On arriving at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, smothered in the warm morning breeze, it was only a matter of time before I hugged over a bowl of velvety rich millet porridge and wondering where this foodie adventure takes me.
To have an insight into Ghana’s diverse food culture I planned to visit the local Medina market, the Aburi botanical garden, the only such horticultural garden serving the whole of West Africa and beyond; a young girls cookery school , some local restaurants and explore some primary school meals and visit Yarley a malnourished baby from birth.
Aided by a young girl barely 16 years old working on the market, I combed through the heaps of ingredients like, soya beans, millet grains, sesame seeds, sun dried sorrel petals and Sunyani brown rice. I was like a little girl again in a sweet shop. The interaction with the stall holders was fun, eclectic and very informative. Learning the local names, uses and methods of cooking some of the rare and interesting ingredients.
Swamped at the bottom of a huge stock pot was the child hood sites I’d long forgotten – naa kaah; crabs, red-backed crawling crabs. I mean those that could snap a finger off with the least of mistakes should one dared to catch them alive , like I remembered doing as a child, recollecting the strategy used to cunningly grip the purplish and fiery red Ada crab claws.
The sight of these crabs reminded me of the classic Appapransah dish , which I’ll describe as roasted corn and palm fruit polenta served with garden egg and tomato dip, traditionally garnished with a selection of palm flavoured seafood and Ada crab. A dish I’ll be featuring in my next article.
My highlight on this trip was definitely the workshop with the final students at the Institute of Catering and Home Economics the cookery school I attended 25years ago. We prepared Nacocos Jollof rice. Jollof rice is a classic African dish which most African nationals claim ownership to its origins as such there are varied methods of preparations and ingredients used in cooking this dish. However it is basically rice cooked in a medium to heavy tomato base sauce, which the French will call Sauce Provencale.
I’ll simply say, Jollof rice is to the African as Risotto is to the Italian; Jambalaya is to American and Briyani for Indian. My favourite amongst the jollof rice’ though is the Hausa Jollof from the north of Ghana, cooked with palm oil and Nim wood smoked river fish. However the interesting version of the final students of Institute of catering is a hit and hope you enjoy preparing and sharing Nacoco’s Jollof, infused with coconut water.
NACOCOS JOLLOF RICE
50g Sunyani brown grain
50g white rice
50ml coconut oil
1 medium size chopped onion
1 crushed garlic clove
25g grated ginger
150g tomato –chopped
10g chilli powder
25g tomato – puree
50g diced carrots
50g sliced green beans
1pt vegetable stock
1/2pt coconut water
Chilli powder – optional
Seasoning to taste
In a thick bottom pan heat the oil and fry the onion, garlic and ginger on medium heat till the onion is softened.
Add the chilli powder and stir occasionally to avoid burning.
Stir in tomato puree and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously and add the chopped tomato and cook for another 5 minutes.
Wash rice and stir it into the sauce, reduce heat and simmer rice for 5.
Pour in ½ the vegetable stock and coconut water and gently stir in sliced green beans and diced carrots and thyme. Check and correct seasoning.
Leave rice to cook on a medium to low heat gradually adding remaining vegetable stock if needed and stirring gently to prevent jollof from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Leave jollof rice to cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked and fluffy.
Serve jollof rice in blanched courgette, with grilled chicken and finely shredded lettuce and carrots salad.
Chef’s tips: Wild rice or any brown rice can be used in place of Sunyani brown rice.
Allergens: Use sunflower or olive oil instead of coconut oil.