My cleaning lady told me today that she would be going away for one month. I wanted to cry. What do you mean by going away for one month, what am I supposed to do till then, with what I am sure must have been a genuinely distressed look on my face. She said she was taking her children to see her family. Oh dear, I am in big hot soup. Which is weird, because besides cooking, I looooooooooove to clean. I am the type that cleans a bathroom for hours. Besides onions, bleach is my next favourite item in the whole world. Me lovey my bleach, I can bleach anything and I don’t dilute. I have gotten numerous acid burns in my nose and throat, on one visit to my local surgery, when I got quite faint in the bathroom, the GP sat me down and scared the shit out of me with words like cancer, respiratory infections, corroded trachea, lung something something. I thought oh dear, I have to stop this bleach addiction now. He then told me about a professional lime scale remover which is even more effective than bleach and odourless. You can bet I was on that cleaning agent like glue. Months later, my haegesan blue and I are very good besties.
It was getting all too much for me, my cook-a-thons and clean-a-thons, I broke down whining to my friend Funmi and she said please, please, you will kill yourself, hire a cleaning lady. Let me give you the number of mine. Months after, that woman is one of the best thing that has happened to me this year. I have become a lazy Lady of the Manor. When I told my mother I hired someone, I actually told her with bated breath, funny how no matter how old you get, the opinion of your parents on even the littlest of life decisions matter. Surprise, surprise, she didn’t object, she even said good for you. I was the one who taught you how to clean, but your own is too much. I am an obsessive compulsive cleaner. My friends have told me, all that will disappear when I become a mum. I have told them I will specially pray for clean and tidy babies, who will come born to be tidy. I can imagine all mothers reading this and laughing at me. So now my cleaning lady is away for a month, best believe I have gone into panic mode now, trying to find an alternative to bridge the gap because the thought of going back to down on all fours and scrubbing till my knuckles get raw is now unappealing. If I don’t, best believe this blog will suffer. #comebacksoonmydearestSandy
Why am I talking about cleaning, because that is how Joy and I connected. We bonded over cleaning and till date she is one of my greatest cooking influences outside of the female members of my family. We got to talking about cleaning in a mutual family friend’s kitchen and that is how we connected in Abuja many years ago. From cleaning, we moved on to by next favourite topic, food, and she taught me so so much. This Egusi is one of them. Prior to learning from her, I always fried my Egusi with pepper. She taught me how to fry egusi in palm oil, to get that pebbly, grainy look and feel which she says is how the Igbos cook it. Joy is Efik, and her husband is Igbo. She can cook soups from both tribes. Lucky man, I swear. The very first Egusi post on the blog feels like ages ago now (click HERE), I wrote about this Igbo method, so I am quite pleased to have a post on Ofe Egusi. I am calling the post Ofe Egusi, because the frying method is uniquely Igbo and soup in the Igbo language is called Ofe. Let’s Cook
You will need
Ground Egusi – or whole Egusi
1/4 – 1/2 red onion
Your choice of chopped leafy vegetable
1. Joy taught me to grind egusi into a fine powder, mix with water to form a thick paste. For years now, I go my grandma’s route of blending the egusi with onions. It gives it so much more flavour.
You can choose to mix with water, but trust me, the additions of onions is so much better.
2. Heat up palm oil in a pot till it starts to sizzle
3. Pour in the egusi paste and stir, till all the palm oil has been absorbed
4. Allow to fry on high heat. At the beginning, the water content of the onions will leach out, and the egusi will start to curdle, stir and just keep stirring. Just think of ewa aganyin sauce (recipe click HERE). Stirring is key to getting that grainy, pebbly look and feel. You are not trying to achieve lumpy egusi. If you want lumpy egusi, click HERE.
5. Allow it to fry, see more curdles showing, like scrambled eggs, don’t leave it to long in that texture, otherwise your grainy texture will not form as the curdled bits retain moisture which you definitely do NOT want. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Stir, stir, stir. Now Egusi is quite annoying. It will be splashing about, and will sting like crazy, perils of cooking. Protect yourself by covering the pot while you manage to stir, it is quite a funny dance, but hey “occupational hazard”. We all have our battle scars. Hehehehehehehe
keep frying until the moisture begins to evaporate and the egusi becomes much thicker, and you have achieved the pebbly look. This will take quite some time. If the Egusi has started to burn as it probably would, lower the heat. This is a lesson in cooking patience.
6. Fry the pepper with palm oil, till it too has lost its moisture. This is what I do while I wait for the egusi to fry to the level I want. I learnt this lesson after a while, because the addition of freshly blended pepper to the egusi you have been frying, introduces the very moisture, you have just spent forever trying to get out.
7. Now, combine the egusi and pepper, stir and I’m afraid, more frying. Loooool. You will appreciate it in the end, trust me. The longer Egusi cooks, whichever method you go, the better it tastes.
8. It should start to roughly look like this after a while. Even after taking this picture, I still let it fry some more, till it was much drier.
you know what you can do to save yourself some time next time you make Ofe Egusi? Let me tell you my cheat tip. I fry more than I need for a pot of soup, and store away the rest into the freezer.
The next time I need to make Ofe Egusi, I just defrost in a microwave pour into a pot, and let it heat up and fry some more, after which I add the rest of the ingredients, I can get Ofe Egusi ready in under 30 minutes.
9. Once you have taken out the part to store for later, add beef stock, crayfish, assorted meat, shredded stock fish and stir. Taste for salt and seasoning cubes. Re-season if necessary, but be careful. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Egusi is notorious for masking its salty content, it will come back and bite you in the ass, when it has cooked further and your lovely pot of Egusi tastes very salty. Leave it to cook until patches of oil begin to float on the surface.
10. Let it cook some more, until big bubbles begin to show up in the egusi, and it gets thicker. I like my egusi sometimes watery, I like being able to scoop the soup, especially with morsels of Garri (eba). I was going for the ‘page mi gunpa’- meet me at the elbow effect. As I have run out of water leaf, I deeded to cheat a little. If you would like to know how to make water leaf Egusi, click HERE. Once you are satisfied with the consistency, add your choice of vegetables (I used Kale and Uziza) and shredded smoked fish. Stir, and lower the heat to allow the vegetables and smoked fish absorb the flavours in the pot and not overcook. Take off the heat, once the vegetables have softened.
……….and that’s your Ofe Egusi
Take a close look at the texture of the Egusi. Grainy and pebbly. Like sand eh? I am smiling with nostalgia as I type this because Joy calls it “egusi like dot, dot, dot “.
Plus all that frying, you can imagine how very yummy it will taste
You can substitute Kale with Ugu, or a vegetable called ‘Ile Iwosan jina‘. English for “hospital too far“. People have been asking what the Nigerian substitute for Kale is, and I always say Ugu. A reader left a comment last week saying after taking a good look at pictures of Kale, she concluded that it is grown in Nigeria but referred to as something else. I did a Google search myself and couldn’t find any images, so I will leave it to you guys who know of such vegetable, to confirm or refute her statement.