Even before I get down to cooking, I derive a huge kick from shopping for African ingredients in Brixton Market. Now I only need to buy some garden eggs and okra to fix abenkwan, Ghanaian palm nut soup. It is popular throughout West Africa and known as ngonya mosaka or mbanga in Cameroon, amiedi or obey-ekpo in Nigeria, moambé in the Congo, banga in Sierra Leone and nyembwe in Gabon.
The main ingredient that defines the flavour of abenkwan is palm nut oil. Without the oil you end up with a generic stew. It is squeezed out of boiled fruit of Elaeis guineensis. I go for convenience and buy ready-made one. It is imported from Ghana, so as authentic as it gets.
I have been fascinated with the cuisines of the Cradle of the Humankind ever since I heard a song by a New Yorikan poetess Dana Bryant. It was titled Food, an ode to home-made meals that trace their lineage back to "five thousand years of history on the Nigerian countryside". The tastes and flavours of the places I have never been to, what can be more exciting! So here we go, abenkwan soup with foufou! Yeeppie-ho!
The recipe is simple:
- Fry 3 tablespoonfuls of palm nut oil in a pan for about 10 minutes. Traditional recipe calls for a whole cup but here I prefer to give precedence to post-modern health-conscious trends.
- Add one chopped onion and one de-seeded chili and fry 10 minutes on medium heat.
- Add meat or fish that you use and fry it until fragrant.
- Add okra, garden eggs and tomatoes and stir-fry briefly.
- Pour cold water until it covers everything and bring to boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 10-15 more minutes. The traditional recipe requires a whole day of sitting on hot coals but I think in the olden days it was more about food safety.
- Mix foufou flour with water: half a cup flour with 3/4 cup water. Knead well. Make dough balls the size of a regular meat ball. Add to the simmering soup. Cook 5-8 more minutes.
Here is some nice music to accompany this gorgeous meal: