I have written about Okro Soup in the past. (Recipe HERE). My Okro soup is actually a throwback to the Efik Ottong soup, so I am considering renaming it to Ottong Soup. On that post, I stated clearly that the dish was not Ila Asepo and it shouldn’t be mixed up despite the literal English translation saying otherwise. Ila Asepo is the Yoruba way of cooking Okro. Delicious, lick your fingers and your hands Ila Asepo. If you have always snickered at Ila Asepo because of its colour, I am about to change your mind now.
Why Intense Ila Asepo? It is truly intense because I cooked it with purely seafood. No meat in sight. Okro is one of the foods that allows seafood to truly shine because it cooks in minutes, that way the seafood doesn’t overcook and lose its flavour. So, this soup is very intense in terms of its flavour profile. From the first bite to the last morsel, you will be singing high on the rooftops especially with my combination of seafood. From the smokey flavour of Eja Osan, to the subtle flavours of King Prawns, and the strong flavour of crab, it is truly an assault on your senses in a good way. This soup has the power to make you happy. Seafood belongs to the classes of foods that increase Dopamine and Norepinephrine naturally due to its Omega 3 Fatty acids. These are our feel good hormones. Ditch the chocolate and cook yourself a bow of seafood Ila Asepo and watch your mood change. Honestly, Google it for yourself and confirm. Serve with a bowl of yellow garri and you are halfway to happinessville.
My grandma always made a wicked Ila Asepo with fish and dry fish, which is where my inspiration came from, and I decided to take it a step further using seafood. This is one soup a friend of mine really enjoys. Just as I hated Ogbono in secondary school, he also hated Okro soup for similar reasons. Funny how your growing up years helps to shapen food that you love and detest. As with my Ogbono soup which I named Ogbono soup redefined, you really have to try out my recipe (HERE), it is also a throwback to the Igbo’s and Efik people’s method. Bless them. I came to love Ogbono because my Aunty Joke cooked it differently and changed my perception for life. I decided to pass on the favour and change someone else’s perceptions of Okro. Life is too short to hate Okro, considering the many delicious meals you will be missing out on. Let’s just say, his perception has truly been changed and he loves Okro soup now. If you have any little ones or grown ups who turn their noses up at Okro, try my Ila Asepo today. Here’s to my Grandma, Iye Gbuyi. Miss you loads Mama
You will need
1 handful of fresh green Okro – to know good okro, snap off the tips. If it is fresh, the tips will snap off easily and not bend. The market women hated me for this, as I always snapped off each one, no matter how much I was buying. If the tips bend instead of breaking of, discard it.
1 pound of fresh Crab
1 pound of deveined Prawns
1/2 a piece of Eja Osan – dried catfish I think?
1 piece of Panla – stockfish
Kaun – potash
1/2 cup of Iru – fermented locust beans
1/4 pound of Periwinkle – preferably still in their shells
3 pieces of Ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
1 – 2 cooking spoons of Palm oil
Seasoning cubes – knorr chicken preferred
Pictures of some of Ingredients can be found on the Ingredientspaedia page HERE
First I will like to take you through a deveining prawn lesson. If you have always experienced grainy or gritty tasting prawns, it si because you left the vein in. Cleaning Prawns is not just about giving it a good rinse. The vein of the Prawns is how it feeds, so it tends to accumulate sand and dirt.
- The vein of the Prawns is the long black thread looking line on the belly of the prawn. You will see it just beneath the skin. It will look greyish beneath the flesh of the prawns.
- Using a knife cut a straight line gently along the ridge/belly of the prawn. You don’t want to cut to deep and slice the prawn in half. The gash you create will give you access to the vein, which you will pick out with your fingers
- Take out the vein completely. It is very fragile like a thread, so it may break apart. Make sure you get everything out.
- and that’s your deveined prawns. The proper way to clean Prawns
To clean crabs on the other hand, simply rinse out any dirt, attached to it. Hollow out it’s insides and empty it down the drain. With female crabs, the eggs will be found in its hollow section, take it out, give it a good rinse by holding the eggs in the cup of your fingers and running a tap over it. Keep the eggs in a small bowl, for later. Turn the crab over, and take out the V-shaped stringy consistency part on the back of the crab’s shell where both sides of the shell meet. A throughly cleaned crab should look like this
Now, to the periwinkle. It is much sweeter to cook them with their shells. With a sharp knife, chop off the tips. Simply raise the knife a few cm above the tip of the periwinkle and chop off a chunk of it. This will leave you with a shell about half its original size. To eat a periwinkle, you simply such it out. Hmmmmn, yum. If you are grossed out, it’s probably because you haven’t tried it. Trust me, I was grossed out before, till my Calabar friend nudged me into trying it. I have never bought de-shelled periwinkle since then.
