I am very excited to be writing this. Very, very. I have never prepared Abacha before. To crown it all, I haven’t even eaten it before. I realised how much I had been missing yesterday. My friend Cynthia, her mum is around on holiday, and in true tradition of our Mummy’s, they always come with goodies from home. Mummy C came fully loaded, and of course, I got my own share of the booty. Benefit of being neighbours, Lol. Of the things she gave me were Egusi, Abacha, Ugba, ground Ehu spices and Pap. I have put 3 out of the list to good use, and I can’t wait to do something interesting and out of the box with Pap. My head has been churning for days, so be on the look out for a truly astonishing recipe with Pap.
Having these ingredients in my hand, was my first chance to prepare Abacha and I asked Mummy C for her recipe and instructions. I patiently wrote everything down and nervously started yesterday evening. Usually, I go into a new recipe with a lot of confidence, somehow this dish made me nervous. I guess it was due to the fact that I had told Mummy C, I will be bringing the finished product over, for her to appraise. Knowing someone will be judging your food can be quite unsettling, even for the best of cooks. I finally had a semblance of how contestants on cooking shows feel. Even shows like Masterchef The Professionals and Great British Menu who showcase the culinary skills of professional chefs highlight this nervousness, so who am I to feel over-confident. Lol
To a cook, your dish is like your baby and you don’t want anyone talking smack about it. Food is to a cook, as a piece of art is to an artist. We guard it jealously and we take it very personal. I also happen to have the temperament of an artist to boot, so imagine my delight, when Mummy C said I did well. Whoop, whoop. Trust me, she wasn’t just being nice because she critiqued my Nkwobi, and corrected me in one area. I will be posting my Nkwobi recipe tomorrow as my weekly Friday afternoon special. I am truly psyched about that, and it was my first time too. When I was done cooking, in my standard re-branding and packaging of Nigerian food, I have decided to call it a warm oil bean and cassava salad. Sounds posh eh? Lol. I can just imagine the look on a patron’s face when he/she looks at a menu and reads Warm Oil Bean and shredded Cassava salad with bewilderment. Yes, that is our well-known Abacha and Ugba, simply re-packaged for mainstream consumption. That day will come by His Grace, I just know it. If you have other interesting ideas for re-branding Abacha, please let me know.
So, come along with me and share in my journey to making Abacha and Ugba. If you’ve never tried it before too, come on, pick a leaf from my book, journey into uncharted waters. Trust me, you’ll really love this.
You will need
3 cups of Abacha – dried cassava flakes
1 1/2 cups of Ugba – oil bean
1/2 a tablespoon of Kaun – edible potash
1 – 2 pieces of Ata rodo – depending on how hot you want it
1 cup of Shredded stockfish or dried fish – optional
1 tablespoon of ground ehu spices – calabash nutmeg
1/2 of 1 red onion
Pomo – optional
For the grilled mackerel, you will need
roughly chopped onion
1 whole mackerel
1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
Seasoning cubes – knorr chicken cubes
Fish sauce – optional
Pictures of the ingredients can be found on the Ingredientspaedia page HERE
Prepare all your ingredients – chop or roughly grind the ata rodo, soak the abacha in warm water to allow it plump and soften, cut the fish into pieces and clean, mix the kaun with 1/2 a cup of water.
1. Start on the fish, so it can be grilling while you prepare the abacha. I prefer to grill rather than fry my fish. Way, more healthy. I do this for meat, chicken and turkey too. Season the fish with salt, 1 seasoning cube, curry powder, and fish sauce. The fish sauce already contains salt, same with the seasoning cube, so leave out the salt. If you are not using fish sauce, sprinkle in a little salt.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: I love the flavour of grilled onion and garlic, so to introduce it to the fish, I stuff the spaces with onions and garlic, and also place bits of it over the pieces of the fish.
Place in the oven, turn the knob to girl and set the temperature to 200. Gas mark 3
2. Now to the abacha. Soak in warm water for 20 minutes to allow the cassava flakes to soften
3. Mix the akawun/kaun and 3/4 cup of water. This will result in a grayish looking solution
4. Pour palm oil into a deep saucepan and stir in the kaun solution. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you only need the solution at the top, do not stir in the sediments below. Stir in the akawun/kaun solution and watch as the red palm oil changes to a shade of light orange and increases in volume. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: add the kaun solution in bits, and watch for the thickness of the palm oil mixture. If you add too much of it, you end up with a watery palm oil mixture.
4. Add the ata rodo, ground ehu spices, ugba and stir. This will mop up some of the liquid content of the palm oil mixture.
Add the abacha
Combine the abacha with the rest of mixture.
If you are going to be using pomo and shredded stockfish, now is the time to add it and stir. Season with seasoning cube
To truly make it a warm salad, put the pot on low heat for 2 minutes to truly warm through and cook the seasoning cube. The thought of eating a dish containing seasoning cubes that hasn’t been cooked with heat, gave me heebie jeebies. So, please warm it slightly.
get the fish out of the oven and plate
………………………….and here’s my Abacha and Ugba, plated all pretty. Tell me if this was tagged Warm Oil Bean and shredded Cassava salad in a restaurant as a starter, you won’t eat it. Lol
When next you have a dinner party, consider serving this as a starter, or you can serve my Mosa and lemony palm oil sauce. Recipe HERE
A reader challenged me on the use of Kaun, which isn’t truly healthy to eat, and she’s asked that I find an alternative. I discussed this with Mummy C, and she said an alternative to Kaun is Ncha. Ncha is made from the ash of burnt palm kernel branches. So, great tip right there, people. Buy Ncha instead. I have definitely taken a note of that, as one of the things my mum will be bringing for me. For my readers who live outside Nigeria, this doesn’t help much, so back to high school chemistry and experimentation. I tried baking soda, cream of tartare (as it contains potassium), no luck with both. I then tried corn flour, as it is used to thicken sauces and gravy. I believe I got a winner with corn flour. Here’s my result below. It does have the look and consistency of the palm oil mixture with Kaun, doesnt it?
I will be experimenting with it fully on Saturday. I have another interesting spin on Nkwobi. Something outside of the standard cow leg.