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Monday, June 21, 2010

Banku with Okro Soup

 

Ingredients:

1 pound of Beef
1/2 pound of Wele (cow skin)
1/2 medium sized Salmon
1 pound chopped Okro
1 mediun tomato
1 large Onion
10 - 15 peppers (kpakpo shito)
3 or 4 Garden Eggs
1/2 cup Palm Oil
Corn Dough
Cassava Dough
Salt

 
Chop the onion and cut and season the meat. Leave it to marinate for about 15 minutes.

 
Put the meat in a pot and and steam. Don't add any water, the meat will release it's juices. If the juices are drying up, but the meat is tough, add some water and keep on fire till it is tender enough for your taste.
 
Meanwhile you can blend the tomatoe and pepper. The mixture will come out looking more green than red since there is just one tomato.

 
Wash and cut the wele into 2 to 2 inch rolls and wash thoroughly. Dependin on where you got it and what state it was in, you may have to peel a black layer from the inside. You can have this done at the market. When you get it from a supermarket, this is already done. If it is very thick and hard, steam it in salted water with some bay leaves. Some people steam it with the meat, but I think it overwhealms the taste and smell of the meat.

 
If you haven't chopped the okro, now would be a good time to do it. I usually chop it as soon as I get back from the market, then freeze it till i need it. Keeping it in the fridge for a few days is alright but longer than that and it tends to become tough and stringy.

 
Cut the stalks off the Garden eggs then cut them lengthwise down the middle. Put them in a pot with enough water to cover them then bring to a boil. Cover and cook till the white fleshy part turns translucent (10-15 minutes). Seperate the flesh from the seeds and skin, add a little water and blend till smooth.


Heat the Palm oil in a pot and fry the onions.

 
Fry until they get soft but not long enough to start browning. Add the tomato/pepper pure and simmer till the liquid evaporates and it begins to fry.



While the sauce cooks, get your salmon ready. If is straight from the market, just split it down the middle and rinse out the insides (the inside are not removed from fish that is to be smoked) as well as the outside. Be sure to keep the skin. It is a personal favourite of mine although some people don't like it. If you are like me, you probably buy a batch and freeze, in which case just take out however much you want to use.

 
Add the salmon, meat, wele and garden egg puree. Strir gently for a minute or 2 then add a cup of water and lower the fire.

Put the chopped Okro in a pot, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking/coking soda or a small lump of Kanwe (the local version easily got in the market). Keep stirring till it gets very slimey, that is what we are aiming for. The slimier it gets, the better.

 
After a while it will be bubbling up. When it threatens to boil over the edge of the pot, it is ready.

 
Add the okro to the main pot and stir it in.

 
Lower the fire some more and leave to simmer gently.

 
The rule I live by when making Banku is, 1 portion of Cassava dough to 2 portions of Corn Dough. So in this case, I used 1 pound of Cassava dough to 2 pounds of Corn dough. Cassava dough tends to be more lumpy and have in it, unmilled pieces of cassava, and so is prepared first. Place it in a container and add just enough water to cover it (about 1 1/2 cups for 1 pound). Now with clean hands, mix and mash up all the dough to form a watery paste. Pick out all the lumps and fibre that are in it. This may take a while (2-5 minutes). When all are removed, pour the mixture into a pot and repeat the process with the corn dough.

 
When this is done, add 1 teaspoon of salt and place on fire. Using a wooden spoon/spatula (there is a locally adapted spoon/spatula/paddle made especially for Banku and similar dishes), stir continuously until it starts to thicken. It needs the constant motion of stirring to keep it from turning lumpy prematurely.

 
As it progresses, it will start to gather at the bottom of the spoon and will need more and more force to stir it. Reduce the heat. Now use a dish cloth or towel to hold the pot in place, and still with the wooden spoon, start to knead it. Do this for about 5 minutes resting intermitently. Add 1 cup of waterand move the mass of soon-to-be banku until it is almost floating in the water. Use the wooden spoon to make a few holes in the mass so that the just added water can get all around. Increase the fire and cover.


 
As the water boils and evaporates, it is cooking the dough further. Turn it a few times during this process (About 5 Minutes). When the water is almost finished, turn down the heat and start kneading the banku again. Another 5 minutes should do it.

