ask what you used instead. It sounds good anyway.

    If you wish I'd be happy to post you some dried black beans and chipotle pepper for next time. Just leave me an e mail if your interested at
    PS Of course, i'd be honoured with the link.

  19. I used red beans and some random mexican chili sauce which name I forgot.Then at the last moment some dried chilli were spotted hiding behind jars. Duh!
    That's very kind of you, but right now I am back in Indonesia. Thus, even more ingredients are unavailable, plus, the weather does not actually call for the stew!
    Thanks a lot though! Perhaps if you are interested in Indonesian ingredients...would they allow packages containing food in, though?

  20. Thank you for letting me know thoughtsthatdance.

    Kind of you too, but I think most Indonesian ingredients are avaialable here (imported).


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