No, this is not a derogatory term to describe my vegan friends, this is my interpretation of a Ghanaian dish known as Ponkie.
So what is Ponkie? Ponkie is the Ghanaian word for pumpkin. The dish is traditionally made with beef. I substituted the beef with textured vegetable (TVP) protein also known as soya mince. Not only is the dish vegan, it is also suitable for those on a gluten-free diet.
I know the name will set of little ones in fits of giggles and maybe some grown ups too. I chose to make it for two reasons, pumpkins are everywhere at the moment. I’d like to say pumpkins are everywhere because it the season, but the other than the butternut squash, once Halloween is over, you’ll be lucky to find a pumpkin here. Therefore, I recommend you make the most of it now, even if it is for soup. The other reason this recipe appealed were the ingredients, some of which reminded me of a kind of vegetarian chilli bean dish but without the kidney beans. In my previous job, I had a good Ghanaian friend HA. He had these cat like whisker scars on his face. When I first met him I was fascinated by them and thought I’ll ask him the significance later, but as time passed. I no longer saw the scars on his face, it was just another feature, so never got round to knowing the reason. I’m guessing it had spiritual meaning as well as being a tribal mark to identify the family. I’d ask him, but he moved away and we lost contact. Anyway, I digress I think he would be disappointed at me for subbing the beef with TVP (textured vegetable protein) aka soya granules. HA is like my brothers, he loves eating his meat. Whenever we lunched together, he would often add ‘I could never be vegetarian. I so love my meat’. I wonder though if I could tempt him with this version of Ponkie. I wonder what he would say?!
This is a dry dish, similar to the okra salan. Traditionally ponkie is served with boiled yam and flat bread. It also goes well with other grains such as rice, couscous and even tortilla wraps, just please don’t tell HA. I think he will roll his eyes even more.
Ponkie: Ghanaian pumpkin
Serves 4 - 6
4 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 – 2 fresh red chilli, minced or 1 - 2 Teaspoon Chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt to taste
250g TVP or soya mince dehydrated
1 green pepper, chopped
400g tin of tomatoes, chopped
400g Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 Aubergine, diced
Heat oil in pan and saute the onion until soft and translucent, then add in the spices and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes for the spices to combine. Add in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or so before adding in the soya mince, pepper and pumpkin pieces. Cook for 10 minutes before adding in the aubergine. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. This particular recipe is adapted from Oxfam Fairworld Cookbook which acknowledges the original coming from Ola Olaore s book Traditional African Cookery.