Monday, April 26, 2010

Red-Red: The Greatest Recipe Known to Humankind

If you've ever been to a dinner party at my house, the chances are good that you had red-red. I'm not kidding when I say it is the best recipe that will ever grace this (or any) blog. I should just hang up my apron after this, because it simply won't get any better.

Red-red is a traditional Ghanaian recipe of spicy black-eyed peas. Though it sounds odd, I must say that it is simply amazing. Red-red gets the name from dual red palm oil and tomatoes traditionally used to prepare this dish. It is also usually served with fried plantains (I typically opt for fried bananas). I also add a non-traditional twist by eating it with injera (click here for recipe), though the more traditional kenkey is great, as is plain old rice.

Also, if you like to make your black-eyed peas from scratch rather than purchasing store-bought, you'll want to increase the salt by roughly  2 tsp.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

1 cup red palm or canola oil
2 onions, chopped
1-3 habenero peppers, minced (I use 4)
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, vine ripened (not Roma or Hothouse), quartered
2 cans black eyed peas, drained
1-2 TBSP salt (depending on how much your canned beans have in them already)
¼ cup fresh, unpeeled ginger, grated (grate with smallest possible grating of cheese grater or Microplane; do not mince with knife!)
3 ounces tomato paste (1/2 small can)
2 tsp shrimp powder (optional)
Ground black pepper to taste
2-3 bananas or plantains, sliced into 1" wheels (optional)
Injera or kenkey for serving (rice or flour tortillas make acceptable alternatives as accompaniments)

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes, until softened. Add peppers and garlic. Cook a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and cook 1 more minute.

Transfer to a food processor bowl and puree into a sauce.

Return onion/tomato sauce to pan or Dutch oven and reduce heat to a nice simmer, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, drain the black-eyed peas and mash up about 1/3 of them in the cans or a separate bowl. Add all peas to the tomato mixture. Also add the salt, ginger, tomato paste, and shrimp powder (if using). Let simmer about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add black pepper.

Stirring occasionally, simmer 20 minutes or until you reach consistency of a thick stew. Add additional salt, if needed—it should be a fairly (but not crazy) salty dish. Same with the spiciness: it should be really hot. If it's not, add some cayenne powder.

As the red-red simmers, heat a couple more tablespoons of oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. When it gets hot, add the bananas, flat-side down with a tongs. Once the bottoms get browned but not burned (about 3 minutes), flip and repeat. Remove and gently pat with a paper towel or cloth to remove excess oil.

Now tear your kenkey or injera into bite-sized pieces. You'll use these pieces to work like an edible scoop--no utensils here!

Eat the shit out of this and let me know how awesome it is!


  1. I've been looking for this recipe everywhere! I went to Ghana last year and this was my favorite meal. Thanks!

  2. We've also been craving red-red since we left Ghana last year, and finally got to try your recipe tonight. It was awesome! Can't wait to try your pupusa and injera recipes.

  3. My mom is making it right now hope I like it!

  4. Why shouldn't I use Roma or Hothouse tomatoes?

  5. For the flavor... ideally, you'd use fresh garden tomatoes. But barring those, vine-ripened are a little better in flavor than the others and less watery than hothouse.

  6. You're right - this is absolutely delicious! I had red red in Ghana a few years ago, but havent been able to make it since. Your recipe hit the spot - thank you!

  7. Hey hey, can't wait to give this a try with some injera, and check our the rest of your site! Question, How many do you think this will serve?

  8. It makes a pretty big batch--I'd say it'll make about 8 servings... Depending on your definition of a serving.

  9. I just made this. I don't know if I bought the wrong type or brand of palm oil (it was red and kinda sauce like until it heated), but it produced an extremely strong foul smell as I cooked it and it brings an overpowering not-so-good taste to the dish. I really don't like it at all. Did I do something wrong? I bet if I made this dish again and used canola oil it would be delicious.

  10. Yup... Sounds like you got some rancid oil. Canola oil or unspoiled palm oil will give you much, much better results! Try it again and let me know how it is!

  11. A cup of oil?? Is that right? Why so much?

  12. Yep. I do it because that's how my Ghanaian friends have taught me and it's delicious. You could probably scale it back a bit if you wanted to.

  13. I live in a village in Maine, and have, naturally, very limited access to international ingredients. I'm a passionate eater, and so cooking is a necessary step. I'd just finished a novel set in Ghana, and 'red-red' was one of the protagonist's favorite dishes. So of course I found a number of recipes online, and they all called for red palm oil. Sigh. I wouldn't be able to get that for a while, and I can't bring myself to order stuff online: I want to be in the store to buy it and to look at all the other things available, in case I want to buy them as well (sigh). So imagine my surprise when I walked into the local 'health food store' and there, lying in ambush for me, was a jar of red palm oil I bought it.
    I chose your recipe because of the enthusiasm with which it was written. Asking people to 'eat the shit' out of something was somewhat startling, but appreciated.

    You know that no recipe comes out the same twice. But this was (is!) very very good.
    A couple of adjustments I had to make due to larder deficiency probably didn't sway things too much from your general direction.
    - one red jalapeno and 4 hot Korean peppers for the habanero chili
    - 2 tsp Korean Anchovy powder for the shrimp powder (I thought of grinding up a couple of dried shrimp as well but was too lazy)
    - a can of pretty good tomatoes instead of fresh ones
    - half the palm oil you suggest (because I'm hoarding it, don't know when I can get my hands on some again)
    - yellow-eyed peas instead of black-eyed; dried and cooked instead of canned.

    That's about it - and it's a dish that will have to be made many times over. It was so good, but I want to see if I can approach something like your culinary ecstasy when eating it. This means making it again and again and again (at which point my palm oil will have run out) to see where it gets me.
    One last additional note, to show my bona fides as a food fanatic, I suppose: I cooked this the night (after 8pm) before leaving on a two-week trip, because passion.

  14. Wow! This awesome, thank you!

  15. Oh my goodness, this was delicious! My friend, born in London to a mother born in Ghana had taught me about yams. So I made this with yams (cuz they are so easy) and fried plantains. I also used coconut oil, because that is what I had at hand. It worked for me. Really tasty. (I also added a tiny pinch of asafetida to replace shrimp powder... don't tell) this recipe rocks!!!