Kumasi Market

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3rd Avenue

27-28 Brixton Village

SW9 8PR

020 7737 6277

Kumasi is a city in Ghana and the capital of Ashanti. It gives its name to Kumasi Market in Brixton Village, one of a trio of stores in Third Avenue selling mainly food and goods from West Africa. Together with the African Queen Fabric store, it’s like a little bit of Africa in the heart of Brixton. I have intended for some time to cover one of these stores in our series of posts on food shops in Brixton but I always found them a bit daunting. The dried and smoked fish is particularly exotic. However, I’ve occasionally chatted to the shopkeepers, and found that they are really helpful in explaining what they have on offer.

So, the intention in these posts is to buy the ingredients at a Brixton store and to make a typical meal. As we have reported before, we have been to Ghana and enjoyed the Ghanaian food at May Foods – see the report here – but this has been my first attempt at actually cooking the food. It has been more of a challenge, as many of the key ingredients are less familiar to those of us with a European background. This is particularly true of the key part of any true Ghanaian meal, the carbohydrate.

The dish I’ve gone for is chicken in peanut sauce served with banku and spinach. I’ve used an amalgam of different recipes. All of the main ingredients have come from Kumasi Market, apart from the chicken which came from Jones the Butcher.

The ingredients for the chicken in peanut sauce are: 1 kilo of chicken (legs, thighs and wings are best); 3 tbsp vegetable oil; 1 large onion, chopped; a 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced; 6-8 garlic cloves, chopped roughly; 1 kilo of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks; 1 can of chopped tomatoes; 1 litre chicken stock; 1 cup groundnut paste/peanut butter; 1 cup peanuts, roasted; 1 tbsp ground coriander; 1 teaspoon cayenne; Salt and ground black pepper; and lots of chopped coriander as a garnish. Most of the heat in the dish, and in an authentic version there’s plenty, comes from the ground black pepper. I

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The first step is to brown the chicken and put to one side. Then fry the onions, adding the spices when it has softened. Finally you put everything in the same pot and stew until the chicken and sweet potato is all cooked – check after an hour. After it cooled a bit I removed the bones but this is a matter of taste. The finished article probably benefits from being left to stand for a while, before reheating. You can garnish with lots of coriander.

The accompaniments were banku and spinach. The banku is balls of fermented dough and takes a bit of getting used to, as well as being hard work to make. I did make my own, with a mixture of readymade cassava and corn dough bought from Kumasi and it was an education in itself. However, my tip is to buy it readymade from May Foods in Market Row. It should also be understood that the term spinach applies to almost any green leaves. I just chopped and washed mine and fried it in garlic infused oil.

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Everyone enjoyed the chicken and spinach but views were mixed on the banku. We found a little goes a long way. It would be good with rice of course.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen – Pop Brixton

To find: Unit 36 Pop Brixton 49 Brixton Station Road London SW9 8PQ

telephone: 07931602889

email: ghanakitchen@gmail.com

http://zoesghanakitchen.co.uk/category/events/

We had heard good things about this restaurant, even before they had a permanent residence, but when we booked a pop-up “event” they cancelled. So this visit is long awaited. And while we can’t claim to be experts on Ghanaian food, a couple of us have been there and we also liked the food at Brixton’s longer-established more traditional Ghanaian restaurant – see our review here.

This restaurant is well signposted as part of Pop Brixton. This is a collection of large storage containers offering food, drink and the occasional piece of jewellery or clothing. ZGK is on the upper level and can only be approached from the set of stairs on the right immediately after the entrance.

There is a small interior with tables and benches for 12 people who know each other very well. There is also an outside area but the rain has made that only for the really hardy. The menu has mains, sides, sauces and desserts so easy peasy. Although the restaurant is Ghanaian it didn’t have any of the usual staples like banku or kenkey on offer. This is more like tapas, with the carbohydrate coming from the plantain, okra and jollof rice. For the mains there is chicken, beef, mackerel and lamb. But the menu is a bit limited for vegetarians who have to settle for the sole bean dish.

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We started with krispy kale which wasn’t very crispy and was a bit oily. This is an easy dish to prepare and cook and we thought it must have wilted in the humidity of the kitchen. Then we tried to work our way through the whole menu with every dish except the beef. We also ordered Okra tempura fries,  Kelewele Spiced Chips (Caramelised chunky plantain chips infused w/ a spice mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and fresh ginger) and Jollof rice. We liked everything and the spiced mackerel was a really hefty dish filling the whole plate and was spicy. The well cooked and spicy lamb was a favourite of the person who ordered it, even though he doesn’t really like peanut butter. The beans were declared a hit as was the chicken. The chicken was eaten with a very spicy hot Smoked Fish based Chilli Oil Dip. This was lovely but our choice of flavours slightly odd.

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Then we come to the side dishes. Okra was covered in good batter but was a bit oily (on the outside) and the plantain chips were really good if a bit flabby. I assume to get them really crisp they need to be covered in some form of flour. Jollof rice was certainly something we would order again.

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For dessert we ordered the doughnut and the Banofee pie. The Banofee pie was the star. The doughnuts were a bit on the heavy side.

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They do serve alcohol and we ordered two light and two dark lagers which – be warned – come in huge bottles. I say this because not only is it a lot of liquid and toilets are a scarce resource but they also take up a lot of space on the table. We suggest sharing and using a cup then you increase the table space.

The lovely surprise at the end of the meal was the bill – £60.00 for four people including four large beers – a bargain.

Asmara

Address: 386 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF

telephone: 020 7737 4144

 

This is an Eritrean restaurant on Coldharbour Lane with a very unprepossessing entrance. Peeping in through the window you can see a couple of low circular basket weave tables and then the usual more cafe like seating in the remainder of the restaurant. The walls have a few african adornments but it is not overwhelming cultural. But this is an experience place where you effectively eat the tablecloth so if you want the whole feel try for the low circular”ethnic”  tables. The menu is heavy on meat although there are vegetarian options. The reason for the reference to the tablecloth is the food comes on the bread that you eat with. It is called injera and it is a large circular  sourdough pancake. This is fine when warm but as it rapidly cools becomes more like trying to eat a large piece of felt.  If you don’t like sourdough you can choose rice or cracked wheat.

This is a meat heavy cuisine with spicy or not so spicy choices like kulwa ( lamb with tomatoes) and derho alicha (mild chicken stew).  There is an option for the Royal feast but actually this looked far too much for a mid-week evening meal so we didn’t venture that far. The portions for each option are not large so you need to share a few. Our companions on the most recent visit found it all a bit too much but they were teenage girls – one of whom was a recent reformed vegetarian.

The prices for a  neighbourhood restaurant were surprisingly high and although we have been several times we think that these need to be widely spaced. We do, however, recommend sitting on low stools for any first visit and to try the delicious flavoured coffee which is delivered in a surprising way – we don’t want to give this away but just to say that the smell is wonderful