The well cooked, well loved, lots of individual recipes, Egusi soup. The Yoruba’s will tell you they have their method, which involves frying with blended pepper. The Ibo’s will say, no no, you fry with Palm oil, and if I’m correct, people from Calabar also subscribe to this method. You can cook it plain without adding chopped vegetables, though some will argue that a handful of vegetables is needed, others drench Egusi with chopped vegetables. Whichever method you adhere to, no one can doubt the love that Nigerians have for Egusi Soup.
More commonly, Egusi soup is cooked with meat, and the assorted varieties from goat meat, to offals, saki (stomach), cow leg, pomo (skin) chicken, turkey, you name it. Likewise, it is also accompanied by condiments such as crayfish, smoked prawns, dried fish, stockfish, iru (fermented melon seeds) etc. Well, I decided to stray a little and cook mine with crab, stockfish and smoked seafood. No meat in sight. Why? I wanted to switch things up. Egusi soup though delicious, can be monotonous, so I wanted to surprise my taste buds, and what better way to do it than with crab. Crab, oh crab. I can extol its virtues for days, such delicious succulent meat. In western dishes, crab is usually cooked with just its meat, but the shell has its own rich flavour. Thank goodness Nigerian food is rustic and we eat with our hands, so we are not missing out on the whole crab experience. Lol
Prep time: 20 – 25mins. Cooking time: 20mins
So, what do you need?
2 pounds of Whole Crab including its legs
1 1/2 cups of whole Egusi
1 medium sized piece of stockfish
1 red onion
Tatashe (red bell pepper) – 2
Rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper) – 4
1 cup of smoked prawns
1/2 a cup of crayfish
1/2 cup of Iru (fermented melon seeds)
1 handful of chopped vegetables (Ugwu preferred)
1 tablespoon of dried bitter leaf (optional)
Seasoning cube (Knorr chicken preferred)
So, here we go
1. Detach the legs, clean the crab thoroughly and set aside. Rinse your egusi and crayfish thoroughly. In a blender add the egusi seeds, chopped onion, crayfish and water just enough to cover the egusi. Blend this for a few minutes till you get a smooth (non grainy) paste. Decant into a bowl
2. Blend the Tatashe and rodo till you get a shaggy partially smooth consistency.
3. Heat up 1 – 1 1/2 cooking spoons of palm oil till its smokey. Add the pepper, and let it fry for a few minutes on high heat. When you can see bubbled dots in the pepper, add the Egusi paste, shredded stockfish, and smoked prawns. Stir and fry for 7 – 10 minutes. Keep stirring regularly
4. To cook egusi properly, you have to let it fry. This is also to kill off any germs that can lead to food poisoning. You’ll know you are there, when the paste looks and tastes grainy. Add salt and 2 seasoning cubes, plus a little water to dilute. Let this boil for a few minutes.
5. Taste the egusi for salt and seasoning, amend if necessary. At this point, add the iru, and crab, legs and all. Stir till the egusi evenly covers the crab. You will soon see why I advised at the beginning, to use a large pot. Cover the pot and let it cook for 10minutes, stirring and topping up regularly with a little water. Unlike meat, you can’t tell when crab is well done. All you need is time and your taste buds. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #: One of my hints is to notice when palm oil floats to the top. Also, when you can notice a watery streak leaching out from the crab, and you can taste crab in the Egusi. You should taste a certain distinct richness (undeniably crab) in the soup.
6. Add the chopped Ugwu and bitter leaf. Stir again, and turn down the heat to low. Let this simmer for another 2 – 3 mins, and that’s it. Remember to taste for salt and seasoning at the end. Serve with Pounded yam, Eba or Semovita
Dooney’s Kitchen Extra Tips
# In my recipes, you’ll notice that I add salt after an extended cooking process. This is to allow the ingredients cook in their natural flavours (untarnished by salt), which enriches the dish. Also with cooking, salt and seasoning becomes more concentrated, and this can result in a salty dish.
# If you are wondering why I did not use tomatoes, I leave it out when making Nigerian soups, due to its sweetness.
# With soups, when blending pepper, it is not necessary to achieve a smooth paste, unlike stew.
# It is in your best interest to use whole egusi and whole crayfish. The pre-blended option you get from the market isn’t always sanitary.
# If you have the bottled palm oil sold in stores, shake the bottle and use 2 cooking spoons
# The consistency of your soup shouldn’t be thick. Remember, this is usually only permissible when you are cooking with a significant portion of chopped vegetables
To my new readers, a very big welcome!!!