Another Ghanaian staple, Kenkey, is made from fermented corn dough which goes through a series of steps to become what is a delicious ball of goodness, slightly sour and when made well, soft and yet pliable to the touch.
Kenkey can be eaten with stew, soup or made into ice kenkey (mashed kenkey with groundnuts, milk, and sugar). Kenkey is usually readily available (at least in Accra and close environs) but if you ever want to have a go at making kenkey then this recipe will help you do just that.
The ingredients for kenkey are relatively simple: corn to make corn dough, salt, and water. You will also need dry corn husks or agobo to wrap the balls of kenkey in.
You can either buy the corn dough or make it yourself. See the recipe card for notes on how to make the corn dough yourself. For this recipe, I made the corn dough myself and then proceeded to make the kenkey.
While the ingredients for kenkey are simple, the process itself can be quite lengthy. If you are making the corn dough yourself, you will need to soak the corn kernels in water over 2 days, making sure to change the water every day without sticking your fingers in the corn! This is important as putting your hands in the water can make the kernels smell bad.
Once the water has been drained from the kernels, they're taken to a mill to be ground. If you are in Ghana and you take it to a mill, the person operating the mill should grind the corn only once. Too many times and the corn will be too fine.
Next, the cornflour has to ferment before the actual process actually starts, and to do that you mix the ground cornflour with water to form a dough that is just firm enough that it holds together without falling apart. This dough is then left to ferment for about 2-4 days. In between the fermenting, the dough may look yellowish on the top. Simply rinse it off gently with water.
The resulting dough will then be used to make the balls of kenkey.
Once the dough is fermented, divide it into three parts. One part is going to be cooked and the other two raw parts will be mixed with that. Water is then added to the one raw part as well as some salt and then cooked.
Once the dough is cooked, it is added to the raw dough. This cooked dough is called Aflata. It is easier to mix with your fingers but the Aflata is hot and so it is best to use a wooden spoon first to roughly mix the two, and then as it gets cooler use your clean fingers to get a homogenous dough mixture. You can also just use a wooden spoon to mix through from start to finish.
The next step is to make small balls from the dough and then wrap them in the dried corn husks.
Make sure to overlap the corn husks slightly until the entire ball is covered. Then twist the tops of the corn husk together and then tuck them into the ball. Tuck the ends in and mold or squeeze the ball together to close any large holes and conceal the twisted end.
Repeat for all the other balls.
- Cling Film & Aluminium Foil - Dried corn husks are not always easily accessible and therefore a great alternative is to wrap the uncooked balls in some cling film and then aluminum foil and then proceed to cook as normal.
When making large quantities, I use a large aluminium pot that can go over a coal pot. Not all pots are suitable to be used over a coal pot, so this is something to be aware of.
Kenkey can be stored in the fridge without problems for at least 4 weeks. To reheat, simply boil gently in some water until soft. In a microwave, it is easier to cut the ball in half, sprinkle some water over it, cover and heat until warm.
Kenkey takes a long time to get properly cooked and this means if you are using a gas cooker, this is something you may need to take into consideration. A great tip to avoid that is to have a coal pot and charcoal available and cook the kenkey over charcoal. Again, this may not be readily accessible to everyone depending on where in the world you are. Do be aware that cooking kenkey takes up a lot of energy.
- 8 kilograms dry corn kernels approximately or 10 kilograms of fermented corn dough
- 4 tablespoons sea salt heaped
- corn husks dry
- If you have already prepared corn dough, skip to 6.
- Soak the corn kernels in water for two days making sure to change the water after day one.
- Mill the corn, leave to cool then mix with water to form a dough which when squeezed will not crumble or fall apart easily.
- Smoothen the top of the dough and pat. Leave to ferment for 2 days. See note 1
- Divide the dough into three parts.
- Take one part of the dough and add water. (Approximately 600ml for every kilo of dough.) My dough came to about 3 kilograms to which 2 litres of water were added. See note 2.
- Add salt to the dough mixed with water. See notes 3.
- Cook the dough until firm. This should take about 30- 45 minutes.
- Add about 600 ml of water to the raw dough and mix. Then add the cooked dough to the raw dough and mix until uniform.
- Clean the corn husks by taking the husks apart individually and then rinsing them under running water to make sure they are clean and also to soften them.
- Take some of the dough and form it into a ball about the size of a large orange.
- Wrap the balls with the corn husks making sure they overlap slightly and no gaps are seen.
- Once the entire ball of dough is wrapped in the corn husks, hold the top of the corn husks together, twist them and tuck them back into the ball. To do this, once the husks are twisted, make a hole between two of the overlapping corn husks and push the twisted ends inside.
- Ensure that there is no gaping hole once you push the twisted corn husks inside the ball. If necessary, squeeze the ball together to close the hole.
- Repeat for all the other balls.
- Using a large aluminium pot that can hold the balls of kenkey, place some of the corn husks on the bottom and then arrange the balls inside with the twisted-end part facing upward.
- Add some hot water to the pot and leave the kenkey to cook until ready. Check periodically to see if there is enough water to cook the kenkey.
- Once the kenkey is done, take it out to cool slightly (not cold) and serve.
- Kenkey can be eaten with stew, soup, or ground hot pepper and fried fish.
- The longer you leave the dough to ferment, the sourer your kenkey will be. You don't want overly sour balls of kenkey. The speed of fermentation will also depend on how hot your environment is.
- Typically, I do not measure the water when making the kenkey. However, it is nearly impossible to replicate without measurements if you have never eaten kenkey before or do not what the end result or texture is supposed to be.
- Because the crystals are larger , you can dissolve the salt in some water before mixing with the dough and the water.
- Some people use a 1:1 ratio of cooked dough to raw dough. You can also try this and see if you like the texture and consistency.