I hosted The Atoke of Bella Naija last week. She came on Thursday night with express warnings of ‘Dunni, I am on a strict diet please, all those tantalising dishes of yours, I can’t indulge. No carbs please’. I said okay, okay and snickered behind her back. Hehehehehe. No one comes over and tells me they can’t eat this or that. Let me finish cooking it first, and then we can have that conversation while you are resisting temptation. Anyway, in preparation of her arrival, I sent her a list of things I wanted to cook. Knowing meats are not her top priority in the food dictionary, I decided to get out my seafood stash from the freezer, including Lobster and make Fisherman’s soup instead. You see, I have been saving those Lobsters for special guests. One down, one more to go in the freezer. Applications to be my houseguest for a weekend are now welcome. Lol
Technically, Fisherman’s soup is just a fish broth made with Palm oil. I have made its sister dish before, Seafood Stew (recipe HERE). I did not call it Fisherman’s soup at the time because it was just a slight variation with vegetable oil and I added things like ground tomatoes, tatashe (red bell pepper) and red onions. I also did not need to thicken it, because the ground pepper mixture had done all that for me. I ended up making a stew. Not to open myself to raised eyebrows especially from Efik people who Fisherman’s Soup is native to, I decided to simply call it Seafood Stew. Since Atoke was coming over, and fish/seafood are one of her major sources of protein, I decided to make Fisherman’s Soup. I already had stew at home (ooooh, I invented a new stew, can’t wait to share), I decided to make Fisherman’s Soup instead of Seafood stew.
Now, this is where Atoke and I disagreed a little bit. Fisherman’s soup is thickened with a little garri. She told me zero carbs, like zilch, nada. ‘Dunni I haven’t eaten carbs for 3 months now, don’t make me come here for a few days and fall off the wagon’. Okay, Okay, I have heard. Now, what can I use to thicken the soup, otherwise it would be as watery as peppersoup. Think of Fisherman’s soup as the sister to peppersoup but with Palm oil and without the peppersoup spices. Fisherman’s soup is also a close cousin to the Rivers Native Soup (recipe HERE) very close cousin, just that cocoyam, achi or ofor is used as a thickener, instead of garri. Don’t you just love how united Nigeria is food wise.
Using only finely chopped or ground ata rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper) would not work, so I decided to go my seafood stew route and blend some tomatoes to give me the thickness I desired. Thickness to still make it a soup mind you, not stew. Atoke used the words, ‘Dunni don’t let the Devil use you o’. Well you guys know me, mischief is my middle name. I succumbed to a little temptation and used a teeny bit of garri, while she wasn’t looking. Just so I could give the soup a little body. The results were astounding and she loved the soup so much she had seconds and thirds. She found out later that I added garri. She enjoyed the soup so much, she didn’t complain. I know anyone on a diet would read this with a sharp intake of breath. Come on, I didn’t poison her, the amount I added was negligible. If you would like to take a break from meats for a while try making Seafood Stew or Fisherman’s Soup. Here’s how:
You will need
A medley of Seafood – i used lobster, tiger prawns, mussels, clams, crabs, monk fish and croaker fish. Use any bits of fish and seafood you can lay your hands on. Think Fishermen’s catch
3 pieces of Ata rodo
1 red onion
3 pieces of tomatoes – optional
1 – 2 handfuls of garri
Herb for garnishing – efinrin, nchawu, ntong, uziza, basil
1. Give your seafood a thorough rinse and set aside
2. Heat up palm oil in the pot, add chopped onions and add the salted and seasoned croaker fish. Carefully turn over the fish, for a light fry and then take it out. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you take out the fish to preserve its shape. Remember, you are only lightly frying the fish just to flavour the palm oil. Remember my Rivers Native Soup recipe (click HERE), this was how I started the soup. I love recycling stuff. Like I mentioned above, both soups are very close cousins. Lol
2. Add the blended tomatoes and let it cook for a bit in the palm oil. This is not stew, so you don’t need it to fry. Just enough to cook to get rid of the sour, acidic tomato flavour. Again, adding tomatoes is optional and not the traditional route to go. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: for rivers native soup, I added just pepper, which was fine because I had a thickener coming to complete the job. With my guest on a strict diet, my starchy thickener was banned, so the next possible option which would give the soup some needed body and healthy for her to eat were tomatoes.
3. Add water. Enough water to cook the seafood that you have. Enhance the taste with salt and seasoning cubes. Let it boil for a bit
4. Add the seafood. I started with my giant Mr Lobster
followed by crabs
followed by mussels and clams
and then tiger prawns and chopped monk fish
This filled the pot, and even took over the watery stock. I lowered the heat, as you should do when cooking seafood. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: it is important to cook seafood on low heat to preserve the flavour. Except if you want to sear it i.e. flash cooking, and with flash cooking, the seafood cooks in minutes.
5. Remember to return the croaker fish back to the pot. As the fish and seafood were cooking in the stock, they were releasing their own water, making it even more watery like peppersoup. I knew I just had to thicken it. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: If this was meat you see, I would just have left it to continue cooking, and wait for the stock to thicken on its own, but with the expensive seafood I had in that pot, it is a great injustice to leave them to over cook. Great injustice. Seafood loses flavour, texture feels rubbery and gross if you let it over cook. Lobster cooks in 8 minutes mind you, the rest in under 5 minutes. Chef Jason Atherton would probably have my head for daring to cook seafood with different cooking times in the same pot, but I still followed the rules by adding the lobster first, then later the rest. With no choice left to me, I quickly soaked garri in water, let it soften and I added it to the pot. Readjusted for salt again and let the garri do its job.
Ta daaa, a few minutes later, my previous watery almost transparent peppersoup like fisherman’s soup thickened beautifully, and by thickened it took on a soup texture (think western soups) and not stew like i.e. Nigerian red stew. I was so pleased, it was worth ‘allowing the Devil use me to ruin Atoke’s diet’. Hehehehehe. If you still want it thicker, you either add more garri or you take out all the seafood and let the soup thicken on its own on high heat.
This was just gorgeous with roasted plantain. See Mr Lobster there rising up to be noticed.
This is a winning dish when you truly want to impress. It is also simple, simple, simple. You can’t go wrong. If you have tried my Rivers Native Soup, this would just be a breeze. I suggest you serve in a very big deep dish and garnish with chopped herbs. In this case, I used Uziza.