Thursday, April 9, 2015

I'm Ghana Go Back for Seconds!!

Last night I ventured back to Africa (because I just can't seem to get away!) to experience the wonderfully delicious tastes of Ghana. I had a last minute guest join me last night who turned out to be a great addition to my Ghanaian meal. Kara Beth and I took karate together last spring, and she remembered that I mentioned cooking around the countries. On Tuesday night she messaged me and asked what I had planned for Wednesday. Little did she know that I was cooking Ghana, and little did I know that she actually grew up in Ghana. How ironic! Thankfully she loved the food, and I loved having help with all the dishes.

Ghana is a West African country with beautiful savannas, caves, mountains, coastline and castles. The name "Ghana" means warrior king". This suits Ghana well as it used to be a land of powerful tribes and kingdoms prior to British colonization. Ghana continued to show its power when it became the first African nation to declare independence from its imperial nation. Today Ghana has a good deal of power in Western Africa and has a booming petroleum and natural gas industry. There are a lot of different ethnic groups that make up Ghana, most of which are Christian. Even though English is the official language, 11 tribal languages have governmental status. Most Ghanaian meals are based on a soup/ stew containing meat or seafood and a staple. I chose to go with tuo zaafi and palaver sauce. This was one of my easiest countries to cook yet. I had dinner on the table in under an hour, and it was amazing!

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There are many different staples in Ghana, whether it be sweet rice, fried plantains, kenkey,  banku, foutou, to, or one of the other many variations. Maize, cassava, plantains, millet, and rice are the ingredients that make up these everyday carbs that a Ghanaian could not imagine having a meal without. "Tuo" means stirring and "zaafi" means hot which explains perfectly the cooking process for this dish. Be careful, it splatters out of the pot like grits!

Tuo Zaafi
½ cup millet flour
½ cup boiling water
1/3 cup water                                                       

Mix together 1/3 cup water and all but 2 tablespoons of the millet flour. Bring the remaining ½ cup water to a boil in a small pot. Slowly mix the millet paste into the boiling water. Continue stirring for about a minute. Add in the remaining millet flour, whisking so there are absolutely no lumps. Cook for another 2 minutes before removing from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before forming into balls and serving as an accompaniment to your stew.



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As I was researching Ghana, I found a lot of recipes for tilapia. Apparently it is a common fish there. The Ghanaians eat it grilled, fried, or inside of stews. I just so happened to have some leftover tilapia in my freezer that I have been meaning to eat up. Palaver sauce (aka Kontonmire, Kentumere, Nkontommire and pla'sas) is common all over Western Africa. The name means trouble, but the dish was surprisingly simple to put together. The stew contains cocoyam (taro leaves), chilies, red palm oil, pepitas, tomatoes, meat, and onions. I chose to go with a tilapia and smoked salmon version which proved to be divine. This was my first venture using red palm oil. It looked a bit weird, but smelt and tasted great. It's what contributes to the yellowy look of the stew. Since cocoyam is not readily available in TN, spinach is a good substitute.

 
Palaver Sauce
8 ounces tilapia, cubed
4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp red palm oil
1 tomato, chopped
2 red chili peppers, chopped
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed
1 ounce pepitas, blended into a powder and mixed with 2 tbsp water

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Mix in the tomato, chilies, and tilapia. Cook until the tilapia is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with the tuo zaafi or other West African staple of your choosing.

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I don't know if I will ever find an African dish that I don't like. I'm "Ghana" have to cook Ghana again! I don't even like fish, and I absolutely LOVED the stew. It was both beautiful and tasty. I was not so sure of feeding such an exotic dish to a guest with foreign ingredients like palm oil and millet to a guest, but thankfully Kara Beth loved it. Like me, she is a fan of all things spicy. She also grew up in Africa, so she is familiar with this type of flavor. It was fun to share my meal with someone other than my picky family who would turn there nose up at anything that didn't resemble biscuits or roast. (Even though I love cooking for them, it's a struggle to find recipes that my dad will even allow near his plate.) Thanks for joining me Kara Beth! I hope I represented Ghana well.

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