World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: May, 2006

Ghanaian Cooking


Really, I don’t know what to say. I can’t begin to explain this at all.  But I’ve been conditioned to look for signals, to have a heightened awareness for repeated references. And for whatever reason, in the last 48 hours, I am hearing about Ghana all over the place.  Certainly there’s no rational reason whatsoever.

First it was an Eat Feed episode entitled "Kitchens" that I heard a bit about the cultural history of this regional cooking. If you don’t have a subscription to this podcast I’m not sure you can call yourself a foodie. Fran Osseo-Asare, founder of the African Culinary Network shared her 30 plus cooking experiences in this country.

Of course I wasn’t paying much attention to the finite details but Ms. Osseo-Asare is the editor of Betumi Blog. {BAY-to-me} I ran across her blog as I was conducting on a random search on World Cup Soccer (I’m trying to develop a deeper appreciation of something the world is in love with but we Americans are casual about).  It’s a young blog but it promises much in the understanding of this type of cuisine. Really how much do YOU know about fufu?

And the third reference was hearing Anthony Bourdain talking about his new book ‘Nasty Bits’ up on NPR.  In this interview he talks about Nambia and Ghana where he drank palm wine and explored the cuisine which he says,  "The food in Ghana is terrific in particular. It’s spicy, a lot of stews, very colorful, hearty stuff."

So I’ll admit it.  I know nothing about this type of world food. But what I do know is that in the next few years we’ll see a growing interest in the food of this continent. Particularly since superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson is applying his skill and time to with a new cookbook, The Soul of a Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa (due out in Sept.’06). I know I’m looking forward to the class he’s teaching at this year’s Gourmet Institute, Africa on My Mind.

So here’s a peek into what comprises this regional food of West Africa:

"Soups are the primary component in Ghanaian cuisine and are eaten with fufu (either pounded plaintain and cassava or yam), kokonte (cassava meal cooked into a paste), banku (fermented corn dough), boiled yam, rice, bread, plantain, or cassava. The most common soups are light soup, palmnut soup, and groundnut (peanut) soup. Other Ghanaian favorites include gari foto (eggs, onions, dried shrimp, tomatoes and gari), agushie (squash seed sauce, tomatoes and onions), omo tuo (mashed rice balls with groundnut soup), jollof rice, red-red (fried plantain and bean sauce), kenkey (boiled fermented corn dough) and fish, kelewele (deep fried and heavily spiced plantain) and shito (hot pepper sauce)."                From GhanaCoUK

After all any food that offers chile peppers and plantains as a foundation is worth checking out. 

Recipe:  Traditional Dark Chile Sambal

Previous Posts: Grains of Paradise

Image: Hand-Woven Asante Ceremonial Cloth, Hohoe, Volta, Ghana

Mother’s Cake


The earliest Mother’s Day celebration is often traced back to the spring day celebrations in ancient Greece to honor Rhea, the mythical mother of the gods. However in the 1600s, England celebrated a day called "Mothering Sunday" on the fourth Sunday of Lent. At that time, many of England’s poor worked as servants for the wealthy. Since most jobs were far from their homes, the servants live in the homes of their employers.

On Mothering Sunday, servants were given the day off and many went to spend the day with who else but mom.  Many would bring along a special cake called the Mothering Cake.

As Christianity spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world, the celebration changed to honor the "Mother Church," the spiritual power that gave them life and protected them from harm. Over time, the church festival blended with Mothering Sunday celebration. People began honoring their mothers and the church.

This cake is a simple flourless chocolate cake and was a long-time favorite of the now departed Queen Mum.

Image: Louis Toffoli

Mother’s cake

Yields One 9" Cake

½ c almonds; skinned
6 oz chopped semi-sweet Chocolate
¾ c granulated sugar
6 oz unsalted butter
6 large eggs– yolks and whites separated
1 tsp

fresh lemon juice 

½ c heavy cream
2 ts instant espresso powder
8 oz chopped semi-sweet chocolate


Toast almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 350F degree oven for about 15-minutes or until the almonds are lightly colored and fragrant. Make sure to shake the pan occasionally to turn almonds while toasting.

Pre-heat oven to 375F degrees. Spray the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with a non-stick cooking spray. Dust lightly with flour or very fine, dry bread crumbs. Shake out any excess and set prepared pan aside.

