As I sat down to type this, I thought Dunni, hmmmn another stew recipe, what will you write about. Apart from memories of my grandma making this and calling it Imoyo, pronounced i-moh-yo, with the oh extended. In Yoruba, this means light, watery stew, usually made with fresh fish, I didn’t have much to write, then I remembered an email I received months ago. No better way to introduce this recipe than that. Problem solved. It was quite a long email but I loved reading every bit of it. Here goes.
“Dunni, I have been using your recipes to great results. Something happened to me yesterday, I just had to write to you. I never used to call myself a good cook, I am sure if cooking was on my husband’s list of things he is looking for in a woman, he wouldn’t have married me. One of the things I don’t cook well is stew and I know. My husband would never eat rice and stew even if that was the last food at home. Imagine my pain when we go to people’s homes and they serve him rice and stew which he eats with pleasure. I would sit there looking at him fuming and sad at the same time. I don’t blame him though, the stew would be delicious. Out of shame, I would not be able to ask the woman how she cooked it because to me it is a thing of shame if a Nigerian woman can’t at least cook stew well.
Then I discovered your blog. The first day I tried Buka stew, I made sure my husband was not going to be home just in case it turned out badly. It was so good, I kept staring at the pot wondering whether I made it or not. The next time I made it, it was even better. Knowing he would not eat rice and stew, I served it with Eba and Okro. My husband did not go halfway before he started looking at me quite puzzled. He asked if I bought the stew, I said No I cooked it. He said how, I told him a friend taught me how. He kept quiet but he cleaned his plate. The joy I felt, you have no idea. The next day, I asked him what he would like to eat, he said rice with that your new stew. Dunni, it has never happened in all our years of marriage. Never ever. It was like I was looking at a stranger. My husband asked for rice and stew with a smile on his face. I had to confess. I told him I learnt how from your blog. I am sure he had never heard of food blogs until that day. He was so impressed. He kept repeating ah ah, you learnt how to cook this stew on the internet, on the internet. This is amazing. I have tried your Alapa, your Ofada Stew, your Don Jazzy Stew, Your Garden Egg Stew, your Ata din din. You should be called the Queen of Stews.
When guests come to our house and I offer them rice and stew, if they say no, you need to see how my husband will get up and say ehn, you need to try my wife’s stew. Just like buka food at so so. You will want to eat rice all the days of your life. When I serve it, the praises I get and the proud look on my husband’s face like you won’t believe. Yesterday we hosted his Old Boys meeting and of course your Buka stew was the champion of the day. You should have heard everything his classmates said. They were calling their wives telling them to come and get lessons from me. Me Dunni, me. I am sure some of their wives would have laughed behind my back because my food was not good. All that is now a thing of the past. Dunni you have restored confidence in me as a woman and a wife. You don’t know how much. People call when they are coming and say Patricia (not her real name), that your stew, I hope you have some in the freezer, I am coming. Ever since then, everything I cook must be from your blog o. I don’t even dare look elsewhere. If there is something that is not yet on your blog, I just wait until you post it. If I try something new my husband will say that your Dunni has done it again. Thank you so much………
The email ended with a paragraph of prayers. I was so pleased for her. You know who you are, I hope when you read this you would smile. From one woman to another, Hi five girl. Well done. Today, it is another type of stew, my grandma called Obe Eja Tutu. She made this with fresh fish caught on the same day. She would rush home, gut and clean the fish, which would be cooked in this watery stew that would drip down your hands everywhere, and you would lick away with relish. It was usually paired with Ewedu, and served with Tuwo or Amala. Mama’s Imoyo was a cook and finish on the same day kind of stew. Never left over to be refrigerated.
You will need
2 pieces of Fresh fish – mama usually used big eja aro (catfish), or she used Fresh Panla (stockfish)
1 1/2 pieces of red onion
5 big pieces of tomatoes
3 pieces of Tatashe
3 pieces of ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
I channeled my grandma and cooked Fresh Panla. The English name is Hake, the colloquial name is Stockfish.
1. Heat up Palm oil in a pot. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: just enough to get rid of the curdling taste and not to bleach it. Add the chopped onions and fry till the onions almost get burnt, but not quite.
2. Add your blended pepper mix straight into the pot, followed by seasoning cubes and a teeny bit of Salt. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: This stew truly defines express cooking. You want that fresh taste of pepper, plus it is stew that is watery. Boiling the pepper prior, takes away not just the freshness but fluid consistency.
3. Leave the pepper mixture to boil, till it combines properly with the palm oil. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: you only need a little salt because you should sprinkle some salt on your fish and set it aside to soak in the salt while your pepper is bubbling away in the pot. The salt from the fish plus its own natural flavours and the seasoning cubes working together would do the stew just right.
Now, this is where my Grandma would smack me right on the ear, but I dared to grill the fresh panla a little bit in the oven, simply because I love, love, love, love me some grilled Panla. I told myself in my head that the fish was bought frozen anyway, so Mama can’t really blame me for toying with her recipe. She always used freshly caught fish. hehehehehehe. If you want to stick 100% to the Iye Gbyuyi method, leave your fish raw.
4. Once you start to see bits of palm oil floating around the pepper, drop in the fish gently, shake the pot in circular motion, lower the heat and cover the pot.
If you are using uncooked fish, the heat from the pepper will cook it and release the flavour of the fish. If you dared to grill or slightly fry, just leave the fish in and send it on its merry way. Every 2 minutes or so, shake the pot in circular motions to redistribute the heat. Give it another 7 – 10 minutes or so and noticeable patches of palm oil should be floating on top, taste for salt and seasoning and re-adjust if you need to.
See how fluid and light the stew is. Look at the stew peeking through the patches of palm oil. This people, is EXACTLY what you want. This is not rice stew, this is evening more watery than Iye Gbuyi’s Alapa Stew (recipe, click HERE). This is the kind of stew Mama made as a treat, or if she knew she had visitors coming. She would quickly rush to the market, come home with fresh fish and in under 30 minutes, food was ready.
Serve in a big bowl and display your Iye Gbuyi’s Imoyo with pride
Light, fluid, watery and deeeeeeeeelicious
I may have to point out that this is different from the Portuguese Imoyo. I really don’t know where there is a confusion with the names, but with Alapa that I grew up knowing as Palm Oil Stew, in some other parts of Yorubaland, Alapa is a dish made with beans/ If you know Imoyo as a Lagosian, especially from the Brazilian Quarters, please share.