You know what prompted the last post, this one. I sat down to type the recipe and suddenly felt so weak and overwhelmed. I had to get up from my seat and deliberately chat with someone just to shrug it off my shoulders. I tried to write again and the words just weren’t coming. I kept playing over the events of last weekend. Then I got to writing the last post. I had gone halfway before I realised, ooops, I am not writing about food. In fact, if I didn’t check at the last minute, that post would have had the same title as this one. Honestly, I am glad I got it out because the emotional writers block just lifted. To all of you who sent me a message on Facebook, left comments on the Dooney’s Kitchen Facebook Page, even on Twitter, left comments on the blog, I am truly grateful. For you guys to stand up like that in support, I felt really blessed. You guys will forever represent the majority to me, and I have taken all your advice on board and best wishes. This is what I love to do, and no one can take that away from me. Thanks again. My Mum says Thank you too. At your point of need, may you all will be surrounded by people who will come out and support you. I will never forget. Onward March to Progress.
Serendipity brought this recipe right into my laps. I wanted to make my Shombo (red chillies) stew one Saturday. It was a stew I developed when I lived in Abuja. It is my answer to red ayamashe but with only shombo. In English, imagine a stew made with just chillies. It is so hot, it will blow your head off, but really delicious at the same time. When I made it for friends, I served it with very cold water and a box of tissues. They would clean their plates while blowing their noses. Olamide, Fifi, Amaka, Bose, if you guys are reading this, you sure would remember. For this post, I decided to add long red pepper to tone down the heat, just so you guys won’t be discouraged to try it out. If you are brave, make this with only Shombo. Each time I started on the stew, I got distracted till it got dark and I forgot about it. That evening, my neighbour Funmi invited me over to her house for a “Come Dine With Me” style friendly cooking competition amongst her friends. It was there I met Chineo Bally. If you don’t know who Chinelo is, I suggest you Google or read her Bella Naija interview HERE. She was a finalist that made us proud on the BBC show The Great British Sewing Bee. The grand finale was last night. Though she didn’t win, Chinelo, you will always be a winner in our eyes. Your talent will always shine forth, we are right behind you cheering you on. It has been proven that you don’t need to win a show to be a huge success. Insert Olly Murs and Timi Dakolo.
We got to talking about Ayamase and she mentioned the woman who sold “Designer Stew” in Alade Market. She left Nigeria when she was 8 and she still remembers that stew. Of course, the other half of my childhood started off at Allen Avenue, so that stew is ingrained in my memory. We kept reminiscing about the stew, how it was deep red and not brown like Ayamase. The flavour is also quite distinct. Chinelo said her friends mum is the only person that has so far come close to re-creating that taste. I said really, tell me, tell me. Chinelo gladly shared and I knew I was going to try it out. Her friends mum’s added tomatoes to hers but I wanted to stick to my Shombo stew ingredient list, boosting it with the extra tips Chinelo provided.
Think of this stew as a mash up of Ewa Aganyin + Buka Stew + Ayamase. Yes you read that correctly. The best of those 3 stews in one = an amazeballs stew that will finish with incredible speed. Look at how much I made. Between Atoke and I, we finished it in two days. She kept saying Dunni, this is so nice, I responded with, I know right? Lol. I planned to save some for Chinelo, but our greedy fingers got it all. Now, I have to make another pot. You smell it, and you think Ayamase because of the Iru and bleached Palm Oil, then you taste it and you get inflections of Ewa Aganyin from the burnt onions and slow cooking of the pepper, then towards the end you get that Buka Stew undertone because of the red pepper. BOOM!!! Smogersbord of flavours right there.
