Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ghana - Steamed Crab

When we were living in Lagos in the 1970s, Shirley Temple Black was the American Ambassador to Ghana. My mother traveled there to visit friends and she wanted to meet the legendary Shirley Temple. Instead, my mother met her daughter, Susan Black. She looked quite a bit like her mother, my mother told me later. She was newly engaged and was sporting a rock on her left hand that would have made Elizabeth Taylor proud.

Ghana means “Warrior King” but these days its one of the most stable countries in the region. It is located in West Africa and borders Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo. It’s known for being the first country in West Africa to gain independence, as having built the biggest artificial lake in the world, for its ruined European forts and for its beautiful beaches and vibrant city nightlife.

Ghanaian cuisine is made up of starchy foods and sauce. Many of the dishes are served with soup made with fish, meat and mushrooms. Since it has a long coastline, seafood is very popular. For our Ghanaian meal I made Akotonshi, or stuffed crab.

John and I went to the Asian supermarket to buy the fresh crab. John loved pulling the crabs out from tanks with tongs. We bought four large Dungeness crab. On the way home, John sat in the backseat of the car and took one of the crabs out, much to my dismay, and put it on his lap. When we got home we filled our kitchen sink with water and put the crabs in there. John and Julia were delighted to have crabs for pets, even if it was for a very short while.

On the internet, I found directions on how to steam live crab. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do but, I must say, the end product was delicious. I have to also say that this recipe confused me and there were steps that I didn’t do because I didn’t think they made much sense. For instance, it said to clean and dress the fresh crab and boil the crabmeat for fifteen minutes, then set aside. Later, you are supposed to add the crabmeat to the rest of the ingredients and cook. Then you’re supposed to put this mixture in the crab shells and broil. To me, it sounds like you’re over cooking crabmeat. The only way this makes sense is if the meat from the fresh crabs is raw when you boil it the first time. But how do you take raw meat out of a live crab? Or do I want to know? Maybe there’s another way of killing the poor crabs other than throwing it in boiling water? I’m not sure I want to know about this either.

I’ll write out the recipe as I have it. Perhaps you know more about cooking crab than I do and I wouldn’t want to omit a step because I’m a bit clueless.

Akotonshi – Stuffed Crab

1 tsp salt
3 cm fresh ginger
6 cloves
4 TBSP vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bell peppers
1 TBSP tomato puree
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
2 generous pinches of paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TBSP dried shrimp
Whole wheat bread crumbs
1 hard-boiled egg
4 large crabs

If using fresh crab, clean and dress and then place the crab meat in boiling salted water along with ginger and cloves. Cook for 15 minutes or until the meat is cook through. Drain and set aside. (In my case, I simply boiled the whole crabs and did not add ginger and cloves. When the crabs were fully cooked I took the meat out – at this I’m an expert since I have spent many years on the U.S. east coast where we used to frequent all-you-can-eat crab houses).

Add oil to a large pot on medium heat. Add onion, cook for 1 minute and then add ground ginger and tomatoes. Cook for another minute. Then add the tomato paste, bell peppers, paprika, cayenne pepper and dried shrimp. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring until the vegetables are cooked. Add the crabmeat and stir for another few minutes.

Spoon the mixture into cleaned crab shells or ramekins and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of each crab. Then toast under broiler. Garnish with parsley and egg. (I just garnished with parsley).

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