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Cooking Ghana styles

Passport & Plate - Groundnut soup and Omotuo

Ghana | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 5 photos

Preparing the Omo tuo:

Serves 10 - 12 people

2 medium onions (chopped)
2-3 lbs bone-in stewing goat (can be substituted with stewing beef) trimmed of fat (unless you’re into that sort of thing)
1 tbsp salt
3-4 large garlic cloves (whole)
approx. 1 inch piece of ginger (roughly chopped)
3-6 scotch bonnet peppers or other fiery pepper (depending on taste), stemmed and seeded
6 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups natural smooth groundnut paste (peanut butter)
1 5.5 oz can tomato paste
4 cups water
4 garden eggs chopped (can substitute with one medium eggplant)
2 large tomatoes quartered
bunch of kontombre (substitute with hearty green like kale or collards) chopped

5 cups long grain white rice
10 cups water
1 tbsp salt


How to prepare this recipe
1. Fry 1 onion, meat and salt in large pot over medium heat (about 5-10 minutes).

2. Puree other onion, garlic, ginger and hot peppers together and add to the meat mixture.

3. Add 2 cups of stock to the pot and simmer on medium heat.

4. In a medium sized pot, mix groundnut paste and tomato paste until well blended (by hand is my preferred method to do this).

5. Combine 2 cups of water to the groundnut paste mixture. Bring mixture to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly. This will help to bring excess oil to the surface so it can easily be skimmed off. Otherwise, too much oil can make you ill. If no oil surfaces after 5 min of simmering, proceed to step 6. If you see lots of oil coming to the surface, skim it off and wait to see if more surfaces. Repeat this process until only a small amount of oil remains.

6. Add another 2 cups water to the groundnut paste mixture and stir until well blended.

7. Through a sieve, add groundnut paste mixture to the meat pot.

8. Add remaining 4 cups of stock, garden eggs, and tomato quarters to the pot and bring to a simmer. After 10 minutes, fish out tomato quarters and blend in blender. Add back to pot.

9. Cover and simmer over low heat for 2 hours.

11. While soup is simmering, cook the rice and prepare the Omotuo (see omotuo cooking instructions below).

12. When almost ready to serve, add kontombre and cook until tender.

13. Serve hot in large bowls with one Omotuo in each bowl. Enjoy with hands or spoon!

Preparing Omotuo:

1. Rinse rice

2. Cook rice in salted water with water to rice ratio of 2:1 for approx 20 minutes.

3. When finished, rice should be very soft. If it's not, add more water and continue cooking until rice is very soft. Cool for 10 min.

5. Mash rice with the back of large wooden spoon- mash it well so it's really mushy!

6. Using a bowl and your hand, form rice into large firm balls. Keep a bowl of cold water close by to cool your hand if it gets too hot. Keep warm until ready to serve.


The story behind this recipe
News travels fast of the white lady learning to cook groundnut soup and omotuo (rice ball). Children press their faces against the screen door to catch a glimpse. Giggles and squeals of laughter fill the kitchen as I sit on the floor grinding hot peppers, ginger and garlic to a paste, my eyes burn from the capsaicin vapours. I crack a smile.

My friend and host Francis stands shirtless over the simmering pot of goat meat and onions, religiously dabbing at beads of sweat on his forehead. It’s 40°C in Accra today. With the stove lit, the heat in the modest kitchen is oppressive. I toss an empty can of tomato paste into the garbage. Francis picks it out and tells me there is plenty left. With a splash of water, he cleans out the remaining paste. I feel sheepish. Nothing is wasted.

Once prepared, the soup is openly shared with neighbours. Oil from the groundnuts pools on the surface, glistening in the light. Goat meat hides beneath the surface - it's tough, but it has that full barnyard flavour I have learned to love. Kontombre, a local green, gives some much needed colour to an otherwise monotonous broth. The omotuo, sits heavy like a stone amongst the steaming liquid. I pinch off a piece and dip into the soup, burning my fingertips. Francis offers me a spoon, but I kindly refuse. I bring my mouth close and sloppily embrace the mouthful of soup. The groundnut flavour is powerful and there is a lovely gingery undertone. It's spicy as all hell. Just the way I like it. There are no subtleties - it's simple but intense, sustaining and incredibly satisfying. I smile and so does Francis."I like teaching you to cook," he beams.

The goat we slaughtered in the compound the day before, the ingredients purchased from small local producers at market that morning, were transformed into sustenance by our hands and shared with others. I learned more than how to cook soup that day: food is to be shared, it is about people, culture, pride. It is an act, in which we all participate.

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