I have written about Egusi soup before. I stayed with using fish and seafood as the protein component and I enjoyed it so much. If you’ve always cooked your Egusi with meats and varieties, I will suggest you try fish and seafood. The difference the flavour is quite different and pleasant. The recipe for my Crab and smoked seafood Egusi soup is HERE.
I cook Egusi soup with two different methods depending on what result I am aiming for. I used one method for the last post on Egusi soup, so today I am using the other method. This method creates lumps with the Egusi, and enjoy biting into those lumps. I will explain in the steps how I create the lumps. If you’ve always used water to create the lumps, you will pick up a new tip today.
The topic says two vegetables. This is not exactly new but it is not common either. Many people are set in their ways regarding the vegetable choice for Egusi. I believe Ugwu leaves (pumpkin leaves) come out as the winning choice. Option number two is spinach and this will probably be the default for those who live out of Nigeria, as it is the most accessible and price friendly vegetable. Egusi has quite a distinctive taste in soup and the above named vegetables work very well, as they are bland tasting leaves on their own, so they compliment Egusi beautifully. Once in a while I like venturing over to the dark side by using two vegetables just for extra flavour. This other vegetable is a flavour packed leaf that will serve as the accent to the soup because like I said earlier, Egusi has its own flavour and the last thing you want is to tamper with that. It is unlike Efo riro (vegetable soup), Afang Soup and Edikaikong where the vegetables are the stars of the show, so when using a two vegetable mixture you have to be careful so as not to create a flavour clash. Your dual vegetable combinations are as follows:
- Ugwu and Efinrin – (scent leaf/basil)
- Ugwu and Bitter leaf
- Ugwu and Uziza leaves (hot leaf)
- Ugwu and Utazi leaves – a reader just suggested this, as another option to create a little bitterness
If all you have access to is spinach, this combination will still work. Simply substitute the Ugwu with spinach and work with any of the combinations above.
I picked Efinrin because personally I think it is the best option. Personal preference though. I am not a huge fan of bitter leaf. Uziza leaves I absolutely love, but I prefer it in Ogbono soup. Oh my goodness, uziza leaves work magic in Ogbono soup. If you try it once, you will never put ugwu or spinach in your ogbono soup again. My recipe for Ogbono soup is HERE
You will need
500 – 700g of an assortment of meats – i used beef, lamb, saki, cow leg, pomo (cow skin) and stock fish
1 cup of Ugwu
1/4 cup of Efinrin – you have 2 other choices of vegetables listed above
1/2 cup of ground crayfish
1 1/2 cup of Ground Egusi seeds
1 Tatashe – red bell pepper
3 pieces of Ata Rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
Seasoning cube – knorr chicken cubes preferred
1 large red onion
1. Wash and boil the meats with enough water to cover the meats. Season with salt, 2 seasoning cubes, and half of the red onion. Cover and let it boil till the meats are soft.
2. Blend the egusi with chopped chunks of the rest of the onion, to create a very smooth thick paste. Some recipes will recommend mixing the egusi with water instead. That is fine, but a little boring. Egusi and onions are a match made in heaven. If you’ve always used water, try onions and you’ll agree with me. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you want to create a thick paste because you are going to fry the egusi in palm oil to create lumps. Some prefer their lumps big, about the size you will feed a baby others prefer much smaller lumps. The thicker the paste, the bigger the lumps so watch the volume of water you use when blending.
3. Roughly blend the tatashe and ata rodo and set aside.
4. Heat up 1 – 1 1/2 cooking spoonfuls of palm oil in a pan for a minute or two. Using a spoon or your fingers, scoop balls of the egusi paste into the pan. The size you scoop will determine how big the lumps will be.
5. Let the egusi fry for 5 minutes on medium heat and watch as the lumps solidify in the palm oil Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: my aunties and grandma will probably scold me for not frying this in more palm oil. Yoruba people did not acquire the tag ofe nmanu (oily soup) people for no reason. They sure love their oil, but as a modern cook I have to eat healthy. Watching this soup made so many times, the egusi paste will actually form fried balls while being deep fried. It is up to you if you decide to fry in a lot of palm oil or just a little.
After 5 minutes, you should get a result similar to the picture below. The Egusi should take on the consistency of scrambled eggs. It has also absorbed most of the palm oil and its colour has changed to a lovely shade or orange. This is what you want. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: if you don’t use medium heat, the egusi will burn and the colour will turn brown, so, lower the heat. As you can see from the image below – no burnt bits.
6. Add the pepper and mix carefully with a wooden spoon so as not to break the lumps. Let this fry until the pepper combines with the egusi thoroughly.
add the meat and 1cup of beef stock to start with, the ground crayfish and stir carefully
let it boil for 3 – 5 minutes till you get a more fluid consistency. If the mixture is still thick, add a little stock to it. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you need enough fluid in the mixture to accommodate the vegetables, otherwise it will be absorbed and you will be left with a thick sludge.
7. Add the ugwu leaves and stir. Vegetables should not be left to cook for long. Ugwu leaves are quite tough, so to get a healthy balance of retaining the nutrients and allowing to cook for a little longer, simply lower the heat and let the vegetables cook for 5 minutes. Halfway through that, add the efinrin leaves and stir. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: the flavour of efinrin leaves are very easily destroyed in heat, so you add efinrin last. This will also apply to uziza leaves. If you are using bitter leaf on the other hand, which is a much coarse leaf, you will have to add it to the soup at the same time as the ugwu leaves.
you are very likely going to need to add a little more stock. Roughly 1/2 a cup or more. Some people enjoy their egusi soup dripping in liquid stock, so personal preferences will come into play here. Stir and taste for salt and seasoning cube. Re-season if necessary.
………….and that’s it. Notice the extra dimension of flavour and aroma the efinrin leaves gives the Egusi soup, which makes a huge difference from using ugwu alone? I know you do. Lol…..
For my readers who are caterers, when next you prepare egusi soup for a party, go out of the norm and use two vegetables. Wow your guests with a flavour of Egusi soup that they will not be expecting. That surprising hint of something extra that will make them ask you what’s in it. Such deviations from the norm makes your food more rememberable and next time they need a caterer, they will ask the host for your number.
Once in a while, I make Egusi soup without adding vegetables. My grandma prepared it like this many many times. I especially enjoy it with boiled rice, boiled yam and even fried plantains. If this is what you seek, simply stop at the end of Step 6.
This post is titled two vegetables Egusi soup, so of course, that is what I will plate. Lol