Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recipe #16: Gari potowye (soaking)

Gari-potowye (gari soaking)

I featured a recipe for iced kenkey. Today I'd like to share another snack/porridge- type food I learned to call "gari soak" or "gari soaking." My sister-in-law, Theodora, was unfamiliar with those terms, but knows it by its Fante name "gari-potowye."

It's also simple to make. Take a small amount of gari (I've only used the finely sifted Ghanaian version, not the coarser Nigerian one, but it would work, too). For Americans, I imagine 1/4 - 1/3 cup makes a serving, though for Ghanaians it might take twice that much. Remember that gari swells up to almost 3 times its size when liquid is added to it.

Traditionally people pour the gari into a bowl and fill the bowl with water a couple of times to clean the gari and allow them to pour off any impurities that float to the top.

Like iced kenkey, Theodora agrees gari-potowye "is cheap and easy to make. . . people eat (it) mainly to quench thirst/hunger until they can make or eat something more filling. . ."

To make
"gari- potowye," after rinsing the gari and pouring off any chaff/impurities and most of the extra water, one adds cold or iced water, remembering to add enough to keep it from becoming too thick. For 1/4 cup, after draining off most of the water used to rinse the gari, use 1/4-1/2 cup cold (ice) water. If you are adding milk, you may stay with the lower amount of water. You can always add more milk or water if after it sits for a few minutes you think the mixture is too thick. Conversely, if you add more liquid than you like, you can always sprinkle in a little more gari. As I've said before, Ghanaian cooking is very flexible and forgiving.

Theodora likes her gari potowye best after refrigerating it for about 30 minutes (i.e., it will be softer). As with the iced kenkey, one may add roasted peanuts (in Ghana these would likely be dry roasted and unsalted), milk (evaporated, powdered or fresh) and sugar to taste.

I found an online site in the U.K. that sells processed gari
"Kwik meal gari soaking" to make this dish. Their Kwik brand included cocoa in the mix, something I've never heard of before in Ghana (nor had Julia or Theodora).

Julia affirms, "Yes, it's (gari soaking) delicious with roasted nuts, usually not crushed. It is also not described (as) a drink, though some people may dunk it, but rather (is) watery and eaten with a spoon since the gari thickens if you don't have enough water. The milk tends to slow this down."

Gari soaking has a milder taste than iced kenkey. It can be prepared more or less thick, crisper or soggier, according to taste. As Holli, a Canadian living in Ghana for over a dozen years noted in a comment on yesterday's posting "There is. . . (a) food . . .that my kids love, . . . made with dried gari (cassava powder). Pour the dried gari into water, add evaporated milk (Ideal Brand here!), peanuts and sugar... it has a similar flavour to breakfast cereal!"

Gari prepared this way is another student and boarding school staple.
I think of this cassava meal as Ghana's favorite convenience food, and "gari soaking" is another example. In the coming months I'll feature gari regularly, in ways both savory and sweet.

By the way, the images I'm posting these days were generally meant to be functional, not carefully composed food photography. I leave my camera in the kitchen and take utilitarian photos so you can see what I'm describing. Our cookbook will be visually much more exciting! Also, today I was fresh out of peanuts, so they're missing from the picture, though the added crunch they give to gari soaking is wonderful. For those with allergies, try another type of nut.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Conference and Jamaica

It's been a challenge keeping last month's promise to post 2-3 recipes a week. I've managed so far, but now through June 15 are busy with conferences and travel, and I make no promises until I return in the middle of June. The exciting thing is that, barring the unforeseen, I plan to be in Jamaica the second week of June. This is somewhere I've never been before! I'll get to taste some Caribbean things I've only read about or eaten in U.S. restaurants. Since the last few weeks I've been immersing myself in cassava (e.g., manioc, tapioca, mandioca) history, I'm especially excited to taste bammy and cassareep. Also, I've always wanted to see how the dish callaloo compares to Ghana's nkontomire stew. The bottom line is, postings will be irregular at best, and likely will not include recipes. Consider me on vacation for a couple of weeks, but I will post as I am able.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Recipe #3: Pot Luck Gari foto

Last Sunday for a fellowship meal at church I made some gari foto (Americans would say "Gary PHOto") a one-pot dish that's hearty, quick and easy and inexpensive to prepare, and a new (but not too new--Ghanaian gari has a mild taste that is quite acceptable and accessible to North Americans) flavor combination. Basically, one whisks and cooks a couple of eggs as you would for Chinese fried rice, sets them aside and makes a simple stew of oil, chopped onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and red pepper (and, if you like, something like canned corned beef, or tuna or sardines, or any other leftover meat or fish; I imagine tofu would work, too), and mix it together with some gari that has been pre-moistened. If you are not near a market that sells African ingredients, locate one online that will ship it to you.

