What is shoko?
Shoko is a traditional West African beef stew that is traditionally prepared with amaranth leaves (alefu) and tomatoes, although spinach can be substituted for alefu. Although shoko is not a traditional Ghanaian name and more a Yoruba word, this stew is sometimes referenced as such in a some West African countries.
The many spices that are used and the brown sugar bring a subtle and delicious flavor to the beef. Shoko is traditionally accompanied by plantain, fufu or steamed rice.
This dish is generally very spicy when it is prepared in Africa but if it has been exported all over the world, it is because the versions that are made outside of Ghana are not. Everyone can obviously decide to spice up or tone down this recipe by using more or less strong peppers.
The large amount of alefu (or spinach) contained in this stew makes it particularly digestible. The leaves also bring a very slight bitterness that goes well with the sweetness of the sauce due to the presence of brown sugar and chili.
How to make shoko
The piece of beef used to make a good shoko is the hock which melts while cooking for a long time. The meat is salted and sprinkled with ground spices such as cardamom, anise, and pepper, then brown sugar is added before browning it in the hot oil on all sides.
This step caramelizes the surface of the meat and thus release the juices that will give the flavor to the sauce while maintaining the juiciness of the pieces and preventing them from drying out. Garlic and onions are fried in the same pan as the browned pieces of meat, until they are caramelized.
Fresh tomatoes and green belle pepper are then added. Then you need to add the ginger, cumin, beef broth and pieces of meat, then simmer for two hours or more. The spinach is cleaned and chopped and boiled separately. It is then added at the end of the cooking of the meat and the cooking is extended for a few minutes so that all the aromas combine perfectly.
What are the health benefits of spinach?
There are two main varieties of spinach, those with curly leaves and those with smooth leaves. According to researchers, regular consumption of spinach can help lower the risk of breast cancer or esophageal cancer. Spinach could even prevent the growth of cancer cells.
They are also excellent for the health of your eyes and significantly reduce the oxidative stress on the eye. Cooked spinach is more nutritious than raw, the proportion of lutein, zeaxanthin and betaine is actually six times higher. Vitamins and minerals are also more common in boiled spinach.
What are the other versions of shoko?
Beef is sometimes replaced by goat meat which is popular in Ghanaian cuisine. If this dish is usually prepared in the winter, it can also be prepared throughout the year by using different green vegetables.
Spinach is very popular in African cuisine and is often associated with meat. In neighboring Togo, a dish called gboma dessi very close to shoko.
In Iran, ghormeh sabzi is also a beef or lamb dish accompanied by spinach and beans that are perfumed with many herbs and the famous limoo amani, dried black lemons used in Iraqi and Persian cuisines.
The Tunisian Jews often prepare a dish called pkaila for the holidays. This dish is also prepared with pieces of beef, white beans as well as spinach. It also incorporates some aromatic herbs.
- 3 lb beef shank , cut into pieces
- 2 onions , grated
- 1 lb tomatoes , peeled, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 4 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper , cut into strips
- 10 oz. alefu (amaranth leaves) , or spinach
- 3 red chili peppers
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds , freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds , freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon black pepper , freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon ground anise
- 1 cup beef broth
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
Heat the oil in a deep pan.
Sprinkle the meat lightly with salt.
Sprinkle with cardamom, anise, brown sugar and pepper.
Brown the pieces of beef for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until golden brown.
Remove from the pan and set aside in a covered bowl.
In the same pan, add the garlic and onions, add a little oil if necessary and fry until the onions begin to caramelize.
Add the tomatoes and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add all the remaining spices, meat and beef broth.
Mix well and simmer over medium heat for 2 hours, stirring gently from time to time.
If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water.
Meanwhile, remove the stems from the spinach leaves, chop them coarsely and place in a pan with 2 tablespoons of salted water.
Cover the pan and steam the spinach for about 3 minutes after reaching boiling point.
Add the spinach to the meat with their cooking water.
Stir and simmer over medium heat covered for another 10 minutes.
Serve with plantain, fufu and/or steamed rice.