Friday, October 12, 2018

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Ghana

Maya Angelou once said, "while the rest of the world has been improving technology, Ghana has been improving the quality of man's humanity to a man."  There perhaps is no better example of this saying than Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian born diplomat who served as United Nations Secretary-General from January 1997 through December 2006.  While his tenure was not without its criticism, there is no doubt that, overall, Secretary-General Annan's made a significant contribution to world peace, but that is a subject for a different blog.

My personal culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes, takes me to the country where the former Secretary-General was born and raised.  My latest challenge is to prepare a main course from the Republic of Ghana.  This country has a long, documented history going back to at least to the fifth century B.C.  This history is one of organized states, such as the Ashanti, the Akwamu, the Bonoman, the Denkyira and the Maskessim. Those independent states were eclipsed by colonialist powers, namely the British Empire. While I am a big fan of history, this aspect of Ghana's past is not the subject at hand.

Rather, I want to focus on the history of Ghanaian cuisine, which seems to be a rather elusive subject.  There are a lot of websites that talk about Ghanaian foods, but very little about the history of those foods.  As much as I want to learn about fufu, bofrot and red red, I want to know how those dishes and others originated and evolved over time.  And, that has proven to be quite difficult.

After spending a lot of time looking for that elusive history, I have decided to make two dishes: Chichinga and Jollof Rice with Goat.  These dishes touch upon two aspects of Ghanaian cuisine: street food and staple foods. 

APPETIZER

According to Lydia Polgreen, "few countries reward the sidewalk chowhound like Ghana.  The good street food is where then Ghanaians converge, such as bus stations, markets, interchanges, and construction sites. Vendors are present, selling a wide range of foods, including kebabs, such as Chichinga (or kyinkyinga). These kebabs are small pieces of meat covered in peanut flour and spices, grilled with vegetables over charcoal.  Chef Zoe Adjonyoh calls it Ghana's answer to the shish kebab.

For this dish, I decided to use goat for the meat. Goat production provides a ready source of protein and their adaptability means that they can be raised in different climates. Given the number of government websites providing instructions on how one could raise their own goats, it would seem that goat production is encouraged.  I don't have to travel far to get goat, because I have a lot in my freezer at home.  So, with some vegetables that are vaguely reminiscent of the red, yellow and green of the Ghanaian flag, I made these tasty skewers.


CHICHINGA (GOAT KEBABS)
Recipe adapted from The Guardian
Serves 4 -6

Ingredients:
3-4 tablespoons of the suya spice mix (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons rapeseed or groundnut oil, plus extra for brushing
2 pounds of goat, cubed
2-3 bell peppers, cored, deseeded, cut into chunks
1 red onion, cut into quarters and separated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
1.  Prepare the goat.  Mix the dry spice mix with the rapeseed oil in a bowl.  Add the goat to the bowl and massage the mixture thoroughly into the meat.  Thread the chunks of pepper, onion and beef onto skewers.  The longer the skewers can marinate, the better.  Lay the skewers in a dish, cover with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 1-2 hours, but preferably overnight.

2.  Prepare to cook the skewers.  Take the skewers out of the fridge and leave them to sit at room temperature for a few minutes while you prepare a charcoal or gas grill, brush the meat with ground nut oil, and season with the salt and pepper before adding to the grill.

3.  Cook the skewers.  Turn the grills after 3-4 minutes on each side depending on the size of the goat pieces.  Remove from heat and let rest for 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately.

SPICE MIX

Suya refers to the style of cooking, but it is a spice mix that incorporates chiles, peanuts and a range of spices.  It is what makes chichinga.

This was the first time I used roasted, ground peanuts for a spice mix.  The thing to keep in mind is that the peanuts still have some oil in them, which results in clumping.  That just requires a little more work to smooth out the spice mix before applying it to the goat.  


SUYA
Recipe from The Guardian

Ingredients (for the suya spice mix):
1/2 cup of peanuts, ground and roasted
2 teaspoons ground hot or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Mix all of the ingredients for the spice mix together in a bowl.  Transfer to an airtight container in a cool, dark place.  Store for up to one month.  If you've added fresh ingredients, store in the fridge and use within a week.

MAIN COURSE

For the main course, I made Jollof Rice with Goat Meat.  There is some debate about whether this dish is truly Ghanian, as Nigeria lays claim to the dish, as do several other African countries.  Nevertheless,  for my Around the World in 80 Dishes challenge, I am making Ghana's version of the dish.  The base of Jollof rice is, besides the rice, the use of tomatoes, tomato paste, scotch bonnet peppers, salt, spices and vegetable oil.  The tomatoes and the paste give the dish its signature red hues, while the scotch bonnet peppers provide the spicy kick.  The remaining spices round out the flavor of the dish.

This challenge produced not just a main course.  Eating one dish of Jollof Rice with Goat Meat felt like eating an entire meal.  That makes sense, since the word Jollof comes from the Wolof people.  The word means "one pot," a common term that we today associate with one-pot meals.  


JOLLOF  RICE WITH GOAT
Recipe from Biscuits and Ladles

Ingredients (for the marinade):
1/2 pound bone-in goat meat
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 scotch bonnet
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 onion
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Salt, as required
Hot water

Ingredients (for the Jollof):
1 large onion
1 tablespoon turkey berries (optional)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste or puree
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups of long or medium grain rice
Stock from cooking of goat meat
Salt, as required
1 teaspoon shrimp substitute for shrimp stock or chicken stock cube
Water, as required
Salt, as required

Directions:
1. Prepare the goat meat.  Wash and clean the goat meat and put in a sauce pan.  Blend the garlic, ginger, scotch bonnet, green bell pepper, onion, anise and cumin seeds together.  Pour over goat meat.  Add salt and curry powder and cook under high heat.  Add hot water as and when necessary to tenderize the meat.  Meanwhile, blend the onions, scotch bonnet and turkey berries (if you are using them) together and set aside.

2.  Brown the goat.  Pour oil in a heavy bottom saucepan with a tight lid and place on medium heat.  When hot, add the meat to fry, reserving the stock for later.  Remove the meat from the sauce pan and set aside.  Add additional oil if there is not enough oil in the saucepan.

3.  Continue making the stew.  Add tomato paste or puree and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add the blended onions, scotch bonnet and turkey berries.  Add chopped tomatoes and stir.  Add nutmeg and cover the lid.  Simmer on high heat for about 5 minutes until cooked through and not tasting raw.

4.  Prepare the rice.   Rinse the rice until the water is clear.  Add the rice to the stew, reserved goat meat stock from the cooked meat, ground shrimp or chicken stock, taste for salt and just enough water as needed.  Cover tightly and bring to a boil.  Once it starts boiling, remove lid, use a thin wooden ladle or a long for to stir from the bottom to top.

5.  Continue to cook the dish.  Cover tightly and let simmer on low heat for 10-12 minutes.  after the time has elapsed, remove lid, stir again  Stir in fried goat meat at this point.  Cover tightly and let simmer for 10 more minutes until it is well cooked.  Serve alone or with fried ripe plantains and coleslaw as desired.

*          *          *

In the end, this challenge was my second attempt at cooking goat (technically my second and third attempt, but who is counting anyways).  Both the Chichinga and the Jollof Rice were very good.  The only issue that I had was that goat in both of the dishes was not tender enough (especially in the Jollof Rice dish).  I will need to work on my goat cooking techniques.  Until next time...

ENJOY!

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