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BREAKING NEWS

Randolph Resident Shares Recipes From Ghana

Joshua Okrah displays an afternoon’s work in the kitchen.
Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Joshua Okrah displays an afternoon’s work in the kitchen. Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

The next time you hear someone say “men can’t multi-task,” don’t believe it. Joshua Okrah of Randolph can slice, run a blender, saute, stir, season and keep an eye on the oven, all at the same time.

Although he had done much of the prep work before our interview, it was not complete. I witnessed the cooking process of Vegetable Stew, Beans Stew, Roasted Chicken and rice and spaghetti while conducting the interview. Wow!

“I wasn’t really instructed (to cook) growing up. I hung around the kitchen and my mother would ask me to hand her this or cut that. When I went to college I started cooking for myself. I like to cook and I like to eat at home.”

Finding some of the ingredients he uses in the dishes of his homeland of Ghana can be a bit challenging in the Jamestown area, so he travels to Buffalo and Erie, Pa., where he has found African stores that carry most of the needed items. Some Asian shops stock them, as well.

“One of the Buffalo shops is actually run by a lady from Ghana.”

Spaghetti topped with Beans Stew compliments Roasted Chicken on this plate.

Spaghetti topped with Beans Stew compliments Roasted Chicken on this plate.

Most food in Ghana starts with oil, garlic and onions and most soups and stews have the same two basic ingredients, onion and tomato. “Hardly do you eat anything in Ghana without onions. Most of the time when we say stew, we mean sauce. All sauces are called stew,” he says. “It is not eaten alone, but served with rice, boiled yams, potatoes or boiled or fried plantains. Larger grain white rice is used.”

He finds it strange that many Americans don’t like vegetables, because onions, peppers and other vegetables are in most lunch and dinner dishes in his homeland. Chicken, beef, goat and lamb are served, as well as turkey, duck, salmon, mackerel and herring. Desserts are rarely eaten in Ghana, “because after having this, you don’t need it,” he says pointing to the pots of food cooking on the stove. Versions of the Vegetable Stew are served at least once per week in his home country.

How did a native of Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, with a population of 1.5 million end up in a hamlet in New York state with less than 1,300 people?

After graduating from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and working as a maintenance engineer in Ghana, he came to the United States to complete his education. He had three months before his visa expired to find a job in 2012 after earning a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology.

“I had hoped to find a job before returning to Ghana to gain experience and to recoup some of the money I had spent,” he said.

After applying for five jobs, he received an email from CSI in Randolph, four months after applying and nearly two months after he had graduated. Believing the interview had gone well, as he was about to drive away from the small town in his rental car, he stopped at the Randolph First Baptist Church to find it locked. He left a phone message for the pastor inquiring about apartment rentals and prayed the Lord would bless him with an apartment within walking distance of the job, because he had no car.

Pastor Ken Schultz returned his call, connecting him with Gary Camp, a local landlord who just happened to have an apartment two blocks from CSI with a couple moving out the weekend before Okrah was to start his new job as a product design engineer.

“They were moving out when I arrived. I helped them move some of their things.”

He prayed for a church nearby and found Faith Bible Chapel a few blocks from his new home, where he is now one of the youth leaders, music director for youth, has a small group youth Bible discussion and is one of the church’s worship leaders.

He coaches a summer soccer program and enjoys playing ping pong, even though he doesn’t get the opportunity very often. He plays piano, a box drum called a cajon and says he is “not exceptional” at playing the base guitar, but is comfortable playing it. He enjoys visiting Church of Pentecost in Buffalo, which has its origins in Ghana. He is a member of the Gideons and belongs to the alumni association of both KNUST and RIT.

Okrah’s father is a pastor of a non-denominational church in Ghana and his mother works in a retail clothing store. He is one of seven children with three brothers and three sisters.

The Roasted Chicken recipe is done completely under the broiler, starting with well-seasoned raw chicken pieces in an uncovered pan. After fifteen minutes he turns the poultry and broils it for an additional fifteen minutes. At this time, he covers the pan and returns it to the broiler for an additional thirty minutes.

He suggests substituting Koko for your cereal at breakfast and says additional vegetables like broccoli and celery may be added to the Vegetable Stew.

Koko (Corn Meal Porridge)

1 c corn dough (can be purchased in African shops in Buffalo and Erie)

milk

sugar

Make liquid mix of dough water. Strain through colander to remove hull. Pour mix into cooking pot. Set on stove. Cook on medium heat, while stirring until liquid thickened. Lower heat and continue to cook. Pour cooked porridge into bowls. Serve with milk and sugar.

