Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recipe #91: Light Okra Soup w/Chicken (Ewe Style, fetri detsi)

I have previously enthused about okra, aka Lady Fingers, that Cinderella of vegetables, and indigenous to West Africa. Among the Ewe people of the Volta Region, there is a short fat type of okra known as Anlo fetri after the region that type originated. It can be seen in the picture at the blog posting linked to above.  The Ewe word for okra is "fetri," and the word for soup or stew is "detsi." This version is the one we prepared at Flair Catering.. By the way, the picture at the left with the carving of the okra farmer shows a different kind of okra soup (fetri ma, a "heavy" okra soup using gboma leaves and sliced okra, which is too hard for me to duplicate in the U.S.). I just love the statue.

 Recipe #91: Ewe-style Light Okra (Okro) Soup with Chicken (Fetri Detsi)

 Assemble the ingredients:

First, the ingredients for seasoning the chicken to steam it (and the chicken):
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger (Hint: while preparing the seasoning for steaming the chicken, go ahead and prepare extra ginger for the soup itself as listed below)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh minced or ground garlic
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of seasoning salt/no salt seasoning mixture
  • a little fresh coarsely sliced chili pepper (again, we used kpakpo shito in Ghana, but substitute your choice)
  • 1 chicken cut into 8-12 pieces, including the giblets (heart and gizzard) and neck, but not the liver (or buy an already cut-up chicken or pieces)
  • lemon for cleansing the chicken
  • 1/4 cup sliced onion
Traditionally, the chicken pieces would be removed after steaming and fried in a white oil (like peanut or canola) before proceeding, as is traditionally done for chicken groundnut stew. For health reasons Barbara Baeta omits that step and proceeds directly to making the soup, which is what I prefer, too, so I've omitted the frying altogether.

Ingredients for the soup after steaming the chicken:
  • 8 oz (preferably fresh) okra
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup white vegetable oil (I used peanut oil today)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of tomato paste (optional, the soup with be greener if you do not use it)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground shrimp
  • 2 cups of water
  • a teaspoon or two of chicken seasoning (e.g., salt, no salt seasoning of choice--in Ghana they used a large chicken-flavored seasoning cube
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of ginger, grated/ground
  • 1 teaspoon of dried ground red chili pepper, or to taste)
  1. After cutting the chicken, remove extra fat. I'm using a fryer chicken today, but would actually prefer a roaster or a free-range chicken.
  2. Put the chicken pieces in a bowl, add half a cup of water to wet it. Cut the lemon in half and rub it over the chicken to cleanse and season them, then empty the bowl and repeat with the other half of the lemon. Then rinse the chicken in about 2 cups of water. 

  1. Put the chicken in a soup pot with the 2 teaspoons of grated ginger, a teaspoon of fresh minced or ground garlic, the salt/seasoning salt/no salt seasoning mixture, and a little ground red chili pepper. Mix it well (easiest to do this with your hands)to coat the chicken, then add 1/4 cup sliced onion, the  a little fresh coarsely sliced chili pepper (again, we used kpakpo shito in Ghana, but substitute your choice. I'm using 1 jalapeno today), and add about 1/4 cup water. Turn on the heat on the stove to high, bring it to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and allow the chicken to steam for 10 minutes, before removing it form the heat, and letting it cool while you prepare the other soup ingredients. (Traditionally this is the point at which the chicken would then be fried, but along with Barbara, I'm omitting that step. Also, like her, after the chicken cools I'll remove its skin before using it in the soup.)
  2. While the chicken is steaming, prepare the ginger (if you haven't already), coarsely chop 1/2 cup of onion, and 
  3. Prepare the okra. This is the fun part. Wash it, then cut off the top and the tail, then seed them by cutting through almost all the way to the end, and then making another cut so that you have the okra cut into 4 pieces that are still held together at one end. I used smallish okra today, and realized it would have been easier with larger okra. Removing the seeds takes a bit of effort, and the tip of a knife (or, in my cheating case, your fingernails). Barbara removes the seeds "to keep it tidy" but says that in poorer families they would not remove the seeds.
  1. After you have removed the round white seeds, you will need a good-sized cutting board and a sharp knife. Stack several of the okra together and slice through them perpendicularly. Continue until all the okra is chopped. Sprinkle the onion on top and mix it in, then measure out a cup of water. Pour a couple of tablespoons onto the okra-onion mixture and mince them together, mixing and adding a little more water every couple of minutes. The okra mixture will thicken and foam and bind itself together to become a mucilaginous dough. Use the knife to continue turning and mixing it as you chop it more. On the left you'll see mine tonight (I used purple onions) and the picture I took at Flair Catering. You'll probably need about 3/4 cup of the water all together, adding a little about 4 times. Use a knife and a large spoon to lift the mass into a bowl.
  2. [Remember I omitted frying the chicken after steaming it.]
  3. Add a couple of tablespoons of "white" oil (I used peanut) to heat in another soup pot. Add a heaping teaspoon (1 1/2 teaspoon) of tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water to the pot and stir all together. Remove the chicken from the pot  you steamed it in onto a platter. Put a strainer over the pot with the tomato paste water mixture and pour the liquid from the pot you steamed the chicken in into the new pot. Discard the pepper and onion slices. Add 1 tablespoon of the ground dried shrimp/crayfish to the pot, another teaspoon or 2 of salt, and some more seasoning to taste (about a teaspoon of  poultry seasoning, etc.). Add 2 cups of water to the pot and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.
  4. Remove the skin and any extra fat from the chicken, and put it into the pot with a heaping teaspoon of freshly ground ginger and a teaspoon or more of dried ground red pepper (I needed a couple of teaspoons to get the spiciness I wanted).
  5. Add a cup of water to the okra mixture in two batches, mixing the mixture rapidly with a spoon (or your hand) to break it up. Mix the okro into the soup and let the soup simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
NOTE: I'm not sure why it was necessary to add the oil with the water and tomato paste. My chicken was very fatty and I needed to skim some of the oil off the top of the soup at the end, so I'm guessing that it would be possible to omit the oil in step #3 above.
    This soup goes well with banku or the similar Ewe akple. It's also a "light" okra soup and a good first step for someone not used to eating okra.


