Today I tried my hand at Sierra Leone potato leaves seafood plasa for the first time. One of the companies I’m involved with in my day job is a money remittance firm with a focus on Sierra Leone, hence the connection.
Plasa means stew or soup, by the way, and refers to a dish with a lot of rice on which some seafood and/or meat, vegetables and sauce are added. It is perhaps the most typical Sierra Leonean dish. Another very common variety of plasa is made with cassava leaves instead of sweet potato leaves.
I believe this recipe to be reasonably traditional in terms of the preparation process. I watched dozens of youtube videos and read plenty of cooking blog posts. It is also traditional in that it uses a ton of Maggi, just like most people in Sierra Leone seem to. On the other hand I use readily-available and easy-to-stomach, easy-on-the-eye seafood, not the more traditional smoked, dried catfish or goat intestines commonly used.
Photos for illustrative purposes only, ingredients, amounts, & ratios may vary.
My next attempt will be at being non-traditional on Maggi and using home-made ogiri instead, and being traditional in terms of the meat portion of the dish.
High-quality, smoked, dried catfish will be much harder to come by as the non-Western ingredients I used for my current recipe: red palm oil, Maggi (West African style), groundnut paste (peanut butter, more or less), and, of course, sweet potato leaves. I purchased those ingredients at Brixton Market and East Street Market in Walworth. The photo shows cassava, which I intended to use to make fufu. Unfortunately the cassava turned out to be off, so I’ll share the fufu recipe another time.
The following recipe is for 4 persons and takes 40mins in total.
Please note that similar to spinach the volume of the potato leaves will decrease dramatically after steaming and boiling. This means that while half a large bunch of leaves or a whole small bunch might look too big to fit into any of your pots and way more than you need, it will end up being just the right amount to add flavor and texture to your dish, without being overwhelming.
½ large bunch of sweet potato leaves
1/3 cup of peanut paste
125ml red palm oil
25ml Maggi sauce (ideally Sierra Leone variety)
1 red bell pepper
5 chili peppers
Ground black pepper
180g cooked prawns
180g raw white fish (haddock, cod, hake, sea bass, sea bream, or similar)
180g cooked octopus
Feel free to use whatever seafood or meat you have at hand.
(PLASA ONLY, PREPARE RICE SEPARATELY)
STEP 1 – Clean all the vegetables very thoroughly, especially the sweet potato leaves, scrub them, and rinse them again and again, let them soak a little bit, then rinse again, etc.
STEP 2 – Cut all the vegetables into smaller bits (throw away the stem, core and soft bits of the bell pepper; for chili peppers keep all or some of the seeds if you like it hot, else dispose of them), except (for now) the sweet potato leaves
STEP 3 – Put some of the chopped red chili peppers into a separate bowl to add them to taste later on
STEP 4 – Put the chopped onion, the red bell pepper, and some of the red chili pepper into a blender and blend
STEP 5 – Put the red palm oil and the maggi into a pot and heat up at medium to low heat
STEP 6 – Add the raw white fish first and let it simmer (for 7 mins), after half the time add the blended vegetables, peanut paste, and a cup of water, bring back to simmer
STEP 7 – Remove any bad leaves and the ends (last 2cm) of the stems of the potato leaves, then chop up the potato leaves on a chopping board (cp. photos), ideally the bits of stem and leaves should be about 0.25cm x 0.25cm or so
STEP 8 – Slice the cooked octopus into slices about 0.25cm thick or so
STEP 9 – Add one cup of water (more, if needed) and bring to simmer
STEP 10 – Add the prawns and octopus slices, let them heat up for 1min
STEP 11 – Add the potato leaves on top of the stew (no need to push them into the stew, as better to steam than to boil them), close the lid, let steam for about 4 to 5mins
STEP 12 – Take the lid off and mix the potato leaves with the stew, let it simmer, stir regularly, add more water if needed
STEP 13 – Add ground black pepper and bits of red chili peppers to taste (check the spiciness before gradually adding more)
STEP 14 – The stew is ready when the potato leaves are steamed/cooked, but when they are still crunchy
STEP 15 – Put the separately prepared rice into four bowls and create dents in the middle. Then fill the stew into the middle of the dents in the rice; serve immediately
I hope you enjoy the cooking. Do let me know how it went. Perhaps you found a mistake in the recipe or a way to improve it? Don’t be shy and leave a comment.
Looking for more recipes? Feel welcome to eyeball our recipes for lasagna, clam chowder, razor clams, Bacalhau a Bras, mushroom cream pork medallions, or kaiserschmarrn. For adventure and travel, feel welcome to check out our posts about packrafting, kayaking, rally driving, boxing, rollerskiing, quad-biking, our Norfolk seal safari, our trips to Porto and the Jurassic Coast, and my one-month stay in Papua New Guinea in 1998, working for an NGO.