Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
Nigeria was supposed to be next but a little setback with the recipe means that it’s Ghana today and Nigeria tomorrow. But hey, that’s entertainment for you.
Ghana strikes gold with me; not because of their World Cup exploits but because of a player that lit up the Premier League in England in the mid-90s with explosive power, sublime skill and a scoring prowess that would leave me breathless. I am talking about a player called Tony Yeboah. He burst on to the scene for my home team Leeds United, and brought to the game a level of excitement I have seen little of since. His legacy is in a 35 yard volley that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar leaving the 6ft 5in goalkeeper helpless. He was a Ghanaian hero to many. Unfortunately for Tony Yeboah he never made it to a World Cup as Ghana’s first ever qualification was only in 2006, where they made it to the last 16. Amazingly, they made it to the quarter-final in 2010.
Up against the USA, Portugal and Germany in Brazil it will take an heroic effort for Ghana to progress to the last 16. However, the belief of the fans is such that they expect them to qualify. Ghana has a wonderful midfield in Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien, and a potentially potent strike force of Kevin-Prince Boateng and Asamoah Gyan. I have a sneaky feeling they may just qualify for round 2.
I once knew a wonderful couple when I lived in Tooting in London; a partnership from Jamaica and Ghana. Needless to say that eating there was a joy to behold as I remember ackee and saltfish, plantains, fresh and smoked fish, and lots of wholesome pulses and vegetables; a true mix of the Caribbean and Western Africa. Eating there was a real celebration of family and food, and I used to leave with a full belly and utter contentment.
During this project I want to get a balance of food types such as fast food eaten at football matches, street food, desserts, spicy food, and some well tasty wholesome food; and recalling my experience in Tooting, I can tell you that Ghana has it aplenty. So, the wholesome dish I have chosen is known as ponkie, which means pumpkin. It is simplicity itself, but what I love is that all the ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves with an underlying little kick from the addition of hot cayenne pepper. This, for me, is a classic African stew, and served with steamed and mashed cassava is nothing short of magical.
Ponkie - GhanaPrint
- ■ 1 medium aubergine (Eggplant) | Diced into 2 cm cubes. In Ghana they are known as 'Garden Eggs'.
- ■ 1.5 litres cold water |
- ■ 20g table salt |
- ■ 2 tbsp. olive oil |
- ■ 1 brown onion | Diced.
- ■ 500g beef topside mince | This is a lean cut and breaks down really well in to the stew.
- ■ ¼-½ tsp. hot cayenne pepper | Amount depending on heat required. ¼ tsp gave a nice little kick.
- ■ 1½ tsp. ground coriander | Freshly toasted and ground is ideal, but already ground is good.
- ■ 1 kg pumpkin (Ponkie) | Diced in to 1cm cubes. I used a Jap pumpkin that worked really well.
- ■ 1 green pepper (capsicum) | Chopped.
- ■ seasoning of sea salt and black pepper |
- Coriander leaves for garnishing
Dissolve the table salt in the 1.5 litres of cold water and then add the diced aubergine. Soak for 20 minutes and then rinse the aubergine thoroughly and pat dry.
Put a large pan or casserole dish over a low-medium heat, add the olive oil and when hot add the onion. Soften for about 2 minutes so that it becomes translucent – we don’t want any browning. Add the minced beef, cayenne pepper and ground coriander, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes or so. Now stir in the pumpkin, aubergine and green pepper, and season with salt and black pepper. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. The aubergine will probably be the last one to soften completely.
Add some final seasoning and serve, garnished with coriander leaf. I served this with steamed and mashed cassava (with a little olive oil, milk and seasoning), and ended up with a fully belly and very content.