      Mary said...

      Hopefully this will be my second big meal with Baba's family in August. Banku and okra stew is one of my favorites!!!

      anthia-ofo said...

      I love fetri detsi. My sis-in-law taught me but I've developed a super fast version using fresh fish. I was unaware the chicken is fried (traditonally)in both this dish and groundnut soup. They never fried it at when I was at home.

      anthia-ofo said...

      BTW does gboma leaf have an english name?

      Fran said...

      Thanks for both your comments. I'm afraid I don't know the English name yet for gboma leaves. I hope to figure it out eventually. Also, what region are you from/where did you grow up?

      anthia-ofo said...

      My dad's kwahu (eastern region)from the mountains, but my mum is a Ga and I grew up mostly in Accra even though we moved from region to region my dad being transferred in his job(which is why I can appreciate TZ/satruga and the like). Then I was sent to Wesley Girls(capecoast). My dad retired (to Accra) when I was 15. I can speak a little twi, my Ga isn't too bad, but English has become my main language!

      ruth said...

      Hi Fran, i am trying to put together a list of some recipes for my brother who is living alone in the U.K. i find it easier looking up your recipes than writing them out by myself.I was wondering if you had a recipe for okro stew or soup made the Ga way or the average ghanaian recipe for Okro. And i must say, discovering your blog has widened by cooking options and made cooking more exciting. Thanks !!

      Elaine Kappel said...

      Thanks, Fran for the recipes.Wonderful to read that your test kitchen was at Barbara Baeta, a legend in her own right. Keep up the good work!

      Fran said...

      Thank you very much for the encouraging words.

      AfricaLiving said...

      Mom, this one is sublime. I see why you took the time to document all the steps. Barbara's version could be served to dignitaries from any nation. I used a batch of assorted heirloom okra from the farmer's market. It was interesting seeding them as they all had different sizes and shapes.We all enjoyed it. Perhaps unorthodox, but I served it with your coconut waatche recipe.

      Fran said...

      Thanks, Abena. I'm glad it worked out. This version is a bit more work, but worth the effort, I think.

      twinnymummy said...

      Hello Fran, looking forward to the cookbook! In the meantime, is it possible to post recipe for 'fetri ma' and the savoury chips made at Flair please. Thanks

      Fran said...

      The savory pastry chips recipe is online at http://betumiblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/recipe-74-savory-pastry-chips.html

      Unfortunately, I do not have the fetri ma recipe out (problem with getting the appropriate ingredients).

      Just me!! said...

      Did a quick check on the net and found out gboma is Garden Egg Egg Plant) leaves

      Fran said...

      Thank you for checking and taking the time to share. I, too, did some research on the specific type of eggplant, and there will be a recipe for gboma soup in the book due out in 2015.

      Akua said...

      It's very bad to say that poorer families would keep the seeds! That's an insult. Cooking is an art. Some people may choose to keep the seeds whilst others would not. That's a matter of taste and style. Please don't denigrate people by their choices. It's really really bad and inhumane! Thank you.