Oh the journey to making this dish was hilarious at best. I wanted my next post on Bella Naija to be something quite unusual but still undoubtedly Nigerian. I looked through my list of recipes I would like to share and ticked a few options. Going further down the list, Abari stood out, and then Epiti, which gave me the idea to write a post about the tales of 2 uncommon Nigerian steamed dishes. Oh dear, I should just have gone with my original idea to cook Ofe Akwuko using a recipe a reader Mrs Eze sent to me. Going to Peckham to buy Ugba (which was the reason I didn’t cook it), would have been way less stressful than what I went through. Refusing to give up, I tried different combinations till I found something that worked. If you live outside Nigeria and cooking these two steamed dishes has always been a pain for you, you will want to read this. Especially now that corn would soon be in season, you want to pay close attention.
What is Abari? It is simply Savoury Steamed Corn. Think Moin Moin, but with corn instead of beans. Abari is the Ekiti name for it. Abari goes even further, because garden eggs are added. In other cultures it is called Ukpo Oka, Sapala, Oka Ekusu or Ekoki, Igba Ngwu Oka. I would like to know what you call it in your culture. The Igbos and The Efiks add vegetables to it like scent leaf or nchawu, ugu leaves, anyara leaves and sometimes Uziza. I was initially going for the Ekiti-Igbo/Ekiti fusion but with the frustrations I faced when making it, I totally forgot about my idea and churned out the pure Ekiti version. You can update my recipe and do a multi cultural fusion dish. Please remember to send me your pictures or drop comments on the blog when you do. Here’s how
I don’t know how I thought it was a good idea to blend dry corn to make Abari. While blending it, with my blender groaning a little, I realised it was not going to work and that is how I became an accidental ogi maker. If you would like to know how to make your own Ogi in 5 days, go to my blog. Back to Abari. I used sweetcorn instead. if you’ve been having problems with making this dish using frozen corn from the supermarket, or fresh corn with the leaves removed, try sweetcorn.
You will need
Cans of Sweetcorn – i used 2 small cans of sweetcorn. 165g each
Tatashe – red bell pepper
Chopped red onions
Garden eggs – substitute with aubergines (eggplant)
Ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
Dry pepper – cayenne pepper or paprika
shredded smoked fish
Plain flour or corn flour – to thicken
Palm oil – you can substitute with vegetable oil
Banana leaves or heat proof containers
1. Rinse and quarter the garden eggs. If you are turning your nose up at garden eggs, believe me, I used to until I tried something else apart from boiling. The solution to your garden egg pet peeve is to grill it. Place the quartered garden eggs on an oven tray, season with salt, a sprinkling of crushed seasoning cubes, dry pepper and a little topping of oil. Whack in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes.
The garden egg ‘chips’ would come out smelling and tasting great. Only a slight tinge of bitterness would be left, you may not even notice.
2. While the garden eggs are grilling, blend the sweetcorn with tatashe and rodo till a smooth paste. You can add onions if you wish, or chop whole and add to the paste
3. Pour into a bowl and add chopped red onions (optional), crayfish, shredded smoked fish, the grilled garden eggs fresh from the oven, salt, seasoning cubes and palm oil. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: be careful with the palm oil though, otherwise you will end up with a sharp orange abari, and not the pleasing moin moin type colour. Add palm oil in tablespoon increments. You can also choose to use vegetable oil, or even mix both.
4. Combine all gently, taste for salt and seasoning and readjust accordingly. With the crayfish, smoked fish and grilled garden eggs already with some salt content, you want to be careful about the amount of salt you add.
5. Thicken the paste with corn flour or plain flour. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: this step is important to give the paste some body, otherwise you will find yourself steaming forever, running up a gas or electricity bill and the abari would not come together and solidify. I learnt my lesson the first time. You only need to thicken with about a tablespoon or 2 of flour. It doesn’t affect the taste but saves you the frustration.
6. If you have the local banana leaves, fold into the traditional shape, pour in the corn paste and steam in a pot. If you are using oven proof containers, simply line with a little oil, pour in the paste and whack in the oven. Yes, you can bake moin moin in the oven. Remember to fill a baking tray with water, and place in the oven. This is to keep the oven moist and steamy, thereby recreating the steaming process in a pot.
7. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade (fahrenheit conversion) for roughly 15 minutes.
When it comes out of the oven, it should still be soft, but not squiggly. That’s your Abari done.
Serve with garri and Cold water. Enjoy
I posted this on Bella Naija and found out this dish is also called Ekusu. One more name to add to the list.
Stay tuned for the recipe for Epiti in the next post