I have written about Egusi twice now, but it is one of my favourite soups, so I make it a lot. I sometimes make it with two vegetables (recipe HERE), or I make it very luxurious by using a combination of seafood (recipe HERE). Egusi soup and Eba is my winning meal any day. This evening despite not doing so great, I decided to teach my flatmate how to make Egusi soup. Teaching guys to cook is always an experience. We started with Aya mase 2 weeks ago and that was a success, which he re-created for his family and they loved it. If you still want to sign up for Cooking Lessons to show off your new and improved skills for Christmas, spaces are still available.
When I teach, I go full on. The easier option would have been to plainly fry the Egusi but I wanted to show him something that many people probably don’t get correctly, and that is making Egusi into balls and making those balls stay put through the cooking process. It was a good thing I did so because something just occurred to me today, and I believe this tip is golden and would be 100% replicable. For pros or for novices, this will work.
You will need
1 piece of Tatashe – red bell pepper
2 pieces of ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habaenro pepper
Seasoning cube – knorr chicken cube preferred
1. Grind the Egusi into a smooth powdery form. Use a mill for this. Then cut the onion in half, blend one half and finely chop the other half.
2. Gradually add the blended onion into the Egusi powder until it forms a thick paste. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: gradually because you want a thick paste. If you add too much liquid onion, the balls will not form and you will need more powdered Egusi to thicken it.
3. Once you have a thick egusi onion paste, add the chopped onion and then proceed to forming into balls with your left palm and fingers. I am right handed, which is why i stated left palm. You need the balls to be slightly big, this is to make allowance for breakages. If the balls are too small, you will end up with tiny sized balls like a peanut, which defeats the purpose really. To enjoy egusi balls, they should be big enough to be picked and chewed. Trust me, this is heavenly delicious.
4. Place the balls into a bowl, if there is no space, put into more bowls and place in the fridge. You may be thing huh? Fridge, why? This is the tip I just discovered. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: it occurred to me whilst forming the balls that cold air will really help the balls to set, thereby keeping their shape. If you have always had problems with this, fridge to the rescue. The cold air will harden the balls, such that when you add it to the pot to cook, it will hold its shape. Don’t believe me, see pictures below. After all in many recipes, we place things in the fridge to harden, why not with Egusi balls
5. Whilst the egusi balls are chilling, do the rest of the prepping i.e. blend the pepper, grind the crayfish, wash and chop the vegetables. Once you have blended pepper, heat up palm oil in the pot and add the pepper to fry.
6. Once it has fried, ensure that it has thickened, then check on the egusi balls. If the paste sticks to your fingers immediately you touch it, you need to leave it in the fridge for a little longer. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: You know it is ready when you can pick up the balls easily and you don’t feel like it will dissolve in your hands and the balls feel semi solid.
7. Once the egusi balls have set, add them to the fried pepper, add a little beef stock or water, to prevent the pepper and Egusi balls from burning, and lower the heat to medium. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: the contrast in temperature of the cold Egusi balls and the fried pepper will will keep the egusi balls in place. Don’t forget, lower the heat. If the heat is higher, the pepper will be more agitated, therefore breaking down the egusi balls. Lower the heat
keep frying, and shake the pot with your hands in a circular motion. Do NOT stir with a spoon. Keep frying until the oil floats to the surface, this is very important. See below, the oil is peeking out amidst the bubbles
8. The add the meats, iru, crayfish and a little more beef stock to create a more fluid soup. Once you add the meats, shake the pot in a circular motion too. You will notice that some of the egusi balls have broken down and many are still intact. See picture below, the balls are still intact, whilst bits of it have dissolved in the soup giving the characteristic orange Egusi soup colour.
keep the heat on medium and let the soup cook. You will see some tiny bubbles floating on top. Taste for salt and seasoning. if you used a very rich beef stock you should not need to re-season. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: if you used water, 1 cube of Knorr chicken cube and salt will do. This time you can stir with a spoon gently. If the balls are too big for you, break apart gently with the spoon.
9. Once palm oil is floating at the top in patches, add the Ugu vegetables and the smoked fish. Stir to combine properly. Ugu is quite a dense vegetable, so don’t add it in chunks. Using a sprinkling motion, add the ugu vegetables to the soup. Dooney’s Kitchen tip: personal preference will come into play here. Some people like their Egusi with lots of vegetables, some like it just showy in the soup. Whichever you prefer. I like mine half way, just showing, so that I can eeeeeeenjoy the egusi without chewing too much vegetables.
10. Leave to cook for a few minutes, tasting the soup every 2 minutes or so to check whether the ugu has softened. It will be crunchy at first. I wanted to show that some of balls are still intact. See picture below
Once you stir Egusi, it thickens up, which is fine. Leave it to cook until the liquid floats to the top with patches of oil. Believe it or not I used just 1 cooking spoon and a half of Palm oil. I am not one for lots of oil in Egusi soup, and most of my soups.
see picture below, the liquid content is oozing out. At this point taste the ugu again to check for softness.
keep the heat on medium, stir occasionally. Once you get to the point you are satisfied, turn of f the heat and eeeeeeeenjoy!!!!!!!!!
still see the balls, still intact. Very yummy
……………..and that’s a wrap. My student really enjoyed the experience, and the verdict was it was Scrumptious, best Egusi ever. I am very pleased. Now off to boil some yam.