Ghanaian Favourite Dishes: Recipes that are loved best in many Ghanaian homes – collected and tried by nutritionists all over the country published by Alice Dede in 1969 is a tiny book that came into my possession in 1991 when I was twelve. It was bought by my father at the Legon bookstore and even though in the front flap he had written the names of all his children as he did with other books in our library, I somehow kept it and brought it over to the United States. It has been in my possession ever since.
I find it an amusing but strangely delightful recipe-book truly made for the Ghanaian kitchen. In terms of amounts and weights “some”, “a little”, “one beer bottle of …”, and “one cigarette tin of …” feature heavily. There is a conversion chart that tells you for example that 1 cig tin of rice is about a 1/2 lb and1 cig tin of flour would probably be 1/4 lb.
Also amusing is that in multiple recipes “seasoning” is one of the ingredients. What exactly is “seasoning”? There are a few recipes that call for “stale fish” (I’m assuming that’s dried fish), or salted fish, or smoked fish. Kawu is featured in the okro dishes. And thickeners such as corn dough, dried baobab leaves, okro, and starch from yam and other starchy vegetables also feature. But aside from salt, pepper, fresh onion, fresh ginger, and curry, there were no other spices.
Over the years, I have enjoyed flipping through the book. It is always a pleasure to come across a recipe for a dish such as bofrot (beignet like doughnut) whose entry has the cigarette tin and beer bottle quantities permanently converted to the corresponding values in cups and ounces in blue ink by yours truly! That was a favourite go-to snack in college but I haven’t made it in eons.
It is also fun to come across Nzema recipes like mbotelemba and others like ofam (plantain cake) which at one point I thought was an invention of my mother – baking the plantain batter instead of frying it as tatale.
And then there are recipes that I have never heard of before, like kyekyirebetu, which from the description I would be inclined to make and probably enjoy.
Kyekyirebetu2 ripe plantains1/2 cig. tin roasted corn meal1/2 tsp ground pepper1/2 tsp salt1/2 cig. tin palm oilMethod A1) Peel and wash plantains and boil till soft2) Mash and add salt, pepper, and palm oil3) Mix well, heat, form into balls and serve.Method BPrepare as in method A using roasted plantain instead of boiled ones.
Delicious right? But a recipe like this leaves me asking the following questions
1) Is this black pepper or cayenne pepper?
2) What happened to the 1/2 cig. tin roasted corn meal?
3) What exactly is meant by “heat” after I’ve mixed all the ingredients well and before I form them into balls?