Friday, July 15, 2011

On Ghana's "Kofi Brokeman," "shandies" and Charcoal Grilled Chicken

Some time ago I discussed how to make roasted ripe plantain in the oven. Now that summer weather is here in central Pennsylvania, and everyone is bringing out their grills, I'd like to add a postscript.

Recipe #86: "Kofi Brokeman" (grilled plantain slices)

Where just-ripe plantains are plentiful in Ghana, roadside vendors sell grilled slices along with small paper- or plastic-wrapped packages of shelled roasted peanuts with their skins still on. A complete meal in itself, it is inexpensive and filling, and goes by the popular nickname "Kofi Brokeman." (in other words,  Kofi has no money).

To do it yourself, build a fire in a charcoal grill (or fire up your gas grill), and be sure to brush oil on the grill rack to keep the plantain from sticking. Alternatively, use some "no stick" aluminum foil and put the plantain directly on that. If you have the chance to get a fan from Ghana like the one in the photo above, they're very handy for fanning the charcoal when starting the fire.

While the fire is burning down (about 45 minutes for me), prepare the plantain: cut the ends off, make a shallow cut just through the peel from end to end on one side, peel it and remove any stringy fibers, then cut the plantain on the diagonal (making ovals on the cut ends) to make several slices.  Ghanaians would not salt them.

Spread out the coals, and set the grill a few inches over the charcoal. Grill the plantain pieces until they are brown and cooked on each side (perhaps 5-10 minutes per side) . Be careful  the slices do not burn (see my p.s. below). If they seem to be getting dark too quickly, raise the grill, or move slices to the outside of the grill away from the direct heat. Best eaten warm off the grill.

I'm getting ready to go light a fire myself now, but it's hot outside, so first I think I'll go and buy a bottle of beer and one of ginger ale, and make a "shandy." While I've no idea where the "shandy" (short for "shandygaff") originated or how it found its way to Ghana (maybe via the British?) it's a cooling drink, where beer is mixed with ginger ale or ginger beer or ginger drink in roughly equal quantities. I gather beer can also be mixed with citrus drinks like lemon squash or lemonade. Also, I think perhaps it's most popular with women in Ghana ("real men" drink beer, don't they?) It's a refreshing chilled drink, and sounds like the perfect accompaniment today to grilled plantain. To all you purists horrified that I would dilute my beer, I give you my unrepentant apologies. Now, if only I had some Star or Club here. . .

Recipe #87: Shandy Drink 

Directions: Simply mix together part lager beer and part ginger ale (or other soft drink or citrus drink) in whatever proportion you desire. Make sure the drinks are very well chilled first, and use ice cubes if you wish (people likely would not in Ghana). I made mine from Corona beer and Goya ginger beer (stronger, but sweeter, than ginger ale) and lots of ice, and garnished with a lemon slice.

P.S. A confession on my grilling today:
I'm sorry to say that the only plantain I had in the house was riper than it should have been, my portable barbeque had no way to raise the grill, and my husband telephoned from Nigeria just as I put the food on to cook and I chose to talk to him, with the result that my plantain became glazed and then much of the outside burned (also the chicken as you'll see from the picture below). They  look more like charcoal that charcoal grilled. None the less, everything was very tasty.

Recipe #88: Ghana-style charcoal grilled chicken

One of the basic "building blocks" of Ghana's cuisine is a spicy wet seasoning used, with slight variations, on chicken, fish, pork, etc. The same combination of ground ingredients show up repeatedly: ginger, hot chili peppers, onion or shallots, garlic, tomatoes/tomato paste, salt, dried red pepper, and, generally, generous quantities of Maggi or Royco seasoning cubes. Ghanaians also select from various herbs and spices including curry powder, thyme, anise, dawadawa (from fermented locust beans), ground dried shrimp and herrings, and so forth. As I prefer not to use seasoning cubes, I rely on seasoned salts, and increased quantities of herbs and other spices, or dried shrimp, etc.

Here is my version of a basic seasoning marinade that can be used in this recipe, or also on roasted poultry:

In a small blender container mix together to a paste:
  • 1 peeled onion, any type (or several peeled shallots) cut into large chunks
  • a fresh chili pepper (e.g., jalapeno, or spicier habanero), seeded and membranes removed if desired, cut into several chunks (use more or less according to how hot you want the marinade)
  • 2 good-sized cloves of garlic
  • a couple of tablespoons of water, just enough to blend
After blending, stir in:
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried ground red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste (optional)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of your choice of poultry seasoning (I used and recommend Afro-Foods Poultry Seasoning. If you don't know about Yeti, who was featured on Betumi in 2007, she is doing great things with her Afrofood and her Afrofoodtv sites)
Set the seasoning aside while you cut up and prepare a chicken (unless you buy already cut-up chicken pieces). I used a fryer, and removed and discarded the extra fat and liver. (I used part of the back, neck, and giblets for chicken stock to use another day.

Mix the chicken and marinade well (if you have a study ziplock plastic bag that works wonderfully, as would a plastic container with a plastic lid you could shake to mix). I only had a glass baking dish handy, so I used that and covered it with plastic wrap. Ideally, I would have let this marinade for a couple of hours (in the refrigerator), but due to time pressure, only let it marinate for half an hour. The flavor still managed to permeate the chicken.

When you are ready to grill the chicken, make sure the grill is clean and oiled to prevent sticking. As I mentioned above, I rushed my charcoal and the fire was too hot. I should have taken my own advice (removed the chicken for awhile or shifted its position--my grill was too small for this--or lifted the grill a couple of inches, which I also could not do). Baste the chicken with the excess marinade as it cooks, turning it from time to time. And voila! The unmistakable taste of Ghana.


    Bea said...

    This is my new favourite blog! I love it. I really need to learn how to make other ghanaian foods, this will really help.

    Fran said...

    Thanks, Bea. Those are the kind of comments that keep me going. Let me know how your cooking goes, and if you have any problems with any of the recipes.

    Kwaku said...

    You are a godsend.I alway know where to go when I'm homesick for Ghana food. Do you have any suggestions on recipes that do not include tomatoes. I want to get some recipes for my kid that has a tomato allergy.