As I mentioned recently, gari is a form of cassava (aka, manioc, yuca) that has been soaked, grated, fermented, dried, and roasted to make a convenience food that is reminiscent of couscous and is gaining in popularity in urban areas of Western Africa. Gari is especially popular in Ghana and Nigeria. Another day I'll talk about a delightful cousin of gari from Côte d'Ivoire called attiéké.

Gari foto is also called gari jollof, and is similar to classic West African jollof rice, which is a one-pot stew and rice dish. The main difference is that gari foto is faster, since you don't have to wait for it to cook as you would rice. While it was once a humble end-of-the-week-leftovers dish, today it is just as likely to be served at dinner parties in Ghana.

I'm putting recipes up on this blog and hope you will try them out and send me feedback, but I've been advised that I should mention that each of these are original recipes and are copyrighted ;-) ©Fran Osseo-Asare, 2009

Basic Gari foto with Corned Beef (this is the way I most commonly make it)

1 onion, chopped
2 large fresh tomatoes, or 2 cups grape tomatoes, chopped (or 3 drained canned tomatoes, chopped), seeded if preferred
1/2 tin of canned corned beef (or about 6 oz., or 1 cup of any leftover fish, meat, or beans), in chunks
1 Tablespoon tomato sauce (optional)
6 Tablespoons of peanut or other vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups of gari
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons red palm oil (if available)
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger)
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (or to taste, or a little chopped fresh hot pepper)
parley for garnish, optional [that's a Western touch ;-)]
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced or pressed in a garlic press (optional)

Prepare ingredients: chop onion and tomatoes, grate ginger (if using fresh), peel and mince or press garlic (if using), open the corned beef can (if using), tomato sauce can (if using), break eggs in a bowl and beat well, measure out the gari in a separate bowl. Assemble other ingredients: oils, salt, ground red pepper, etc.
Measure out 3/4 cup of water and add a little (1/4 teaspoon) salt, and gradually sprinkle it over the gari, mixing it in with a fork (I usually just use my fingers so I can judge how wet it is). The gari should be dampened, but not dripping wet. Let the gari sit while you prepare the eggs and stew.

For a fancy version, you can fry a little of the chopped onion in a tablespoon of peanut or other oil, then mix a tablespoon of the tomato sauce into the beaten egg, and fry it as you would an omlett, then cut half of it into strips to garnish the finished gari foto (I usually omit this step for family meals, and just basically scramble the eggs and set them aside to break up and mix into the gari foto after mixing the gari in with the stew.)

After removing the eggs from the pan (I use a heavy cast iron skillet, but any heavy pan or pot will work), add the 2 Tablespoons red palm oil (this is called dende oil in Brazil, and there's a special spiced red palm oil from Ghana called zomi, if you can get it) and 1/3 cup, or 5 Tablespoons, peanut oil (or any other vegetable oil you like. Some Ghanaians have started using imported olive oil in cooking because they hear it is healthier, but that is not the traditional flavor). You can adjust the proportions of palm and peanut (or other oil, like canola) to taste. I usually use a light hand with the palm oil for those unfamiliar with it.

When the oil in the pan is hot, add the chopped onion and saute it until it is clear, then stir in the corned beef, if using. It will disintegrate as it cooks, which is good. After a minute or so, add the garlic, then the tomatoes, ginger, and red pepper. If you are using half of the egg mixture to garnish the dish keep it aside, then break the rest into small chunks, and stir into the stew. If you do not wish to garnish, add all of the egg into the stew. Turn the heat to low and mix in the gari mixture, using a fork to break up any lumps of gari. Keep turning it until the stew saturates the gari and there are no dry white (or yellow) lumps of the gari. Add salt to taste.

If desired, garnish the finished dish with fresh parsley and decorative egg strips.

Hints: Gari foto may be eaten alone or with a vegetable side dish, with a pepper sauce, or may be accompanied by a red bean stew.
A couple of teaspoons of dried ground shrimp may also be stirred in with the other seasonings to give it a distinctive West African flavor.
If you are leery of grating and chopping fresh hot pepper and/or ginger, just throw them into a blender with a little water and blend them together to add them. Remember that the more membrane and seeds you include from any hot pepper, the hotter it will be. I recommend using ground red pepper to have more control over the heat of this dish, which is usually not served spicy.


Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Great gari: Recipe #2: Simple Gari (Ghana's first fast food)

The response so far to my ambitious proposal of a couple of days ago, while thoroughly encouraging and supportive, is: "don't go crazy (and make us crazy) trying to bang out a recipe a day: focus on quality, not just quantity." That's good advice. I'll revise my plan to just 1 or 2 recipes a week.

Also, some people have written to ask if putting recipes online might not imperil a cookbook contract. I remember when I worked at Penn State as an instructional designer for their "World Campus," and there was a great emphasis on controlling the information available in online courses so that it didn't escape "out there" in the cyberworld. A year or so later our family spent a sabbatical at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the school announced they were making all of the information from their online courses free to anyone who wanted it. They were not marketing their knowledge, but their expertise. I guess I feel the same about my upcoming cookbook. Besides, all of the recipes won't be there, nor will those that are be in their final form, nor will the professional photos from Ghana be included, nor the supplemental information, and a lot of the stories.

At the end of May I'll be talking at a conference about cassava, a hugely important staple in many parts of Africa (and other tropical countries outside of Africa from Brazil, where it originated, and spread to other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Indonesia and Asia). Particularly important in West Africa is the coarse cassava meal known as gari. Gari (aka gali or garri) is a processed form of cassava (or manioc, mandioca, yucca, yuca, singkong, ketela, or ubi kayu, depending on what part of the world you are from and what language you speak). When I was in Brazil in 2007, I explained that it was similar to the Brazilian farinha de mandioca. It is a popular convenience food in West Africa due to its low cost, easy storage, long shelf life, and ease of preparation, plus it is very filling.

Gari is made from cassava, a root crop we in North America really only know when processed into the starch tapioca, which we use to make puddings and thicken things. But there is much more to the cassava than that. It is a staff of life to many people in tropical places, and especially in West Africa. There's no room here to go into a detailed history (plus there are already a lot of places on the web you can get that info: just do a google search on cassava); the same is true of West African gari (just don't confuse it with Japanese pickled ginger: that's a totally different gari!)

The processing of the cassava root involves washing, peeling, grating, soaking, pressing, drying, and toasting. The net result is a kind of cassava "couscous," that can be served simply by adding lightly salted water. I always boil my water before I sprinkle or pour it on the gari, but that is just me. Gari is very filling. It swells up when water is added, and can be eaten as a side accompaniment to a stew.

Preparing gari this way is faster than rice, and easier than couscous. The picture above shows 1/4 cup of dry gari on the left, with 1/4 cup gari sprinkled (and then stirred and let sit until it swells) with 1/2 cup of boiling water. There's a wonderful tangy smell from the fermentation of the cassava that releases when the water hits the gari.

Serve with a stew or sauce. For example, put a little oil in a frying pan, slice some onion into it, saute until golden, open a can of Goya sardines (rich in omega oil!) in tomato sauce, add it to the pan, sprinkle in a little red pepper if you want (and/or some beaten egg, or spinach if you like), and you have a meal in less than 10 minutes, even if you have to cook the spinach in the microwave before adding it to the stew. I've served gari to many North Americans who had never tasted it, and it was a very accessible flavor: it's mild, and makes a good canvas for a variety of stews, or when cooked into a one-pot as in
gari foto. Incidentally, not all gari is the same texture: the Nigerians prefer a much coarser cassava meal than Ghanaians. However, you will have to find an African or International market to find it, or order it online since you will not be able to find this at your local supermarket. By the way, it's also very inexpensive.

There's a lot more to say about how to eat gari, but not today. (I just finished hosting a symposium luncheon for all the students in one of my husband's graduate courses, and as we were finishing up discovered a Ghanaian family is in town for their son's graduation, and I've invited them for dinner, so it's back into the kitchen. BTW, I made plantain chips to serve as an appetizer today to use up four plantains I had left over and they were a huge hit with students from: Nigeria, India, Japan, China, Ghana, Brazil, and Pennsylvania!

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tapioca Project and Cooking Contest

This week in Rio has been filled with fantastic opportunities to get to know Teresa Corção and Margarida Nogueira and their Manioc Project. The day after arriving I had the great good fortune to attend the 3rd “tapioca cooking contest” (a light, magical cassava “pancake” cooked without oil) held as part of their work with children, especially those from the favelas:

Their project has been so enthusiastically received by the children and the schools that Teresa and Margarida now have a bigger dream: to expand “Projeto Mandioca” to other cities and states in Brazil, beginning with São Paulo. They plan to develop materials to train and equip teams of qualified volunteers to duplicate and replicate the projects on a wide scale. Already they’ve worked in 6 schools and reached at least a thousand children. These dream-makers deserve our support and encouragement. Read (in Portuguese) more about the foundation they have just established, the
Instituto Maniva, to make it possible.

