Long time no hear folks. I have been almost buried under the weight of Yajichurri orders. My head must have spun a few times at the overwhelming response and the feedback. I can’t even keep up, but this is the best way to end 2015. It has proven to me something I had suspected for months but was too afraid to do. I am itching for 2016 now, because it is going to be THE YEAR of Dooney’s Kitchen. I read somewhere last year that if your passion doesn’t start earning its keep or paying for itself, you are going to come to resent all the time, money and effort that you have spent following that passion. That article was like a brain reset and The Dooney’s Kitchen Experience was born. 1 year plus since, we now have Yajichurri in Lagos, Abuja, all over the UK, Texas and on its way to Canada soon. How cool is that.
Anyways, I am foremost a food blogger and would always be one, hence this recipe with some subtractions. Why another buka stew recipe? Well, this is an update, fresh from the Buka madam itself. This isn’t passed on information, this I saw myself live from start to finish during my last trip to Lagos. Sitting under melting heat and watching Alhaja Modinat (as she was called) prepare it. You see, I didn’t start out my day intending to eat Buka food, but my mother and I went shopping at a major Lagos market and my nose kept leading me to this place. I asked to buy Amala, as i could obviously see ewedu boiling away and she said “Sisi Mi, omi obe oti jina, a se fe se emi ni” – my young lady, the stew isn’t ready yet, we are just about to make another batch. I heard those words and my ears started buzzing. Like what are the chances of watching buka stew made from scratch. So I sttod there and waited. She must have thought i was crazy. In this heat. This “ajebutter” looking person wants to stand with the smoke and wait. She kept trying to shoo me away, telling me to come back, but i remained adamant. That, Tribe is how I saw it all from start to finish. The ratio of tomatoes to tatashe to onions and rodo, the kinds she selected, the consistency, everything. I was making mental notes and typing furiously on my phone. I kept thinking you must be kidding me, this is happening right!!!!! Watching her make this is better than any recipe I was ever given. Even though I was melting under the heat, I was trying not to look bothered, hahahahahaha.
Then Big Oladunni came and wanted to spoil my show, telling me it is time to leave. I told her no o, me myself and I are not leaving this place. This is gold right here. Alhaja said oh, we can go and come back now, the stew will soon be ready. I told Big Oladunni to go continue her shopping that I will meet her in front. My mother responded saying “Ola, mo ma ja e sile o” – i will leave you here. You are wasting my time in favour of your “blog people”. I told her, Mummy, this is bigger than the blog. Buka Stew is one of my most popular dishes for The Dooney’s Kitchen Experience, here I am learning how it is made. You go and continue shopping, I will catch up with you. So, i stayed and watched Alhaja Modinat finish the stew. Luckily, there was a little cloud cover to shade the burning sun, so i got some reprieve. When she brought out the palm oil and i saw the colour, i thought oh wow. Now that makes sense. Whyyyyy didn’t that occur to me. So, while I don’t mind sharing her method, because hey I am a food blogger after all, I will still hold something back and that is the “Ata Lilo” – combination she used. That is the secret to Buka stew, not the palm oil. Remember what I wrote earlier about a passion paying for itself, well y’all don’t expect me to be a food blogger forever, giving out everything for free. When next you are in London, or you live in the UK and you want to taste the real deal. Please send me an email: email@example.com. Look at that stew very well. Don’t you want some of that….
The serendipity of the whole thing, considering that a few days before that, I was asked at the WIMBIZ conference what my proudest moment was, and I said it was the day one of my readers wrote to me an said she and her husband were going through a very rough patch and hadn’t spoken for months. She tried my buka stew recipe one day and when he came home that night he said the aroma of the stew reminded him of the buka he used to go to near Unilag. That was the first real conversation they had, had in months. She ended with, Dunni, i think your recipe just may have saved my marriage. THAT people, is why I do what I do. Creating lasting food memories is the tagline of Dooney’s Kitchen and I hope this recipe brings even more magic and mends even bigger fences in your homes. Let’s Cook
- Palm Oil
- Ata rodo - scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
- Beef Stock
- Assorted Fried Meat - you can also use grilled meats
- Seasoning cubes
- Bleach the Palm oil. till it blackens. Now, this is what surprised me. I actually slapped my forehead when i saw her lift the lid of a smaller wide pot and pour the contents into the big pot she was going to make the stew with. Dooney's Kitchen Tip: To bleach palm oil. Pour into a pot, cover the pot set on high heat for 5 minutes, then turn down to medium/low heat for another 10 minutes. Allow the pot to cool down undisturbed. This is very very important to prevent kitchen accidents. Always cover the pot, always let it cool down on its own. DO NOT touch the pot or attempt to open the lid
- Reheat about 3 quarters of the palm oil and add chopped onions. This is a Dooney's Kitchen tip. Alhaja Modinat didn't do that, possibly because there is no time for that.
- Add the blended Ata Lilo (pepper mix) to the pot and add a considerable amount of water and beef stock to get the pepper really loose. Don't ask, that's what she did. I have a video of the consistency you should aim for on the @dooneyskitchen Instagram page. Don't forget to follow for all the juicy cooking hints, tips and videos. Ever wondered why Buka stew is very fluid, making it easy to consume with amala. hehehehehe. Notice too that I didn't boil the pepper mix beforehand too. Buka Madam's aint got time for that.
- Allow the pepper to reduce. This is where you have to learn a lot of patience. These women cook with roaring open fires that our home gas or electric cookers can't match, so be prepared for this to take longer than you expect. You also need to cook this with the pot open. Don't cover it. Condensation from the lid of a pot can actually affect flavour you know. I saw this on food network, and while Alhaja and many of her kind may not have been educated, they understand the principles of building flavour profiles.
- Check back in 30minute intervals depending on how powerful your cooker is and you will start to notice changes in the consistency of the stew, the colour, the aroma and taste. If you are well versed in Buka crawling, you will know when the pepper has almost reached that glossy/silky buka stew consistency. One thing to watch out for is a "ring of palm oil" around the pot with the pepper bubbling in the middle Once you start to see that, you are almost there. It will also serve you best to use a really good pot for this process. I am using a forged aluminium pot from Tower Housewares UK
- When the ring of palm oil starts to get wider and wider, add the rest of the bleached palm oil to the pepper, add salt and seasoning cubes. This further intensifies the flavour, like 5mins after you add this remaining oil, you will know you are on to Buka stew greatness.
- Add the fried meat, stir and allow it to braise in this gorgeous pot of loose stew. Depending on how well fried/grilled your meats are, you only need a further what 10minutes and you are done, as by then the assorted meats would have properly absorbed the stew, and they will be tender and finger licking good.
- My previous recipe said keep cooking until you see palm oil float to the top. I am taking that back now. No need. The picture you can see above was taken just after I added the meats, of which this was a short while after adding the second batch of palm oil. So, as soon as your fried/grilled meats are tender enough to tear apart with your fingers, take it off the heat. Now watch, when the stew cools down a little, voila, palm oil floating to the top. What i learnt from Alhaja is that Buka stew is not a fried stew, like regular home cooked stew. Buka stew is basically Alapa. My recipe for my grandmother's Alapa can be found in Recipeadia under the Stew Category