Yikes, it is 2009, now six months since we left Ghana. Six months and five days and a lifetime to be exact. Since being back I’ve battled “adopted homesickness” occasionally using some of the same coping mechanisms I used in Ghana when we were missing Texas. Food & Music. Music was easy, there is so much Ghanaian Music on youtube; preparing authentic Ghanaian food was the challenge, that is until we discovered a store in Austin that carried Palm Oil. Palm Oil is that thick, red, sticky, pretty-bad-for-your-heart oil that is so tasty, and at the heart of much Ghanaian cooking. Without it, I could make Groundnut Stew, but with it, I can make almost anything.
For good luck, Southerners eat black eyed peas on New Years Day. Since Suzanne despises their taste, this tradition has always been an interesting challenge for me. I remember one year when we were we stayed with Suzanne’s grandmother in West Texas. She slow cooked her black eyed peas with a ham shank, and salted them heavily, serving them with corn bread. On that New Years Day, we arrived late, almost too late to have them on New Years Day. Since Suzanne was exhausted, she went straight off to bed, only for me to wake her close to midnight, and stuff three black eyed peas in her mouth. She was such a good sport.
So today it will be easier, we’re having a fusion dish, Southern Tradition, Ghanaian food. I’m disguising the black eyed peas as Red Red, and serving it with rice. So it will really just be Red, not Red Red, since we have no plantains to fry.
Black Eyed Peas & Red Palm Oil (Red Red)
Cook the Black Eyed Peas
1 to 1.5 lbs black eye peas, dried.
A large pot of water
One onion, with the skin removed, but scored on both ends with a cross to hold them together.
Cook until peas are soft, adding water if necessary. Keep covered. When cooked, remove onion and discard.
Prepare the Palm Oil
1 to 1.5 cup red palm oil
Half an onion, sliced in quarter moons
1 clove garlic, thin sliced
2 inches of ginger root, cut half lengthways
Combine oil, onion slices, sliced garlic, and ginger in oil and cook over low heat until the onions are dark brown, but not burnt. This may take 30 minutes. Don’t use too high heat as it burns the flavor of the palm oil. Strain to remove onions, garlic and ginger root. The dark onions/garlic are not used in Red Red, but I keep them in a jar in the fridge to add an interesting flavor to cooking.
Prepare the Tomatoes
1 12oz can of whole tomatoes
1 fresh jalapeño
Half an onion.
Combine and shred in a blender until uniform texture, but not puréed. After palm oil from above has been strained, add tomato mixture to hot oil and again cook over low heat until the tomatoes release their moisture, and it cooks off and pan no longer sizzles when stired.
Right before Serving – reheat cooked black-eyed peas, and oil/tomato mixture and combine black-eyed peas and oil right before serving. Ideally, this dish would be served with fried plantains, but today we’ll be serving it as “beans and rice,” a south of the boarder staple.
OK – so it’s a little ironic that we’re serving a Ghanaian dish to our son, Fox, who is back from Ghana for Christmas break, but hey its New Years Day and Fox was a good sport.