It is called Afia Efere in the Efik culture. You probably also know it as Ofe Nsala, the Igbo name for it. The Efik version is a little more aromatic because of the addition of Uyayak, the aidan fruit. What uyayak does to the soup is better tried than imagine. It is called white soup because no oil is involved, even though I don’t agree because the soup is anything but white. The first time I tasted this soup was at a restaurant in Abuja. I saw it on the menu and kept wondering how anything cooked with Nigerian ingredients could be white. When the bowl arrived, I thought huh, the waiter must have gotten my order wrong. This soup is anything but white. She then explained why it is called white soup. My first impression was, it smelled and tasted like peppersoup. I am that customer who bombards waiters with questions, and the poor lady had to explain how it is made, ending with it is eaten by the Igbo and Efiks.
I kept that in mind when next I was seeing Joy my Chief Efik food tutor, and she showed me how it was done. I still insist that I should have been named Oilless something something or brown soup something else but White soup would have sufficed me thinks. Hehehehehe. Anyways, one thing I am sure we would agree on is the fact that it is deeeeeeeeelicious. Commonly prepared for mothers who have just given birth, you would wish you had a baby too, then you think of the 9months and the labour pains, and go naaaah, I will still enjoy the soup, baby or not.
The shortcut to making this is to simply use already ground peppersoup spices. Yes, it will taste great, and smell amazing but make White soup 2.0 today by grinding your own spices and taste the difference. I wrote a long list for my mum when she vas visiting last year, and I made sure those spices in their whole form were on the list. The difference is so much better, I am never going the peppersoup spice powder route again. Funny thing is, I just eyeballed it and prayed seriously that it wouldn’t be bitter or overpowering. Especially as I was preparing it for my neighbour on her birthday, the pressure was on. My cooking fairy angels were working in full force that day and I can proudly say this was the best pot of Afia Efere that I have ever made. As for the spice combination, as I mentioned before, I only eyeballed it, therefore what I will recommend as my recipe worked for the volume I wanted to cook. I did not even use all the ground spices, because 2 and a half tablespoons or thereabout, was just right.
A very simply dish that is guaranteed to wow. What I don’t get though is why it is served with pounded yam. Hey, you thickened the soup with pounded yam. I always deliberately eat Afia Efere with anything else but pounded yam, until hunger dictated that I pinched out of the pounded yam to be used for thickening and mopped up a bit of the soup. Ooooooooh, so this is what I had been missing. Okay now, from henceforth, Afia Efere will be served with Pounded yam in my household. You can share with me, what you serve your own Afia Efere with. Let’s get to cooking
You will need
2 pieces of Ehuru – ehu or Calabash nutmeg
3 pieces of Uda
1 piece of Cameroon pepper
1 teaspoon of Uziza seeds
Uyayak – aidan fruit
Dry Pepper – cayenne pepper
Select your spices. Below, you can see the long black pod called Uyayak. Naming from left to right are Uziza seeds, Ehuru, and Uda. I forgot to take a picture of Cameroon pepper.
It is essential to rinse the uyayak pod because its ridges can harbour dirt. I also remembered this time to break it into two as Joy taught me. You would need some arm cardio to break it though. This thing is very tough.
1. Add the spices to a mill and blend. You don’t want it entirely as smooth as the texture of peppersoup spice mix.
2. To your boiled goat meat and assorted meat, which you have given extra flavour by boiling with smoked fish, add extra water, crayfish, dry pepper and uyayak. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil.
The oil you are seeing floating on top is from the dissolved fat beneath the skin of the goat meat. I intentionally used smoked goat meat with the skin on for this soup. It gives it that true local Nigerian flavour. Taste for salt and season and re-adjust if necessary. By now, you will be able to smell and taste the flavour from the Uyayak
3. Add the ground spices. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: it is better to add the spices in tablespoon increments and taste shortly afterwards, just so you don’t go overboard. I added roughly 2 and a half tablespoons to this pot. Once the spices go in, turn down the heat to simmer, this is to allow the spices to permeate the meats.
4. By step 2, you should have peeled your yam and placed on the burner to cook. You should be ready to make pounded yam now. As you know, I am allergic to manual labour where food is concerned. hehehehehehe. I brought out my kitchen helpers. Today, I am using my Chef Tony Hand Blender with the chopper bowl attachment. Nifty little gadget I got from Ebay. You can make pounded yam with a mixer, food processor, hand mixer and even traditional blender, used at home for blending pepper.
add the boiled yam cubes to the bowl
this happens in seconds
ta daaaa. Pounded yam. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: I must stress though, that when using pounded yam as a thickener for white soup, you only need to mix till it gets smooth. You don’t need to keep the machine on till it becomes stretchy and elastic. This is just a waste of time, and it will take much longer for it to dissolve in the soup, so be mindful of that. The pictures below is what you want to achieve. Smooth and no lumps
see the texture, like mashed potatoes. This is what you want.
this stretchy texture is NOT what you want. This is the texture for eating
5. Now that you have your pounded yam, turn the heat back up and scoop the pounded yam into the pot in small to medium-sized balls
watch as the pounded yam starts to melt into the soup
6. You have the option of scooping out some of the pounded yam, before it melts completely if you want a more fluid or watery soup. I enjoy Afia Efere a little thick, so I allowed all the pounded yam to melt. It is your choice which option you go for.
some little dots of pounded yam will probably still be floating around, simply use the cooking spoon to press them along the sides of the pot, and they would dissolve.
7. Now the lumps have disappeared, your soup is almost ready. You can add hot water to dilute if you feel it is too thick. Taste for salt and seasoning, and re-adjust if necessary.
8. Finish off my adding freshly chopped uziza leaves, for extra flavour. You just need about a handful or less. Just as you would add efinrin (scent leaf), to peppersoup.
This is my Sunday Lunch. Off to make some Pounded Yam. Have a nice week y’all. Mine is going to be packed, and I am also expecting a special visitor.