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Botswana Stews and Gravy

Updated on May 17, 2021
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty collects customs, recipes, and gadgets from the past and is particularly interested in Early American and Indigenous Peoples.

Southern Africa and the Kalahari Desert
Southern Africa and the Kalahari Desert

The Traditional Period in Botswana

The Traditional Period of time in Botswana was the era spent as a British Protectorate and the years under the leadership of Seretse Khama, considered a father to the country by his constituents.

To the adults of Botswana from 1968 - 1990 (Traditional Period) and into the 1990s themselves, Seretse Khama often served as a symbol and an anchor of all that was pure, good, and respectful. From out of this culture was founded a tradition of concern for others and of good manners. Respect and kind treatment were expected of everyone toward everyone else, no matter their economic status or relationship.

It is the concept of tradition that is most targeted in the stories of Alexander McCall Smith in his The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. Even Feminism stood on good manners and respect in Botswana in the 1990s– Men did not need to be belittled in order for the ladies to rise.

Teenagers and young adults did not need to lose the traditional manners. In addition, anyone that could do so, would give a neighbor that needed work a job as a maid or handyman or some other position in order to keep unemployment low and starvation at bay.

Phane Stew
Phane Stew | Source

Traditional Recipes

Phane Stew

Phane Stew is traditional. It is a stew of dried mopane worms (caterpillars) for its protein base, cooked together with onions and bell peppers. To these are added a tomato sauce that contains hot chillies and homemade curry powder. A mopane worm is actually a caterpillar of the moth Gonimbrasia belina that lives in most of Southern Africa and provides a major source of protein to the human population. The caterpillar is often found on the mopane tree: Colophospermum mopane.


  • 200gm Dried mopane worms
  • 1 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Green bell peppers, sliced
  • 6 Medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 Chilli pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 500ml Spring water


  • Wash the dried caterpillars and pat dry.
  • Place in spring water to cover in a pot and boil with a pinch of salt for 30 minutes to plump.
  • Drain the pot of water and add all remaining ingredients.
  • Bring mixture to the boil and then immediately reduce heat to a simmer; cook 30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve with ugali (recipe below).


Chicken Peanut Stew

This is also called Ground Nut Stew. Peanuts are ground nuts, because they do not grow on a tree, but form the ground.


  • 1 Frying chicken, cut into about 8 – 12 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 Yellow onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 Green bell pepper, chopped coarse
  • 1 Cup or 250ml Spring water
  • 1/2 Cup or 120g each of Peanut butter and Tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes or ground red pepper


  • Take a large cooking pot or mixing bowl and make a sauce by combining sugar, chilli flakes, ginger, peanut butter and tomato paste.
  • Slowly stir in water, constantly stirring until smooth.
  • Pour the oil to a hot skillet and fry chopped onion to translucense.
  • Add chicken parts and fry in same pan until the chicken has begun to brown.
  • Add bell pepper and continue cooking until chicken is completely browned.
  • Pour in the peanut sauce and stir well in the frying pan.
  • Cover and reduce the heat to simmer; cook 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve over rice, ugali, or rice balls.

Cuts of Beef

Beef cattle are an important resource in Botswana.
Beef cattle are an important resource in Botswana.

Flattened Meat and Gravy


  • 2 Pounds of beef brisket
  • 1 large yellow Onion, chopped coarse
  • Pepper to taste


  • Into a large pot, place the beef, onion, and pepper.
  • Cover the ingredients to a height of 2 inches above the meat with spring water.
  • Turn burner to medium and cook the dish 2 – 2.5 hours until the meat is soft. Add more water when it cooks down, to just cover the meat until the last 15-20 minutes and then let it cook down.
  • Remove from fire and drain off the liquid, which you will use for gravy.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and spread out on a clean counter or wooden board.
  • Pound the beef with a meat hammer until it is shredded or flakes, taking out any bones that you find.
  • Make gravy with the liquid that you set aside and your favorite seasonings.
  • Serve the dish with ugali (recipe below) and your gravy.

For gravy, heat some oil in a frying pan, add some cornmeal or flour to the warm liquid drained form the meat, stir, add to pan and stir until thick. Season to taste.


Traditional Cabbage and Carrot


  • 1 Medium tomato, finely chopped
  • ½ Onion, shredded as if it were coleslaw
  • 1 Carrot, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp each ginger, thyme, and dried chilies (crushed)
  • 1 Small head of cabbage, shredded
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  • Heat a frying pan and add frying oil, then heat the oil.
  • Fry the tomato and onion 5 minutes.
  • Add the seasonings and stir.
  • Add carrot and stir, then add shredded cabbage and stir again to mix.
  • Reduce heat to simmer and cook, half covered, until cabbage is soft but not discolored.
  • Serve with ugali (recipe below).

Ugali with a meat stew.
Ugali with a meat stew. | Source



  • 750g or about 26 ounces of white cornmeal or grits
  • ½ gallon Spring water


  • Into a medium sized pot, pour the water bring it to the boil.
  • Slowly pour in the grits or the cornmeal, stirring consistently and dissolving any lumps.
  • Now, add additional cornmeal or grits until the thicker than mashed potatoes.
  • Cook this thickened mixture 3-4 minutes, still stirring constantly. Do not stop stirring as it becomes very thick. It will form a white ball.
  • Remove form fire and a few pats of butter to the top and cover on the counter to partially melt the butter.
  • Serve with a stew or soup, cooked vegetablers, or with gravy. This is very filling.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS


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