Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Aprapransa: delicious Ghanaian onepot meal

This dish has a variety of names in Ghana. I first met it in the Eastern Region as aprapransa. When he recalls his grandmother's version, garnished with Ghana's wonderful crabs (like those seen below), my husband's eyes still glaze over. Along with its Twi name aprapransa, it's also called akpledzi (Ga or Ewe), apragyaa (Fante), or bɔbɔe (Ewe), or akplijii. Its other notable ingredient is the toasted corn flour used in  making Tom Brown or the tankora/yagi rub/powder used for chichinga/suya.

It is an interesting texture and unusual flavor, but one that is  quite accessible to Western palates. However, the cream of palm fruit used means that is a rich dish that should be reserved for special occasions. It also requires some time and effort. I decided the visit of my architect son from Ghana qualified.
Here in March in  central Pennsylvania, I had to improvise and use king crab legs. I also used adzuki in place of the small red beans from Ghana. However, I was able to obtain the requisite toasted corn flour (aka Tom Brown flour), and dried crayfish from Washington DC. All the other ingredients, including smoked fish (though I substituted smoked whiting for smoked herrings), salted cod, and cream of palm fruit, were locally available. It can also be made using meat.

Recipe 98: Aprapransa (toasted cornmeal one-pot)

Though this dish is served as a "one pot," it has two parts. The first is a bean and palmfruit soup that is thickened with the toasted corn flour, with a thick gravy (also called "dressing") served on top and/or on the side.

Assemble ingredients and equipment.
I used:

  • 2/3 cup adzuki beans (150 ml)
  • about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of salted cod
  • 6 shallots (or substitute 1 1/4 cups of chopped onion) (300 ml)
  • about 10 oz of smoked whiting (300 g)
  • about 1/2 Habanero pepper
  • a large can of cream of palm fruit (you'll use about 3/4 of it)
  •  2 cups of Tom Brown flour (toasted corn flour) (500 ml)
  • ~10 small tomatoes or several large tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) powdered shrimp/crayfish

Before preparing the aprapransa I first cooked the 2/3 cup or adzuki beans. I rinsed them, covered them with water, brought it to a boil for a couple of minutes, then let them sit about an hour and then cooked the beans until they were almost soft. Alternatively, you could let them soak overnight, drain off the water, and then cook them. I also desalted the cod fish just before making the aprapransa by simmering it in a small pot for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could soak it.

When the beans and salted cod were ready I made the actual stew by first making a palmnut soup. I added to a pot:
  •  four  shallots peeled and finely chopped (to get about 3/4 cup) 
  • (after removing the skin and bones of the smoked whiting and flaking it) added a bit over a cup of flaked fish
  • about 7 smallish tomatoes chopped (or you could use 3 or 4 medium ones)
  • 3/4 of a large can of cream of palm fruit
  • a couple of cups of water
  • about 1/4 of a very hot Habanero pepper, seeded
  • 2 tablespoons of dried powdered crayfish
  • the cooked beans (actually, I probably should have only put in half of the beans and added the rest at the end because they got softer than I wanted, and kind of lost their distinctiveness)
As these simmered, I began scooping off the palm oil that rose to the top--I ended up with about 1 1/2 cup to 2 cups of oil.
Also, as the soup was cooking I cooked the crab legs eparately in a pot with salted water and a bit of chopped onion. When they were cooked I removed them and set them aside to garnish the final dish. Just before finishing the aprapransa soup, I made the gravy to go with it.

I ground 2 small shallots (or use about half an onion) and 1/4 of a seeded Habanero in a blender, then heated about 1/2 cup of the palm oil I had removed from the soup (saving the rest of the oil to use some other day),  and fried  the shallots, palm oil and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a little ground dried red pepper together several minutes on midium. Then I sliced half an onion and another handful of tomatoes and fried them together to make the gravy. I let the gravy sit while I added the corn flour to the soup:
Before adding the 2 cups of corn flour, I removed a couple of cups of soup from the bowl, and slowly stirred in the corn flour to the rest of the soup, stirring constantly to prevent lumps forming. Then I stirred in the rest of the soup and kept stirring and cooking it until it pulled away from the sides. (and this is when I would have added part of the beans if I had removed them). 
To serve: I served the aprapransa in an asanka, garnished with some of the gravy ("dressing") and the crab, with a smaller bowl of gravy on the side.
While we agreed the corn flour was ground very fine and maybe the aprapransa was a little soft (I might have added a little more water than necessary), my husband had 3 servings!
And this time  I didn't hear about how much better his grandmother's had been. It made enough to serve 6.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Délices d'Afrique, grains of paradise, etc.