How does this relate to Africa? Teresa and Margarida are acting locally, but they are definitely thinking globally. They want to see the love of and respect for manioc (e.g., cassava) spread everywhere, moving beyond Brazil to Africa. After all, Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of manioc (cassava), and it was Nigerian poet Flora Nwapa who wrote the ode to cassava, Cassava Song and Rice Song. Let’s join them and dream together.

Another joy in Rio was to eat at O Navegador, Teresa’s world class restaurant (with its incredible organic salad bar ,".org") where I enjoyed a highly sophisticated version of a tapioca pancake with black sesame seeds and rock salt (and filled with bobo de camarão, a cassava puree with coconut milk, red palm oil, and shrimp, along with a little cilantro, onions, etc., and garnished with a sauce made of cherry tomato and pimenta biquinho). They also served the best pão de queijo I’ve tasted in Brazil. Now I have all these wonderful cassava recipes I hope to adapt and introduce to Ghana in January!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Capoeira, cassava bread, and fried manioc in Brazil

Okay, I admit it. This post is about African culture in Brazil, not just African food culture, but the line is kind of blurry, isn't it? I can't think about African food without thinking about music and community, anyway. Last weekend friends were here from Chile, and my sister from Oregon, so a group of us went to Ouro Prêto, a UNESCO world heritage site. I especially wanted to show them the carvings of Alejiandnho ( nicknamed "Little Cripple," the son of a Portuguese architect and a black slave, and one of the most famous sculptors of Brazil), and the church built by Chico-Rei, an African king from Angola who was captured with his entire tribe and sent to work in a mine in Ouro Prêto, and who later earned his freedom, his son's, and the rest of his people's, then re-established his court, African clothing, and African customs in Ouro Prêto. He is a folk hero among Brazilian blacks. While we were lounging in Tiradentes Square in the town's center, some guys started playing and "dancing" capoeira, a form of African martial arts/dance that was developed by slaves to fight their masters, and disguised as a kind of dance. It's noted for its "fluid and circular" movements. I pulled out my camera, got their permission (but they didn't want money), and recorded a few minutes of the dance to share.

There's a lot of African influence in Minas Gerais. This Friday I'm heading to Central Market again to shop for a cooking class this weekend where I'm learning to make feijoada for friends who're coming on Sunday (remember I wrote about eating it in August when we first arrived). By the way, a couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at pão de queijo, a great specialty of the region, a kind of cheese popover made with tapioca flour, eggs, cheese, and butter. It's one of my husband's new-found favorites, along with the mandioca fritas I've also been learning to make, both illustrated below.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fufu in Brazil?

We've been in Brazil for 3 months. We're getting really tired of omo tuo (rice balls) in all our Ghanaian soups. I decided this week to attempt to make fufu with what is available when one does not have a mortar and pestle for pounding it from fresh cassava and plantains or cocoyams. At the market I picked up some polvilho (manioc, or cassava, starch). It seems to be the same thing as tapioca starch in the U.S. There're 2 kinds: doce (sweet) and azedo (acid). I also bought some farinha de mandioca, torrada or toasted, (a cassava meal that's like a really, really fine unfermented gari).

I spent a couple of hours last night trying to make Ghana-style fufu. You don't want the gory details. Suffice it to say that, with a great deal of trial and error, I produced a semblance of fufu that we managed to eat with our chicken light soup with okra. It was kind of a cross between that paste you use to stick wallpaper on the wall and fufu. Next time I need to drastically reduce the amount of starch, increase the amount of water, and figure out how to keep it from clumping up. Help! Have any West Africans lived in Brazil who can tell me what to do? We still have 2 more months here.

On a more hopeful note, I'm going to use some of the polvilho, along with a special cheese from Minas Gerais, to practice making a delightful type of puffy Brazilian cheese ball known as pão de queijo (bread of cheese), but that's another story.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mandioca and Cassava: An Afro-Brazilian Link

Did you know that:
1. cassava (or manioc, or mandioca) is originally from Brazil?
2. cassava spread from Brazil to Asia and Africa?
3. today Nigeria is the world's largest producer of the roots?
4. Thailand is the biggest producer and exporter of its starch?

