The Making of a Delicious Stew: Lessons from Ghana
What does the making of a delicious stew have to do with working together with our partners in Ghana to establish a Clean Water U training there? Read on to find out and maybe you’ll find a recipe for a delicious stew at the end.
First I should tell you that I love to cook! I love everything about being in the kitchen (ok, I’m not too crazy about the dish washing part). What I love more than cooking though is sitting at table with folks, tasting their good cooking and talking to them about how they prepared the dish - what ingredients they used, what spices they included, what special steps they paid attention to that made all the difference. Not only is the time spent breaking bread together a delight, I might even come away with a new recipe to make in my own kitchen!
Just a few weeks ago, a team of Clean Water U instructors headed to Ghana at the invitation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana to do something that had never been done before in the history of Living Waters for the World: train instructors for future Clean Water U sessions in Ghana. For our training team, it was our first visit to Ghana. Our Ghana Network Moderators accompanied us and then a few team members from Idlewild Presbyterian Church joined us a few days later for an implementation visit.
Our Network Moderators had shared with us what to expect as far as food in Ghana - that it tended to be on the spicy side, that there would be lots of fish and ground nuts (what we call peanuts) stew served with a starch (cassava, yams, corn meal, or rice) usually formed into a ball and eaten with “the fork God gave you” (your right hand). They also told us about the warmth and hospitality the people of Ghana would show us. But just like hearing about a recipe and then actually tasting it are two very different things, so is hearing about and experiencing this warm hospitality firsthand. Meal times were a time of much sharing and laughter (especially as we practiced using our “natural fork” with hot food.)
Dora Asare seeing us off on the bus.
This is Dora Asare. Dora prepared all the meals for us during our stay at Akropong where we were training our new CWU instructors. Each evening, Dora would pull me aside and ask what our team would like to eat the next day. The conversation would go something along these lines. I would say, “We’ll eat what you make - it’s our first time in Ghana. We want to eat what you typically eat. Whatever you find at the market will be fine.” Dora would smile and make some suggestions as to what she could make for us, always adding an option that would be sure to agree with everyone’s different stomachs and tastes. One evening I asked about the groundnut stew I’d heard so much about. She smiled and said, yes, she would make us some but that it was very spicy and might not be for everyone so she would make it not so spicy for us to try and maybe some potatoes on the side too. Each night we went back and forth a bit this same way, checking in with one another, finding what would work for everyone. The table was always set with a generous helping of something for everyone - even on the day when she had to travel to cook for a funeral with hundreds of people in attendance! The whole process of this first Clean Water U Ghana instructor training was a bit like making a giant pot of stew together in an unfamiliar kitchen. We all had a recipe plan in mind that we were going to collaborate on, but we weren’t quite sure what we were going to find when we arrived. I know our partners weren’t sure either! There were a couple of times when we had to say "excuse me" after bumping into each other in the kitchen. But, we trusted that the ingredients we needed would be found, we’d all add a little bit of this and a little bit of that to the recipe we were making together, and it would end up being delicious. I was reminded of a bumper sticker I have on my fridge that says, “Love people. Cook them tasty food.” Our Ghanaian partners did this for us in every way, and it is my hope that in the months and years to come they will continue to add to this pot. It will simmer and become a delightful dish for God’s children in Ghana. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you updated! On our last night, Dora let us into the kitchen to do the cooking for everyone - chicken and vegetable kebabs along with bread pudding for dessert. Instead of banku (fermented corn and cassava dough), we made pasta. Everyone ate it and said it was good.
Some of the cooking crew our last night.
Here’s a general recipe for groundnut (peanut) stew similar to what we ate. You could add okra or garden eggs (eggplant) to this (chopped up and added when you add the blended vegetables) or leave out the chicken and make it vegetarian or with fish. Enjoy! Take a couple of medium onions, 4 medium ripe tomatoes, a cut up chicken, and a hot pepper and put them in a pot with 7 cups of chicken stock.
Boil and then simmer until the vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes).
Remove the vegetables and blend them with a 1” piece of ginger.
Put this mixture back in the soup pot, bring it back to boil then reduce to a simmer.
Meanwhile, make the peanut butter sauce by scooping about ¼ cup of peanut butter (more if you like) into a saucepan over low heat and stir constantly so it doesn’t burn. Add water, little by little, until it is a smooth consistency but not too runny.
When the oil starts to separate from the peanut butter, add it to the soup and let it simmer for about 20 or so minutes.
Add salt and pepper to suit your taste.
Make some rice to go with this dish—if you stir the rice and form a rice ball about the size of a baseball, you can put one of those rice balls in each bowl of soup.