Palaver comes from the Portuguese word “palavra” which means a word, or speech. During colonial times a negotiation between Africans and Europeans was called a palaver. Today this word can mean any type of lengthy discussion. Some countries such as Mali even have a palaver tree, a shady spot designated for gathering and hashing out the affairs of the community. The palaver sauce recipe always has many different meats and vegetables, as if a whole town got together and threw all their leftovers into the pot. Perhaps this sultry, spicy mixture simmered during a long village palaver, to be enjoyed by the whole community when the discussions were over. Many hungry people might gather around the pot as it cooked, adding their own advice and ingredients, and starting a palaver of their own. Use palm oil for this sauce if available - it adds a lovely red color. Serve with fufu or rice balls.


cup (120 milliliters) peanut or palm oil

pound (250 gram) beef, cut in chunks

3 pounds (1 kilograms) chicken, cut in pieces, skin removed if desired

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon curry powder

teaspoon ground red pepper, or to taste

teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground crayfish

5 ounces (150 grams) okra, stemmed and sliced crosswise

pound (250 grams) mixed greens such as kale or spinach, stemmed and chopped (4 to 5 cups)*

pound (125 grams) fresh mushrooms, sliced

pound (250 grams) lean or fat fish fillets, raw or previously steamed or baked


* You can substitute 5 ounces (150 grams) frozen or 2 cups cooked greens for fresh greens.


Heat oil in large, heavy or non-stick pot and cook beef and chicken over medium-high heat until brown on both sides. Remove from pot and set aside.

Add onion, tomatoes, curry powder, red pepper, salt and dried crayfish to pot. Simmer 20 minutes on medium to low heat.

Add 3 cups (725 milliliters) water to pot and bring to a boil. Add okra, greens, and mushrooms. Simmer, uncovered, on medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

Return meat and chicken to pot, lower heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Cut fish into about 8 large chunks, and add to pot. Simmer another 15 minutes, uncovered, until chicken and fish are both cooked through.


Serves 6.


country : Mali

course : meat dish


source : South of the Sahara : Traditional Cooking from the Lands of West Africa / Elizabeth A. Jackson