Well that took a lot longer than I'd imagined. I could lie and tell you that my extended sabbatical from here was due to working these ancient nadgers off in my new job, and to some extent that's true. But it's really because of two other factors. One is that my last several-months-long depressive episode left its usual aftermath: a veritable cesspit of a flat and an unusable kitchen. Then the change from long-term unemployment to full-time work proved harder to adjust to than I could have imagined. Up until a few weeks ago I was perfectly fine, cheery and efficient at work, but as soon as I got home it was like someone just unplugged me. I shut down. Until the next morning when I went to work again.
But I think I'm getting the hang of it now, the old work/life balance thing. The flat, and more importantly the kitchen, are back to being ship-shape and Bristol fashion; I've been to a few restaurants - Artusi, Cafe Murano, Pizza Pilgrims, Tonkotsu; I've even been, I shit you not, to see a West End musical, The Pyjama Game. I'm hopeful that I'll have an article appearing in a certain august food periodical in a few months time. Oh, and I've signed a book contract.
The usual apologies to everyone who has got in touch and to whom I haven't replied. My silence doesn't mean that I don't welcome and value your comments. Now, on with the motley...
My friend and colleague Nash was born and brought up in Ghana. He went abroad recently and when he came back, the very first thing he absopositively HAD to have was peanut soup and fufu. Intrigued, I asked him for the recipe. Well I asked him for the recipe for the peanut soup. I stupidly forgot to ask how he makes his fufu.
Here's Nash's backstory...
...and here's what he does today:
And that, my friends, is recovery.
To quote Wikepedia: "Fufu (variants of the name include foofoo, foufou, fufuo) is a staple food of many countries in Africa and the Caribbean. It is often made with a flour made from the cassava plant or alternatively another flour, such as semolina or maize flour. It can also be made by boiling starchy food crops like cassava, yams or cooking plantains and then pounding them into a dough-like consistency. Fufu is eaten with the fingers, and a small ball of it can be dipped into an accompanying soup or sauce. Foods made in this manner are known by different names in different places. However, fufu stands out, especially in Ghana and in West Africa in general." Here's three videos about making and eating it:
the traditional way of making fufu
how to make it using fufu flour
Fast forward to 9 mins 31 secs to see how this guy makes his fufu at home.
how to eat fufu with your hand
I've adapted Nash's recipe in a few particulars. Normally you'd use a boiler chicken for this, but I've used all chicken thighs. You also wouldn't normally fry the chicken and onion first but I did, for a bit of caramelisation and to render off some fat. I used some chicken stock instead of all water. And I added thyme and lemon juice. Sorry Nash. And unending thanks for getting the blog kick-started again.
There's a real skill to making fufu and obviously I couldn't hope to get it quite right at the first attempt. I also had major reservations about how appetising a big dollop of unseasoned flour and water could be. But, nestling in a highly spiced soup, it only bloody well works.
This is a glorious bowl of food.
for the soup:
8 bone-in chicken thighs (approx 1.1 kg)
1 tbsp of groundnut oil
3 sprigs of thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped
juice of half a lemon
150g of smooth peanut butter (about three big spoonfuls)
70g of tomato purée (half a tube)
500ml chicken stock
for the fufu:
100g plaintain fufu flour per person
220ml water per person
Chop each chicken thigh into two and pat the pieces dry with kitchen roll. Heat a large frying pan to fairly high. Tie the thyme sprigs together and place in a big pot. Quarter and slice one of the onions.
Add a tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and fry the chicken, skin side only, until the skin is golden and crispy. Do this in batches. Add to the big pot. Drain off the fat and oil from the pan, leaving just a film of oil behind, and fry the sliced onion. Add to the pot. Add 250ml of the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Chop up the other onion roughly and blend with the ginger, garlic, scotch bonnet, lemon juice and the rest of the stock. Add this to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
Now add the peanut butter, tomato purée and 200 ml of water and simmer for 40 minutes.
Make the fufu as per the video above (or follow the packet instructions) and shape it. As best you can.
At the end of the 40 minutes off simmering, add water to the soup until it is the consistency you like, then season with salt. Give it another 5 minutes. Serve poured over and around the fufu.
You know what? It is so fucking good to be back.
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014