Africa is etched my travel wish list. Not just for vibrant landscapes and beautiful, dark skinned natives but for their exotic food. Though currently a predominantly meat eating continent, a good portion of their dishes just so happen to be naturally vegan. And their staples are foods I adore…. Plantains, maize, millet, yams, beans, peanuts and coconuts. Raised under a scorching sun who gently draws out their natural sweetness. Curries, stews and many starches are either stirred for hours or pounded into shape. They have wonderful sounding names like Waakye, Fufu and Fonfom.
I love to try dishes from far off countries, to get a taste for the people and the land. Lucky enough to live a short train journey from the London, ubiquitously termed ‘the melting pot’, I don’t always have to travel too far to savour the world. Exmouth Market in boho Clerkenwell are weekly hosts to a mouthwatering Ghanian food company. I had a summer romance with one of their legendary dishes last year at the Southbank Festival. The beaming chefs at Spinach & Agushi, the food stall stirred big steel pans of the stuff and the layers of flavours were dazzling. I was wowed. Like any brief fling that ends on a high….the flavour lingered a little.
My memory was gently prodded whilst cleaning out my food cupboards last week and I uncovered some forgotten ingredients. I’d bought the main component (egusi – melon seeds) for this traditional African dish a while back and not yet used them. So yesterday I finally got around to recreating this warming traditional Ghanian dish.
It’s simple, and it will charm your heart.
Spinach & Agushi Stew
Recipe serves 2
1 cup dried melon seeds (rich in protein, Omega 3, Vitamins, Folic acid, calcium, magnesium and zinc) if you can’t find..sub with pumpkin/pepita seeds though it will alter the flavour somewhat.
2 cup spinach (I used frozen…allow a little extra cooking time for it to cook if from frozen or let it thaw naturally and use..adapt accordingly)
2 small onion
4 ripe tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 red chilli
1/2 tsp chill powder (or to taste…I enjoyed the subtlety of this dish)
1 cup water
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp white pepper (or African Melegueta pepper if you can source it)
1 Tbs coconut oil for frying
I adapted this recipe from egusi sauce which I discovered on the Internet from Global Table Adventure. It is very simply prepared. The melon seeds are creamy and ever so slightly sweet. You can roast them too for snacking (I did and I loved) or use them in your gluten free flour mix. Sprinkle them on cereal too. They are crisp like flaked almonds.
Method1. roughly chop the tomatoes, onion, garlic and red chilli. Place in a blender and blend to a loose paste.
2. grind the melon seeds in a coffee grinder to resemble the consistency of almond flour.
3. gently heat a pan and melt the coconut oil. First stir in the tomato mixture and cook on a low heat for 5 mins. Then shake in the ground seeds and stir. Now add the chill powder and seasonings with the water and spinach. Once incorporated and the stew is flecked with the greens, simmer ever so gently for a further 5-8 mins. (preparing the night before and reheating is said to enhance the flavours…I devoured it immediately and with gusto!)
I served mine with slithers of plantains rubbed in fresh garlic, sprinkled with sea salt and fried golden in coconut oil. To coin a well worn phrase. It was far out! Warming, creamy, a little cheeky and delightful.
The result (I think) is not too far from the bowls of gorgeousness served by those guys from Spinach & Agushi. I thank them for introducing me to the taste of Ghana.