 
Use a small bowl or even the woodens poon itself to shape the banku into your prefered serving sizes. I personally use the plastic spoon that comes with rice cookers since it gives me the perfect size. I spoon out one portion into a small (margerine size) plastic bags and roll up the ends. It looks nice and is very convenient for serving, storing and reheating.

 
Serve it with the Okro soup. Interestingly, Banku can be eaten with almost any soups and stews.
Just like any food, there are many variations of this dish. I would love to hear and try them. Let me know how you prepare and eat your Banku and Okro soup.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yam Fufu with Fresh Fish Soup


Over the weekend I had Yam fufu and fresh fish soup. Yam fufu brings back fond memories of growing up in Awudome. I had an aunt who especially liked Yam fufu. No matter what kind we were having, be it Cocoyam, Cassava, Plantain, or a blend, she would always have some Yam cooked on the side to make her yam fufu.


Here are the Ingredients I used


1 1/2 pounds fresh fish

1 tuber of Yam

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 medium size onions (plus a quarter for spicing fish)

6 - 8 medium size tomatoes

3 large garden eggs

1/2 cup cooking oil

1 handful pepper (kpakpo shito)

3 cloves garlic

Black pepper

Salt


Scale and cut the fish into the sizes you want. This could be done for you by the fishmonger depending on where you buy it. Wash and drain the fish, then mash or blend the garlic, onions and 5 peppers till you have a paste. Add a pinch of black pepper and about half a teaspoon of salt to the paste and mix in the fish gently so it doesn't fall apart.


After about 10 minutes heat the oil in a frying pan. As the oil heats, put the flour in a plate and lightly coat the fish. When the oil is hot enough, gently place the fish in it.

Fry the fish till it turns golden brown. Drain on paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

As the fish fries, place the onions, tomatoes, garden eggs and pepper in a pot and add 1 litre of water, cover and boil. Boil them for about 10 minutes. The tomatoes cook first, then the peppers, garden eggs and last, the onions. If overcooked, the tomatoes will break up, releasing their seeds into the soup, which is not what you want.

Use a ladle to scoop out the tomatoes and pepper and blend them. Use a seive to strain the puree back into the pot. You should be left with skin and seeds in the seive. Next, check if the garden eggs are cooked. You want them soggy, so when the skin starts to look transparent and like it is seperating from the flesh, it is cooked. Remove the garden eggs from the pot and put them in cold water. Peel off the skin and remove the seeds. Blend into a fine paste. Add this also to the boiling pot. When the onions are soft enough to run a fork through, break them into chunks and blend. The garden egg and onion puree dont need to be strained, this gives the soup its thickness. Keep the pot boiling throughout.



Cover and boil for 5 minutes, then add the fish. Add salt and reduce heat till the soup is boiling gently.

Now, peel the Yam tube and cut it into fist sized pieces. Wash thouroughly to get all the sand off. Place on a pot, add enough water to cover the Yam and boil. Boil until a fork goes through easily and the yamm is fluffy. Drain off the water but keep covered to retain the heat.


Wash the fufu Mortar and pestle with warm water. Don't use soap just before using since wood absorbs the soap and transfers it to the food. Get a bowl with clean water and a low kitchen stool and with very clean hands, you are set.

Place the hot pieces of Yam into the Mortar, one at a time and pound theminto a fluffy powdery mass before adding the next piece. When half the pieces have been added, start to turn the yam which should be getting sticky by now, with your right hand (the left hand should never touch food) . Alternate you hand movements with the pestle hits, to form some sort of tick-tock rhythm. Do this carefully to avoid a visit to the emergency room.

Depending on the quantity you are preparing, divide the yam into 2 or 3 batches, so you don't overload the mortar.



When the yam mass is sticky enought o be shaped into a ball, it is ready, although, some people like their's really soft in which case you would keep pounding till the desired softness. (the more/harder you pound, the softer it gets).


Shape it into a neat ball or oval, place in a soup dish and serve with hot soup.
This dish is best enjoyed when eaten with your fingers but a spoon will work just as well.
It is a must-try dish for those that don't know it, and I'm sure will bring fond memories to those that do.

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