Well, we have all heard of Buka Stew (recipe HERE), what better pairing than Buka Ewedu. I have put up a post for Ewedu (recipe HERE), but I called it Ewedu Special, because it truly is special because of the bumper ingredients added to it, you can almost call it a soup on its own. Buka Ewedu like Buka stew is made with profits in mind. Like Buka stew, the beauty is in its simplicity. No fuss, just gorgeous green ewedu with white flecks in it.
You may have wondered what the white flecks are, or you may already know. The white flecks are Ground Egusi powder, plain and simple. If you have wondered why Egusi is added to ewedu, let me tell you now, it is to add volume and not necessarily flavour. Egusi in Ewedu bulks it up some more, so it can go further. You know those Buka madams are very sensible. If you read my Buka stew post, you will understand why tomatoes play a minor role in Buka stew. Good ol’ Buka economics. Now, the matter of Iru for Buka Ewedu can be contested, it adds flavour to Ewedu, lots of potent flavour. Some Buka’s add it to their Ewedu, some don’t, but you will find that in Buka that sell only Amala, or where Ewedu plays a major accompaniment to their stew, Iru is added for extra flavour. Especially Buka’s in Ibadan and parts of Ogun state, seeing iru in your ewedu or at least tasting it, is what customers expect. You can use Iru in its whole form or the mashed form called ‘iru pete’. Whichever you have is fine. The odd place here and there adds ground crayfish but it is not common, remember, running a Buka is all about profits and crayfish is quite expensive.
Also, the Buka cooks tend to use something called an Ijabe to pulverise the Ewedu leaves to an almost rough texture. An Ijabe is simply a small broom with very sharp tips and I mean very sharp, but as with all things progressive, we have moved on to blenders now. I even used my hand blender to make this, no difference really. The only people who will complain about using a blender instead of an ijabe, are the same people who complain about using a food processor to pound yam, we know by now that their opinions don’t count, if they want to still be stuck in the past, more grease to their elbows. To help replicate the circular motion of the Ijabe, you can use a manual whisk. An electric whisk will also do the trick, as long because it will be whipping in air to create and expand the bubbles, making the ewedu will be sticky and elastic.
Now to the characteristic stickiness and elasticity of Ewedu. I would like to tell you that it is mainly due to the leaves. Just like with some ogbono seeds, some Ewedu leaves do not produce that sticky elasticity you expect. The same also applies to okro, so don’t beat yourself too much about it. One thing that helps to create that desired effect is Potash (kaun in Yoruba, Akawun in Ibo, Kanwa in hausa). You only need a little of it, to prevent the ewedu from ending up as a flat green soup. Another thing that affects the elastic consistency are the extra ingredients that you add, so be mindful of that. My grandma always added her extra’s after the ewedu had boiled, so as to give it a chance for its natural stickiness to come out, before it is tainted by the extra ingredients. Things like seasoning cubes, truly affects its sticky consistency, so if you will use it at all, make sure it is at the very end once it is off the heat. I use ground crayfish to season and it does a better job than seasoning cubes.
One more thing. If you live abroad, I have been told that the equivalent of our local Ewedu leaves are Jute Leaves or Molokhia. They can be found in Asian stores, and they mostly come frozen. Here’s how I make my Buka ewedu.
You will need
Ewedu leaves – or jute or molokhia
Ground Egusi powder
1. Pick the ewedu leaves off their stalk. This is essential. I was brought up with picking the leaves this way, because the stalk interferes with the apearance and texture. Unlike other Nigerian vegetables, when making Ewedu, you don’t need any stalk, just the leaves. I am working with two bunches here, bought for me by my lovely neighbour Funmi A.
2. Add enough water to cook the ewedu into a wide saucepan. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: i prefer you use a wide saucepan to allow you have enough room to use the whisk. Add in the potash rocks and allow the water to boil to dissolve the potash. You need the potash to completely dissolve. Don’t add too much potash otherwise it will affect the taste, and also give the ewedu a yucky shade of brown.
3. While the water is boiling or even before, blend the ewedu leaves with a little water. You only need a little water. You need a rough blend. You can use a traditional blender jug or a hand blender. Look closely, notice how it is just the leaves and no stalks.
4. Blend to a rough paste.
5. Pour the blended ewedu into the saucepan boiling with potash and water. Leave the ewedu leaves to boil until it becomes slightly darker and with bubbles popping up. As soon as foamy bubbles start to appear, use your whisk vigorously in small/tight circular motions, this is to work out the elastic nature of the ewedu giving it its signature consistency.
6. Add the ground egusi powder. This is important to use dry powder and not wet. Wet ewedu clogs the ewedu particles and also reduces its stickiness. Trust me. You only need to add a little egusi. About 1 – 2 tablespoons or more, depending on how much ewedu you are making. Also add the Iru and give the entire contents of the saucepan a good whisk.
7. If the Egusi has thickened your ewedu more than you like, just add hot water to dilute. Once you get the consistency that you wish, take it off the heat and season. I used ground crayfish, you can use salt or half a seasoning cube. My grandma always allowed the residual heat to allow the ground crayfish cook with the ewedu. You don’t need to cook ewedu for too long, prolonged heat affects its stickiness ad colour, just as with Okro. You want your ewedu bright green, so cook as quickly as you can.
………………………..and that’s your Buka Ewedu.
Serve with Buka Stew. Yum
Make Ewedu this weekend. Enjoy!!!!!