This weekend, I had a Food Order, and Buka Stew was on the list. There will always be something Iconic about Buka Stew and Dooney’s Kitchen. It was the very first recipe I posted, and by some coincidence that still surprises me, it has been the most successful recipe of this blog, next to Party Jollof rice (recipe HERE). The most tried, the most shared, the most viewed, the most comments, it took off from this blog and developed a life of its own. I have had hundreds of positive comments and emails, pictures, in fact at some point, it was all people were cooking on Facebook. I had people sending me emails from far-flung places in the world regaling the tales of Buka Stew. One common thread was the fact that women couldn’t believe that no extra spices beyond salt and seasoning cubes was needed for the stew to taste amazing. No curry, no thyme, no ginger, no garlic, nada. It throws away everything you know about stew, and brings you back down to the basics. Buka Science I call it.
I have had wives giving me glorious feedback from their husbands and family after trying the stew out, I have had single women come back virtually screaming. One person actually said her mother is now sure she is ready for marriage. I have even gotten comments from lots of men. The love of Buka stew knows no gender. I got comments which made me laugh, one of which was from Yinka who said, “she ate her fill of Buka Stew and Rice, slept off on the sofa and woke up to the smell of buka stew from an empty plate, she thought she was dreaming about being in a Buka in Lagos. She couldn’t believe an empty plate of food could still smell that good. Hahahahahahaha. Another particularly funny one was when someone wrote to me and said, “if he puts a ring on it, I swear I am naming my first daughter after you“. Some feedback almost made me cry. There was a particular email which said “I believe you have just repaired the relationship between my mother in law and I”. She has never complimented me on anything, the entire time I have been married to her son and when I made your Buka Stew, she could not stop praising me. It was as if someone else took over her body”. Another very touching email was someone who wrote to me and said “you may have saved my marriage. I cooked this stew and my husband who barely speaks to me anymore kept telling me how the stew reminded him of his Buka days at University. That was the first real conversation we have had in ages. All because of this stew”. I think I actually smiled and cried when I read that email. That is the power of Buka Stew people. The fact that you can re-create that universally loved Buka stew experience in your home is sheer magic.
What still amazes me till date is that, this recipe did not come with any pictures. None at all, just my explanation. It doesn’t even technically come with a recipe, just ratios of how much pepper to use, and you guys took the little I gave and ran with it. Like growing a single grain of corn and ending up with an entire forest, not a field, but a forest of corn springs up. I would like to give a huge shout out to Aunty Beebee. My partner in crime of Buka haunts. Her telling me how to cook this over a decade ago, I am sure she did not know then how powerful and revolutionary it would turn out. So here’s to you guys, the thousands of people who have tried the recipe. Here is our favourite Buka Stew in Pictures. Pardon the pepper spills around the pot. This was me cooking for a Meal Drop off Service and not for the blog at all. I listen to Rock Music when I have a big cookout, it helps me get all zen and in the zone. Home by Daughtry was playing, and there is something very nostalgic and reminiscent about that song. I suddenly remembered that I have cooked tons of pots of Buka Stew since I wrote that recipe and I still don’t have pictures. Quickly I went to get the camera and took some shots.
Start by frying chopped onions in veg oil till they soften. You can do this in the same pot you will fry the pepper in, or get a small pot and decant later. I was going through pots faster than I could wash them, so I opted for a smaller pot to fry the onions.
Ensure that you have your pepper all ready to go. You must have boiled it until it becomes very thick and has absorbed almost all the water it was blended with. This is essential, because you want the pepper to start frying within minutes of adding the oil.
Keep frying until the stew starts to become really thick, especially at the edges of the pot. See how thick it is, even though water and oil are still bubbling in the middle of the pot. You can save yourself splashes of pepper everywhere by covering the pot.
a closer shot of the pepper that had bubbled up to the cover of the pot. See how it is already taken on a stewed look.
Once it is well fried, add in lots of beef stock and water. You add enough water and stock to basically turn your previously fried stew to a watery level. Remember those buka madams are all about profit, so volume must come into play. Don’t fret. Just believe in Buka Science. The magic has started.
allow the water and stock to heat up and bubble vigorously. You are probably going to be wondering where your vegetable oil disappeared to. Not to worry, it is still there. Just allow it to keep bubbling and boiling.
Remember in the original recipe I mentioned boiling the meat, frying (or grilling) it and then boiling again. Well now you can see a picture of what I mean. Add your fried or grilled assorted meat to this bubbling watery pepper and water stock, leave it for another few minutes to continue boiling and then add the palm oil, stir and the palm oil will dissolve totally into the pepper.
Leave it and let it continue boiling. With Buka Stew, a lot of patience is involved, but the results are so worth it. You will know you are on to something when the first batch of Palm oil starts to float to the surface. This is also where you taste for salt and seasoning and readjust.
leave it to continue boiling, and you will notice that patch of palm oil getting spreading and forming river like patterns on the pepper. If you forgot to readjust for salt and seasoning, do so while little bits of palm oil are still floating to the surface.
See, the patch is spreading, and spreading. You will also notice that your previous watery stew is now getting thicker. The aroma wafting from the pot will start to evoke Buka memories, but it is not ready yet, don’t get too excited and stop now.
Just watch as that palm oil patch becomes to get increasingly wider, but bubbles of the liquid stew is peeking out amongst the patches. The meats that were totally buried by the watery stew are now making an appearance. You are almost there, but not done.
When the Palm oil patch has covered the majority of the pot, then you know you are done. Look at that, and tell me it doesn’t remind you of the huge steaming pots at the Buka. One thing I want you to notice is the fact that this stew is still not “thick” like regular home cooked stew. That is exactly what you want.
See bits of the stew below peeking out, that is the consistency you are aiming for. Buka Stew is not thick, the Buka Madams can’t afford to have that happen. It is light and fluid and still very delicious.
Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy Buka Stew is the ultimate pairing. Amala and Ewedu. In some parts of The South West, Gbegiri would make it a complete trifecta. Looking at that plate, doesn’t it remind you of eating at a Buka. See that fluid, flowing watery stew that is so signature Buka. This is what you should be aiming for. You can leave the leftovers to become thick, which is best enjoyed with fried yam, friend plantain, fried sweet potatoes etc
I will be posting my recipe for Buka Ewedu. I already have an Ewedu recipe on the blog. I named it Ewedu special (recipe HERE), because it is packed full of ingredients, but with Buka Ewedu, it is much simpler due to Buka Economics, which is tied to profits of course. The Buka madams can’t jam it full of ingredients, because ewedu comes complimentary with your stew, so it is quite cheap to make but fantastic at the same time.