You must be wondering, did I read that correctly. Dunni has come again. To you, I say why not. We have tried Kale Efo Riro which I named Kale Riro (recipe HERE), or at least I hope you have. We have also tried Kale Egusi soup, some of us have, well I think it is time to step out of the Yoruba culture and explore what other ways we can cook Kale Nigerian. Today, I am stepping into the Efik culture to cook the “revered” Edikang Ikong. Yup, I dared to, I went there, deal with it.
If the lack of sourcing Ugu and Water leaves have been a problem for you, well this is good news. I have told very many people to substitute spinach for water leaf, as water leaf is more difficult to find than Ugu is. Well, if you live in those parts of the world where even finding Ugu is a problem, well look no further than Kale. This is very similar to my Kale Riro recipe, but this time cooked Edikang Ikong style i.e. no tatashe, no frying the onions, no frying the pepper, no adding Iru etc. Cooked proper Efik style but with different vegetables. I served this for my SYTCC ladies on Saturday and they can testify, because that their plates came back empty.
The joy of being a cook is the flexibility you can afford yourself. The dimensions you can go to with food are limitless, and if we want other people to embrace our food, to understand that we are a food super power too, we have to learn to drop down our walls and take that leap. No dead king is going to cut off your head, nah, no grandma is going to roll in her grave, even if she does, oh well, sorry Grandma. You are alive, she is dead and the world is for the living. If you check the meaning of culture, you will find that it evolves. Lets hold hands today and be known as that generation of Nigerian cooks, who dared to look into the face of tradition, but not to throw it away but to adapt it. Let us be the generation known to introduce new flavours and concepts to Nigerian cooking. Let our daughters and our sons remember and thank us when they can easily walk into a store in major cities anywhere in the world and prepare food that is familiar. Let our generation be the one where the ball of frustration stops because you no longer have to miss home cooking, when you can improvise to delicious results. Can I hear an Amen somebody. The Nigerian Food revolution has started in earnest, which part are you prepared to play in it?
Okay, enough of the political speech, let’s get to cooking. After, I had much success serving it last week to my SYTYCC guests, I decided to cook this again today. People, this is the best thing I have EVER made with Kale. I have probably stepped on the toes of the Efik people enough today, but I will stretch this a little further and say I prefer this veggie combo to the traditional one. Okay, I am running away now hanging unto my head. Hehehehehehehehe. That’s just my naughty side talking. No offence meant really.
If you are reading this and you live in Nigeria, not to worry. Wherever I wrote spinach, replace it with Water Leaf. Where I wrote Kale, replace it with Ugu. See, everyone is happy.
You will need
2 bunches of spinach
1/4 – 1 bag of Kale – see, i am also replicating the ugu : water leaf ratio
2 pieces of Yellow ata rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper) – use red if that’s what you can find
Shredded Stockfish and Smoked Catfish
I would like to stress again, that I used the same method as my previous Edikang Ikong recipe HERE. This time I am using un-shelled periwinkles, because by some stroke of luck, I found some at BIMS in Peckham.
1. Boil your assorted meat, with very tough smoked catfish. Season with seasoning cubes and salt. Trust me, if you want to stop using seasoning cubes and salt in your soups, get your stock right and you will no longer need to. A tip I learnt from my Calabar friend Joy.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: I normally boil a huge portion of meats, with lots of stock, but for Edikang Ikong, I pick out the pieces of assorted meat I need into a separate pot, add about 4 cooking spoons of stock to it, and let it boil till the meats absorb almost 80% of the stock, leaving very little. Remember, Edikang Ikong is not a watery soup, using too much stock at the beginning will spell doom later on.
2. Now you have your assorted meat and softened smoked crayfish in the pot, with the stock reduced, add freshly grounded pepper (ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper) and Palm oil. With the heat on medium, allow the palm oil to dissolve into the stock, and let it be simmering nicely, getting ready for the chopped spinach.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: A little tip from me about cooking with spinach. Many people have problems cooking with spinach and I’ve always wondered why, because it has always been smooth sailing for me. Today, out of nowhere, it hit me. I always buy my spinach in its natural form i.e. stalk and all. By chopping the leaves with the stock, you are giving the leaves some body, so when you cook with it, it is not as watery as using the leaves (picked of the stalk) alone. So, if you’ve always bought frozen spinach, try buying fresh, and I don’t mean fresh already picked of the stalk in bags, I mean fresh as in, a bunch of Spinach, and when you do buy the bunch, don’t put it in the fridge. There is something about the cold air that turns your spinach to mush.
3. Chop the spinach and add to the pot.
for some strange reason (i was probably cooking on auto pilot), I decided to add one half of the spinach first, then I remembered periwinkles, and I stopped. Got it out of the freezer, then added the other half.
4. Once the spinach is in, crank the heat back up to high. In about 2 minutes, the spinach will be wilting nicely, and would have leached water out into the stock, not to worry. Just stir and leave it for another minute or so, and add the fresh prawns, while you are at it. . See, the water at the edge of the pot. Again, like I mentioned above, the pot is not flowing with water, because I am using fresh spinach.
You need to let the spinach wilt properly and soften before you add the chopped Kale. Here’s my Kale sitting pretty in the Colander to drain properly.
5. Chop the Kale and add to the pot. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: now, I will be a little honest here. I bought a bag of Kale, thinking I will use it all. I ended up using about half. When you are pouring the Kale in, start with taking it in handfuls first and stir. A full bag, is probably too much. Right about the halfway mark, you will see that it is just right. You don’t want to use too much Kale and drown out the Spinach.
6. Once, you have your Kale in, with the heat still on high, stir, and then add ground crayfish and a little extra smoked catfish. Dooney’s Kitchen tip: I always like adding crayfish towards the tail end of cooking, so you get the maximum impact of its flavour.
7. Stir gently, and just leave the veggies to combine nicely with the other ingredients for another 2 – 3 minutes. Taste for Salt and Seasoning cubes, and adjust if necessary. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: One tip I picked up from Joy which always freaks out novices with Edikang Ikong and leads them to making a rookie mistake (adding extra stock) is this. After you add the Kale and stir, it will look like all the water has been absorbed and you will think your end result will be too dry. Do NOT be tempted to add stock, seriously DON’T. Palm oil to the rescue.
Adding Palm oil, will create the fluidity that you need. About a cooking spoon extra or more. Remember, Edikang Ikong is NOT a watery soup. When the Kale has wilted sufficiently enough, but still with a green colour, take it off the heat. You don’t want to overcook the veggies.
…………and that’s your Kale Edikang Ikong, done and dusted. Enjoy!!!!
When the soup has fully cooked, and you serve, you see the juices that you were initially scared wasn’t there, will gradually pool beneath the vegetables in the plate. See below.
Okay, if I served this to you, and did not let you know that I did not use the traditional veggies used for Edikang Ikong, you wouldn’t know. Trust me. Even if I did tell you, believe me, it tastes sooooooooooo good, you wouldn’t care. My guests definitely didn’t. That plate emptied so fast, I had to go get some more from the pot.