Banku and okro soup is a rustic, traditional preparation common to Ghana. Although recipes of banku and okro soup vary among Ghanaian tribes, clans and ethnic groups, all contain eggplant and the dish’s namesake ingredients – okra and cassava-based dumplings. Traditional banku and okra soup uses wele, or cow skin, to add background flavors. However, in the United States, wele is often a specialty item and not commonly found in market-form. But by cooking the eggplant in beef broth and using it as the base, all the flavors attained with wele are recreated without sacrificing the bold, hearty nature of the soup.
Cut 1 lb. of beef stew meat into 1-inch cubes and place in a saucepan. Cover with 1.5 cup cold beef broth. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper and simmer until tender, approximately 30 minutes.
Cut one large eggplant or five garden eggs into 1-inch cubes and cover with cold water. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. lemon juice and simmer until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Scrape away the seeds, remove the skin, puree until smooth and set aside.
Remove the stem and chop one large beefsteak tomato. Remove the seeds and stems from five banana peppers and five green chili peppers and place in a food processor. Puree the tomato and peppers until smooth.
Heat 2 tbsp. palm oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat for three minutes. Saute one large red onion until translucent, approximately five minutes. Add the pepper-tomato puree and cook until the liquid reduces, approximately three minutes. Set aside.
Transfer the eggplant or garden eggs to a food processor and puree until smooth. Place the eggplant puree, onion-pepper puree, stew beef, 1 cup beef broth, 1 cup water, 6 oz. dehydrated shrimp or herring, 10 oz. sliced okra and 1 tsp. grated ginger to the saucepan.
Cook over medium-high heat until the okra is tender, approximately 20 minutes. Season the soup to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Sift 1/2 lb. cassava flour and 1/2 lb. corn flour in a mixing bowl and add 1.5 cups cold water. Mix well using a whisk and strain using a fine-mesh sieve or colander with small perforations.
Transfer the flours to a saucepan and place over low heat. Stirring constantly, cook until dough forms, approximately 10 minutes. In a separate saucepan, heat 2 cups water and 1 tsp. salt over medium-high heat until it simmers.
Form the dough into dumplings with a spoon and place in the simmering water. Simmer the dumplings until cooked through, approximately eight minutes. Set aside and serve with the soup.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images