This is a classic dish in Ghana. Meat, fish and vegetables are cooked in a groundnut paste which thickens as it cooks and keeps the meat and fish very moist and almost buttery. The groundnut paste makes this very filling and means you can use no meat at all if you prefer. You can make it thick like a stew and serve over rice, or add more water to make it a soup which is a great way to use up any leftovers.
Groundnut paste is smoother than peanut butter and has palm oil in it for a traditional West African flavour. If you can’t find it, you could use smooth sugar-free peanut butter and add a larger pinch of smoked paprika. Any meat will work; I just happen to love mutton’s flavour here.
Ask your butcher to cut the mutton into medium chunks. If you are using chicken thighs, remove the skin and the bones and cut each thigh into quarters. Tie the bones together with string in a bundle and reserve. Season the meat.
Using a very large saucepan you can cook the whole dish in, seal the meat in the vegetable oil over a medium heat (you might have to do this in batches). Set aside once it’s browned. Soften the chopped shallots, onions and garlic on a low heat in the same pan – don’t let them colour or burn. Add the red pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring in the paprika, cayenne and ginger about a minute before the end. If you want your soup spicy, chop the scotch bonnet in here too.
While the vegetables are softening, put the groundnut paste in a small pan and add
Add the meat back to the softened vegetables along with the pumpkin and okra. Mix well to coat everything with the spices. Put in the bunch of tied chicken bones (if using), then pour in the chopped tomatoes and stir everything well. Scatter the ground crayfish over it all. These are widely used in West African cooking to give a savoury base note – just as Europeans use anchovies. They dissolve into the sauce and add flavour.
Pour over the groundnut paste mixture and add another 1½ litres of cold water, stirring well. If you didn’t chop in the scotch bonnet earlier, pop the whole pepper into the pan now. Bring everything to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 2½ hours, checking to make sure the soup isn’t getting too thick. If it looks like it is drying out, add a little more water.
After this time, add the corn on the cob and the white fish. Check the water level and cook it all for another 30–45 minutes, until the corn is tender and the fish is flaking apart. I like to use a thick fillet of white fish here, skinned and pin boned, but you could also use whole tilapia or something meaty like conger eel steaks. Don’t use cod, which is overwhelmed by the taste of the groundnuts.
Serve this, scattered with chopped fresh coriander, in deep bowls either with rice or as a soup with gari or eba.
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