Are those cow feet going into your Light Soup?

Posted on November 3, 2011


Yes, yes they are. They make for a delicious soup!

Light soup with fufu is a standard meal in Ghana. Fufu is a big dumpling, made with pounded yam and cassava. Here I am learning to pound fufu with my host mom when I was an exchange student.


As you see it’s a somewhat dangerous task, especially considering I wasn’t very good at wielding that giant pounding stick. Thus, I count myself lucky that in addition to the fact that men generally do the fufu pounding in Ghana, my husband is not a fan of this otherwise ubiquitous favorite food.

Another popular staple food in Ghana is banku, which is made from fermented corn and cassava. However, instead of being pounded, banku is turned in a pot with huge wooden ladel, like my other host mom (everyone is your mom in Ghana!) is doing here.


This is somewhat of an acrobatic task, requiring intense upper body strength and special coordination to balance the cooking pot over the coals by holding elongated metal hooks down with your feet.

Ah yeah… so I was lucky that we found some prepackaged banku at the African market last week! It is made by a distribution company in New Jersey and ready to go after heating in boiling water for just ten minutes.


Banku, which has a somewhat sour taste due to the fermented corn, is often paired with okra  stew, but here instead, I made a light soup, a very basic spicy tomato broth, with cow feet, beef heart, and goat meat.

I am proud to say that I think I am finally getting the hang of Ghanaian cooking, which alas, is really not that hard. The ingredients are generally the same… tomato, onion, ginger, garlic, hot peppers, and an assortment of scary meat or smelly fish.

Here is why I think it felt hard for such a long time… When I first arrived in Ghana, I was a seventeen-year-old vegetarian who in earlier carnivorous years ate chicken nuggets at best, and while my host family thought it was a good idea to feed me fish at every meal as a meat alternative, I also thought fish tasted a little…fishy.

It’s interesting how we change over the years.  I don’t think my meat-fearing seventeen-year-old self ever expected that one day I would have a somewhat cordial relationship with cow feet, and beef hearts, and pork hooves, and fish brains, and chicken livers…

Ghanaian Light Soup

3 large cow feet
several pieces beef heart
1 lb bone-in goat meat
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 large fresh tomatoes
4 habanero peppers
1 large red onion, quartered
4 large cloves garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 large bay leaves
Salt to taste

Place cow feet, beef heart, and goat meat in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped white onion, and season with salt.

Cover, and steam until meat is browned, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Add whole fresh tomatoes and habanero peppers on top of meat. Cover again, and steam another 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes have softened and skins begin to peel back.

Transfer tomatoes and peppers to blender (or use a mortar and pestle). Add red onion, garlic, and ginger, and pulse to a fine puree. Add tomato paste, and pulse to incorporate.

Allow meat to steam another 10-15 minutes to soften, then add puree and bay leaves, and stir to incorporate. Simmer meat with tomato soup base about 5-10 minutes, then add water to dilute, until meat is just about covered.

Bring soup to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until foam dissipates and red oil rises to the top of the soup, about 30-45 minutes.

You can continue simmering the soup on low to thicken it, or add more water to thin it, if desired. Serve with banku or fufu!


It tastes best eaten with your hands…

If you are looking for more Ghanaian recipes, see also:
Can we feed Africa with the Sunday Special? (Groundnut soup with Rice balls)
Is eating #Unprocessed a privilege choice? (Tomato Stew with Goat meat)