Shwen Shwen Beef Stew With Coconut Rice

"Sierra Leonean-style beef stew is but one component of a fabulous duet. Everyone knows Sierra Leone is the longstanding, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world when it comes to jollof rice, and this beef stew is its soul mate (or its match made in heaven). West Africans can get quite passionate about who makes the best jollof, and if the same rivalry existed for beef stew; it’s safe to say we'd probably own that title, too. Passions run deep with this kind of talk so remember… I'm just joshing with you."

Sweet Salone by Maria Bradford (Quadrille, £30) recipe photography by Yuki Sugiura

Browse Maria's pick of the Sous Chef ingredients she loves to use, here.

And read our exclusive interview with Maria about the flavours of Sierra Leone.


  • 1kg  stewing beef, cut into medium dice
  • 250ml sunflower oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 750ml beef stock
  • 1¼ tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3–5 pods grains of selim
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp West African Pepper Blend
  • 20g  fresh ginger
  • 20g garlic 
  • 1–2 scotch bonnet chillies, seeds left in, to taste
  • 6–8 large onions, finely chopped
  • 55g tomato purée
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Jollof rice, to serve


  1. Heat a large heavy-based pan over medium-high heat. Season the diced beef lightly with salt just before browning. Drizzle a little of the sunflower oil into the pan, using just enough to thinly coat the bottom. Cook the meat in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan and cause the meat to steam rather than fry. The meat should sizzle vigorously as it comes into contact with the pan.
  2. Allow each piece of meat to brown thoroughly before moving it. Once browned underneath, it will release easily and can be turned to brown the other side. Brown the meat evenly on all sides but take care not to cook it any longer than necessary. Remove the browned meat from the pan and repeat the process until all the meat has been nicely browned.
  3. Transfer the browned meat to a clean large saucepan and pour over the beef stock. Bring to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cook until the meat is very tender but not quite breaking down, 60–70 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, toast the whole spices in a hot, dry frying pan until fragrant, then cool and finely grind in a pestle and mortar or food processor. Mix with the ground spices and set aside.

  5. Blend the ginger, garlic and chillies to a paste in a food processor and set aside. To make the stew, heat the 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) sunflower oil in a large, deep, heavy-based clean pan over medium heat. Add the onions, then dampen a piece of baking paper, flatten it out and lay it directly over the surface of the onions (this will prevent steam from escaping and will keep the onions soft as they cook). Turn the heat to low and cook over gentle heat, checking and stirring from time to time until the onions are well softened and turning golden brown.

  6. This process can take up to 1 hour and cannot be rushed – it is the gentle cooking of the onions and the caramelization that gives this stew its rich and slightly sweet flavour.

  7. When the onions are soft and sweet, remove the paper, increase the heat and the add ginger, garlic and chilli paste. Cook for 1–2 minutes then add the spices, tomato purée (paste), bay leaves and thyme. Cook for another 1–2 minutes and add the meat without any liquid that may have accumulated during resting.

  8. It’s very important that no liquid is added to the stew, because in Sierra Leone a ‘stew’ is not a liquid-based dish, so save the liquid to cook another dish. Season with 2 tsp salt or more to taste. Cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring gently a few times, on low heat. Remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

  9. Serve the beef stew with Jollof Rice

© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024


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