Zeenat has always had a passion for food, ever since she was a child in the western region of Ghana. Her Nigerian heritage is also linked 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.
This is because in Ghana schools combine the academic subjects you study with skills like handicrafts, cooking and other things. This ingenuity is one thing she particularly admires in her home country.
Today, she makes this dish when she teaches 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 coral beads, a traditional stone found in Africa.
It is intended for royalty and those who are part of the royal clan and is given when you are installed as a king, queen, princess or leader. I chose to wear it because I am from the royal clan.
Kakro: how to prepare it
- 6 ripe plantains (black)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄4 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 120g self-rising flour
- 2L vegetable oil, for frying
- Cut the plantains lengthwise and peel the skin. Roughly dice them.
- Transfer to a bowl and mash with a potato masher until a very smooth paste forms. Alternatively, you can use a food processor.
- Add oregano, sage and salt. Mix well.
- Add the flour and stir until a smooth batter/sticky dough forms.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a deep skillet ready to fry.
- Use your hand or a few spoons to form balls – a little smaller than the size of a golf ball – and drop the balls into the hot oil. Be careful not to overload the pan.
- Fry for about 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Place on a plate covered with a tea towel to absorb excess oil.
- Serve with Zeenat’s famous Shito sauce as a delicious snack!
It’s a symbol of my Ghanaian culture – and it makes me feel connected to my ancestors.
When I was a kid, I loved making kakro. It’s very easy to assemble, easy to pick up, lightweight and very filling.
I’ve been cooking since I was seven years old but the first time I made this recipe myself I was around nine or 10 years old. I received some pocket money every week, so I used this money to buy plantains at the market.
I had my younger sister with me while my mother worked in her store. I crushed it with my hands and used some oil we had at home. I felt excitement because it was something I had never done before on my own.
I kept making it because I love plantain (I would 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 would simply mash the plantains, add a little salt and fry them. I decided to add a bit more flavor to mine by adding some oregano and sage. #
You can pair kakro with potatoes, but I prefer yam because that’s what we normally have traditionally.
My recipe uses special shito sauces (a collection of Ghanaian spices) – there are even versions you can make for vegans or vegetarians, or one that is much spicier.
I prepare the dish at 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, got married in Nigeria and then came to the UK a few years ago later. Cooking has also helped me find work and establish myself in selling food.
I joined Migrateful two years ago, just before Covid-19. It is an organization that supports migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who have found it difficult to integrate into society in the UK, or who may not have family here.
He helps train them as leaders to use their talents. It’s also a great way to meet new people and share 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 how 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 of sharing my food with the world is hearing how good people think it is.
Zeenat’s shito sauces are available for purchase or tasting through her Instagram here. You can also book one of her private demonstrations in person or sample her other recipes by attending an audience migrant to classify.
Main image credit: Fede Rivas
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black history month
October marks Black History Month, which reflects the achievements, cultures and contributions of black people in the UK and around the world, as well as educating others about the diverse history of people of African descent and Caribbean.
For more information on the events and celebrations taking place this year, visit the official website black history month website.