The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Return to Ghana #3 (Chicken with Red Sauce)

Return to Ghana #3 (Chicken with Red Sauce)

Food. There a few things I enjoy more than the food of a different culture, learning how to make it, or getting into conversation about it, it is a passion of mine. I had learned (and posted) many recipes in our years in Ghana, and I continue to make this great foods since we’ve been back, but there was one grave omission: Shelia’s Fried Chicken and Red Sauce. Eric calls this Obruni food, but its like nothing I’ve ever tasted before, and so it was I came back with a determination to learn how Shelia made it.

It seemed rather rash to land at the airport, and immediately ask Eric if his cousin could come over and cook for us, so I waited a few days, and it turns out that when Shelia heard we were coming, she too asked if she would be allowed to come cook for us.

It was a Thursday afternoon that Shelia came over and entered into this Kitchen that was not hers. There are some dynamics I completely miss, like the sense of ownership that the house help feels toward the house they work in or the animosity that southern and central Ghanaians feel for northerners. The Mosleys are so good at understanding this, and me, so completely clueless. Inviting Shelia to come into this kitchen, and then spending the afternoon working with her (thus displacing the usual crew) was one of those “not well thought through” moments. It was not well thought out in that there was some internal conflict in the household. We had a great time cooking together, talking about life, and enjoying each other's company. Here is her wonderful Fried Chicken and Red Sauce.

Shelia’s Fried Chicken and Red Sauce

This was Suzanne’s favorite in Ghana. There are two recipes that are cooked concurrently, often in the early afternoon before the house got hot. The chicken was served room temperature, but the red sauce was served hot along with white rice and a fruit salad.

Fried Chicken

8 medium onions, quartered

2 fists of garlic, skinned and cut

4 fingers of ginger, skinned and cut into slices

3 chickens, cut up.

2t salt

Oil for frying (safflower or sunflower)

Chop onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender until rough-smooth. Pour over cut up chicken and cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Add salt, stir and continue to cook until chicken thoroughly cooked and just starts to pull away from the bone. Shelia calls this “steaming the chicken.”

While chicken is “steaming” start work on the Red Sauce (see next recipe).

When chicken begins to pull away from the bone, perhaps as long as 30 minutes later depending on the tenderness of the chicken, turn fire off and pick chicken with tongs and place in a colander, capturing the stock that drains off and returning it to the stock pot. Let chicken cool slightly

In a large, deep frying pan add one half to three quarters inch of light oil. Heat oil until hot, then carefully add chicken to one layer. Cook until chicken is deep brown on all sides and remove. Drain on paper towel, and cover. Cook chicken in batches.

Sheila would often cook chicken in the afternoon so it was cool by the time we ate dinner. The Red Sauce was served hot along with rice and a fruit salad.

Red Sauce

32 Roma Tomatoes , quartered.

3 handfuls of small hot peppers, steamed and seeded (if you want to reduce the heat).

3 medium onions, halved and then sliced in half moons.

1 cup light oil (safflower or sunflower)

2 tins of tomato paste (70gr each)

½ c dried shrimps (or 4 cubes of Maggie – Maggie is a concentrated flavor cube [wiki])

3 green peppers, cubed, or cut in nickel sized pieces.

3 T curry powder.

In a large stock pan, fry onions in oil until just brown at the edges, then add tomato and pepper blend.

While onions are frying, puree tomatoes and peppers in a blender of food processor until smooth.

Cook on high heat until reduced by half (about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning).

When reduced by half, add 2 tins of tomato paste, and blend until smooth, cooking on medium heat.

Add half cup of dried shrimps (or 4 cubes Maggie). Stir often to prevent burning.

Add 4 cups of stock from the chicken, (which should replace half of the liquid that was reduced by cooking) and then continue cooking until thick. Add in 3 T curry powder and turn off fire and correct seasoning, adding salt if needed.

Just before serving, stir in cubed green peppers.

Serve with rice and fruit salad.

Thoughts on Cooking

I wonder why it is I am drawn to doing the things that only last for the moment, performing, like preaching, like cooking, things that are fully consuming, but once completed, are just memories. I look at the artwork my kids have made over the years, and they are for us, a moment in time, captured. But for most of what I enjoy doing, I have only memories. Like my mom teaching me to make what I call "Iowa Chili," though it should more rightly be called "Kansas Chili" because that is where she was raised, but I learned it in Iowa. Iowa Chili doesn't have garlic, it does have kidney beans, along with ground beef, and uses tomato sauce along with the while tomatoes. Texas Chili is way different, as is Grubstake Chili. Each has been taught to me in a kitchen of shared love, love of food, love of the cooking process, love of the companionship of learning and teaching food, and the stories.

At my old church, the kitchen was where everything of import happened. We cooked together, talked, enjoyed each other's friendship in that room. If I needed to think or talk to someone, staff knew it would happen in the kitchen. At my current church, none of that can happen in the kitchen, its a room designed by someone who doesn't cook, or love cooking. It lacks a soul, which is so odd because the rest of the building has such character. I know rooms are not alive, that they don't have a soul, but there is something about this kitchen that is missing. It may be what my daughter Anna talks about, when she says "chain food" doesn't have love in it. She can taste if the love is there, she says, and knows if the person who made it cared.

Eating dinner that Thursday night around the Mozley's large table, eating this wonderful food, with these great friends, I remember thinking, if my Anna was here, she would taste the love, and the friendship that produced and shared this meal. It made me think that food is not just to something to sustain our bodies, but when shared, to sustain our souls.


Anonymous Dale Schultz said...

It is precisely becuase these particular moments are all-consuming that they fully engage us. They incarnate the transcendence that is among our purest experience of the Holy. In performing, preching, cooking, eating, we allow ourselves to be wholly in the moment, putting all of time and preception in dynamic perspective.

10:31 PM, June 22, 2009  

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