Posts Tagged ‘ghanaian food’

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and beans; it sounds so exotic now, almost foreign, yet it used to be my favourite food not too long ago.

This beloved Ghanaian food of fried plantains and stewed beans holds a special place in my heart – sold by street vendors and a staple in homes, it’s one of the few meals I actually looked forward to eating when I was a child.

A dish so good it’s named twice – we call it ‘red red’, for the red palm oil and tomatoes that turns the bean stew red, and the golden red hue of the plantains when fried, or in this case, baked.

There are countless similar versions of this plantain and beans cooking in West African kitchens and all over the world.
Over here in our part of the globe, we typically wait for warmer weather when the plantains ripen better and sweeter just like back home.

Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans
Plantain and Beans

I should mention that this is really my sister’s dish, she diligently chooses the finest looking plantains, let it ripen further and spend days planning this meal – I’m always super nice to her in the days leading up to ‘plantain and beans’

I should also mention that this recipe isn’t wholly plant based; apologies to my vegan buddies – although it can be easily be made vegan by swapping out the anchovies for mustard seeds, cumin and harissa to give the palm oil a flavour boost, and you probably won’t miss the smoked salmon if you omit it.

We’re planning on a solely plant-based version this summer, so stay tuned.

Plantain and Beans
Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans

Like most Ghanaian dishes, there’s versatility to this plantain and beans, it can be tweaked and adapted to suit countless tastes and preferences.

My aunt S. cooks her beans very soft till they’re almost falling apart, then she sautés onions in palm oil and adds the beans to the oil with a little salt and let it simmer while she fries her plantains – simple, hearty and delicious.

We’ve been frying our plantains in the oven for a few years now, and it works superbly, yielding deliciously sweet plantains to go with the stewed beans.

I love this dish, it’s comforting and tastes like home, a meal for sharing with loved ones.
It’s the type of meal that is so much better with good company and good wine, perhaps an Argentinian Malbec.

Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Stewed Black Beans with Red Palm Oil

Stewed Black Beans with Red Palm Oil Stewed Black Beans with Red Palm Oil

A pot of beans simmering away on the stove almost always takes me back to years past when we’d spend our Sundays in the kitchen making soups and stews to last us the week, and although the memories aren’t pleasant, I can’t make beans with red palm oil without thinking back on those uncertain teen years.

It’s true, you know… time softens bad memories and sometimes even lends you a different perspective.

So this stewed black beans is done a little differently now; it’s simpler, easier and unburdened by meat, kind of like my life now.

The original recipe is from the August 2012 issue of Bon Apetit, with borlotti beans, sage and olive oil, which I tried a couple of months ago.

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I used black beans this time; it’s rich in protein, dietary fibre and antioxidants, but I love it for its hearty, rich, almost creamy texture.
Red palm oil is earthy, with flavours that remind me of traditional West African cooking.

I won’t get into the politics of red palm oil except to say that for centuries several cultures have been using it for culinary, medicinal and religious purposes.

And then there are the spices in this stew… mustard seeds, cumin, harissa, ginger and thyme – piquant and fragrant, that helps meld the black beans and red palm oil together in a delightful way that absolutely works.

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Sunday Breakfast: Finger Millet Porridge


I grew up with Rwanda in the news when it was synonymous with genocide; but I always suspected that this beautiful Eastern African country ‘adorned with hills, lakes and volcanoes’ was so much more than its horrid and unimaginably painful past.

These days Rwanda is becoming known for premium coffee grown on small hilly farms many metres above sea level.

The coffee I brew at home is from Rwanda and I get it from a lovely coffee shop, and it’s really, really good coffee.

Then there’s the millet flour I get from the little African store on Kingsway, it too is from Rwanda – it’s ground from unhulled African finger millet they call uburo.

This flour is a little grittier and the flavour is nuttier than the much popular pearl millet.

When I use this flour to make the traditional Ghanaian spiced porridge (Hausa koko), it’s darker and bolder – a little full-bodied, if you may.

