This dish has a variety of names in Ghana. I first met it in the Eastern Region as aprapransa. When he recalls his grandmother's version, garnished with Ghana's wonderful crabs (like those seen below), my husband's eyes still glaze over. Along with its Twi name aprapransa, it's also called akpledzi (Ga or Ewe), apragyaa (Fante), or bɔbɔe (Ewe), or akplijii. Its other notable ingredient is the toasted corn flour used in making Tom Brown or the tankora/yagi rub/powder used for chichinga/suya.
It is an interesting texture and unusual flavor, but one that is quite accessible to Western palates. However, the cream of palm fruit used means that is a rich dish that should be reserved for special occasions. It also requires some time and effort. I decided the visit of my architect son from Ghana qualified.
Here in March in central Pennsylvania, I had to improvise and use king crab legs. I also used adzuki in place of the small red beans from Ghana. However, I was able to obtain the requisite toasted corn flour (aka Tom Brown flour), and dried crayfish from Washington DC. All the other ingredients, including smoked fish (though I substituted smoked whiting for smoked herrings), salted cod, and cream of palm fruit, were locally available. It can also be made using meat.
Recipe 98: Aprapransa (toasted cornmeal one-pot)
Though this dish is served as a "one pot," it has two parts. The first is a bean and palmfruit soup that is thickened with the toasted corn flour, with a thick gravy (also called "dressing") served on top and/or on the side.
Assemble ingredients and equipment.
- 2/3 cup adzuki beans (150 ml)
- about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of salted cod
- 6 shallots (or substitute 1 1/4 cups of chopped onion) (300 ml)
- about 10 oz of smoked whiting (300 g)
- about 1/2 Habanero pepper
- a large can of cream of palm fruit (you'll use about 3/4 of it)
- 2 cups of Tom Brown flour (toasted corn flour) (500 ml)
- ~10 small tomatoes or several large tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) powdered shrimp/crayfish
Before preparing the aprapransa I first cooked the 2/3 cup or adzuki beans. I rinsed them, covered them with water, brought it to a boil for a couple of minutes, then let them sit about an hour and then cooked the beans until they were almost soft. Alternatively, you could let them soak overnight, drain off the water, and then cook them. I also desalted the cod fish just before making the aprapransa by simmering it in a small pot for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could soak it.
When the beans and salted cod were ready I made the actual stew by first making a palmnut soup. I added to a pot:
- four shallots peeled and finely chopped (to get about 3/4 cup)
- (after removing the skin and bones of the smoked whiting and flaking it) added a bit over a cup of flaked fish
- about 7 smallish tomatoes chopped (or you could use 3 or 4 medium ones)
- 3/4 of a large can of cream of palm fruit
- a couple of cups of water
- about 1/4 of a very hot Habanero pepper, seeded
- 2 tablespoons of dried powdered crayfish
- the cooked beans (actually, I probably should have only put in half of the beans and added the rest at the end because they got softer than I wanted, and kind of lost their distinctiveness)
Also, as the soup was cooking I cooked the crab legs eparately in a pot with salted water and a bit of chopped onion. When they were cooked I removed them and set them aside to garnish the final dish. Just before finishing the aprapransa soup, I made the gravy to go with it.
I ground 2 small shallots (or use about half an onion) and 1/4 of a seeded Habanero in a blender, then heated about 1/2 cup of the palm oil I had removed from the soup (saving the rest of the oil to use some other day), and fried the shallots, palm oil and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a little ground dried red pepper together several minutes on midium. Then I sliced half an onion and another handful of tomatoes and fried them together to make the gravy. I let the gravy sit while I added the corn flour to the soup:
Before adding the 2 cups of corn flour, I removed a couple of cups of soup from the bowl, and slowly stirred in the corn flour to the rest of the soup, stirring constantly to prevent lumps forming. Then I stirred in the rest of the soup and kept stirring and cooking it until it pulled away from the sides. (and this is when I would have added part of the beans if I had removed them).
To serve: I served the aprapransa in an asanka, garnished with some of the gravy ("dressing") and the crab, with a smaller bowl of gravy on the side.
While we agreed the corn flour was ground very fine and maybe the aprapransa was a little soft (I might have added a little more water than necessary), my husband had 3 servings!
And this time I didn't hear about how much better his grandmother's had been. It made enough to serve 6.