This post was inspired by my cousin who I invited over for dinner. In the world where we text & rarely talk with our voices-I received a text saying she is on a low carb diet, so she would like to put in a request for the dinner menu to take her low carb. status into consideration. I hate limitations to my culinary creativity, but I always like to take on challenges. As I thought about what I could make -the Lewis Latimer lightbulb went off in my head & said take her back to her ROOTS!
One of my all time favorite dishes is ampesie with kontomire froi AKA yams/plantains & spinach stew. This is a Ghanaian specialty that many natives & visitors love- rich, poor, young or old. This is probably one of the healthiest, inexpensive & readily abundant food in ingredients alone that you will find in Ghana from the presidential palace to a little village in the middle of nowhere. The stew is most often made with fish in Ghana, but many also add meat (goat ,beef, tripe etc.) with boiled eggs added to the dish. I suppose you can add chicken, but I have never seen nor had it with chicken & to be honest with you the whole eating chicken in abundance in Ghana is fairly new to me because growing up in Ghana we ate chicken mostly on special occasions -fish was more abundant in our diet & if we were going the meat route it would be goat meat,so I guess not all Black people love chicken-LOL!
Today on the menu is ampesie with kontomire froi & kelewele for dessert. Kontomire froi is also known to many as palava sauce (kontomire is actually taro leaves (cocoyam) while palava (which literally translates to trouble or funny business) is actually made with spinach, but you will find that many Ghanaians at home & abroad in particular interchange the two because while cocoyam leaves maybe abundant in Southeast Asia & Ghana (the second largest producer of cocoa, second only to our cousins in Ivory Coast), it is rare to find it in Europe or the USA outside of an African, Southeast Asian or Caribbean specialty market. The Taro leaves maybe best known to many as the elephant ear plants that many decorate their outdoor/indoor spaces with in the western world & in Africa as well. The biggest difference with taro leaves & spinach is that you can eat spinach raw (i.e. in a salad etc.), but you cannot eat taro leaves raw as they are toxic in their raw form.
Kelewele is fried ripe plantain marinated in a blend of fresh ginger, onions, salt, cloves, pepper (ground red pepper found in most West African specialty markets around the world or fresh red peppers). If you want to make authentic Kelewele you must also add other spices like hwentia & sekoni, but those can be optional as they are not easily found in many western markets or even in African markets in the West. Kelewele is a Ghanaian delicacy that you will find in its best & most authentic version mostly at night on the road side being fried up over an open flame. When this mouth watering deliciousness in the perfect marriage between spicy & sweet hits your taste buds, you will feel no pain!
“…few countries reward the sidewalk chowhound as well as Ghana. From rough-hewn sheds, women sell sharp wedges of starchy yam, perfectly fried in splendorously saturated palm oil and slathered with a fiery sauce of pulverized Scotch bonnet peppers and garlic. From stainless steel bowls perched atop their heads, women dish out hearty bowls of perfectly spiced stew and rice, endlessly customizable with a plethora of condiments, from crunchy vegetables to a hard-boiled egg…”READ MORE
Below I have made my life a lot easier by directing you to other sites with recipes for the aforementioned sunday dinner special along with more history about Ghana & our delicious cuisine. Enjoy trying these recipes at home as I enjoy my homemade version, where we gather together around one traditional Asanka bowl & dig our pre-washed hands in, as one family unit in sharing the delicious gift of nourishment for mind, body & soul!
Remember, fresh ingredients are key -if you try to substitute ginger powder for fresh ginger, you will have a rude awakening in taste-so don’t do it to yourself! Fresh is always best!
