After a very busy Friday and Saturday, which I spent giving the whole place a good clean, Sunday evening came and I realised I had no food in my freezer for the week. The Horror!!!! No food in my freezer is a disaster of epic proportions. Mind you, I have a ton of ingredients, both fresh, dry and frozen to feed an entire army, but I haven’t developed the magic spell for them to combine into hot delicious food. I am still waiting on J.K Rowling to invent something. Lol. Before starting the blog, I used to have these huge cook outs, producing food that would last 3 or even 4 weeks at a stretch. Now, thanks to you guys, I find myself cooking only for one week, and even at that, sometimes I will cook during the week to have new material for the blog. The positive side of this is, I get to do what I love, and the feedback you guys give me is a very good ego boost. My boss must think I have a new boyfriend or something because the time I spend grinning at my phone (when comments come in via email) is becoming suspicious.
So, Sunday evening after a huge meat shop from my favourite halal butcher, I kept staring at my freezer wondering what to cook. I came across my wrapped package of raw Egusi seeds and thought to myself, what else can I do with Egusi that I haven’t blogged about. Two options came to mind Ofe Okazi (okazi soup) and Egusi Ijebu. For sure, the Ijebu variant would win. Yes, I am tribalistic like that. Just joking. Y’all already know how much I love my mother’s side of the family. If you have never tried Egusi Ijebu before, let me introduce you to my Grandma’s recipe today. You will lick your fingers, I promise you. This was Mama’s specialty and I remember eating it hurriedly with Eba and the juices running down my fingers. My sister has a weird way of adding plain boiled okro to it. No one got time for that. The minute Mama took the pot down from the stove, plates at the ready and it was time to eat. You would not talk till your plate was empty and you asked for more almost immediately. The beauty of Egusi Ijebu is the aroma. I can smell it from a mile away. Ogiri and Iru are the star components and you don’t, I repeat, you don’t mess with that flavour profile. If you’ve never added ogiri to your egusi soup before, the Ijebu’s are welcoming you to a whole new experience.
You will need
1 cup of Egusi seeds
1 medium-sized onion
1 piece of tatashe – red bell pepper
2 pieces of ata rodo – scotch bonnet/Habanero pepper
1 wrap of Ogiri
1/4 cup of Iru – fermented locust beans
Assorted meat – goat meat, saki, cowleg, pomo, beef
Panla – stockfish
1 cooking spoon of Palm Oil
1 – 2 cups of Beef stock
Eja Osan or Eja Kika – smoked catfish
1. Boil your meats with stockfish. Only season with onions, seasoning cube and salt. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: it is advisable to not season meats used for native soups with curry, thyme and the rest. They will interfere with the other ingredients creating a weird flavour. For stews and sauces, you can use them. When boiling you meat, start with a little water at first to get a rich stock, later on you add more water.
2. Toast/dry fry the Egusi in a frying pan for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring regularly. This will brown the egusi a bit and enhance the flavour. After which you rinse the Egusi and blend with the onion till it is very smooth. Blend with as little water as possible. Set this aside.
3. Roughly Blend the tatashe with the ata rodo pieces and set aside. Rinse your iru with just enough water to ease out any dirt and stones.
Tear apart the Eja Osan into bite sized chunks and rinse
With all your ingredients prepped and your meats boiled
4. Add the palm oil to the pot and let it heat up for a minute or 2. Add the blended pepper and fry till the water content evaporates and it thickens. This should take about 3 minutes.
5. Lower the heat and add the iru.
Continue frying until you can smell the aroma of the iru in the pepper, and the pepper has thickened further to the consistency of well fried stew.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you lower the heat so that the iru can cook and fry with the pepper, without burning the pepper. If you fry on high heat, you will end up with a burnt mess. Remember, the flavour profile distinct to Egusi Ijebu is its aroma. Don’t ruin all your hard work before you even start.
6. Once you can smell and taste the iru, add the egusi paste, stir and cover the pot. Still on low heat, let the egusi fry for 7 – 10 minutes, stirring gently occasionally.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you need the egusi to fry properly to release its oils and its flavour. You will know when the Egusi has fried properly by the light orange colour and change in texture.
7. Add the beef stock, the meats, stockfish, wrap of Ogiri to the pot and stir. This will raise the volume of the contents of the pot, then you increase the heat.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you add the ogiri with the meats because you want the flavour to be absorbed into the meat. This is where the finger licking, bite your tongue bit sets in. Ogir and meat flavour = wowzer. By raising the heat, you speed up the cooking process, meaning the ogiri permeates into the egusi faster. No chance of burning as you have increased the water content of the Egusi. Nevertheless, stir regularly.
8. Let it cook for another 5 minutes, and watch as the Egusi thickens and bubbles begin to form at the top and the aroma is permeated by the Ogiri. It is unmistakable. If you have never cooked this before, you will just know it smells different.
Taste for salt and seasoning and re-adjust if necessary. If you used a rich and delicious beef stock you would not need to. Once the Egusi has thickened, add the chunks of smoked fish, stir and lower the heat. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you lower the heat to allow the steam of the egusi to cook soften the smoked fish which will release its flavour and at the same time absorb flavour. Let this cook for another 2 minutes and dilute the soup if necessary. I did just to create extra fluid as Mama’s Egusi Ijebu was never thick.
while it is still on the heat, oil will flow to the top and form patches, like the picture above. One final stir and the oil will combine beautifully.
Before you take it off the heat, ensure that you are satisfied with the taste. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: be careful with salt when cooking Egusi Ijebu. There are no chopped veggies which help to absorb salt, so be really careful with salt. You can go from delicious to salty, just like that. If you are wondering why I did not use crayfish, the answer is, you don’t as crayfish has a very strong flavour, which will interfere with the Ogiri and Iru. The flavour of Smoked fish and Stockfish compliment Ogiri and Iru beautifully. Crayfish is at the other end of the spectrum, so you leave it out.
…………………………………..and you are done.
Egusi Ijebu is best enjoyed with Eba. No doubt about it. Cold Eba to be precise. I decided to have fun with Eba and shape it in petal moulds. Hehehehehe.
Eweseo o, eyin Omo Alare (an Ijebu Greeting)
For my other Egusi recipes I have blogged about Egusi soup with two vegetables (recipe HERE) and Seafood Egusi (recipe HERE). For other Ijebu recipes on the blog. Ojojo (recipe HERE), Ikokore (recipe HERE) and Ebiripo (recipe HERE).
I will still be making Okazi soup one day. I have a wicked recipe. Stay tuned………………