from: Western Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering
Older editions of Webster's Dictionary define "palaver" as "a parley between European explorers and representatives of local populations, especially in Africa" or "In Africa, a parley with the natives; a talk; hence, a public conference and deliberation; a debate". Like "parole", "palaver." came into English from the Latin "parabola". The word "palaver" was carried to Africa by the Portuguese language. In the 1400s the Portuguese were the first to sail around Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. (Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488.) Portuguese traders were the first Europeans to establish a presence along the sub-Saharan African coasts. Though they were later largely displaced by the English and French, the word "palaver" became a part of the lingua franca along the Atlantic coast of Africa. What "palaver" has to do with Palaver Sauce (or Palava Sauce)--an African stew made from greens and meat--is not clear. In Ghana, this dish is also called Kontonmire, Kentumere, or Nkontommire, named for the leaf of the cocoyam (taro) plant which is used for the greens. See also: Plasas.
What you need
- one-half cup palm oil or vegetable oil
- one to two pounds of stew meat, or chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
- beef broth or beef stock (or water)
- two to four cups (or more) fresh or dried bitterleaf (or platto), or several cups of spinach or similar greens (kale, collards, or turnip greens are good), or a combination of these
- one to two pounds dried, salted, or smoked fish (such as cod or herring) -- or -- a combination of fresh fish and dried, salted, or smoked fish
- one or two onions, finely chopped
- two to six ripe tomatoes, chopped and mashed (peel removed, if desired; the peel of a ripe tomato is most easily removed if it is first dipped for a minute in boiling water) (or canned tomatoes)
- one chile pepper, chopped (optional)
- salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper (to taste)
- one cup egusi (agusi, agushi, egushi) roasted and ground: or shelled pumpkin seeds or pepitas, or shelled sesame seeds, roasted and ground (optional)
- one tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated (or one teaspoon ground ginger) -- or -- one-half teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)
- several okra (optional)
- one cup fresh shrimp or prawns, or one-half cup dried shrimp or prawns (optional)
- one-half cup cooked ham, chopped (optional)
What you do
- If you are using dried or fresh bitterleaf: Wash it in cold water, rinsing several times, and allow it to soak for at least a few hours, then chop it into pieces.
If you are using spinach leaves: Clean and chop them immediately before cooking the soup.
If you are using any other greens (such as kale or collard greens): Clean, chop, and parboil them briefly before cooking the soup.
- If you are using dried/salted fish: Soak it in water for an hour or two, then cut the fish into pieces and remove any skin or bones.
- Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or covered pot. Fry the meat until it is partially done, and then add a few cups of broth, stock, or water. Reduce heat. Simmer.
- Add the bitterleaf (or greens, or spinach) to the pot. Stir and simmer for several minutes more.
- Add the fish to the pot, along with the onion and tomatoes, and any hot chile pepper, salt, and red or black pepper you like. Cover the pot and continue to cook over low heat.
- When the greens seem tender, add the remaining ingredients. (Egusi or okra help it to thicken. The egusi, pumpkin seeds, or sesame seeds should be crushed or ground before they are added.)
- Cook over low heat, stirring often (do not add any more liquid) until it is a thick sauce-like consistency.
- Serve with Banku, Kenkey, Fufu, or Rice.
Palaver 'Sauce' is a good example of the English word "sauce" used to describe something that is more like a soup or stew.
Platto, bologie, and bitterleaf all appear in various Palaver 'Sauce' recipes-- whether these African greens are one and the same is uncertain. (See also: Ndole Soup.) Spinach is usually substituted outside of Africa.
Palaver sauce is a mess of vegetables
Richard F. Burton, the great 19th century traveler, writer, and translator, described Palaver Sauce in Wanderings in West Africa (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1991 "Two Volumes bound as One"; originally published by Tinsley Brothers, London, 1863). "Hibiscus" may refer to okra. Okra and various hibiscus plants are all in the mallow family (Malvaceae).
"Palaver sauce" is a mess of vegetables, the hibiscus, egg-plant, tomato, and pepper, boiled together, with or without fowl or fish.
(Volume II, Chapter IX, A Pleasant Day in the Land of Ants [Accra])
Other African gastronomical excerpts
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