I'm still expressing appreciation to others who are helping to promote African cuisine:
  • Koranteng my son-in-law with a sophisticated African francophone and anglophone palate, who recently provided a delightful addition to the Africa Cookbook Project, Marguerite Abouet's 2012 Délices d'Afrique --50 recipes charmingly illustrated by Agnès Maupré. The recipes feature Ivorian cuisine and are bursting with flavor just as the exuberant illustrations are filled with good humor on each of the book's 124 pages.

  • Several weeks ago, Nigerian colleague Ozoz of "Kitchen Butterfly" fame, wrote a lovely post (with her always-exceptional photos)  about alligator pepper (aka grains of paradise), including a recipe using it for okwu-oji, a Nigerian version of groundnut soup.  She has also shared some photos of atariko, which I mentioned in a grains of paradise post in January, and which Nigerians often use in pepper soup and banga (palmnut soup). We continue to applaud her commitment to promoting Nigerian cuisine.
  • I was grateful to have Frederick Douglass Opie provide links to several resources/talks on African food and foodways (and to Africa is a Country for alerting me to them).
Upcoming posts:

My current challenge is to tackle 2 recipes for the regional Ghanaian cookbook that I've long delayed: 

The toasted cornmeal and palmnut soup one-pot that my husband fondly remembers his grandmother making, and whose standard I've never been able to achieve: aprapransa, and a green snail soup he also loves called abunabuna. I'll be working on these this week, In the meantime,  if anyone has any suggestions or treasured recipes, please feel free to share.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pssssst. . . Bim's Kitchen is coming

. . . to the U.S., that is.
I was excited to learn from James that in the next few week their products are going to be available in the U.S. in selected TJX stores (the parent company of our local TJ Maxx). I'm eagerly waiting to hear from our  State College, PA  store if it is receiving some. In case you only frequent the stores for clothing, you're missing out on the fact that they have an intriguing selection of specialty foods, too.

If you haven't heard of Bim's Kitchen's creative line of "African-inspired" sauces and seasonings hand-crafted by a small family firm, you are in for a delightful discovery.

Bim, aka James "Bim" (his Nigerian name) Adedeji and his wife Nicola founded this inspired line of sauces using a variety of African ingredients/spices/seasonings from baobab and peri peri peppers to egusi (agushi) seeds, hibiscus, and alligator pepper. 

To be more specific, 2400 units of the following are expected to be on shelves in selected TJ Maxx and Homegoods stores by April: Hot Tangy BBQ Sauce, Smoky Baobab BBQ Sauce, Smokin' Red Hot Sauce; Fiery Hot Sauce, Baobab Chilli Jam, African Chilli Coconut Relish; African Lemony Piri Piri and Hot African Lemony Piri Piri. Several of these items have already won awards in the U.K.

I've followed Bim's Kitchen for a couple of years from afar (the company is based in the U.K.), and hooked up more directly last winter when James generously sent me a complimentary sampler of items, from the award-winning "Smokin' Red Hot Sauce" and "African Bean and Nut Curry" above to their (also award-winning) "Baobab Chilli Jam," delightful "African spice and herb mix"  and a chickpea and melon curry sauce. And that's just a partial list. Do check out their site for more information. 

I was grateful to taste their products firsthand, and later learned that two colleagues, Jessica Harris and Josh Schonwald, are also fans. I've been meaning for 2 months to share with my readers Bim's Kitchen's exciting foray into making these new flavors and ingredients more widely available outside the African continent, and doing it at a very sophisticated and exacting level. They remind us of the original meaning of that overworked word "gourmet." Now I'm glad that I can share their great news with you.

Congratulations to James and Nicola for all they hard work they did to make this happen. Well done! May these accomplishments be an encouragement to all African culinary entrepreneurs.

In conclusion, if you're lucky enough to see any Bim's Kitchen's products in a shop in the U.S., do snatch them up. They'll make wonderful gifts as well as enhancements to your own pantry.