The last time I posted a recipe for Egusi Ijebu feels like a lifetime ago now. I didn’t exactly nail the recipe then, because some of the feedback I got said it didn’t look as smooth as Egusi Ijebu is supposed to be. I admit I was wrong with that recipe, because it was a little pebbly looking, plus I didn’t blend all the ingredients before cooking. Oh, I didn’t know my friend Funmi then. You guys know Funmi is like the cooking twin sister that I never had. We are even a few months shy of each other, born the same year. We can’t be around each other for more than 2 minutes without talking about food. In fact, Part 1 of Ewedu Asepo (recipe HERE), was cooked in her kitchen. Sadly, Funmi and I are no longer neighbours. Thankfully, they have moved to a bigger house now. I say thankfully, because it is progress for her and her family. She and Bros have always wanted a bigger place for their girls, so, I can’t be anything but happy for them. I was in physical shock when she told me, and was sad for days, but hey she only moved 5 minutes drive away, and yup the new kitchen is huuuuuuuuuuuge. I can spend forever there. Double this, double that and a GAS cooking range. Our development only has electric cookers. I have told her I am going to be camping there ever so often, she will have to chase me out with her cooking spoons. Her girls are delightful children, especially the little one, who is such an energetic child, we call her Duracell baby. It can be exhausting just following her with your eyes, but her smile is so beautiful and especially her laughter, is one of the best sounds I have ever heard.
To launch my presence in her Kitchen, the first of many by His Grace, after I was done with Ewedu Asepo (recipe HERE), I told her to show me how she made her Egusi Ijebu, because the colour and consistency of her Egusi Ijebu is amazing. I have eaten it many times and it reminded me of Iye Gbuyi’s Egusi Ijebu. She didn’t have goat meat in the freezer, and I wasn’t willing to go back home to go get out my uncooked and frozen goat meat. Did I mention that I went home THREE times to get Palm oil, which by some weird reason I kept forgetting. Smh. In the absence of goat meat, we decided to do Surf and Turf, and not just with any fish, but a firm fish that would hold up its own like Hake. Hake is the fresh form of Panla/Stockfish. What better fish to use. Funmi also suggested that we fry the fish amd meats lightly, for extra flavour. You know anything fried is tasty right, even better in Egusi soup. It is always a lovely experience to stand by in the kitchen and watch someone else cook and learn. I never miss an opportunity. I owe all my cooking knowledge and expertise to watching and learning. So, thank you Funmi for this. #Let’s Cook…..
You will need
Toasted Egusi (melon) seeds – very important, to toast in a pan to ease out the natural oils from the egusi, which help it form that very vital smooth texture
Red/white Onions – lots of it
Tatashe – red bell pepper
Ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
Iru – fermented locust beans. You can leave this out, if you can’t source it
Ogiri – one – two wraps, depending on the volume of Egusi. You can leave this out, if you can’t source it
Smoked Mackerel – optional
Assorted Meat – preferably goat meat, but any type of meat is fine
Hake – or any firm fish like croaker
Stock – from your meat
1. Toast the Egusi seeds in a dry frying pan, until the seeds start to brown a little. Be careful they don’t burn (i will bring a picture later)
2. Blend all the ingredients save for the Fish, meats and Ogiri in a blender. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: egusi Ijebu is meant to be smooth, smooth, smooth. So therefore, eveything you need to add flavour, that will not dissolve naturally (like Ogiri), should be blended. You also need to blend with water and beef stock, because the paste should be quite watery to start with. It will thicken in the pot don’t worry, besides Egusi Ijebu is a very fluid soupy soup.
3. Empty the contents of the blender Jug into a pot, and pour in Palm oil
4. Now, this is where Funmi instructed very seriously. As soon as the pot is on the heat, you have to stir and stir with your back into it, because if you leave the Egusi undisturbed, it will start to clump together and naturally form lumps, or at the least pebbles, which you don’t want, so you stir, stir, and stir, while it is cooking, to incorporate the palm oil, at first, and then as it cooks.
