Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Ghana Sugar Bread

I remember my days as a little girl running the morning errand of finding the freshest and loveliest bread for the family breakfast. Days that I run a bit late, I wouldn't find any fresh bread as all would have been sold out. Ghanaians! we love our fresh bread, they go like hot cakes! I would move from one local bakery to another with the hope of getting my hands on one. Some of the bakers were so nice, they would save a loaf or two for me, some would even go out of their way to bake me a little bread man. It was always something I looked forward to. Guess what? The little bread man, always and almost never ever made it home with me. It was yummy in my tummy, on the journey back home!

INGREDIENTS:
  • 650g Strong Bread Flour
  • 150g Sugar
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C powder)
  • 50g Butter melted 
  • 1 Tsp Nutmeg
  • 30g Dry Active Yeast 
  • 2 Tsp sugar
  • 50 ml Luke Warm water 
  • 300ml Tap Water
  • Extra Flour for Kneading

METHOD:
  1. Put the yeast and 2 tsp of sugar in a bowl, add 50ml luke warm water and whisk. Set it aside to froth. This may take up to 15 minutes.
  2. Place the flour, salt, sugar, ascorbic acid, nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Use the paddle hook if using a mixer.
  3. Add the melted butter and mix until well incorporated. 
  4. Now add the frothed yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix until well incorporated.
  5. Add the 300ml of water, a bit at a time, and mix into a dough.
  6. Knead the dough until it is very elastic. Now this is a sticky dough, so I find the dough doesn’t hold up properly. When this happens, transfer onto a lightly floured surface and knead with the heel of your palms.
       
  7. Once stretchy /elastic, it's ready to ferment. To test the elasticity, either use a sharp knife to cut through the dough, the slit should look smooth with air pockets. Alternatively stretch the dough like a cloth, it should be able to stretch like an elastic sheet without breaking.
      
  8. Grease a glass bowl with butter.
  9. Roll the dough into a ball and place in the greased bowl. Rub the dough with the butter and turn the dough up, so the buttered face is up.
  10. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in a warm place for the dough to rise. You can create a warm environment by warming up the oven to 100oC. When the set temperature is reached, switch it off and leave the oven light on. 
  11. Once the dough has doubled in size, re-knead, knocking some of the air out but not all.
  12. Grease 2 loaf tins with butter. 
  13. Divide the dough into two equal parts and shape for the loaf tin. Shape the dough creating a seam at the bottom and smoothing the opposite face. Place the shaped dough in the loaf tin, making sure the seam is at the bottom.


  14. Cover with a warm damp cloth and place in a warm place for the second proofing. This takes about an hour. Once the dough has doubled in size it's time to bake. 
  15. Heat up the oven to 180oC.
  16. Bake the dough for 30 minutes or until it starts to brown and then place a bowl of cold water on the bottom shelf. This will create steam in the oven to help create a lovely crust on the bread.
  17. Turn up the heat to 200oC and bake till the bread is light brown. This may take another 20 minutes. 
  18. Once the light brown colour has been achieved, knock the bread to check if it is hollow. If it is, take it out of the oven, cover the bread with a cloth for about 5minutes. Remove the cloth and let it continue to cool down. If you want a hard crust don't cover with a cloth. Just allow it to completely cool down before serving.
      
  19. Once cooled serve with your favourite beverage.
      

Friday, 16 October 2015

Akoko Nkate Nkwan (Chicken Groundnut Soup)

If you have been visiting my blog here or a follower on Instagram, you will know by now that Ghanaians love their soups. A good meal by Ghanaian standards will usually be a hearty soup with some carbohydrate usually fufu. Interestingly for me, I have never been able to eat fufu after the 1983 famine in Ghana. I'll save the details of this story for another post. But for me, my go to carbohydrate for a hearty soup is rice balls, see here for recipe.

Today I share with you this hearty, earthy, nutty and fragrant groundnut soup. The main ingredient which the soup takes it name from is groundnut paste. Please it is not the peanut butter paste used as spreads. The spreads are too sugary and don't give a good authentic and traditional taste required for this soup. I recommend you make your own groundnut paste which is super easy to make. Alternatively, you can get a ready made one from a good Asian or African shop. To make your own, roast red skin peanuts, as described in the post here. Use a mill to grind the nuts into a smooth paste and that's all you need to do for a good quality ground nut paste. Traditionally, Ghanaians prefer using tougher chicken meat for soups hen we go for broiler chicken. They are tastier and are able to withstand the long simmering process of the soup making without the meat melting or going too soft. You can however use normal chicken but you will need to reduce the cooking time or remove the chicken from the soup during the simmering process. Do try this soup and always always, I love to have your feedback and do share some photos too! Enjoy this hearty soup! 

