Cassava Leaf {Sauce} + Tutorial – African Recipe {Gluten Free}

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Looking for an easy Cassava Leaves recipe? Well, I have got a delicious one with a step-by-step tutorial with images right here. You will not believe how good this Cassava Leaf Sauce (Saka Saka, Palava Sauce) is!!! Suitable for people following a gluten-free diet.

Overhead shot of a bowl of palava sauce - cooked cassava leaves with rice with prawns and chilli with a glass of water next to it

Cassava Leaf Sauce (or just Cassava Leaves or Palava Sauce) is a dish that everybody in Sierra Leone will have grown up with. In fact, so will the Liberians, Guineans and even Congolese (who call it Saka-Saka or Mpondu).

I, like a lot of the diaspora, dream of it after a long time of eating European food, and when I go home to visit my folks, there is always a big pot of these green leaves bubbling away with delicious red palm oil, just waiting to be spooned onto a bowl of rice.

This is heaven for me, sitting on the veranda in the warmth, with my family, eating Cassava Leaf Stew. So, back here it the UK, I always try and recapture these flavours, and cook up great vats of it whenever any other Sierra Leonean comes to visit. Then we sit down and talk about home. Oh, the absolutely gorgeous smell of the perfectly cooked Cassava Leaf stew is beyond compare.

Overhead shot of a bowl of palava sauce - cassava leaf soup with rice with chilli and a napkin next to it

One of the main things about making Cassava Leaf Soup in the UK, that I found, is that a blender makes all the difference. Back home, the onions, chilli, the aubergines are all pounded together in a big pestle and mortar (mata wodo as we call it). Here you can just chuck it in the blender and a few minutes later you get the lovely thick puree. Golly that really makes everything easier.

Cassava Leaf Stew Tools

KITCHEN TOOLS, UTENSILS & APPLIANCES  NEEDED

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Here are some of the items you will need to make this recipe.

Ingredients to make Sierra Leonean Cassava Leaves

Just a few notes on the ingredients of Cassava Leaves with a few tips for substitution. The main ingredient is the Cassava Leaf mince. Then you have palm oil. Onion, chilli and aubergine blended together make the lovely thick sauce base.

You need flakes of dried smoked fish but can easily substitute in dried crayfish powder and I have seen people use smoked poultry instead.

You need peanut butter which apart from flavour also helps to thicken the sauce, and some stock cubes and salt and pepper to taste. Beef and chicken are optional, I prefer using beef, which is first seasoned and steamed and the resulting flavoured water is used in the sauce.

Ingredients to make cassava leaf sauce - aubergines, egg plant, onions, beef, palm oil, minced cassava leaves, peanut butter, chilli, ground coriander, stock cube, dried fish, salt and water

How to Cook Cassava Leaves Sauce – A Tutorial

So guys here is how to make Cassava Leaf soup step-by-step

Beef and seasoning pre steaming and Steamed beef - to make cassava leaves sauce Collage showing how to cook cassava leaves sauce step by step. - the ingredients, then the onions and chill in blender, then onion paste in a blender, then the onion paste in a potHow to cook cassava leaf sauce step by step no 2 tutorial

Step 1. Add the beef, 1 tbsp of onion, a quarter stock cube, oil, 100mls of water and a pinch of salt to a pot, mix well, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about 25 mins until the beef is cooked through. Reserve both the beef and the cooking liquid.
Step 2. Whilst the beef is cooking add the aubergine, the remaining onion, fish flakes, chilli and 150mls of water into a blender and whiz into a puree.
Step 3. Transfer the vegetable puree into a pot, add the remaining stock cubes and water, peanut butter, and palm oil mix, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 mins stirring occasionally.
Step 4. Then stir in the cassava leaves, okra (if using) and beef liquid, bring the boil and simmer for about 30 mins (for young well-minced leaves) or about 60 mins for older tougher leaves until the cassava leaves are done. You might need to add a little bit more water if cooking for longer.
Step 5. 10 mins before the cassava leaves are done add in the beef, season well and cook till done.

Tips on How to Cook Cassava Leaf Soup

  • Obviously, if you can get fresh young cassava leaves, then that is way better as they will cook much quicker.
  • If you pound the cassava leaves yourself then make sure you get them very fine, as they will cook much quicker.
  • Blending the veggies at the start also means everything cooks quicker plus this adds a really lovely depth of flavour to the sauce along with thickening the stew.
  • Steam the beef at the same time you are putting the veggies on to boil. In Sierra Leone, we tend to cook the entire sauce in one pot which takes a long time as first you do the beef, then the veggies etc.
  • Younger and finer cassava leaves cook much quicker and you only need to simmer them for about 30-45 mins. If the leaves are harvested when they are much older or not finely minced, then you might need to simmer the leaves for 60-75 mins.

