Nigerian Egusi Soup(Egusi Igbo)(Ofe Egusi)
Of soups, stews and sauces. When it comes to Nigerian dishes, are we really sure what it means to eat a stew, soup or a sauce? And the fact that every Yoruba person I have met calls what “we” Nigerians call soup a stew even confuses me more than anything else when it comes to this subject. Or may be it’s because most of the Yoruba dishes have either a tomato or a pepper base. Okay let me explain what I know a soup, stew and sauce to be. To most Nigerians, a stew is made up of tomatoes or peppers with assorted meats or fish; while a soup is anything like Egusi, Ogbono, Afang etc. A sauce is mostly curry like; with a meat or vegetable base. I nor know oh, na the one I sabi I talk oh. No ask me abeg 🙂
Recipe time! Okay, so this recipe is my mom’s! I remember Egusi soup from my mother’s kitchen. She made two versions. There was the version with tomatoes and peppers and there is this one. Honestly, I have come to love this one and to be honest with you, it’s now a favorite from my kitchen too. Reason? it’s one pot and damn delicious!
While cooking this soup, I remembered washing bitter leaf for my mother as part of the veggies that went into the soup(Nostalgia!) I used to not like being called to wash dishes; not to talk of washing bitter leaves for that matter. Imagine, your finger nails end up green and for days you look like you had been carrying sacrifice for the gods(laughs). Forget that it made the soup slightly bitter, but it was just delicious and your palates have to be open to understand this dish. But also understand that you can use another type of vegetable for this soup. To wash the bitter leaf, simply pluck the leaves from the stem and wash like you would your clothes until the bitter taste is completely gone. You could also leave the leaves to be slightly bitter; my father liked it that way…
I really love this recipe because of the less time and the “no frying” involved. The frying method for this particular Egusi soup’s recipe seems too time consuming for me; especially with children who get impatient with hunger. I prefer this one pot, no mess, everything cooks together recipe…aint nobody got time for all that frying 🙂
To make this soup, you will need the following:
1 and 1/4 cup egusi powder or seeds(if using the seeds. pan roast them until they begin to pop; then run them through a blender or a dry mill. this helps with extra flavors)
1 1/2 lb meats
1 1/2 tbsps. dry pepper powder or chili flakes
3 tsps. cray fish powder
4 1/2 tbsps. palm oil
1 cup bitter leaves(washed)(substitute with chopped spinach, ugu i.e pumpkin leaves or kale)
1 large dry fish(flaked and washed)
1 hand full of chopped uziza leaves or 1/2 tsp uziza powder aka piper guineese(optional)
1 small onion
1-2 crushed habanero pepper aka Ata-rodo
Salt to taste
Wash your meats, place into a pot and season with, salt, bouillon, 2 tsps dry pepper powder, onion and 2 tsps. cray fish powder. Pour some water to the level of the meat, bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Let the meat cook until tender. While the meat is cooking, in a separate bowl pour some water into the egusi and stir until it forms a slurry. Add the oil into the egusi mix and stir until mixed in; then set aside.
Once the meat is tender, add the egusi mix along with the cray fish powder into the pot; then stir in the remaining dry pepper. Bring the pot to a boil; then reduce the heat; making sure you are stirring the soup occasionally to prevent burning and to thicken the soup(this soup has to get quite thick, so make sure you stir). Once the Egusi thickens, add your vegetables, dry fish, uziza leaves and habanero(s) and cook for another 3 minutes; then serve with any side. I had mine with yellow eba. (fermented cassava. processed and fried with palm oil)
*PS: If for some reason, you do not enjoy using Palm oil. simply blend a couple of red tatase i.e bell peppers and add to the Egusi or to the meat stock before adding the Egusi paste and just cook as stated. Enjoy!