This stew is a lesson in patience. If you have a slow cooker, yaaaay for you. If you don’t I am giving you a huge pat on the back and cheering you on. You will be glad you did. Make lots of it please, otherwise you will want to go make another pot right away. If you have a family, they won’t be pleased to hear it has finished, and they wouldn’t understand that it took you almost 12hours to make it, you can’t just whip it up again at will. Lol. Remember I promised to try slow cooked stew when I put up my slow cooked Goat meat Peppersoup recipe (click HERE), well, I lived up to that promise. Thanks Chinelo. Slow Cooked Stew Rocks
You Will need
Fresh Shombo – red chilli
Long red Pepper – the long version of tatashe
Crushed Chillies or Roughly ground dried shombo
Chopped red onions
Iru – fermented locust beans
To make this stew, you either start at night and let it fry overnight, then finish off in the morning or you start early in the morning and serve for dinner. You need those hours people, it is very crucial to the taste. No cheating here but it doesn’t need your input so don’t think you would be standing over your cooker watching stew cook.
1. The trilogy stew starts with the Ayamase (ofada stew) technique of bleaching the palm oil. Only for 10 minutes or even less. Remember, you don’t need to bleach forever anymore.
2. Add the chopped red onions – this is the ewa aganyin part of the stew
3. Let the onions burn
Scoop out the onions and take it off the heat, so it doesn’t continue heating up. I tried scooping out the onions with a spoon but it was proving annoying, so i got out a small sieve
Ewa Aganyin bit of it still continuing
4. Add the pepper and let it fry for a bit till you start to see oil bubble up – you should have pre boiled the pepper till it gets thick
5. From the picture below, you can see that the pepper has a fried look with oil bubbles. Now add the beef stock, then the waiting magic happens. Turn down the heat to the lowest. I’m afraid, lowest.
Let it continue fry, it will take hours. Chinelo’s tip was actually for it to fry overnight. I started this around 7pm and by the time it crossed the 3 hour mark, the flavour started to change. It was so intense, I thought wow, and let it continue frying.
keep frying, by this time it had been frying for almost 6 hours on the lowest heat. Number 1 on my hob. The palm oil had started flowing back to the top. The aroma in my flat was AMAZING. I feel I have to add, it did not burn AT ALL.
keep frying, until the palm oil no longer shows up in patches like the picture above and pools in the middle. I have to add, I have only used stock, no extra salt or seasoning added. I could have added iru at the start, but I wasn’t sure how iru would taste after frying for hours. Not good, I think.
6. Add the meats and assorted meats. I used diced beef, saki, cowleg, offals
7. Add water to give your stew some volume. Not just volume but, enough fluid to allow the meats absorb the flavour of the slow cooked stew. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: If you add the meats to the stew without water, the flavour of the thickened stew, won’t permeate the fleshy bits. This is where the Buka Stew magic comes in. You also add iru at this point for the exact same reason, I mentioned above. Ayamase inflection also comes in here. See, that I said this is a trilogy of stews.
8. Now the water is in, re-adjust for salt and seasoning and let it boil. As it boils, you would start to see palm oil floating to the top.
See, it is still boiling. The aroma when you get to this stage is better tried than imagined. You would have your household slowly making their way to the kitchen wondering what it is you are cooking.
Keep at it, let it continue cooking, till it darkens. Right now, it is still orangey looking. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: what you are trying to achieve is a balance of a fried stew that still has volume. Not sure if that makes sense i.e. this is not buka stew that needs to be watery, at the same time not totally well fried ayamase. A happy medium between both.
9. Now, to the most important part, what Le French call the Pièce de résistance. Just imagine me saying this in a French accent, hahahahahaha. Just as the colour starts to change to a deeper shade of red, add crushed dried chillies or roughly ground dried shombo pepper. This tip came from Chinelo Bally.
sprinkle it on top
10. Leave it again to continue cooking, till the palm oil pools back up again. See what I mean, it has darkened to a very deep crimson, fancy word for red.
This is exactly what you want. Once you get this, you are done. I told you, this stew is a labour of love, but the good thing is that, you don’t have to be standing there slaving over the stove. Just leave it to work its magic on its own. Till the end, there wasn’t a single burnt bit. Not a one.
I would have served it in a bowl and plated it all pretty, but I had to go pick up Atoke from the station. Serve this with anything, if you don’t sit down with a spoon and just dig in. Trust me, it was that good, I was tempted.
For breakfast, we served what was left with Ekuru. Recipe for Ekuru (click HERE)