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 Medium size Broiler Chicken
  • 1 Chicken Stock Cube Seasoning 
  • 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 2 Tsp Egye Aware Spice Blend (alternatively use a 1 tsp combination of thyme, Star Arnise, Aniseed (nkitinkiti), Rosemary & Cloves) 
  • 2 White Onions (Medium sizes)
  • 180g Fresh Ginger (about the length of the index finger)
  • 3 Gloves of Garlic 
  • 1 Small Scotch Bonnet Pepper (or to your taste)
  • 3 Fresh Tomatoes on the vine (Medium sizes)
  • 8 Tbsp Groundnut Paste (not the spread)
  • Water – about 3 litres
  • Salt to taste
  • A couple of Basil leaves (akoko mesa)
  • A couple of coloured peppers like scotch bonnet and kpakposhito (Optional)
METHOD:
  1. Cut up chicken into medium sizes, clean with lemon juice. Rinse again and place in a soup cooking pot (a deep soup pot is recommended).
  2. Blend one onion, ½ of the ginger, chicken stock cube and 3 gloves of garlic together. Use a little bit of water to help with the blending.
  3. Add the spice blend, a teaspoon of salt, to the onion mixture stir and add to the chicken.
       
  4. Let the chicken marinate for some couple of hours, best left overnight in the refrigerator. 
  5. When ready to cook, place the other onion, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet pepper on top of the chicken. Always allow refrigerated meat/chicken products to come to room temperature before cooking.
     
  6. Now place the pot on the hob on medium heat. Cover the pot and let the meat simmer in its own natural juices until nice and tender. You may not need to add extra, however, keep an eye on it to prevent burning. If the chicken is tough, add extra water if needed.
  7. When the tomatoes and onions are soft, remove, together with the ginger and pepper. Blend all together.
       
  8. Add the blended mixture to the soup, stir, rinse the blender with a bit of water and add to the pot. Cover and let it boil for about 15 minutes. Do this stage when the chicken is tender.
       
  9. Add the groundnut paste and stir.
      
  10. Add 2 litres of water to the soup and stir.
  11. Turn up the heat and let the soup boil. Do not cover the pot at this stage. As the soup boils, it will foam up and rise to the top. That is why you don’t cover it and you need a deep soup pot to prevent over spill. A cooking tip here to help de-foam is to stir! 
  12. When the soup has simmered down, turn down the heat and half cover the pot. Let it continue to simmer. A layer of oil will begin to form on the top of the soup.
  13. Check the seasoning and add a bit of salt if needed. Usually the seasoning from the chicken will be enough, however, if this is not the case, add a bit of the spice blend to add more flavour if needed. Getting the salt to the right level brings out the flavour so do make sure the level of salt is right first.
  14. Three tips to check that the soup is cooked are: A) the soup simmers down, this is noticeable by the mark left from the original level of soup.  B) A layer of oil is formed on the surface of the soup. C) The soup thickens and when taken off the heat and allowed to cool down, it doesn’t separate into a distinct layer of water and soup. 
  15. When you tick the boxes for the above tips, then your soup is ready to be served. Add the basil leaves and let it boil for some couple of minutes. Add some coloured peppers like kpakposhito and scotch bonnet for more infused flavour.
       
  16. Skim off excess oil and serve soup hot with fufu, boiled rice, rice balls, boiled yams, boiled potatoes, boiled ripe plantains or bread or can be eaten on its own. 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Ofam (Spicy Plantain Cake)

Ofam is basically a spicy ripe plantain cake. It's a great way of using over ripe plantains which would soak up too much oil when fried or will be too soft when boiled. Nonetheless a perfectly ripe plantain can also be used. This savoury plantain cake can be enjoyed as breakfast, lunch, as a side or afters after meals. It's just great either way.






INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 ripe plantain (over ripened)
  • ½ medium size red onion ( shallots is a great option)
  • Tiny piece of Kpakposhito or scotch bonnet pepper (to your taste) 
  • 20g Fresh ginger (about thumb size or to your taste)
  • 4 Cloves
  • 1 Small Calabash Nutmeg 
  • 1 Cup Self Raising Flour
  • 1 Tsp Crayfish Powder or 1 Maggie shrimp
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 - 3 Tbsp Palm Oil
  • Loaf tin
METHOD:
  1. Set the oven to 200oC
  2. Grease a loaf pan with palm oil.
  3. Peel and cut up the onion and ginger. Place in a food processor or blender, traditionally it is grinded in an earthen ware mortar shown in the picture. If you own a mortar and pestle it is better to use it as the flavour and texture you get from it is lovely. Add the scotch bonnet pepper and cloves and grind/blend the mixture until smooth.
  4. Now add the salt and Crayfish or Maggie shrimp to taste.
  5. Peel the plantains and cut up into pieces. I have shown below the different stages of ripeness you can use, either one gives a good result. Add to the onion mixture and grind/blend together. Ideally, you want a lumpy thick mixture. Over blending gives a very smooth runny mixture. The earthenware mortar or a food processor is great to give a good texture.
     

  6. Add the flour and mix well.

  7. Now add the palm oil and stir in well. I used 2 tbsp of palm oil here. But you can reduce or actually increase it to 3tbsp. The palm oil makes the Ofam moist.
     
  8. Add the baking powder and mix until well incorporated.

  9. Pour into the prepared loaf tin.
  10. Place it in the oven to bake. 
  11. When it is thoroughly baked, a skewer inserted into the cake will come out clean. 
  12. Remove from the oven and let it cool down before removing from the loaf tin.

  13. Serve the ofam with boiled eggs and nuts. It can be eaten as dessert, main meal, side dish or a snack. I had this for breakfast by adding some rocket salad and poached eggs. It was so yummy.
  14.