Former Port Elizabeth couple Chantelle and Werner Stubenvoll and their two daughters have called the West-African country of Ghana home for the past six years. Chantelle and Werner are former chefs who have taken a keen interest in the cuisine of their new home. Ghana is in the Tropics and as such is blessed with many fruits and vegetables that are practically unknown in Southern Africa.
“Soup is generally the main staple meal in Ghana and it is usually accompanied by fufu, which can only be described as a dough-like paste,” said Chantelle during one of the family’s regular visits to the Eastern Cape and Garden Route this week. Fufu, she explained, was made from boiled, pounded plantains and cassava.
“To prepare this requires two people and a gigantic wooden pestle and mortar. The first person pounds the ingredients with a pestle, while the other one shapes the concoction with their right hand by adding water at regular intervals. This is all done with a most hypnotic rhythm, which is extraordinary to witness.” This process takes around 30 minutes, after which the paste begins to take shape in the form of a smooth round ball.
If all this sounds like somewhat of a mission, it certainly is, which is why more affluent Ghanaians simply buy fufu in powdered form.
The Stubenvolls confess they’re not really fufu fans, although they love the ground-nut soup recipe which they have chosen to share on The Global Table today. Ground-nut soup can also be served with stiff mealiepap here in South Africa, given it might be rather tricky to track down plaintain (which looks like a big, green banana) and cassava (a starchy root not unlike the African potato).
There are various types of soup that can accompany fufu, and all are meat-based, Chantelle says. So-called “light” soup, for example, is made from goat or whole fish, and Palm nut soup is made from the pulp of palm fruits. Ground-nut soup, however, is still the most popular. Chantelle also enjoys serving hot plantain chips, or kelewele, on the side – see the recipe further down.
Ground Nut Soup (Hkatenkwan) – The Recipe
1 whole chicken, chopped into small chunks; ½ onion; 1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped; 2 tbsp tomato paste; 1 tbsp peanut or palm oil; 1 cup chopped onion; 1 cup chopped tomatoes; 1 cup crunchy peanut butter; 2 tsp salt; 2 chopped red chillies; 1 tsp cayenne pepper; 1 large eggplant; 1 cup okra
Boil the chicken with the ginger and the onion half using 2 cups of water until the chicken is half cooked.
In a large pot, fry the tomato paste in the oil for 5 minutes. Add the chopped onions and tomatoes and simmer until the onions are soft.
Add the chicken pieces to the tomato mixture with half of the cooking liquid. Add the peanut butter, salt, spices and chillies. Cook for 10 minutes; then add the eggplant and okra.
Cook until the chicken is tender, adding more cooking water as necessary to make a thick stew.
Serve in a bowl with a ball of fufu. The dish is traditionally eaten with the hands.
Hot Plantain Chips (Kelewele) – The Recipe
4 just-ripe plantains (green bananas are a suitable alternative); ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper; ½ tsp chilli flakes; ½ tsp freshly-grated ginger; ¼ tsp ground black pepper; 1 tsp salt; 2 tbsp water; palm oil for frying
Peel and slice the plantain into bite-size pieces. Grind the cayenne pepper, chillies, ginger, salt and black pepper to a fine powder; add to the water. Pour the mixture into a bowl and toss the plantain cubes to coat them evenly.
Pour 2cm oil into a frying pan and heat until almost smoking. Fry the plantain in batches, turning once until they are golden brown on all sides.
Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm until served.