Friday, 26 March 2010

Kickin' Kontomire stew

I bought most of the ingredients for this dish from a cute, little Ghanaian run shop in Brixton market - all hip life music, 4 for a pound plantains and nonchalant service. My intial inquiry for cloves with the shop assistant went like this:
Me- Erhem, do you stock cloves? (I inquired in the way you do when you're from Kingston upon thames)
Man (chewing a tooth pick, points to the shop next door selling clothes. I follow his direction.
Me - Oh, no, not clothes - cloves
Man - (looking blank)
Me - .....for kelewele?
Man - What? (still blank)
Me - No worries, I'll jog along (man looks at me increduously like i'm speaking Hebrew)....oh dear!

Pronounced kon-tome-ray, this stew originates from the Ashanti region of Ghana and is packed full of nutrients ideal to ward off those last remaining winter niggles. Add an extra sctoch bonnet for added chili punch.

Ingredients - serves 2-3
1 large bunch of Coco yam leaves or Spinach leaves
2 tbsp of grounded egusi (melon seeds)
150 ml palm oil
 - the above can be obtained from any well stocked African market,
if in doubt, head for Brixton
3 cloves garlic
I medium sized onion
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 tomatoes
150g Smoked Mackerel
1/2 tsp salt
50ml water

Right, start this dish by chopping up your onions and then set aside - I find something so familiar and comforting in the way that virtually all Ghanaian stews start off like this. Chop up the tomatoes, garlic  and scotch bonnet into rough pieces and add to a blender and puree. Wash the spinach or coco yam leaves thoroughly, cut stems off and place in a pan half filled with water and boil, once boiled remove immediately and leave to drain in a sieve. Next, take the onions and dry fry for a minute or two until beginning to soften, add palm oil and the salt and resume cooking for 3-5 minutes and then add tomato mix and the 50 ml water to the pan, leave to cook until the liquid starts to reduce. Any excess palm oil may rise to the surface, which you can always spoon out later. Add the ground egusi and gently mix; agusi thickens the sauce and adds a distinct nutty taste to the dish. Take a pestle and mortar and grind the spinach leaves into a pulpy consistency, draining any excess water and add to the stew. Flake off large pieces of smoked fish and add to the stew and gently mix, cover and cook for 10 mins on a medium heat. Serve immediately with fluffy white rice. So, is this stew Kickin'? You know what to do, get commenting!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Ghana reflections part I

I've been thinking of holidays lately for a number of reasons - the need for a recuperative respite, the up-coming holiday season and not forgetting it's coming up to two, long, sun starved years since I last boarded a plane; yeah, I know, not exactly cause to throw myself into the nearest Thomas Cook, but still, it'd be nice to venture abroad. So, I 've decided to feed my holiday hunger by pouring over my holiday snaps from Ghana '06. It was my first time visiting as an adult having been as an eight-year-old, so I was now able to fully appreciate what Ghana had to offer. Here are some of my favourite snaps.

I love this shot, it's just so evocative and encapsulates everything about a typical Ghanaian sunset: the warmth of the setting sun that you can almost feel through the photo, the calm of the surf and the fishing boats docked on the sandy banks - visual poetry.

The picture below was taken at the madness that is  Makola Market, a entity of staggering proportions, a place Ghanaians can shop for home goods, food, car tyres or an impromptu new hair do - Ghanaian braids, cuts...take your pick.
I love how the vivid colours of these palm nuts take centre stage surrounded by muted greens and the rough, dull surface of the ground.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Kelewele is as Ghanaian as it gets - along with Kente cloth, cocoa beans and dilapidated taxi's. On any given day, as dusk falls, thousands of vendors acorss the country fire up their mobile ovens to make this classic dish for the hungry masses. I love dusk, but nightfall in Ghana is special, against a back drop of a tropical setting sun, you'll find the beat of hip-life music jostling with the aroma of frying chichinga, while noisy crowds make their way home - it's intoxicating and crazy all in one unique way.

This particular version of Kelewele is one I've grown up with, a tasty snack my Mum would make as a starter to a traditional Sunday roast, it pairs excellently with dry, roasted peanuts and Songs of Praise!


2 medium sized plantain (part ripe and yellow is best)
1/2 tps salt
1/4 of a minced onion
1 tsp grated hot ginger
1 tsp crushed cloves
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp warm water

Start by peeling your plantains and cutting in half and then again length wise. Holding the knife at an angle, slice the plantain into small pieces and place into a large bowl. Using a rolling pin, cover cloves in cling film and crush into a crumbly consistency and add to a small bowl. Next, mince, ginger and onion and add to the cloves along with the pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and water and mix into a paste. If you want your Kelewele particularly spicy, add an extra 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper. Grab a large spoon and mix up the plantain roughly, this will give a nice, crispy finish to the plantain and then leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Heat one inch of oil in a pan until hot and in small batches add plantain to the oil with a slotted, metal spoon ensuring the pieces are not touching. Fry until golden brown and place in a bowl in a pre-heated oven to maintain temperature. Repeat the process until plantain is finished. A great snack for any day and any occasion - it's the closest thing to being transported to a roadside vendor in Accra!