Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Palava Sauce/Cocoyam leaves (Kontomire) Stew

Grilled Mackerel & Mushrooms Palava Sauce - Palava sauce is another delicious Ghanaian sauce enjoyed by all the tribes. It is mostly served with 'Ampesi' i.e. yam or both ripe & unripe plantain or cocoyam or cassava, though it's equally yummy with boiled rice or kenkey. As Akan's are associated with Ampesi, I can say Palava sauce originated with the Akan tribes. However, I stand to be corrected. This delicious sauce is normally made with palm oil which gives it an earthy flavour. The combination of smoked/grilled fish, koobi or mormorni (salted fish or meat) gives this dish a depth of flavour. Simple ingredients yet a full bodied African sauce. So what's the palava about this sauce??? It's all in the tasting!

  • 1 Medium size onion, chopped
  • 1 Handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • 7 small Kpakposhito (Pettie Belle Chilli) or any chilli of your choice and to your taste
  • 3 Medium sized fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 10-15 Medium size cocoyam leaves (Kontomire), sliced
  • 1 - 2 Grilled/smoked Mackerel
  • Piece of Koobi (salted dry tilapia)
  • 1 Large shrimp cube crushed into powder
  • 1 Maggie cube crushed into powder
  • 1 cup Agushie/Egusi/Akatowa
  • Salt
  • 2 ladles of Palm Oil

1. Soak the Agushie in a bowl of water and set it aside.

2. Now chop or dice the onions and set aside.
3. Chop up the tomatoes, no need to remove the seeds, and set aside. 
4. Slice the mushrooms and set it aside.
5. Remove the thick stalks from the Kontomire (Cocoyam leaves). Wash the leaves well with water. Layer the leaves on a chopping board with the green side up. Roll up the layers and thinly slice the Kontomire. Then chop it up a bit to create short lengths of the sliced Kontomire. Set this aside.

6. Place the chilli in an earthenware mortar and mash it with the pestle. If you don’t own a mortar and pestle, you can finely chop up the chilli.

7. Now wash the Agushie well using your finger tips to rub the seeds. Drain the water and remove any seed shells that may be present. Place the Agushie in a blender, add a pinch of salt and just a little bit of water to blend it into a paste. Ensure the seeds are all well blended. After blending, pour the paste into an earthenware mortar and using the pestle mash the paste further. Traditionally, the Agushie is grinded in the earthenware pot from scratch but I have cheated a bit and used the blender to quicken the process. I prefer to further mash it in the earthenware mortar because the mashing process helps to release the oils from the Agushie. This oil enhances the flavour of the Agushie. If you don’t have the earthenware mortar and pestle, no need the worry, the blended mixture is just fine.

8. Now to start the cooking, put the oil, koobi and onions in a pot and set the heat to high. Let the onions cook until it softens.

9. Now add the chilli paste and stir. Let it fry for some couple of minutes.  

10. Now add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Lower the heat to medium high and let it cook until the tomatoes are well cooked and stewed. It should look like in the photo. Add a bit of salt at this point to taste. But not too much as the Agushie also contains some salt already. 
11. Now turn up the heat and add the Agushie, give it a rough stir and let it fry for about 3 minutes. This is to help the Agushie clamp together to look like scrambled eggs. Too much stirring at this point will break up the clamps of Agushie. Let it fry for about 5 – 10minutes. Check the seasoning at this point.

12. Now add the mushrooms, let it cook for some couple of minutes. 

13. Now add the Kontomire, stir and add the Maggie and shrimp seasoning. Stir well and check if the seasoning is ok. You may not need any more salt at this point.

14. Remove the fish bones from the Mackerel and break up into big pieces. Add this to the Kontomire stew and stir.

15. Add a bit of water, about 1/3 cup to help the Kontomire to cook. Cover the pot with a lid, lower the heat and let the sauce simmer down.

16. When the sauce is cooked the oil will come up to the surface of the sauce.
17. Check your seasoning and add a pinch of salt if needed.
18. Serve this sauce with either boiled yams, ripe & unripe plantains, cocoyams or boiled rice.

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