White Cassava Leaves

To make White Cassava Leaves simply replace the Palm oil with coconut oil. This small substitution brings a whole other flavour profile to the mix.

 cassava leaf stew palava sauce served with some steaming white rice.

What is Cassava Leaf

The dish uses cassava leaves as a base which are the leaves of the cassava plant. However, you can use almost any other green leaves to make something similar. In Africa, we also cook sweet potato leaves like this, and in the UK, when I haven’t been able to find cassava leaves, I have used finely chopped spinach, and it has turned out just fine.

Cassava Leaves – red stem or white stem. The red stem Cassava Leaves are the ones you want for cooking this sauce. Both the stem and the tuber (cassava or manioc) are really good for eating. The whited stemmed cassava leaves are not so good for eating as they are bitter and tougher and the root is better for making eats like cassava porridge fufu.

What is Cassava?

If you’re wondering ‘what is cassava?’ it is a woody shrub that is highly drought tolerant. The starchy, tuberous root is eaten in many parts of the world for its carbohydrate content. Of course, the leaves can also be eaten, as you can see in this recipe. Cassava is also called yuca, Brazilian arrowroot, etc. 

Benefits of Cassava Leaves

Wondering what the cassava leaves are? Here are a few and you can find out more here.
  • Cassava leaves are high in protein (100g of cassava leaves contain up to 7g of protein) comparable to that of fresh eggs
  • They are high in dietary fibre.
  • They contain a good range of mineral and vitamins (2g/100g of leaves) that surpass most legumes (except soya beans).
  • They are gluten-free.

Where to buy Cassava Leaves

If you live in Africa, then lucky, lucky you. You just pop over to the market for a big old bunch of Cassava Leaves to take home and pound or grind. However, for the rest of us, you would have to head to your local ethnic market and buy already minced or pounded Cassava Leaf from either the fridge or the freezer section.

UK markets you can get this at include Brixton, Peckham and Dalston markets.

Need More Cassava Recipes

Well, when you’re done trying this soup, try my delicious cassava cake recipe.

Post first published Sept 2017.

African flavours – is the spot on my blog where I share traditional Sierra Leonean recipes, African recipes and African fusion recipes.

Thank you for reading my Cassava Leaf recipe post. And please visit again as I continue dreaming up recipes, traditional African recipes, African fusion recipes, Sierra Leone recipes, travel plans and much more for you. Thanks for reading Recipes from a Pantry, UK food blog.

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Overhead shot of a bowl of palava sauce - cooked cassava leaves with rice with prawns and chilli with a glass of water next to it
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Cassava Leaf Sauce

An easy to make Cassava Leaf Sauce Recipe
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Main
Cuisine: African
Servings: 6
Calories: 513kcal
Author: Bintu Hardy

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) boneless meat cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • White pepper
  • 2 onions peeled and roughly chopped (divided)
  • 2 stock cubes divided (Dole or Maggi)
  • 750 mls (3 cups) of water divided
  • 2 medium sized aubergines peeled and roughly chopped
  • 100 g of dried smoked fish flakes or 3 tbsp crayfish powder
  • Scotch bonnet or other chilli to taste
  • 5 tbsp smooth peanut butter paste
  • 125 ml (0.5 cup) palm oil - you can go up to 1 cup
  • 500 g (1.1lb) pounded frozen cassava leaves
  • 2 tbsp pounded okra optional

Instructions

  • Add the beef, 1 tbsp of onion, a quarter stock cube, oil, 100mls of water and a pinch of salt to a pot, mix well, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about 25 mins until the beef is cooked through. Reserve both the beef and the cooking liquid.
  • Whilst the beef is cooking add the aubergine, the remaining onion, fish flakes, chilli and 150mls of water into a high-powered blender and whiz into a puree.
  • Transfer the vegetable puree into a pot, add the remaining stock cubes and water, peanut butter, and palm oil mix, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 mins stirring occasionally.
  • Then stir in the cassava leaves, okra (if using) and beef liquid, bring the boil and simmer for about 30 mins (for young well minced leaves) or about 60 mins for older tougher leaves until the cassava leaves are done. You might need to add a little bit more water if cooking for longer.
  • 10 mins before the cassava leaves are done add in the beef, season well and cook till done.
  • Serve over bowls of steaming rice.
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Nutrition

Calories: 513kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 66mg | Sodium: 493mg | Potassium: 1186mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 7885IU | Vitamin C: 30.6mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 4.9mg

 

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