Friday, February 25, 2011

Ghana regional cookbook update

I'm sure many of you have noted that I've not posted anything on this blog since February 6, 2011. I think I owe all my followers an explanation.

Some of you may remember that on May 5, 2009 I decided to turn up the burner on the regional Ghanaian cookbook that Barbara Baeta and I began working on in 2002. That's when I started posting recipes on BetumiBlog and getting feedback from many of you. In 2010 I also began an analysis of nutritional values of some of the recipes. Last year I spent a month in Ghana working on the cookbook and interviewing Barbara for the book (along with a student helper from Penn State, Katie Cochrane). When I  returned to Ghana for 3 weeks in January and February of 2011, I was in touch with Barbara, but unfortunately, after returning from a short trip to Togo she came down with the flu and malaria, and so was unable to work with me.

On February 14th, just after returning to the U.S., I decided that my number one priority is to complete and publish the cookbook this year, so you'll probably find this blog site to be fairly dormant for now. I believe the book is very important, and from time to time I'll update you on the progress. This remains a labor of love, and while it is one I deeply believe in, it does get lonely (and expensive since I've no external funding) sometimes and I truly appreciate the words of encouragement and support so many of you offer me. So far (in addition to all the work on recipes), I've drafted 

I. The table of contents, 
II. Preface ("Something for Everyone")
III. Introduction (Frans' story: From Berkeley to Accra and Barbara's story: From Ghana with Love [Note: Barbara is now reviewing her section and making corrections and additions]).
IV. Part I: The West African Kitchen
       1. Background, languages, map
       2. Herbs, spices, seeds and misc. seasonings; oils; staple foods; greens and dried beans
           and legumes; other fruits; other vegetables [Note: there's also an
           appendix thatcontains many pages of useful information I've gather during field work 
           and over the years for the person who wants to know more]
      3. Kitchen equipment, traditional and modern
V. Part II: Essential flavors, textures, and techniques (includes Food textures, viscidity, and salty, spicy, bitter, sour, umami, and sweet flavors; cooking techniques; "Building Blocks" includes seasoning techniques, basic gravy for stews; coatings; stocks, coconut preparation, doughs, tankora powder/rub, toasting and grinding corn flour, cooking and food processing techniques, garnishing, substitutions, short cuts, and sample recipes)
VI. Part III: Recipes, including information on regional variations, specialties [Note: this is the part I've been posting recipes from for the last 20 or so months, and will probably include around 150 recipes]

There might possibly be a Part IV including some Ghanaian recipes that require quite specialized ingredients for  people in Ghana or with access to Ghanaian sources, and possibly a few recipes specifically designed for quantity cooking. The appendices are still kind of blurry in my mind, too. In addition to the glossary of Ghanaian terms, there may be a section on Ghanaian Day names, suppliers, online resources, restaurants and a bibliography.

Please keep me in your thoughts and send along any advice, suggestions, comments, etc.

Fran O-A

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Palmnut Soup Sunday

I’m leaving Ghana in a few days, so am starting to empty out the refrigerator. Today I defrosted some goat meat and smoked fish, along with some cream of palm fruit.

The stock ingredients included just the basics: a few cups of water, a chopped onion, 3 cloves of minced garlic, ~a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger, 2 habanero peppers, a teaspoonful of salt. After the goat meat simmered for awhile (like an hour), I added some smoked tuna, a couple of small zucchini squash I had handy, and 2 tomatoes to soften before blending them into the soup.

It cooked for hours, and filled the house with a comforting aroma. I was only sad there was no one but me to eat it ;-(

It really was begging for fufu, and I heard the thump-thump of neighbors pounding their afternoon fufu, but if I didn’t use up my yam (and some left-over kenkey-like banku), I knew they would go bad.

It was a pleasant dinner. One of our local roosters thought I might share, but though I gave him a few crumbles of banku, the soup was mine alone.