Vegetable Stew (Sauce)

2 large onions, chopped

2 handful chopped carrots

1 handful chopped green pepper

ginger

1 garlic bulb

4 large tomatoes

6oz tomato paste

red chili powder (per spicy preference)

1 handful peas (small bag)

¢ c vegetable oil

salt

Heat up oil in cooking pot to sizzling temperature. Turn heat to medium. Pour onion in oil. Allow to sizzle till onion starts browning. Add carrots and green pepper. Allow to saute for 10 minutes. Stir at intervals to prevent sticking. Blend ginger, garlic and tomatoes in blender or food processor. Pour blend into pot. Allow to cook for 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and allow to cook for another 10 minutes. Add a teaspoon of Red Chili Powder. Pour in peas, stir and cook for 20 minutes. Stir at intervals with the heat on medium to prevent burning or sticking of stew. Use as sauce for rice, spaghetti, boiled potatoes, etc.

Beans Stew

¢ lb black-eyed peas

¢ Cup Vegetable Oil

2 large onions, diced

fresh ginger, minced

1 garlic bulb, minced

1 handful chopped carrots

1 Handful chopped green pepper

2 large tomatoes, diced

6 oz tomato Paste

red chili powder (per spicy preference)

Salt

Soak peas in water for at least 30 minutes. Cook beans till they are tender, but firm. Heat up oil in cooking pan to sizzling temperature. Add diced onions and saute till onion begins to brown. Add minced ginger and garlic. Stir and allow to sizzle for 5 min. Add green pepper and carrots. Allow to sizzle for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook 10 minutes and add tomato paste. Allow to cook at medium heat for 20 minutes. Add cooked peas with the bit of stock left after its cooking. Add chili powder and salt. Stir, cook for about 10 minutes and lower heat to simmer for about another 15 minutes. Use as sauce for rice, boiled potatoes, yam, and fried or boiled plantain.

Roasted Chicken

chicken quarters

ginger powder

garlic powder

onion powder

chili powder

salt

Clean chicken. Trim off hanging fat and skin. Use whole quarter, cut at thigh joint or cut up into desired sizes. Put chicken in bowl and coat with the powdered ginger, garlic, onion and chili. Use chili powder sparingly to reduce spiciness. Sprinkle some salt over chicken shake up in bowl to uniformly get salt and powders over chicken. Set oven on low broil and set chicken pieces in baking pan on top rack. Leave uncovered. Turn the chicken over after 15 minutes and allow to broil for another 15 minutes. Then take out and cover pan with aluminum foil. Set pan back in oven on lower rack with oven set on high broil for 30 minutes.

Mashed Plantain

3 newly ripened plantain, firm

1 small Koobi (Salted dried tilapia that can be purchased at African food stores in Buffalo and Erie)

1 large onion

2 chili

handful dry roasted peanut (unsalted)

3 spring onions, diced

1 avocado, sliced

hard-boiled eggs

Peel and boil plantain. roast kobi. Dice onion. Grind onion in grinding bowl with pestle. Add to grind, peanuts, chili, Koobi, salt (to taste) and then the boiled plantains in that order. Make sure plantain mixes uniformly with ingredients in grinding bowl. Serve with eggs on top and garnished with spring onions. Add slices of avocado.

Jollof

beef

ginger

1 garlic bulb

3 large onions, divided

Salt

¢ cup vegetable oil

4 large tomatoes

3 chili pepper

1 handful peas (small bag)

Cut up beef into chunks and steam, reserving beef stock. For flavor, add ground mix of ginger, garlic and onion (¢ bulb). Add a dash of salt. Fry steamed beef. Heat oil in cooking pot, to start sauce for base of Jollof. At sizzling temperature, add diced onion to oil. Allow onion to saute. Blend chili and tomatoes in blender or food processor and add to onions. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes and add reserved beef stock from steaming. Add peas. Sauce is cooked when water content is mostly boiled off. To cook rice, add water of two to three times level of sauce in pan. Bring to boil. Taste and add salt if needed. Add rice. Quantity of rice should be below watery sauce mix just as water would usually be needed to boil rice without making it soggy. Allow most of the water to boil off and turn stove to low to allow rice to slowly cook. Stir rice at intervals to allow sauce to mix well with rice and also to prevent sticking. Allow time to get rice cooked. Serve Jollof with fried beef and a small bowl of salad.

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