Traditional Red Red Stew from Ghana, Africa! Black eyed peas!
Black eyed peas are referred to as cowpeas by many African chefs. Black eyed peas are in the cowpea family of bean plants. Black eyed peas were originally from West Africa and now they are popular worldwide.
Ghana is located on the western coastline of Africa. Many of Ghana's traditional recipes are pounded mixtures of healthy root vegetables and yams. Many western world foods like peanuts and corn, from the age of the Colombian Exchange, have become main staples in Ghana cuisine. Peanut soup is popular in Ghana. Maize from the Americas is used to make a fermented maize dough dumpling called Kenkey. Kenkey dumplings usually accompany stew. Stews and stewed pounded pastes are a major part of Ghanaian and West African cuisine.
Because Ghana has a large Atlantic coastline, seafood is a main staple in Ghanaian cuisine. Fresh seafood was traditionally only cooked in the local coastal areas, before the age of refrigeration. Like most of the world during the age before refrigeration, dried seafood, smoked fish and salt cured fish were the only choices for making a seafood dinner in regions that were located away from the coastal areas. Many inland cuisines of Africa, China and the mediterranean countries still prefer old fashioned dried, smoked or salted fish for traditional recipes, even though refrigeration for fresh fish is now available. Inland Ghanaian cuisine is one of the few cuisines left in the world that prefers the tradition of dried, smoked or salted seafood!
The umami taste sensation is easily applied to tasting the dried fish broths or dried shrimp broths of asian cuisine. Ghanian cuisine makes use of the same umami taste sensation. Many Ghanaian stews have crawfish, dried shrimp, dried shrimp powder or dried salted fish in the recipe. The dried seafood not only adds protein, it adds a rich desirable flavor!
Palm oil is used for cooking in tropical areas worldwide. There are species of palm trees that are only used to make palm oil. Palm oil is one of the few oils that is a naturally saturated fat. Palm oil is nearly solid at room temperature and it is very stable at high frying temperatures.
Red palm oil has a very high beta-carotene content that gives the oil a rich red color. Red palm oil is very healthy to eat.
The problem with red palm oil is that where oil palms are grown, the natural canopy of trees is razed. Asian palm oil tree plantations are quickly causing the extinction of the wild orangutan. So, when choosing a brand of palm oil of any kind, choose a palm oil that is manufactured in an area where palm oil production is properly managed. Do not support asian palm oil plantation deforestation of endangered species habitats!
Ghana has been producing red palm oil for a very long time and African wildlife protection keeps becoming stronger with each passing day. Africans now protect wildlife with stricter laws, because wildlife tourism has become a major source of commerce. Brazilian red palm oil is another option, but Brazil's protection of rain forest land is in question.
Red palm oil is hard to come by, even in international marketplace stores. Red palm oil can be found on the internet at Amazon and other on-line stores. Read the description of the red palm oil product before purchasing. Be sure that it is true red palm oil and make certain that the red palm oil does not come from environmentally sensitive areas of the world!
If no red palm oil is available, then substitute regular vegetable oil! A red palm oil color can be achieved by adding paprika, tomato paste and achiote paste. This way, the Ghanian cowpea stew can still be called Red Red!
Ghana Red Red Stew Background:
There are many variations of Red Red Stew recipes. Some are plain and simple. Some are vegetarian. Most Red Red Stew recipes have smoked fish, salted dried fish, dried shrimp or dried shrimp powder in the recipe. Dried shrimp powder is used like a spice in West Africa. Dried, salted or smoked seafood items can be found in international food markets or grocery stores.
Ghana Red Red Stew Recipe:
Note: Red palm oil from Ghana is the only red palm oil that I recommend, due to deforestation of endangered species habitat issues in asia and Brazil. Regular vegetable oil can be substituted and a combination of achiote paste (anatto), tomato paste and paprika can be added to give this Ghana black eyed pea stew its characteristic red color.
The second red in the name Red Red Stew refers to the color of fried ripe plantains. Today was one of those rare days that I chose a ripe plantain banana that only needed a few minutes of frying time for it to become fully cooked! Ce est la vie! So, the fried plantain in the pictures is golden colored instead of the usual red brown color. The same plantain banana remained a golden color in the Chipotle Marinated Pork Steak recipe that I posted the other day. A golden color on a fried plantain is kind of rare, so do not be surprised if the plantain that you fry becomes a reddish brown color!
Soak 2 cups of dried black eyed peas in water overnight in a refrigerator.
Rinse and clean the black eyed peas with cold running water.
Rub the damp black eyed peas between your hands to remove the skins. (This is an optional step, but it is traditional in Ghanaian cuisine. I do not mind black eyed pea skins, so I left the skins on.)
Place the soaked black eyed peas into a sauce pot.
Cover the black eye peas with 1" of extra water.
Gently simmer the black eyed peas over low heat, till they become tender. (This only takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.)
Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
Add 4 ounces of red palm oil. (Use the instructions above for additives to vegetable oil, if no red palm oil is available.)
Add 1 handful of coarsely chopped onion.
Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
Saute till the onions start to turn clear in color.
Add 1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped peeled eggplant.
Saute till the eggplant starts to become tender.
Add 1 chopped Roma tomato.
Drain the hot water off of the cooked black eyed peas.
Add the cooked black eyed peas.
Add enough light fish broth to cover the ingredients with 1" of extra broth.
Add 3 tablespoons of peanut butter.
Add 1/2 cup of tiny dried shrimp. (1/2 cup of chopped smoked fish, 1/2 cup of chopped salted dried fish or 3 tablespoons of shrimp powder can be substituted. I just happened to have dried shrimp on hand and it adds a nice traditional flavor to Red Red Stew!)
Add 1 chopped red Thai chile pepper.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of paprika.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
After the stew starts to simmer, reduce the temperature to low heat.
Gently simmer the Red Red Stew!
The plantain banana can be fried while the stew is simmering.
Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
Add about 1/2" of vegetable frying oil.
Cut a ripe plantain banana in half. (Only half of a plantain is needed.)
Peel one half of the plantain.
Cut the plantain piece in half lengthwise.
Cut the 2 long plantain quarters into bite size pieces.
Fry the plantain pieces in the hot oil, till they become tender.
Place the fried plantain pieces on a dry towel to drain off any excess grease.
After the Red Red Stew has simmered and reduced till a thick stew gravy is formed that clings to the black eyed peas, then the stew is ready to be served!
Ladles the Red Red Stew into a large serving bowl.
Place the fried plantain bananas around the rim of the bowl as a garnish.
I know! It is hard for many people to imagine, but this Ghana Red Red Stew tastes delicious! There is no other stew that can even be compared to the flavor of Red Red Stew. Peanut butter commonly thickens traditional African stews. There are not many bean stew recipes in this world that call for fish broth. There are even fewer bean stew recipes that call for dried shrimp, smoked fish or dried salted fish in the recipe. Ghana Red Red Stew does require a dried seafood flavor and it creates a one of a kind good tasting healthy black eyed pea stew!