5. Keep stirring until you can see and feel the egusi thickening. The palm oil should have properly combined, and the signature Egusi Ijebu colour, should be slowly forming. Midway before this stage, you should have added the Ogiri. It will dissolve, and the aroma is amazing
6. You now need to let the Egusi bubble up and cook some more. You know you have done a good job of stirring, if when left alone, it doesn’t clump up, stick to the bottom of the pot or form pebbles. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Remember my tip in Step 1, where I advocated for lots of water and/or beef stock. You will see why that is important.
7. While we were allowing the Egusi cook undisturbed, we fried the hake. It looked prettier to cut the standard fish slices to bite sized chunks.
8. When the soup has thickened sufficiently, add the fish and assorted meat pieces – goat meat, beef, saki, pomo, cowleg, anything you have at home. Once they are in, stir, taste for salt and seasoning cubes, and re-adjust if necessary.
see how smooth the soup is? This is the real McCoy Egusi Ijebu
Give it much longer on the heat, and you should notice the colour of the Egusi deepen to a mustard-ish shade. Also teeny tiny patches of palm oil interspersed with the natural oil of the Egusi should be doing Pee-a-boo on top of the soup………………and you are done
One of the most beautiful Nigerian dishes is Egusi Ijebu….
Before I went to “launch” Funmi’s Kitchen, I was watching TV one evening and one of the adverts for winter soups was on. It was a butternut squash soup, and I thought hmmmmmmn, now that reminds me of Egusi Ijebu. Loads of Nigerians live abroad. For many of us in Temperate regions, Autumn is here to stay, and cold is no respecter of nations. We all need something to warm our cockles, and peppersoup (recipes HERE) seems to be our only option, so I thought hmmmn, if I let Funmi cook that her marvelous Egusi Ijebu, and make it spicy enough, that can be a winter soup for us Nigerians, right? Serve with toasted/grilled baguette slices to complete it, and that can be a bona fide Autumn dinner.
In the past, I used to get a little apprehensive about releasing some food combinations, because I wasn’t sure if it will be well received. I am thankfully over that now. If it makes sense in my head, and it looks great, out into the world it goes. One of those moments when I get feedback, saying oh Dunni, sure, we eat it like that at home. Bread and Egusi is a good combination. In fact, a friend Lola whose husband is full Ijebu, and also raised in Ijebuland told me her husband eats Egusi Ijebu with bread very often. Slam dunk!!!!!! Signed off by an Ijebu man. Se fini. I also got suggestions about Panini, Agege bread, and so forth. My bestie Kemi, enjoys her with Agege bread and sometimes Dodo. I was grinning from ear to ear the day this picture went up on Social Media. It feels good to know you are not crazy. Emphasis on totally, some of us are a tad functional crazy. Just a tad though. Hehehehehehe.
Enjoy the pictures. Egusi Ijebu never looked so good.
Curl up on the sofa on an Autumn evening, lightly grill your bread, and dip happily into your bowl of Egusi Ijebu.
I want to share some of the woes of web development. I hired the services of a graphics designer for logo designs. I wanted something representative of our food. Hmmmmn, people, this experience has made me more motivated. The sheer volume of people who have no clue about our food, or have a misconception that it looks crude and all over the place, will shock you. I got this feedback from so many designers on what “African food” is supposed to look like. A few came back and told me, after going through the blog, never in a million years, did they think “African food” can look good. They just think of “foufou”. While I was plating this dish, those conversations came flashing across my memory and I said you know what Dunni, this Egusi Ijebu is NOT going to look like what people expect. I wasn’t going for any plating pyrotechnics, but simple, classy, chic and most of all stunning.
Amazing what a difference slices of red chilies, spring onions and of course by new Canon lens can do. I hope you agree
My new personal motto – make regular Nigerian food look not like Nigerian food, if that makes sense.