Fly might be about music mostly but every now and then we like to consider our readers other needs. Amma reflects on Ghanaian food inside and outside Ghana
My earliest recollections of food were always a turbulent affair. I just didn’t like eating very much. One of the problems I had with Ghanaian food in particular was that it was too spicy — I was forever drinking glasses of water immediately after sampling a taste of my mum’s cooking.
Unlike most foods around the world, there are not many African recipe books, therefore things like measurements and timings are redundant
One of the only solutions to this problem for my mum was to prepare a plate of chips or fried plantains instead. However, as this meant spending extra time in the kitchen, mum continued persuading me to eat the main dish she had prepared for the family. This was always Ghanaian cuisine and more often then not, the dish of the day always was ‘Fufu and Soup’.
Soup is generally the main staple meal in Ghana and is usually accompanied with Fufu which can only be described as a doughy-like paste. It’s made from boiled, pounded plantains and cassava or yam. To prepare this requires two people and a gigantic wooden pestle and mortar. The first person is pounding the ingredients with a pestle, whilst the other one is shaping the concoction with their right hand by adding water at regular intervals. This is all done with the most hypnotic rhythm which is extraordinary to witness. This process takes around 30 minutes after which the paste begins to take shape in the form of a smooth round ball.
And so onto the soups which come in a number of varieties and are all meat-based. They are extremely easy to prepare like most soups. There’s Light Soup, Palm Nut Soup, which is the pulp of Palm fruits, Turkey Soup, and finally my favourite, Peanut Butter Soup which is absolutely delicious.
As the eldest daughter, in my early teens, I was encouraged to help my mum with preparing the family dinner. This role also extended to helping my mum with the shopping. As most ethnic minorities foods were not sold in supermarkets like Tesco’s it was street markets such as Shepherd’s Bush and Brixton that catered for this community. Brixton was always my favourite as whatever day we visited, there was always a thriving hive of activity; from the people, the sounds of Jamaican and African music, to the colourful melange of food from vast continents.
When preparing Peanut Butter Soup, we would buy 1 whole chicken which was cut into pieces, 2 jars of Peanut Butter Spread, onions, ginger, tomatoes, 2 – 3 Scotch Bonnet Chilli Peppers, which originate from Jamaica and are super hot, and seasoning cubes. Back home, I’d be busy chopping the onions and the Chilli pepper whilst mum would be boiling the chicken in a large pot of water with a sprinkling of salt. I would then add the onions and we would leave the chicken to boil for around 10 minutes or so.
Unlike most foods around the world, there are not many African recipe books, therefore things like measurements and timings are redundant. Mum always says it’s about knowing through experience, when to add another ingredient or when the dish is ready, simply by the scent or the appearance. We then mix the jars of peanut butter spread with water in a bowl to make a paste and add this into the pot. You’d then also add the tomatoes and chilli pepper paste that have been blended. Finally you’d add the seasoning and ginger and leave to simmer for as long as it takes for the oil substance to appear on the surface then you’re done.
Admittedly, the food I’ve mentioned doesn’t taste as good until you try them where they originated. I’ve visited Ghana on numerous occasions and the food is always appetising. All the dishes seem to be just that bit more palatable. This is due to the lack of refrigeration facilities therefore the food is freshly produced.
So if I’ve whetted your appetite and you fancy giving Ghanaian cuisine a go, I highly recommend The Garden City Restaurant in Leyton where they have a wide selection of the dishes I have described. But please remember if you’re not a spicy food enthusiast; make sure you have a couple of glasses of water handy!
If you have a taste for global food culture, visit Foodster for some more ideas and tasty recipes