Zeenat has always been passionate about food, ever since her childhood in the western region of Ghana. Her Nigerian heritage is also connected to this passion – after her great grandparents moved from Nigeria to Ghana 200 years ago.
This love of cooking is something she inherited from her mother, who learned it from her mother.
But it was actually a cooking class at school where she learned how to make kakro – ripe plantain, flour and seasoning fried into balls.
That’s because, in Ghana, schools combine the academic subjects you study with skills like craft, cooking and other things. This ingenuity is one thing in particular that she admires about her home country.
Now she makes this dish when teaching classes with Migrateful – a charity that supports migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on their journey to integration.
Whenever I cook my kakro with fried yam recipe, I wear my bracelet. It is a string of beads made out of coral – a traditional stone found in Africa.
It is meant for royalties and those who are in the royal clan and is given when you are installed as a king, queen, princess, or chief. I choose to wear it because I am from the royal clan.
Kakro: How to make it
- 6 plantains, ripe (black)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1⁄4 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp salt
- 120g self-raising flour
- 2L vegetable oil, for frying
It’s a symbol of my Ghanaian culture – and it makes me feel connected to my ancestry.
When I was a child, I loved making kakro. It’s very easy to put together, easy to pick up, light and very filling.
I have been cooking since the age of seven but the first time I made this recipe on my own, I was around nine or 10 years old. I would get a little pocket money every week, so I used the money to buy plantain at the market.
I had my younger sister with me while my mother was working in her shop. I mashed it with my hands and used oil we had at home. I felt excitement because it was something I had never done before on my own.
I continued to make it because I love plantain (I’d eat it in my sleep if I could!)
But I’ve actually improved the recipe a bit myself since then. In the past, my mother just mashed the plantain, added a bit of salt and fried them. I decided to add a bit more aroma to mine by adding oregano and sage. #
You can pair the kakro with potatoes, but I prefer yam because that is what we normally have traditionally.
My recipe uses special shito (a collection of Ghanaian spices) sauces – there are even versions you can do for vegans or vegetarians, or one which is much more spicy.
I make the dish at many different times – breakfast, lunch or dinner. In fact, I like it with porridge, tea or coffee on the side.
My love for cooking has stayed with me throughout my life – even when I left Ghana many years ago, settled into marriage in Nigeria and then came to the United Kingdom a couple of years after. Cooking has also helped me to find work and establish myself in selling food products.
I joined Migrateful two years ago, just before Covid-19. It’s an organisation that supports migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who have faced difficulties integrating into society in the UK, or maybe they don’t have family here.
It helps train them into chefs to make use of their talents. It is also a great way of meeting new people and sharing food together.
With Migrateful, I teach classes – initially online – and now in person, as well as public and private classes in London. They also supported me with food hygiene and health and safety courses.
I love teaching people to cook my recipes because I feel like I’m sharing my culture with the world. I talk about my country, my connection to it, and why I love the food I make.
But the best part about sharing my food with the world is hearing how tasty people think it is.
Zeenat’s shito sauces are available to buy or sample through her Instagram here. You can also book one of her private in-person demos or taste her other recipes by attending a public Migrateful class.
Main picture credit: Fede Rivas
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Black History Month
October marks Black History Month, which reflects on the achievements, cultures and contributions of Black people in the UK and across the globe, as well as educating others about the diverse history of those from African and Caribbean descent.
For more information about the events and celebrations that are taking place this year, visit the official Black History Month website.
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