Spinach & agushi curry
I recently chaired a panel on women in food at the Abergavenny Food Festival which included the wonderful Zoe Adjonyoh. I hadn't seen her book Zoe's Ghana Kitchen before but discovered it was full of the most delicious recipes, many of them vegan.
There's also a really brilliant section at the beginning of the book showing and explaining the more unfamiliar ingredients she uses.
Here's one of the recipes that particularly appealed to me.
Spinach & Agushi curry
Here’s my twist on traditional Kontomire or nkontomire stew – a delicious vegan spinach curry, to which you can add extra steamed veg of your choice to make it into a more substantial meal.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
350ml (12fl oz) uncooked Chalé sauce (see below)
100g (3½oz) or about 2 heaped tablespoons agushi (dried ground melon seeds, available in West African and Caribbean shops and also online )
8 guinea peppers, crushed (also known as grains of paradise - optional)
juice of 1 lime
150–300ml (5–10fl oz) water or good-quality vegetable stock, if required
200g (7oz) baby leaf spinach
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Grilled plantain (optiona)
4–6 ripe plantains
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ tablespoon dried chilli flakes
coconut oil (melted) and olive oil, for drizzling
Heat a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the coconut oil. When it has melted, add the onion and sauté over a medium heat for a few minutes until softened, then add the curry and chilli powders and stir well. Stir in the chalé sauce and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.
Gently stir in the agushi, using the back of a wooden spoon to break down any lumps that may form – the sauce should start to turn creamy and resemble scrambled eggs. Add the guinea peppers, if using, and the lime juice. Leave to simmer over a medium heat for a further 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, add the water or vegetable stock a little at a time to loosen it. The colour of the stew will have changed from pink to a mustard colour.
Stir in the spinach and sea salt and black pepper, then simmer gently until the spinach has wilted.
Meanwhile, prepare the grilled plantain, if making. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Using a sharp knife, peel the plantains by cutting the tips off each end and slicing through the skin lengthways (avoid cutting into the flesh), then use your hands to remove the skin. Cut the plantains in half lengthways. Rub with the ground ginger, chilli flakes and sea salt, and drizzle with coconut or olive oil. Grill for 12–15 minutes, turning over halfway through. Serve alongside the spinach curry.
This basic recipe is based on my dad’s everyday cooking sauce. He would whip this up and then literally throw in any type of meat, fish or protein, but it was always tasty.
You can just blend the ingredients and store the uncooked sauce for later use, or cook it and then leave to cool – either way it saves time when making many of the recipes in this book. I make a big batch of this at least once a week – you can easily double the quantity if you want to make a bigger batch, although it’s not necessary to increase the Scotch Bonnet unless you like it extra-extra-hot!
400g (14oz) can tomatoes or 250g (9oz) fresh tomatoes
30g (1oz) or 2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 onion, roughly chopped
5cm (2-inch) piece fresh root ginger, grated (unpeeled if organic)
1 red Scotch Bonnet chilli, deseeded
1 tablespoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 garlic cloves (optional)
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon extra-hot chilli powder
Makes 500ml (18fl oz)
Place all the ingredients except the ‘to cook’ ones in a blender and blend together until you have a fairly smooth paste. This is your uncooked chalé sauce.
For cooked chalé sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion and sauté over a medium heat for a few minutes until softened. Then add the curry powder and chilli powder and stir thoroughly to coat the onion evenly. Add the blended tomato mixture and simmer gently for 35–40 minutes.
Use straight away, or leave to cool then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for future use.
What to drink: Zoe has a number of delicious-sounding drink recipes in the book - I'm liking the sound of Sobolo or sorrel juice with this dish. Otherwise you could go for something like a dandelion and burdock or even a lager but I don't think it's a wine kind of dish.
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh, is published by Mitchell Beazley £25 www.octopusbooks.co.uk
Image credit: Nassima Rothacker
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