Here’s one for the history books. Years from now Etinkeni Mmong Ikong will be gracing homes, restaurants and the online space, just like Edikang Ikong. I hope you will remember Dooney’s Kitchen with fond memories, while you dig into this bowl of absolute magic. Don’t bother trying to pronounce it. hahahahahahaha. We can call it the Efik E.M.I. Soup or simply Etinkeni Ikong, I know the ‘mmong’ may be difficult to pronounce. Basically it means Uziza and Water leaves soup. I totally made it up. Considering how much I love using Uziza leaves, it is incredible that this has never occurred to me before.
How did this come about? On my recent trip to Abuja, i probably bought half the market. hahahahaha. I enjoyed it though. I haven’t shopped at Utako market since 2009 and I was experiencing nostalgia in waves. The market hadn’t changed one bit, so I didn’t get lost thankfully, but the experience was heightened. I was chatting ten to the dozen with market sellers and like with Lagos, I came back well schooled. I mean I spoke with a Hausa/Fulani man selling spices and he schooled me on Kunu Aya (tiger nut milk). I have seen lots of recipes for Kunu Aya and trust me when I say none of them comes close to what this man told me. I thought wow, that information is gold right there. He showed me some northern spices that I have never seen before or even heard about. There is so much about the northern nigerian cuisine that we need to explore, and he helped fill some of the gaps for my cookbook. I have promised myself to visit Kaduna or Kano sometime next year and I am looking for someone who will take me around the markets for like 3 – 4 days. My mother is probably going to have apoplexy if I tell her, but I feel like I want, no scratch that, need to do it for posterity. I want the cookbook to be colourful and all-encompassing. No major food culture would be ignored. Fingers crossed, it works out. The first Dooney’s Kitchen Cookbook is something even the world hasn’t seen before.
Speaking of this recipe, the woman who sold me a huge bunch of yellow pepper was such a hoot. We had such a long chat about food, she said I must marry an Igbo man. As she was wrapping up some vegetables for me, I told her to add some Ugba, which I was going to make Ofe Akwukwo with. She screamed. Ehn, how do you know that soup? I told her that I have Igbo friends. When I told her to pack Usu for me, she kept giving me this strange look. She said what do you this ajebutter know what they use Usu for, I told her for forming Mgbam egusi balls for Ofe Okazi, then she screamed some more, and told me to sit down, sit down, ehn, you know that soup too? Oya, which other Igbo soups do you know how to cook? Then I started reeling them out, and her eyes were widening with each dish. hahahahahahahaha. I don’t know what it is about our generation, and I mean women in their 20’s and early 30’s, that the common assumption is that we have become so modernised, we don’t know how to cook. You could see genuine surprise on her face. I told her that I have a food website where I share recipes, and she told me to write it down for her and she would check it out. She repeatedly mentioned that I must marry an Igbo man o, so that my skills won’t go to waste. I remember when I bargained at a price for something else that she sold, and she said no, I would ‘threaten’ her that I would marry a Yoruba man, and she would scream, lai lai. hahahahahaha. I told her that my mother is Yoruba, she looked at me and harrumphed. When I added that but my father is Delta Igbo, she broke out smiling and said I am half way there. I wasn’t even offended. Lol. Gosh, i had so much fun at utako market two sundays ago. Thankfully the weather co-operated and it wasn’t too hot, so i happily spent hours there, shopping and shopping.
So, back to Etinkeni Mmong Ikong. The woman who sold me peppersoup spices, sold me uziza leaves and water leaves. You know how this dish came about? She placed both in the same cellophane bag. When I travel with leafy veg, i wrap in newspapers, to allow the vegetables to breathe, because using cellophane will generate heat and cause the vegetables to start wilting. So, while i was unpacking and putting things in the freezer, I unwrapped my uziza leaves and water leaves almost simultaneously and a smile started to slowly form on my face. Of course, of course, of course, I can use the Edikang Ikong recipe, but swap Ugu for Uziza. Hands down, THIS is better than Edikang Ikong. Like seriously, no competition. Uziza trumps Ugu times 500, everybody knows that, so you can imagine how delicious and aromatic this soup is. Gosh the aroma, the aroma, the aroma, the aroma. OMG, you would want to stick your head in the pot and leave it there. So, welcome to try another Dooney’s Kitchen Original, and I don’t even have any Efik relation ties, hahahahaha. Years from now, I hope and pray that Etinkeni Mmong Ikong, or we can shorten it to Etinkeni M. Ikong (sounds like someone’s name, lol), will be a staple in Nigerian and non Nigerian homes across the world. Let’s Cook
- 2 bunches of Uziza
- 4 bunches of Waterleaves
- Assorted meats
- Palm Oil
- Stock fish
- Smoked fish
- Snails - optional
- Seasoning cubes
- 3 - 5 pieces of Yellow pepper
- Season and boil your assorted meats. Halfway through, add the tough smoked fish and/or stockfish to the pot, to allow it to soften. Let the meats boil till there is almost no water (beef stock) left in the pot. Once you have achieved this, add roughly blended/pounded yellow pepper and stir.
- When the stock from the meats has reduced significantly till it is almost dry, chop the two vegetables thinly and rinse. If you are using a very sharp knife, may i advise you to be veeeery careful. I sliced off half the top of the tip of my thumb trying to cut the leaves thinly and I am still bitching about the pain almost 5 days after. So be careful please. Another thing to note is that water leaves start to turn to mulch very quickly after rinsing and will reduce into a pool of water in your soup. If you have been struggling with edikang ikong, this is one of the major reasons why, so ensure that it is one of the last things you chop before you start cooking, so the integrity of the water leaves are still intact before they get to the pot.
- With your leaves chopped, add palm oil to the pot. Like edikang ikong, there is no getting away with using a good amount of oil for this soup. Start with 2 - 3 cooking spoons. . Allow the palm oil to dissolve and combine properly.
- Add the ground crayfish and perwinkles, then stir. During this time, the liquid content of the pot should have even reduced further. This picture proves it. See how there is no pool of water beneath the spoon
- Add the water leaves and stir till they wilt.
- When they wilt, they should look like this
- Now, add the chopped uziza leaves, stir and give it too a few minutes to wilt and combine with the rest of the pot. There should be almost no liquid in this soup. It isn't dry though, just very mushy and yum.
- In about 2 minutes, the aroma would hit you, and you will know you are on to something. If you got your stock right from the early stages, you shouldn't need to re-season. If you still need a little extra salt, then re-season. This dish will be the one of highlights of your cooking this year, I promise. If you have been struggling with Edikang Ikong, just use this recipe and all your issues would resolve.
Yes, this soup will be THE HIGHLIGHT of your cooking this year . Please let me know how it goes. You can tag @dooneyskitchen on Instagram or Twitter. Or send it to The Dooney’s Kitchen Tribe site.