Akwasi Brenya-Mensa’s vegan recipe for palaver sauce, or Ghanaian spinach stew | West African food and drink

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As someone who was often forced to eat their greens when they were growing up, it’s surprising to me that I have always enjoyed today’s dish. I think it’s because I thought the name was cool, and even the word being said seemed somehow able to calm family tensions. Spinach is still not something I eat abundantly as an adult, but here, combined with red palm oil, tomatoes, egusi (melon seed) and a few other simple ingredients, it creates wonder.

Palaver sauce (Ghanaian spinach stew)

My favourite way of eating palaver is out of an asanka, a traditional Ghanaian earthenware bowl.

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 10 min
Serves 4-6

10g ginger, peeled
2-3 garlic cloves
(10g), peeled
1-2 scotch bonnet chillies
(20g), pith and seeds discarded, if you prefer less heat
200ml vegetable oil
300g onions
, peeled and sliced
100g tomato puree
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
, or fresh tomatoes
2 tbsp all-purpose seasoning
– I use Dunn’s River, which you can find on the world food aisle of many large supermarkets
2 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder, or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
4 plantains
egusi (AKA melon seeds) – look for them in specialist African food stores and some large supermarkets, or online
100g spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1-2 avocados, peeled and stoned, flesh sliced or mashed, to serve

Put the ginger, garlic and chillies in a blender and blitz smooth. Put the oil in a medium to large pot on a medium heat, then add the sliced onions and the ginger-garlic-chilli mixture and saute, stirring, for about eight minutes, until soft and translucent.

Add the tomato puree, cook, stirring, for three to five minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes and bring to a gentle boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, until the stew thickens, then stir in the all-purpose seasoning and vegetable bouillon.

While the stew is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then peel the plantains, cut them into 8-10cm chunks and boil for 25-30 minutes, until soft.

Put the egusi in a blender with an equal weight of cold water and whizz to a thick paste. Spoon dollops of this mixture into the stew (see photograph), cover the pot and leave to simmer untouched for about 20 minutes.

Add the chopped spinach to the pot, cover again and leave to cook for a minute or two longer, just until it wilts. Stir everything gently to combine, then season with salt to taste and serve hot with the boiled plantain and avocado alongside. Enjoy.


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