Warm chopped chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water set at moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then stir until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Reserve 1/2 cup sugar and place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the almonds in a food processor or blender and chop until nuts are fine and powdery. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter until soft. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and reserve the remaining 1/4 cup sugar for use later. Beat sugar and butter until thoroughly combined. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and continue to beat until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and blend on low speed until combined. Add almonds and continue to beat mixture on a low speed setting.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with salt and lemon juice. Start on low speed and gradually increase until the egg whites hold a soft shape. Reduce speed again and add remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Then on high speed, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture about one-third at a time until blended.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared springform pan an quickly rotate to level the batter. Bake for 20 minutes at 375F degrees, then reduce heat to 350F degrees and continue to bake an additional 50 minutes. Remove cake from pan when cooled, after about 1 hour.


Prepare the icing by scalding the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat until a thin skin forms on the top. Add the espresso or coffee powder and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and whisk to dissolve, for about a minute or two. Remove from heat and continue to stir to finish melting the chocolate. Let icing cool for about 15-minutes, then pour over the top of the cake, starting at the center. Gently push the icing with a spatula over the sides to dribble down the cake.

Top with shaved chocolate, or whipped cream just prior to serving. Strawberries on the side make a nice spring touch.

Gourmet Institute – Program


Gourmet has announced the program for the 2006 Gourmet Institute.  As many of you know, because you voted I won the December ‘Cook the Cover’ challenge with my Black & Tan cookie recipe, I am all geared to attend this all paid foodie extravaganza.

The program, as you can see, is a smorgasbord of culinary bites.  The editors contacted me and encouraged, nay insisted I make my selections immediately. Here’s what I’ve selected.

Saturday – I’ve created an around the world cooking lesson program.  I hope my taste buds are up to the challenge.

Mastering Moles with Roberto Santibañez of New York’s popular Rosa Mexicano. Chef Santibañez has won many awards and writes for Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart Living. Trained in Paris via his hometown of Mexico City he is well-known for his application of French technique to sophisticated and contemporary Mexican dishes. I certainly hope he’s going to let us in on the secrets behind his white mole, a blend of almonds, capers and olives.

Africa on My Mind taught by the incomparable Marcus Samuelsson. Aquavit, the restaurant which he owns and serves as executive chef was one of my first serious dining experiences. It’s one of those outstandingly remarkable meals that is crystal clear in my mind. He’s long spoken of opening an Ethiopian restaurant, perhaps this is where I’ll get my first exposure and taste of what he’s planning.

New Indian Cooking with Floyd Cardoz of Tabla and Bread Bar whom New York Magazine defines as "the jolly executive chef at Tabla known for merging Indian spices with Western dishes." Tabla was one of the magazines 100 Best in 2006.

Modern Interpretation of Authentic Thai Cuisine instruction by the former chef at the Bangkok Four Seasons Ian Chalermkittichai who is  now firmly at Kittichai.  He began his food career early–selling from a street pushcart in Bangkok then over to Darley Street in Sydney then over to the Four Seasons.

Sunday – is a bit vague and the decisions were made more by my curiosity than anything else.

Behind the Lens with food editor and stylist Paul Grimes and Gourmet photographer Romulo Yanes (no description or tease provided…no expectations but curious!)

Purveyor and Chef Relations with Thomas Keller (we all know who he is, right?) and Keith Martin of Elysian Fields Farm

Latest Cravings of Jean-Georges Vongerichten has me expecting we’ll sit around on Sunday afternoon drinking wine and snacking on new kitchen creations of this creative being.

Ingredients with Dan Barber and Alfred Portale chef of one of my favorite dining spots in NYC, Gotham Bar and Grill. So really how could I not be tempted with a discussion on the importance of high-quality ingredients.

And finally Saturday night we had to choose from three places for dinner, Craft, Eleven Madison Park and Alto.  I opted for the just about a year-old Italian high cuisine of Alto. Now, I wonder how many lunches can I squeeze in?

Eat Local Challenge | Reading Group

May Day this year marks the start of the second annual Eat Local Challenge.  As part of this effort Jen over at Life Begins @ Thirty has brought together many of us under one roof with the launch of a new group blog

As a part of this effort I will be co-moderating with Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries an online book group focused on food politics. The books to be discussed will be both fiction and non-fiction. The objective is to not only learn from what we are reading but to enhance the reading through open discussion, thoughts and ideas from each other.

So what will we be reading first?  The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. This book is a must-read for those of us looking to better understand the impact of our food choices.  Read more over at Eat Local Challenge.

Join the discussion (via Yahoo! Groups membership)

Read the first chapter of the book (PDF)