Thursday, June 23, 2011

Recipe #60: Fresh pepper sauces

Previous posts have described how to make Ghanaian  shito, or "black pepper." Today the focus is fresh pepper sauce. It is summertime here in Pennsylvania, and tomatoes are beginning to ripen. As they say in Ghana, "The good soup comes from the good earth." That holds for good pepper sauces, too. Truly fresh ingredients are the secret to good cooking, and today I'll explain how to prepare the Ghanaian answer to salsa. 

Give almost any homesick Ghanaian one of these simple-to-make sauces (requiring only 4 ingredients), along with a can of sardines or  Exeter corned beef, and some gari  or a ball of  kenkey, and he or she will likely be very happy. Fresh pepper sauces also go especially well with  Ghana-style grilled tilapia  or with eggs or  fried fish (kenan or kyenam, another recipe to come).

The "proper" (and easiest) way to make the sauces is to use an asanka
and the wooden mashing tool (called tapoli? apotowaiwa? could someone held me out?). That's what I used today, but you could also be creative and grate some of the tomatoes, onion, and pepper, briefly pulsing part of it in a processor or blender and combining them in the end. You definitely do not want to end up with a watery, bland, uninteresting mess, however. Remember, texture is very important in Ghanaian cuisine! (If you plan to do much Ghanaian cooking, I recommending  investing in an asanka.) It's also good to scald the asanka with boiling water before and after use. Barbara Baeta cleans hers using a little lemon juice as well).

Recipe #60 Fresh pepper sauces (red and green)

The "red" sauce uses red peppers, the "green" sauce green peppers. As I have mentioned before Ghana's kpakpo shito would be my first preference for the green sauce, but you can use any green pepper, with any degree of hotness that you like. Today I used a green  jalapeno for the green and a red Fresno chile for the red sauce. (Plus, I only made a half version to illustrate the technique).

Ingredients (Remember ,the proportions are quite flexible. After you make it once, you can adjust according to your tastes):
  • salt (about 1 teaspoon or to taste)
  • 1 large onion, any type, chopped
  • Plum or other tomatoes (I used Campari because they taste more like real tomatoes), a little over 8 oz, or about 1 1/2 cups when chopped
  • red or green chili peppers, about 2 Tablespoons (adjust to taste), minced
1. Wash the peppers (and remove the seeds and membranes if you wish) and carefully chop them (remember they are hot peppers!) Helpful hint: the finer you chop any of the ingredients, the easier it is to grind them in the asanka).
2. Peel and chop the onions.
3. Wash the tomatoes, cut them in half and remove the seeds, then chop them.

Put the chopped ingredients in the asanka with the salt. Using a rocking motion, crush a little of the ingredients, and continue working your way around the bowl until everything is well mashed, but small pieces of pepper, tomato and onion still exist. This takes a lot of energy, and about 10 or 15 minutes. (If you have a Ghanaian friend/spouse around, they can probably help you with this. Once again, it's not as easy as it looks.)

The sauce can now be eaten, but Barbara Baeta suggests adding another step to make it less watery and raw tasting: simmering it over low heat for about 20-30 minutes. 

That's all there is to it! The one on the left (using green peppers) has been simmered and the one on the right is uncooked. If not eaten immediately, refrigerate and use within a day or so.


Eva said...

Dear Fran,

I really like your blog. I just returned from a lightning fast trip to Accra, Ghana and blogged about it. One of the food-related highlights for me was the pepper sauce! The shito actually reminded me of what I've eaten in Southeast Asia. Very interesting. Anyway, here is my post about my culinary experiences in Accra:

Take care,

Unknown said...

This is a very helpful way to keep eating healthy as well as keep the tradition ALIVE. Big Ups

kojo595 said...

Thank you very much for taking your time to produce this article