In 2005, I noticed an unusual and intriguing talk on the program for the International Association of Culinary Professionals' annual conference--it was on manioc, not exactly a household word in the IACP. Even though I could not attend the conference that year, I wrote to ask for a copy of the talk from one of the presenters, Margarida Nogueira. Later, I met with her briefly in Rio de Janeiro. Now back in Brazil, I was trying to track down another Brazilian whose name is associated with manioc: Teresa Corção, the founder of the Manioc Project (Projeto Mandioca). It turns out Teresa and Margarida were co-presenters at that 2005 IACP conference. In 2002, Teresa, a chef, restaranteur, culinary historian and educator, founded the manioc institute, and started the manioc project.

To quote Teresa: "The real importance of this product is mostly unknown, although it is very much used and appreciated in our daily meals. In the very first contacts that the discoverer of Brazil – Pedro Alvares Cabral – had with the Indians Tupiniquins, in the south of the state of Bahia, he was introduced to manioc, a native product of those then unexplored lands

To our native Amerindians, manioc was the most important ingredient in the preparation of different meals such as porridges, cakes, breads (pirão, beiju, mingau, paçoca). As the European wheat was not suitable to the climate of the newly discovered lands, the colonizer had to get used to manioc, a root so much appreciated nowadays throughout the world. No other product is as much Brazilian and has such an importance as manioc."

To quote from a blog posting on the Terra Madre site: "With this in mind, and working together with a team of experts Teresa decided to launch her project. Through workshops in public schools, children learn the importance of manioc during informal classes, theater and hands on cooking demonstration, learning how to prepare tapioca and other traditional Brazilian dishes. This way they strengthen their relationship with their Brazilian identity.

Projeto Mandioca has been supported by EMBRAPA - Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Brazilian Agroindustry Research Company). This organization maintains Projeto Mandioca permanently updated in whatever concerns manioc in Brazil and worldwide, while improving its research studies on the subject."

Teresa, Margarida, and I are exploring the possiblility of collaborating on further research and writing on the whole subject. It's an exciting project to me, with possibilties for adaptation in Africa.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feijoada and Caipirinha in Brazil

Oi! There's been a little break in postings given my hectic schedule preparing and traveling to Brazil. (Oi, which means "Hi!" in Portuguese also happens to be the name of my cell phone company here in Belo Horizonte.)

I've spent the week savoring the cuisine of Minas Gerais, where we're based. Last Sunday was Brazil's Father's Day, and we were invited to celebrate with the family of Renato and Virginia Ciminelli: parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, and cousins--babies to teenagers. What a joyful, boisterous family (though there was a little tension over 2 opposing soccer teams--people seem to take soccer VERY seriously here). In Belo we've lingered over tiny cups of strong Brazilian coffee or cerveja (beer)--my husband is partial to Skol--while having animated conversations at outdoor tables. They're just coming out of their winter here, but it's shirtsleeve weather and lovely.

Yesterday at lunch I had an excellent caipirinha. A Brazilian specialty, it's a lime, ice, sugar and cachaça cocktail (cachaça is made from sugar cane, but differs from rum). We've been eating at "kilo" restaurants for lunch, where you fill up your plate buffet style and pay by weight. So far I'm partial to farofa and plantains and collard greens or kale, and a wonderful white fish that might be called badeja, along with feijoada and moqueca (muqueca), a kind of wonderful seafood stew from Bahia.

I gather there are lots of family recipes for feijoada, but ours was made from a certain kind of black bean (I'll get the nuances down in the next few months), cooked with pork (ribs, I think), some smoked and dried meat (pork?) and sausage, and I think garlic, but I get the flavoring ingredients for the collard greens, the farofa and the feijoada mixed up: I know there's onion and garlic in some, and oil (probably soy, corn, or canola), and the farofa is much drier and finer texture than West African dishes like gari foto, and had slivers of carrot in it.

At some point I'll write more about the textures of gari (cassava or manioc meal), which ranges from coarse to fine, but I've not seen it as fine as Brazil's farinha de mandioca torrada used to make farofa. I understand Brazilians taught West Africans to make gari: it is said that in Angola the Portuguese forced the Africans on their plantations to cultivate cassava (manioc) and learn to make gari, and further north in Western Africa it was freed slaves returning from Brazil who taught Africans. At least that's what I heard. Feijoada is apparently eaten regularly on different days, depending on the region of Brazil, and is accompanied by white rice, the lightly fried collard greens, the farofa, and orange slices. I'll write more as I learn more! Feijoada definitely has an African feel about it.

Many Brazilians also have a fondness for spicy red pepper condiments, and a little of one of those would be a fine accompaniment, I think.

Labels: , , , , , , ,