My Grandma was one hell of a cook. Geez, that woman could throw it down real good in the kitchen. Despite the fact that she had some weird food allergies, like any kind of vegetable oil, she stuck with what she could tolerate and she made it well. Ikokore is a special dish of the Ijebu people of Nigeria and it really is a truly amazing dish. Something extra, extra special that can be served on its own or eaten with cold Eba (garri).
Ikokore is basically a savoury yam porridge, but unlike the classic Yam porridge we all know, Ikokore or Ifokore is made with another specie of Yam called Water yam. This yam is very hairy, and when cut the surface is very slimy. The water yam is grated and cooked in a very rich and delicious pepper and fishy stock till it cooks and forms lumps. My joy knew no bounds when my mum brought a big tuber of Water Yam. I remember it was one of the very first things I asked about as soon as I opened her luggage. Water Yam is so very rare to source where I live. Till date, I have never been able to buy one. If you are reading this and you have been able to get one in London and the surrounding areas, please, please tell me where. I have gone through 3 quarters of the tuber now and I am so sad to see it finish. The next bit will be used for Ojojo. Water Yam is also used to prepare a famous Ijebu snack called Ojojo. Ojojo is so delicious and addictive, I can’t wait to blog about it.
The last time I had ojojo was over 6 years ago, and it was a huge pleasure to stand beside Mummy while she cooked this. This is a combination of her Mum’s and her Aunty’s recipe. Both women have passed on now, but I am sure they will be proud to know their legacy lives on, in many ways than one. If there is an Ijebu person or family of the person you want to really really impress, you just prepare Ikokore for them and watch them smile and praise you with delight. Cooking is a super power people, use it. Lol
You wil need
Eja Kika – smoked fish
Eja Sawa or Eja Agbodo – another specie of smoked fish
Iru – Alhaja’s recipe
2 pieces of Tatashe – red bell pepper
2 pieces of Ata rodo – scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
Seasoning cube – knorr chicken cube preferred
1. Blend the tatashe and rodo and bring it to boil to thicken it. While it cooks……..
2. Cut the water yam and peel.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: don’t bother cutting the yam into rings like you would with regular yam, or you will waste it. I made that mistake and my mum corrected me. Instead, stand the yam up, and gently peel the skin off with downward strokes, and cut the peeled yam into thick irregular shaped chunks that will make it easier to grate
3. Grate the yam with the side of the grater shown in the picture
WARNING: water yam has the tendency to cause an itchy reaction if it touches any part of your body save for your hands of course. I don’t know why but it does, so be careful when grating and don’t allow any part of it to touch the rest of your body. If by accident it does, rub palm oil on the affected area and it will stop the itch.
Grate all the water yam and set aside. if it discolours a little bit, you don’t worry, that is the nature of water yam, it doesn’t affect the taste.
4. Get out your different types of smoked fish, clean and tear into bite sized pieces.
Clean the iru and blend.
5. Heat up one or two cooking spoons of Palm oil, add the blended pepper, sprinkle in Knorr chicken cubes
fry till it thickens further and bubbly dots form on the surface
6. Add a big serving of beef stock, about 3 -4 cups full or even more, and add all the chunks of smoked fish (depending on how much grated water yam that you have) and bring to a boil. Ensure that it boils properly as if you are trying to make stew. Taste it after it boils and add a little sat.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: just a little salt, not enough to season it. If you used beef stock, don’t add any salt at all.
7. Using a Sieve spoon or cooking spoon to sieve out all the fish you added in the Step above. Mummy’s Cooking Tip: this is to prevent the fish from burning because it will sink to the bottom of the pot after you add the grated yam. It also has the tendency to disintegrate further with the juggling motion of the bubbling pot.
8. Wit your the contents of the pot bubbling away, season the grated water yam with a little salt. Remember that you have added a little salt to the pepper stock, the remaining salt in the water yam is to finish it off. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: water yam can be quite tricky. You can grate a tuber and the resulting content is very light, watery and not slimy or stretchy. if this happens, Mummy says grate a little okro and add to it, which will provide the slime you will need. On the other hand, you can grate a tuber and the resulting content is very hard (especially if the yam is dry). If this is what you get, not to worry, just dilute with a little water till it becomes more fluid. Just a little water though – i.e. start with a teeny bit and mix with your fingers. If it is still thick, add more water and mix again. Repeat this process if necessary till you get a slimy, smooth flowing water yam mixture.
9. With the water yam in the right consistency, add it to the bubbling pot in very big lumps/balls and lower the heat.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you need to add it in big lumps so that some will dissolve into the stock forming a creamy consistency while others will form semi sold balls. This is Ifokore. If you add the water yam in small balls, everything will dissolve into the stock turning to baby food. Think of Yam porridge. You have some lumpy bits of yam, while the rest forms a creamy texture.. The same applies to Ikokore.
10. After about 10 minutes, stir carefully with a wooden spoon. NOT A metal cooking spoon please, so as not to break apart the lumpy bits. When you can see that the lumpy bits have thickened and the rest of the stock is now of a creamy consistency, (but not liquidy) re-introduce the fish that you sieved out back to the pot and stir carefully. Let this cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.
11. Add in ground crayfish and stir carefully again. Let it cook for 2 minutes and then taste for salt. You may or may not need to add salt.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: a cooking tip that I always share is this. Always add crayfish last when you are using it in a dish. This gives your dish an extra kick that is felt immediately you taste it. The flavour of crayfish is easily destroyed by heat, so remember to finish your dish by adding crayfish, even if you had added it in previous steps. Crayfish is also salty, so you may not need to add extra salt at this point. Making crayfish a healthy alternative to salt.
…………and here’s my Mummy’s delicious Ikokore. Honestly, this is so lick your plate good