If you know how long I have wanted to make Asun, you wouldn’t believe. I was going for my evening run one day and I swear I must have passed by a Nigerian household because I could smell ASUN, and I am sure it just wasn’t my brain playing games with my sense of smell. I stopped to let my nose guide me, and my mouth was watering, I forgot I had set myself a challenge of 10 minutes straight up running and no stopping. You see, I love food like that. Looool. I stopped and inhaled. I remember trying to find the source of smoke, because I could smell burring charcoal, that signature barbecue smell. This was a friday evening and I am guessing they were preparing for a weekend party. Summer is in full swing now and lots of people have the barbecue out. Gosh, I wanted to trace that smell, knock on the door and ask to be given some.
You see, the smell of Asun is undeniably distinct. I would recognise it anywhere and for people like us who have taste and olfactory memories, it is etched deep into our memory archives. I have only eaten Asun at parties. It is one of those things like small chops that by some strange reason you only eat at parties. For someone who is half Ijebu, I have attend a lot of parties. My Asun count sheet, must be looooooooooooong. When Asun is made at parties, usually a whole goat is brought to be the venue and smoked. This is what I remember about Asun. The goat is smoked raw over a giant charcoal lit barbecue, then it is cut into smaller sizes, placed on a heated slab and sautéed, (yes I used that word), with lots of onions and fresh pepper while oil is sprinkled on it, making the onions caramelise further. I called Big Oladunni to remind me how its done.
Mummy has seen it cooked hundreds of time. She was usually in a supervisory role because Asun was for “special guests” and she was there to ensure it was properly distributed. Big Oladunni was our partner in crime. She was the one who always passed us some Asun before the Big Uncles and Aunties finished it all and all we got were crumbs. Who best to give me a recipe if not her. She echoed what I wrote above and insisted that the freshness and the distinct heat, is where Asun is different from peppered meat (eran ti won yilata – her exact words), because with Asun the pepper is raw. Mummy is quite detailed with recipes too (i learnt from the best), so she told me all I needed to know. Lets cook.
You will need
Smoked goat meat – this is essential to the authentic flavour
Onions – lots of it
Ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
………..and that’s it. Mummy was quite specific about this. You want the smokey flavour of the goat meat to stand out, so don’t over power it with spices. Simple flavours. The goat meat is THE star of the show. Even the onion powder was just me throwing my own signature spin to it. You can leave it out
Of course, as much as I would like, I don’t have a whole goat to smoke, hehehehehehehe, so I have to take comfort in the few pieces I have .
1. For extra absorption of flavour, I made sure the meat was cold. I seasoned with salt, seasoning cubes, chopped onions and onion powder, after which I placed in the fridge for 45mins to marinade.
2. As much as I would love to go 100% authentic, I don’t have an open fire barbecue, so that takes me down a notch on the authenticity scale. If you have the means to do this outside, especially if the weather permits, go the full on Asun experience.
So, as I am handicapped, I decided to cheat a little. I transferred the seasoned meat to a pot, covered it and let it steam for 5 minutes on medium to high heat. This kickstarted the cooking process and locked in some flavour. I added NO water. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: steaming like this also helps you to reintroduce some moisture and tenderness to the meat, because by virtue of it being smoked, it is already cooked to an extent, days in the freezer would have dried it out a little (reason why I stock 95% of my meat raw, the 5% cooked, is for the days of emergency cooking), then placing straight under the grill would also dry it out some more, so this cheating process helps it stay very moist. Try it out and see.
3. After which I transferred the partially raw meat to an oven tray to grill till it cooks completely.
4. Cut the goat meat into much smaller pieces. If you don’t eat most of it before you are done chopping. Step 2 is very crucial to locking in flavour.
5. Chop the onions and ata rodo. Y’all know me, I am a 2014 cook. I laugh in the face of people who deliberately stick to old methods, like it gives them a kitchen badge of honour. Who needs patience, when you can have an electrical device.
Plus chopping onions is teary business. Ata rodo too, if you chop with your hands, you are not allowed to go to the bathroom for hours unless you want to do a merry dance. Y’all know what I mean. Lool. So, chopper bowl to the rescue. I chopped this in seconds.
6. Place a empty pan unto your cooker and let it get very hot. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: what I am trying to do is re-enact the heating slabs used at parties. Once it gets very hot, add a little oil to it and let it sizzle, then take it off the heat. transfer the chopped goat meat to the pan and add the chopped onions and ata rodo. Using a frying spoon, move all the pieces around, till they are well incorporated. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you know why you need to take the pan off the heat? You want to stop further cooking. The residual heat is just what you need. You also move the contents of the pan around swiftly, to reduce the contact with heat. This is essential to keep the pepper as fresh and as spicy as possible – Mummy’s Tip. I was working too fast to stop to take pictures, I only have pictures of the semi-finished product.
as you can see, the chopped ata rodo has only wilted a little, and I mean a little. This keeps its integrity in terms of heat, which is so signature Asun.
The aroma of the smoked goat meat, tells you you have a winner right there. From start to finish, that smokey flavour must be preserved.
I started on this with a spoon, shovelling it in, forgetting I had guests. This is one of the times I agree with Margaret Thatcher, when she said “Greed is good”. Looooool
I decided to take this further. Actually, how to present this all 2014, Nigerian posh grub was the issue. I don’t know why my mind strayed to cheese. I thought to myself, Dunni cheese, hmmmmn, how would that taste. Ding! Ding! Ding!. Goats Cheese. Courtesy of attending the Walkers Chips event, I now have a view on expensive food items. The taste is so much better. This pricey goats cheese, combined with Asun, AMAZING. This is THE BEST thing I have eaten this year. For someone who hates cheese, that’s saying something.
Smoked Goat Meat + Goats Cheese, in one mouthful.
Serve it with flatbread or crackers and watch your taste buds sing to high heavens.