……….now, to cooking.
1. Chop the okro. Do not grate okro please. You turn it into a lumpy sticky mess. Always endeavour to chop your okro as you would carrots. Thick pieces of okro are chewy, yummy and delicious. Roughly blend the ata rodo and set aside. Clean the Eja Osan thoroughly, and tear into bite sized pieces. Clean the iru. To clean iru, you just need a little water otherwise, you drown out part of the flavour. Pick out the seeds and set aside.
2. In a pot, add all the seafood, the eja osan, the stock fish and blended ata rodo. Add 2 cups of water to the pot, season with salt and 2 seasoning cubes. Let it boil under low heat. The operative words here are LOW HEAT. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: never cook seafood with high heat. You ruin the flavour. About the stockfish, please don’t soak in hot water, you will lose its flavour. Boil it with the other bits of seafood whole. When it softens, take it out, tear into bite sized pieces and put back in the pot.
Let this boil and bubble nicely on low heat. Now you will see the crabs and prawns change colour to light pink. Have quick taste of the stock and punch you fist in the air. Deeeeeelicious eh. All the components have cooked together and they are playing beautiful music in the pot.
3. Add the cleaned iru to the pot, 1 – 2 cooking spoons of palm oil (depending on how much okro you have) and 1 lump of Kaun about the size of a knorr cube. Kaun will cause the stock to for bubbles like soap. This is the stage you know that it has dissolved completely and is cooking nicely. Kaun helps with the stickiness of okro. Without it, your okro is likely to be flat. Stickiness is part of the okro eating experience. Flat okro is such a let down. Lol
Taste the stock and notice the difference the Iru makes. Another extra deliciousness
4. Add the chopped okro and stir. You can re-season with salt and seasoning cube if you want, but I don’t because by now, the flavour is so perfect, you don’t want to mess with it. The key is just about enough water to cook the seafood and low heat. Once the juices start flowing out of the seafood, you will no longer need to re-season.
Okro literally cooks in minutes. You stir only once, and the rest of the time you simply shake the pot around in circular motion. I take okro of the heat right about the 2 – 3 minute mark and I cover the pot, and let the heat from the contents of the pot finish the cooking. If you want your okro to remain green and crunchy, do not let it spend too much time on the heat.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: if you don’t, it will change colour from lovely green to dark brown. This happened while I was cooking this pot. I had an emergency I needed to attend to and forgot to take it off the heat. I’ve cooked Okro soup like a million times. I was kicking myself and mentally kicking the person who knocked and my door and took me away from my kitchen. Nevertheless, it was still a little green and it tasted absolutely scrumptious, so don’t make the same mistake I did. Stay in the kitchen and concentrate on the pot.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: cooking Ila asepo with kaun can be tricky. Too much of it, and you end up with a slimy mess that will also change the colour of the soup and you will end up with a metallic taste on your tongue. So, start with very small, about the size of a knorr cube, and don’t even get tempted to add kaun after the okro. If the ila asepo turns out a little flat, you can’t salvage it. Make a mental note of how much you used, so that next time you use more.
………….and here’s my sinful, a little sensual (after all it is seafood eh), happiness in a plate Ila Asepo. Tell me which bar of chocolate can beat this. Lol. If you are in the mood to pamper a significant other, this is the way forward. He/she will love you long time. Lol
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: no, I did not forget crayfish. Believe me, you are not going to need it. Crayfish I have found, is just too strong for fresh fish and seafood. It is too strong. It takes over and all you can taste is crayfish. You want your fresh fish and seafood to shine, considering how expensive they are, don’t let a seemingly cheap ingredient like crayfish take over the show.
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find crab. Use any combination of seafood that you can find, including fish too. Anything you wish, just don’t take meat anywhere near this dish. Coming from a certified carnivore, trust me you want this experience. Lol