I’m a fairly adventurous eater these days, which considering the battles that ensued at my mother’s dining table is practically a miracle. As a child I must have spent at least 2 days of my week sitting at table, stubbornly refusing to eat my dinner. For my Ghanaian mother, this meant she not only had to be clever about what she would serve her little princess for dinner, but it also meant that she had to be pretty clever about the way she introduced me to some of the more traditional dishes that came from the land of her birth. Looking back I can only laugh at my childhood antics with a cuisine that I would now give my right arm to have on a regular basis.
Ewurafuah – The Foodienne
At the age of eight, I was taken on my first visit to Ghana. I remember being so excited about the trip that I told every one of my friends, numerous bus drivers and every shop assistant in every store that my holiday wardrobe came from. I was excited about seeing this mystical place that half of my family came from, where it was apparently always hot, where people were supposed to be much friendlier and food much fresher. London was our home, it was where our house, friends and much of our family was, it was where our lives were being lived- and yet my mother still referred to Ghana as her home. It was something I hadn’t really noticed until the moment she announced I would be going there on holiday. Prior to that I had been mildly fascinated by Ghana, suddenly I was obsessed with the place.
The day before my flight, however I was suddenly gripped with panic. What would I eat while I was there? I was a notoriously fussy eater, and would spend at least 2 days of my week sitting at the table, stubbornly refusing to eat my dinner. My encounters with Ghanaian food had left my mother exasperated and more than a few aunties, infuriated by my refusal to eat their food, vowed never to cook for me again. Having expressed these fears to my mother, she suddenly produced a list of foods she thought I should try while I was there. Little did she know that her list would sow the seeds of the culinary curiosity that would lead to my more adventurous approach to food.
A week into my visit, and I was already in love with the place. I had been staying with my mother’s aunt in Cape Coast. Her house was different and magical. She kept goats and chickens. In the garden an avocado tree, and on a small plot of land next to the house she grew tomatoes, and corn and even pineapple! I had never had so much space to run around in. By the end of my visit I had tried every item on my mother’s list. I adored anything made of plantain and discovered kelewele, tatalɜ, kakrɔ. I had tried waakye, which at the time was sold wrapped in a banana leaf- a unique feature in itself. I had tried Nkontomire and liked it enough to try it a second time. I loved the condensed milk fudge toffees that could be found not only in local shops but also at many of the little table stall ‘shops’ that were littered along any of the red sandy roads that led into town. I drank and ate so much coconut and mango that the family joked I would turn into a ‘coconut head with a mango bottom’. I had had more than my fill of “gari soakings” whilst playing with the many cousins and other local children I had been introduced to.
The intensity and richness of my experiences on that visit would go on to shape me in many ways. The many different foods I had tasted in Ghana paved the way for what has blossomed into a passionate affair with all kinds of food, an affair that is occasionally to blame for slight the bulge of my hips that betrays my over indulgence. I am forever looking for something new to eat. I love food that’s edgy, vibrant and colourful. I adore sweet things but have also grown to like spicy food. Recently I’ve been journeying back to the delights of Ghanaian food.
A journey that is taking me to new foodian delights, ones that will be recorded in this blog. So Stay with us. Put the take-away menus down, get out there buy good food, cook excellent food, and re-discover, or for some of you discover the delights of Ghanaian food…
Gari – is a fine to coarse granular flour made from cassava
Soakings – gari mixed with milk, sugar and water.
Kakrɔ – Deep fried plantain dumplings seasoned with salt, onions, chilli and ginger.
Tatalɜ – Deep fried flat plantain dumplings seasoned with salt, onions, pepper and ginger, and fried with palm oil
Waakye – Delicious rice and black beans coloured with dried rhubarb leaves.
Usually served with stewed meat or fried fish, gravy, gari and hot pepper sauce.
Nkontomire- A rich and hearty stew made with spinach, crushed pumpkin seeds,
palm oil, and fish.
Kelewele- Fried mini cubes of plantain seasoned with ground pepper, ginger and spices.