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I make this porridge quite often on weekends, alternating between this flour and the pearl millet variety, which is lighter with a smoother taste.

I prefer this finger millet porridge; it’s a little more complex and the spices give it a luxurious depth, I make it with lots of coconut milk and nuts and a warm bowl of this porridge on Sunday mornings is deliciously heartwarming.

The recipe for this porridge can be found here; finger millet flour is in Indian grocery stores too as Ragi flour, and there’s a similar porridge from India called Ragi Malt.

Finger Millet Flour Porridge IMG_7065

Rice and Black Beans

Black Beans & Rice

This is what I come home to on some Fridays, rice and black beans – It’s @adjoa’s specialty.

My mom usually announces as soon as I come through the door, “your sister made waakye, if you’re nice to her maybe she’ll give you some,” When ever am I not?

This rice and black beans is of course a riff on the popular Ghanaian street/fast food, waakye.

Traditionally, it’s rice and black eyed-peas cooked with millet stalks, which gives it it’s distinctive reddish to purplish hue.

One day @adjoa discovered that black beans and rice yields the same colour as the traditional waakye, and practically tastes the same, and our version of waakye was born – as close to authentic as we can get from oceans away.

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She had to convince my mom though; she starts with, “Our kind adapts…” I don’t exactly know what that means, but it’s the same convincing tone she uses to get us to try Burmese food and capoeira.

So on some Fridays, she goes by the African Market on Kingsway and buys shitto, the hot dried-fish and pepper sauce that usually accompanies waakye.

At home, she cooks the black beans first, then adds the rice when the beans is half done, and then let the rice and beans simmer and cook slowly until it’s tender and fluffy and the liquid is absorbed.

I love coming home to this on Fridays…


Black Beans & Rice with Hot Pepper Sauce

Spiced Millet Flour Porridge


My mom walks through the tiny kitchen, settles in front of window and looks on forlornly at the pouring rain.
“It’ll all come down today and clear up in time for church by tomorrow” she says hopefully,
“Oh and maybe we’ll get a little sunshine; I’d love to go for a little walk down the beach before lunch tomorrow”

It’s a grey and cloudless wet Saturday morning and I don’t have the heart to tell her that it’s doubtful the rain would stop by tomorrow, not according to the forecasts. I also feel like I need to prepare her; I’m tempted to tell her about the time it rained for 30 days straight!
It reminds me of something I read recently; ‘The rain falls like we fall in love; refuting all predictions’.

“What are you making?” She asks peering closer at the stove, away from the rain.
Hausa Koko” I tell her. “Good, good, it’s exactly what we need on a morning like this” she says.

Eyes back towards the window, she tries with a bit of cheer in her voice “Did I ever tell about the oranges I grew in my garden?”

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I know the rain makes her miserable, and she wishes she was someplace else… but not yet – there always seem to be one more something keeping her here, one more Dr.’s appointment, one more test, one more checkup, a new concern, a new trial…

“The oranges the Hausa Koko woman helps you pick?” I ask and she gets into a story I’ve heard at least a dozen times.

Hausa Koko is a traditional porridge made from millet flour and spices; credited to the Hausa people among whom millet is a dietary staple, it’s a very popular Ghanaian street food.
On most mornings, it’s sold on street corners, and by women (and men) who carry them throughout neighbourhoods.

The good thing is, you can just as easily make this porridge at home too, even when home is thousands of miles away from where you started out. All you need is millet flour and a few spices from your pantry.
In stores that carry African food, you’ll probably find packets of premixed Hausa Koko.

Spiced Millet Flour Porridge (Hausa Koko) IMG_3356

You already know that I love millet; for its subtle nutty flavour, resilience and nutrition, and this porridge is sweet and spicy, creamy, aromatic, with a slight nuttiness from the millet.
The heat from the spices; ginger, cloves, chilli pepper, cinnamon and cardamom is also subtle, but use as little or as much as you want.
The spices aren’t that much of a deviation from the traditional, yet the warmth and depth of flavour from this porridge feels just right for autumn.

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