Kontomire Stew (Palaver Sauce) with Yam
This is one of my favourite stews not least because it often gives me a sense that I am finally taking healthy eating with extreme seriousness probably because of its green look. Well, self-delusion does have its comforts. Boiled yam, ampesie (boiled plantain), rice, garri all go with Kontomire stew. I will try kontomire with pasta one day if only to imagine it’s pesto and if I do and its anything like chewing dried bubble gum stuck underneath a park bench, I’ll let you know and if not then surely my life long legacy will be the introduction of this combination to humankind.
The texture of this stew, the infused flavours from the assortment of ingredients and spices gives it a uniquely savoury taste. It’s certainly not a boring stew if only for the sheer number of ingredients often used to get that uniquely savoury taste.
Nkontomire or Kontomire is the name given to Cocoyam leaves or taro in Ghana. Taro which is a source of vitamins A and C is also native to other countries in Africa such as Nigeria (biggest producers in the world), Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In Egypt they are called kolkas and in Europe it had been used since Roman times.
Kontomire stew, however, is as Ghanaian as Ghana’s Kenkey even though Nigeria and other countries have similar versions of this tasty stew.
One man’s kontomire is another man’s spinach, kale or collard so feel free to substitute any of these especially with spinach, which I often do. Legend has it that the nickname “Palaver Sauce” originated from a meeting between a group of European colonialists and representatives of some of the indigenous folks at Elmina in pre-independence Ghana to discuss trade. “Palaver” is an old fashioned word which means “prolonged and tedious fuss or discussion or a long unnecessary conversation.” Legend has it that this long and arduous meeting took place over kontomire stew and hence the nick name “palaver sauce.”
To make this as authentically as it’s made in Ghana could be a challenge not least because of the number and rarity of the ingredients needed. Also as with most Pan–African dishes regional variations complicate things further. The recipe below is as close to the original with the exception of substituting rather large crabs for the soft shelled crabs mainly used in Ghana. Smoked salmon appears on the ingredient list as is often the case traditionally but, momone (salted fish) and koobi (salted dried tilapia) are excluded this time. I often use dried cray fish when available to make the stew even more savoury.
Ingredients: A tuber of yam cut in half, kontomire leaves, 2 crabs, 2 smoked salmon and goat meat
Ingredients: Chopped kontomire, palm oil, soaked Agushie and slices yams
Spices, Herbs and Vegetables: Turkey berries, cloves of garlic, onions, shallots and agushi.
Ingredients: Small bag of ground Cayenne pepper, Alligator peppers, tomatoes, scotch bonnet peppers, calabash nutmeg and birds eye chilli pepper.