“Ghana’s earliest inhabitants existed as long ago as 6000 B.C. Ancient stone tools and other artifacts have been discovered that suggest early hunter-gatherer communities, most of which lived by the ocean. These nomadic tribes (traveling from one place to another) roamed the land in search of berries and wild seeds, and followed herds of animals for meat. Ancient trade routes existed long before the arrival of the first Europeans in 1471. Trade routes running north to south, and east to west, many of which ran through Ghana, existed throughout the continent of Africa. Modern-day Ghana imported dates, salt (for food preservation), tobacco, and copper from northern territories, while Ghana offered ostrich feathers, cloth, and cola nuts in return. The Portuguese arrived in modern-day Ghana in 1471, the first Europeans to explore the land. Though they were searching for a sea route to the Far East, the explorers began building forts along the coast and trading with inland tribes for their gold. By 1600, the Dutch and English began exploring Ghana. One hundred years later, the Germans and Danes also built forts—all hoping for ivory and gold. In return, explorers brought rum, cotton, cloth, beads, and weapons to the tribesmen. Eventually the Europeans forcefully captured Ghanaians as slaves…” READ MORE
“A popular side dish in Ghana is kelewele. It is sometimes served with rice and stew, and sometimes eaten alone as a dessert. Another popular dish is kontomire which is mashed up taro (cocoyam) leaves. It is often mixed with bits of tuna and egusi (pumpkin seeds) and dressed with palm oil…Other popular dishes are ampesi (boiled yam and unripe plantain)which is usually accompanied with kontomire, groundnut soup, usually made with chicken, gari foto, nyadowa (garden egg stew) Tilapia, fried whitebait (chinam), smoked fish and crayfish are a common component of Ghanaian dishes…”READ MORE
“There are many variations of this traditional spinach (silver beet) dish from West Africa. No one can agree to its origins—some say it is Nigerian, others claim it comes from Ghana, but my mother says her version comes from Sierra Leone!” READ MORE
250 ml (8 fl oz) palm oil
4 medium onions, finely chopped
4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled and mashed
Salt and pepper to taste
2-4 red chillies (hot peppers), finely chopped (optional)
250 g (1/2 lb) diced cooked meat or leftovers
(optional, although not chicken) and/or 250 g (1/2 lb) fish
e.g. snapper, tuna, salmon or trevally
125 g (1/4 lb) smoked herring, boned (optional)
200 g (6-1/2 oz) dried prawns (shrimp)
3 bunches of spinach (sliver beet) or 750 g (1-1/2 lb) frozen spinach
(silver beet), washed and chopped
100 g (3-1/2 oz) egushi (shelled pumpkin seeds or pepitas),
ground in a coffee grinder
Kontomire (Cocoyam leaf) Stew Recipe
by Maame Boakye
2lb Kontomire Chiffonade (substitute with spinach if not available)
1 large Red Onion thinly sliced
3 large ripped tomatoes medium diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
½ teaspoon of ginger minced
½ teaspoon of scotch bonnet Pepper chopped
½ teaspoon of Allepo pepper
½ teaspoon of curry powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
12oz Palm Oil
½ cup dried Egusi (Melon) seeds grounded ( sub with pumpkin seeds in not available)
3 large scale of and deboned Tinapa (smoked fish)
Salt to taste
Health Benefits of Spinach:Health benefits of spinach include good eyesight, blood pressure, strengthens muscles, prevention of age-related macula degeneration (AMD), cataract, atherosclerosis and heart attack, neurological benefits, bone mineralization, anti-ulcerative, anti-cancerous property, skin protection, foetus development, protein rich for infant’s proper growth etc. Spinach is a green vegetable that is cheap and affordable by all. It is a rich source of minerals, vitamins, pigments and phytonutrients. All these together make spinach very beneficial to a number of vital processes especially for our eyes, nervous system, cardiovascular disorders, skin, bones, anti-cancerous, foetus and infants. Keeping in view the vast range of benefits from the vegetable, it is advisable to consume spinach regularly…READ MORE
The Health Benefits of Palm Oil : Palm Oil is an orange to red vegetable oil with a distinctively delicious flavour made from the juicy pulp of the African oil palm tree fruit called Elaeis guineensis. The fruit is no larger than grape fruits, but has a central nut, the palm kernel (which is used in making palm kernel oil) enclosed by the soft juicy pulp (from which the red oil is made). It grows freely and widely through out tropical Africa. It is the highest oil producing tree known to man.This oil is red due to its very high content of beta-carotene – the same agent that gives carrot its colour, and known to protect humans from many cancers and heart diseases…READ MORE
Health Benefits of Eggs (Brown Eggs are best) : Eggs are great for the eyes. According to one study, an egg a day may prevent macular degeneraton due to the carotenoid content, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. Both nutrients are more readily available to our bodies from eggs than from other sources…READ MORE
Health Benefits of Plantains: Beyond preventing constipation and lifestyle changes, herbs can also be excellent remedies for your hemorrhoid condition. Plantain is one of the herbs that you can try so you can say goodbye to the symptoms brought by hemorrhoids. This herb actually has a strong folk reputation as a hemorrhoid remedy. Plantain contains allantoin, the same soothing compound which is found in comfrey. Plantains are basically a type of bananathat contain less sugar than yellow bananas. They are not suitable for eating raw unless they are very ripe. They are usually cooked and consumed and are known to be potent sources of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Plantain is an excellent combination of energy, tissue-building elements, minerals and proteins. It is also rich in solids and lower in water content as compared to other fresh fruits. During the ancient years, the plantain plant is used to heal the bites of “mad dogs, snakes, and other venomous creatures.” But today, the liquid juice of this plant is used to help distillation of rheum upon the throat, glands, lungs, and others…READ MORE
For the Health Benefits of Ginger , Fish & Yam click HERE
I love the video below because it shows how the world is truly Globally Fused with Africa at its root. Vietnamese born Supreme Master Ching Hai shows two Ga women of Ghana cooking Kontomire stew on her show “Vegetarianism -The Noble Way of Living“. I don’t know many Ghanaians who label themselves as vegetarians or vegans, but our general diet in many ways is very vegetarian friendly with great flavors that most western vegetarians/vegans are often deprived of in the West.