I must admit before I start out today that I know absolutely nothing about food from Ghana. I don’t even know where the Ganahian areas of London are. All I remember from school geography lessons is that the largest artificial reservoir in the world is in Ghana. I’m excited about learning something new today, not sure what, but a willing mind and all of that. On my way to film I do my usual Google routine and find out I’m wrong. Lake Volta is actually the largest lake in the world by surface area. Not by water volume – that would make it the 4th largest. Looking back to school (not that long ago may I add) I realize that facts like this we no longer need to know, in todays world we just need to know how to Google. Does that make life easier? I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is that we need to reply to emails faster than if writing and posting a letter and that we must know how to interpret the information that we can now quickly search for. My interpretation of today is that we must be cooking with fish as I’m taking Lake Volta into consideration.
Hold that thought. As I was taught in school – fish always on a Friday and never on a Monday. Reason being that fish is not caught on a Sunday so will not be fresh for a Monday purchase and its good to give up meat for one day a week. Originally from a chastity point of view, but now it’s a bit more trendy, only, it’s the other way around with the current trend towards a #meatfreemonday as Paul McCartney has written and as the trend is growing. I’m all for one day of no meat. I’ve found this a very useful practice at home as it’s a great way to use up left over vegetables in the fridge, and rice dishes like Jollof are good ways of incorporating it.
So as I Google Ghana I find out that it has the highest percentage of people who subscribe to believe in a faith in the world per head of population. It gained independence from Britain in 1957 and is one of the world’s largest cocoa producers. The word Ghana means “warrior King” and its one of only 6 countries in the world (our own green and pleasant lands to be included) that lies on the meridian line. How do I interpret this into cooking and AGA World Food? I’m not sure, but lets believe in the King who is free to produce cocoa in our time? Nonsense, I must stop relying on Google for my life and go and meet the people of Ghana, the people who have the information, as it’s their lives. I’ve found a Gahanna restaurant in Exmouth Market called Spinach and Agushi. I talk with the owner and she tells me that the food is all about a celebration and giving thanks.
As we cook the Jollof Rice I’m told its also called ‘Benachin’ in the Wolof language, it means ‘one pot’ and all possibilities of British food are running through my head. One pot wonders – you know casseroles, soups and the likes. Not forgetting Delia’s “one is fun” book. It’s famous all over West Africa but can take many forms depending on the local food available to that region.
What strikes me are some of the spices used, I don’t really understand them. I’ve been able to locate the ones in the recipes in markets in London, but they are not mainstream spices like we are used to in the UK. Ghana is home to a broad range of native plant species some like ‘cola’ have lead to worldwide attention. See, I have learnt something new today. I know that from looking at the recipe if I replace the spices with chili it will be more of an American Jambalaya, but as native food is about cooking with what one has to hand, I think I need to find a Ghanaian food shop in London. Back to Google and I find 10 in the trendy Dalston area of London. You see with a little research I’m discovering that the world’s food can be found in London.
As I cook Jollof rice in Divertimenti I cook it in the AGA Coalbrookdale Pot. I love this cast iron pot, its got a lovely round ‘belly’ and looks great on tables filled with food or mulled wine, but the story goes deeper. The cast iron that makes the AGA and AGA cookware is all made in the town of Ironbridge in Shropshire, in the Coalbrookdale Foundry – the same foundry that Abraham Darby started the Industrial Revolution. Cast iron loves heat, it cooks food beautifully and with rice or a rice dish I have always lived by the concept of 1 cup of rice plus 2 cups of liquid brought to the boil, lid on and into the AGA Simmering Oven cooks rice to perfection. The rice will have absorbed all of the moisture, will not have stuck together and there will be no residual moisture. I cook the Jollof Rice in this way, and you know what? Perfect.
And back to my thoughts about Lake Volta as I left my flat to discover Ghana. Lots of fish is used in Ghanian cuisine, so why not fry some pan fried prawns to the rice after cooking?
Next stop on my world in one city – Austria.
50ml olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 fresh bay leaves
1 x 400g tin chopped tomato
1 whole fresh scotch bonnet chili, finely chopped
1 tbs tomato puree
200g basmati rice
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
½ tablespoon of blended Ghanaian seasoning Nkiti Nkiti, Whintia, Pepre
800ml meat or vegetable stock
Heat the oil in an AGA pan or casserole on the Boiling Plate and when hot add the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cook for a few minutes until the onion has softened.
Add the can of tomatoes, chili and the tomato puree. Stir to combine and bring to the boil.
Place the lid onto the pan and place into the Simmering Oven for 30 minutes to gently cook through; the sauce will have darkened in colour.
Add all other ingredients, stir and place back into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes.