So far, I’ve taken more than one leap of faith when it comes to making a dish. Often I can sort of tell by the ingredients whether or not I’ll like something, but sometimes, it’s a crap shoot. And I’m okay with that. However, sometimes, rather than risk guessing what “might” be good in an area, it’s nice to rely on friendly recommendations (so send them if you have any when I get to a certain place!). Grape’s sister spent some time in Ghana for a stint in the Peace Corps, and Grape went to visit her. Of everything she ate (all of which she said was fantastic), she raved about the Okra Stew. When she described the dish, I’m pretty sure there was a bit of drool sneaking its way out of the corner of her mouth. Anyhow, she went on to recount the dining experience, how she and her parents sat scooping up the thick stew with this “mashed potato-like stuff,” making a delicious and glorious mess. Yam also recently went to Ghana, and confirmed that Okra Stew and fu-fu (the mashed potato-like stuff) was the way to go for my last meal in Western Africa.
I can’t say I’ve ever cooked much with okra. Besides the Buddha family’s Christmas Eve gumbo, I never buy it, though I’m not at all opposed to it. Living in the Louisiana for the few years that I did, I know that it’s a very versatile ingredient regularly used in dishes throughout the southern U.S. The version I used today I got from Yam, and it comes from Nigeria. She also told me that, as an alternative to fu-fu, smashed plantains or rice could be used. However, since Grape painted such a pretty picture of how this meal should be eaten, how could I eat it any other way?
I made a few tweaks to this recipe based on ingredients I could find and how these flavors fit into what I’ve recently made. I used fish per Yam’s suggestion, but traditionally it’s made with beef, ground or cubed. I also couldn’t readily find red palm oil, but Yam assured me any regular oil would be just fine, so I used coconut oil. And it was. As for the fu-fu, the authentic recipe calls for cassava flour. I don’t even know what that is, nor where to find it, but I found one that used rice flour, so I went with that.
Taking leftover to work, Grape gave it a hearty thumbs up. Success!
I will say that, though I loved the soup, I found the fu-fu a bit poo-poo. It just wasn’t my thing. Much like the injera served with Ethiopian food (more on that in a few weeks), I found it superfluous and ended up using a spoon rather than making a mess all over myself, which is what I no-doubt would have done.
Anyway, this is different, but that’s what cooking is about- experimentation! So don’t be turned off by its murky appearance. If you try it, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised.
For the stew:
1 pound flaky white fish (I used tilapia)
½ cup dried fish (*optionally dried shrimp*)**
½ medium onion, chopped
1 pound okra, fresh or frozen
1 ½ cup chopped frozen spinach
½ tsp dried, crushed red pepper
1 TB salt
½ tsp black pepper, or to taste
2 TB coconut oil
4 cups beef broth
**I used the leftover dried fish I had from the ozoni, but use what you can find.**
1. Heat the oil in a deep stock pot. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the salt and pepper.
2. Add the okra and sauté until thawed, about 4-5 minutes. Add the broth and boil for about 20 minutes.
3. Using an immersion (or regular) blender, puree the okra until smooth.
4. Add the remaining ingredients, stir and cook for about 10 more minutes until the fish is cooked through.
5. Serve with the fu-fu. See below.
For the fu-fu:
1 ½ cups rice flour
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the water in a heavy pot and add the rice flour, stirring constantly to remove lumps.
2. Season, bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to medium heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes until it’s heated through and thickens. Cook until the mixture forms a thick mass and begins to come away from the sides of the pan.
Pulls away like this…
3. Remove from heat and, using wet hands, shape into serving-size balls. Use the balls to scoop up the stew.