How to Cook Nigerian Tomato Stew
By Tomato Stew, I mean stew used to prepare the Nigerian Jollof Rice recipes: Jollof Rice, Coconut Rice, Rice & Beans, etc. This tomato stew also forms the base for the Nigerian Beef & Chicken Stew. I always prepare a large quantity of this tomato stew and store in my freezer. This makes cooking my Nigerian Jollof Rice, Spaghetti Surprise and other meals where I use Tomato Stew so easy.
Please note that this tomato stew does not have any seasoning and other ingredients because it is just a base. If you watch my Nigerian Jollof Rice, Nigerian Coconut Rice and my Nigerian Spaghetti Surprise videos, this is the tomato stew that I added while cooking those meals.
I get a good number of questions about what I mean by tomato stew and how I make it, that's why I made this page and the video below.
Add beef/chicken or both, thyme, curry, Knorr, salt and pepper to Tomato Stew to get the Beef & Chicken Stew used to eat boiled white rice. For the recipe on how to prepare that, visit this page: How to Cook Nigerian Beef & Chicken Stew
Ingredients for Nigerian Tomato Stew
- 3.2kg (7lbs) fresh Plum Tomatoes (referred to as Jos Tomatoes in Nigeria, tomate pera in Spanish and pomodoro pera in Italian)
- 400g (14oz) tinned tomato paste: (or watery tinned Tomato Puree: 800g)
- Vegetable Oil: a generous quantity (see the video below)
- 2 onions
Important notes on the ingredients
- Tomatoes: Plum tomatoes are the best for the Nigerian Tomato Stew (and other Nigerian recipes) because all the other types of tomatoes either have a very strong taste, have lots of seeds or contain lots of water. You can also use Roma Tomatoes because it is very similar to plum tomatoes.
- Vegetable Oil: There's always a debate about this one. But I will insist that you need more than enough oil when frying the tomatoes. This is so that the tomatoes will not burn till all the sour taste is gone and the water has dried from the tomatoes. You will pour out the excess oil when the tomatoes are well fried. Just think about this as "sort of" deep frying the tomatoes. Not that you'll need that much oil but you get the gist.
If you don't use enough oil, your stew will have a sour taste and it will burn even if you stand there stirring frantically :( Cooking should be fun, not tedious. And why worry when you'll pour out the excess oil when you are done? In my opinion, anybody worried about his/her health should stay away from this stew because it is fried.
This oil you pour out is red hence it is perfect for cooking Egusi Soup, Okra Soup and Ogbono Soup for those who cannot buy or do not want to use palm oil. Once it has cooled down, put it in the fridge or freezer because it will go bad if left on the kitchen counter.
- Tinned tomato paste/puree: The tinned tomato paste sold in Nigeria is usually very thick and concentrated. If you try to fry this tomato paste as is, it will burn straight away. What I normally do is to add some water to it to bring it to the softer consistency as I did in the video below. There are other types of tomato purees sold in Europe and the rest of the world and these are usually watery. If that is the only type you can buy, then you need to cook it with the fresh tomato puree (as explained below) to get it to dry up a bit and get rid of the sour taste before frying.
One more thing; the tinned tomato paste/puree is optional. Its job is to improve the redness of the tomato stew, making it look richer and more appetizing. If you don't want to use it, replace with fresh plum tomatoes. In Nigeria, it is common to use tatashe (Nigerian big red peppers) to improve the redness of the tomato stew. Please note that tatashe is not the same as bell peppers.
- Feel free to vary the ratio of fresh plum tomatoes to conc. tomato paste. If you want the stew very red and conc. especially if you want to use it too cook Jollof Rice for a large crowd, increase the quantity of tomato paste you will use for a specific quantity of plum tomatoes.
Before you cook Tomato Stew
- Wash and blend the fresh plum tomatoes. Remember to remove the seeds unless you are sure your blender can grind them very well.
- If using the thick tinned tomato paste that is common in Nigeria, mix it with cold water to get a softer consistency. See the video below for how I did this.
- If you are using the watery tinned tomato puree that is common in Europe and other parts of the world, open the tins or packets and set these aside, you'll need them soon.
- Cut the onions into small pieces.
- Pour the fresh tomato blend into a pot and cook at high heat till almost all the water has dried. If you have the watery tinned/boxed tomato puree, add these to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook till the water in the tomato puree have dried as much as possible.
- Add the vegetable oil, the chopped onions and the thick tomato puree that you mixed in step 2 above (if it's the puree you are using). Stir very well.
- Fry at very low heat and stir at short intervals till the oil has completely separated from the tomato puree. A well fried tomato puree will also have streaks of oil, unlike when you first added the oil and it was a smooth mix of the tomato puree and oil. Taste the fried tomato puree to make sure that the raw tomato taste is gone. With time and experience, you can even tell that the tomato puree is well fried from the aroma alone.
- If you are happy with the taste and you are sure that all the water has dried as much as possible, pour out the excess vegetable oil like I did in the video below, then add the well fried tomato stew to your cooking.
- If you are not using it immediately, leave to cool down, dish in containers and store in the freezer.
To use, bring out from the freezer and allow to defrost at room temperature and use in your Nigerian Jollof Rice, Nigerian Coconut Rice, Nigerian Rice & Beans, Spaghetti Surprise. Add pepper, seasoning, chicken, beef, fish, turkey etc to get the Nigerian Beef & Chicken Stew used for eating Nigerian Boiled White Rice and other Nigerian staple food.