Palaver Sauce 2 Ways

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    6

    servings

Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

“Palaver Sauce” is sometimes called kontomire stew or “spinach stew.” This is confusing, since “palaver sauce” often contains both beef and (usually smoked) fish and agushi (a Ghanaian melon seed), whereas kontomire stew (see Spinach Stew) is a less complicated version.

Here we give you two ways to make Palaver Sauce. Feel free to adapt either, including creating vegetarian versions, but just be sure to include plenty of greens. True-blue Ghanaians will see that both versions unabashedly omit the seasoning momoni (a pungent fermented fish). Using either version, the resulting stew provides a friendly mix where a lot of interesting ingredients get along very well together without any “palaver.”

Ingredients

  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen greens (spinach, kontomire/cocoyam, collard, kale, etc.) or 2 pounds fresh greens
  • ½ pound stewing beef, fat trimmed and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • Salt or seasoned salt (begin with ½ teaspoon and adjust at the end)
  • 2 cups chopped onion or scallions (or a mix of both)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground red pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 cup grated fresh tomatoes, juices reserved, or 1 (16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ pound fresh or frozen fish fillets (e.g., cod or haddock), cut into chunks
  • 1 square inch salted cod (optional)
  • 8 ounces smoked/dried fish (such as smoked whiting or mackerel)
  • ½ to 1 cup ground agushi or dehulled pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup palm oil (traditional dzomi if available); or other vegetable oil like peanut or canola; or a blend of palm oil with another oil
  • A few onion slices or 2 bay leaves for flavoring the oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried ground shrimp (optional) (Ghanaians would likely use this more liberally)

Method

Directions for Easy Palaver Sauce

  1. If using fresh greens, wash the leaves. Remove the tough central stems of kontomire, mustard greens, or chard. Layer several leaves together and roll them up very tightly, and slice very thinly. If using frozen greens, defrost and drain excess water. Set aside.
  2. Put the meat cubes in a large pot with a scant ½ teaspoon salt and 1 cup water. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the onions, the garlic, and ¼ teaspoon of the ground red pepper over the meat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and steam for 10 minutes to tenderize and flavor the beef.
  3. After 10 minutes, add the rest of the onion, the rest of the ground red pepper, the tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh or frozen fish, and salted cod, if using, and let it cook together for a few minutes. The fish will break up as it cooks.
  4. Add the chopped greens, stir well, and let the mixture simmer on medium to low heat, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. While the sauce simmers, remove the head, skin, and bones from the smoked fish. Stir the fish into the pot, and let it simmer, uncovered, while preparing the agushi or pumpkin seeds.
  6. Grind the seeds in an electric blender mixed with an equal amount of water. Scoop the mixture into the sauce all at once (don’t stir) and let the pot simmer covered for 10 minutes without stirring.
  7. Uncover pot and mix the sauce and taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Continue to simmer on low heat until most of the liquid is gone.

Directions for Flair’s Classic Palaver Sauce

  1. Begin as for Step 1 of the first version, but cook the greens separately in a ½ cup of boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain the greens and keep the cooking water to use later as needed. Set aside.
  2. Season and steam the meat as in step 2 above but then remove and discard the onions you have used, if desired. Set aside.
  3. Add the oil to a large frying pan or pot, along with a few slices of onion or a couple of bay leaves and fry them on medium until they are brown to season the oil, then remove the bay leaves or onion slices.
  4. Stir in the chopped onion, ground red pepper, fresh or frozen fish, and salted cod, if using, and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Stir in the tomato paste and ¼ cup of water (use the water from cooking the greens) and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.
  5. Add the fresh tomatoes. Add the meat that was steamed, along with any juices remaining in the pan. Add the ground dried shrimp if using. Remove the head, skin and bones from the smoked fish and break into pieces and stir in.
  6. Mix the ground seeds with an equal amount of water, add to the stew, and cover. Allow it to set for 10 minutes, then stir and adjust any seasonings.

To serve

This stew goes well with plain rice or boiled yams, plantains (green or ripe), or potatoes.

Variations

  • Smoked ham cubes or turkey may substitute for the smoked fish.
  • When preparing Palaver Sauce at Flair we include 4 soft-shelled crabs. If you find them in season, add them or substitute shrimp in their shells.
  • To thicken the sauce without agushi or pumpkin seeds, add 2 beaten eggs or 1 cup canned refried beans or 1 cup cooked pureed eggplant.