Ghanaian food is uniformly delicious, intensely calorific and sinfully more-ish, which is one reason I always gain weight as soon as I land. (I don’t actually have to eat anything, just looking at the food is dangerous). My grandmother was a cook par excellence, and one of her signature dishes, which I can still taste almost twenty years after she passed away, is Fufu and Light Soup. Just to be wicked, I thought I’d share the recipe with you – and show you how it’s traditionally made. Nowadays you can buy fufu powder in most African supermarkets but there’s something mesmerising about watching the women pound yam, plantain and cassava into fufu. So here’s the recipe and here’s a snapshot of Vivian and Mina, the two cooks in my dad’s household, who do the pounding.
Fufu (serves four)
- 1 x medium-sized tuber yam, cut into 1” thick slices
- 2 x cassava tubers (smaller than yams)
- 2 x plantains
- 2 x onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 x garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
- 1 can chopped plum tomatoes
- Handful Scotch bonnet peppers
- Handful small green and red chili peppers
- Smoked fish, chicken or beef (according to tastes)
If you’re using powdered fufu, mix the powder with water until you have a thin, soup-like paste. Bring to the boil slowly, allowing the paste to thicken. Keep stirring to avoid lumps (it’s a bit like making semolina). Cook until it has thickened into a smooth, glistening mound. If you’re doing it the traditional way, see the pictures below!
For the soup, lightly fry the onions, garlic and ginger in a teaspoon of olive or sunflower oil. Add the tomatoes and cook together for about 20 mins, until the stew is nice and thick. Add your peppers, at least a litre of water, and cook for a further 40 mins. If you’re using smoked fish, carefully add the fish and let it simmer for another 20 mins. If using beef or chicken, cook the meat separately to brown it, season and then add to the soup. I usually cook the meat or chicken for longer than the fish – around 40 mins. Put the fufu mound into a large soup dish and pour the soup over it. Serve immediately and eat with your hands. Similar to the way Italians match pasta shapes with sauces, Ghanaian dishes are all about the ease of eating with your hands. Fufu and light soup go particularly well together as the gelatinous fufu makes it easy for your to scoop up the soup. Take a small piece with two fingers (right hand only, please!), make a little indentation and use the ball of fufu like a spoon. Easy and delicious. About 1,000 calories a mouthful. You’ve been warned . . .