International Cooking: Food from Ghana

Ghana is a small country located on the coast of West Africa, and it is the second-most populous West African country.

Ghana used to be comprised of multiple kingdoms, and eventually they traded with the Portuguese and other European countries. In the 19th century, the British established control over most of the country, though they fought often with some of the Ghanaian nation-states.

Ghana eventually gained independence and became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve sovereignty. This led them to become influential in decolonization efforts.

Ghana is made up of multiple linguistic and religious groups. The country has maintained one of the most free and stable governments on the continent for around 20 years now, and does decently in healthcare, economic growth, and human development.

What Do People Eat in Ghana?

Main dishes in Ghana are often based around starchy staple foods, such as cassava and plantain. Millet, sorghum, rice, yams, maize, and sweet potato are common too. Then there’s usually a sauce or soup as well as some kind of protein.

Soups and stews often start with a base of tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, and palm oil, which means that these dishes are often red or orange in appearance. The other ingredients could include a wide range of vegetables and pulses. Common sources of protein include beef, pork, goat, lamb, chicken, smoked turkey, tripe, dried snails, and fried fish. Meat and fish is often smoked, salted, or dried to enhance flavor and for preservation.

Breakfast is often a porridge of some kind, with fruit, tea, and a chocolate drink. Bread is common too, and it is sometimes baked with both wheat and cassava flour.

A range of sweet snacks are available, and they may be fried, barbecued, boiled, roasted, baked, or steamed. Plantains and peanuts are popular ingredients.

I had intended to make another dish this week called ‘etor’, which is made with mashed yam, but I couldn’t get yam at the supermarket (even though I’m sure I’ve seen it there before). I was going to make a Ghanaian sauce called ‘shito’ to go alongside it (I don’t know that these dishes traditionally go together, but I thought it would work). The shito in particular sounds interesting as it’s a hot sauce that also includes dried fish, so I’m going to try and make it another time.

What I Made

Oblayo (Hominy Corn Porridge)

Oblayo (Hominy Corn Porridge)

This is a simple porridge eaten for breakfast in Ghana. It’s made by cooking hominy, and can be sweetened and include milk. The recipe I used suggested cinnamon and nutmeg as additions, and a topping of peanuts. I used canned hominy so I didn’t have to cook it for long, and then I combined it with the other ingredients, including a little milk and sugar.

I thought this would be really good. After all, I like hominy, and I liked all the things I was adding to it. But for some reason, it just tasted kind of weird. But that may just be me! It also may turn out a bit differently if using dry hominy, so perhaps one day I will do that.

If you’d like to try this, the recipe is from Bakes By Chichi.

Red Red (Stewed Black-Eyed Peas)

Red Red (Stewed Black-Eyed Peas)

I was bit apprehensive about this since I don’t like black-eyed peas that much. But my list of dishes I could make for Ghana was pretty short, and I did still have dried black-eyed peas left over from other recipes. So I decided I would give this a go.

First, I cooked the black-eyed peas in water. Then I sautéed onions in palm oil for a few minutes. I added chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, paprika, and some chicken stock. Here I could have added optional crayfish, but I did not.

I finally added the cooked black-eyed peas, green onions, and some more chicken stock, and after simmering for another 10 minutes or so it was ready.

It would probably be traditional to serve this with fufu, Ghana’s national dish. It’s made by pounding cassava and green plantains together with water to make a smooth mixture, that then gets formed into balls. I haven’t liked any of the types of fufu I’ve made so far, so instead I served this with rice, which is a common alternative. Fried plantain is a common accompaniment to this dish too.

I was surprised to find that this was really good! The beans gained a lot of flavor from the onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger. I will probably make this again.

This recipe is from Immaculate Bites.

Nkate Nkwan (Peanut Soup)

Nkate Nkwan (Peanut Soup)

As you would know by now if you have been following me on this challenge, a lot of African countries seem to like peanut-based dishes, particularly soups and stews. This peanut soup contains chicken, though you can’t see it because I chopped it up rather than use the traditional chicken pieces. I just find it kind of cumbersome to be picking the meat off bones in a soup or stew (though I’m not denying that it may be more delicious that way).

I used a YouTube video for this recipe, and there weren’t exact amounts given for most of the ingredients, so I just tried to eyeball what I thought was right.

To start, I put a little oil in a Dutch oven and added chopped chicken thighs, a whole Roma tomato, half an onion, and a habanero (which I stabbed several times with a knife). Then I sprinkled over some onion powder, garlic powder, all-purpose seasoning, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, and salt. I let that cook for a while, stirring every so often.

Next, I added tomato paste and cooked for a minute or two before adding chicken stock (though the recipe used water instead). I put the lid on at this point and let the mixture simmer while I did the next part.

I added some onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, peanut butter, and more chicken stock to my blender and blended until smooth.

Then I took the whole tomato, onion, and habanero out of the Dutch oven and poured in the peanut butter mixture. I added some more chicken stock, but not as much as in the video (which was again using water) since it seemed like it was a lot.

I let the whole thing simmer for 20 minutes or so, partially covered, and then it was ready to serve. I was meant to add some green peppers at the end but didn’t because I was confused as to what kind they were supposed to be. They looked like little bell peppers.

I served this with rice balls, which I made by slightly overcooking some white rice, mashing it, and squashing it into balls. This is a common accompaniment to this soup, but you could also serve it with fufu.

This was really good, probably one of the best African dishes I have made during this challenge. The peanut butter flavor was there, but it was kind of in the background behind the garlic, ginger, and spice. I’m sure it would taste better with whole chicken pieces and I could just cook it that way and take the chicken off the bone for serving. I may do it that way next time, because there will be a next time!

This recipe is from OBAAPA’S RECIPES on YouTube.

Final Thoughts

This week turned out much better than I was expecting! The nkate nkwan was my favorite dish and I’m sure I’ll make it again.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Greece.

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