Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good start to the week. To the friends and families of the Dana Crash victims one year ago, our thoughts and prayers are with you. You have had the toughest year of your lives and I pray that you continue to receive strength from Above to carry on. This is a first for Dooney’s Kitchen. One of my readers sent in this recipe and I am very excited to post this. Hopefully this will encourage more people to send in recipes. I have created a category called Foodie Community Recipes, so if you want to be a part of it, simply send in your recipes. This blog was created for foodies to unite, so come on, join the parade. Lol.
Dooney’s Kitchen information alert!!!!. My people from the East, I’ll like to let you know that Ofe Nsala is not synonymous with the Ibo’s alone. It may be named ‘Ofe’ – english for soup, but it is also found in the Efik culture. Coincidentally I was taught how to make this soup by my Calabar friend Joy, whom you must have read me mention her name on the Edikakong and Afang Soup post. I will let Ms Socially Awkward the author of this recipe, explain further.
The common English description of “Ofe Nsala” is “white soup” and previously, I had always thought it was a recipe that was unique to Ibo people until I met an Efik lady who cooked it for me, and informed me that white soup also forms part of their culture. So, I’m now aware that a number of Nigerian South-Eastern tribes have their own version of the same dish but going by what I’ve tasted from pots in different localities, we all seem to apply the same basic principles in cooking it. Another example is Banga Soup which is more popularly associated with the Urhobos. Efik people also prepare this dish but it is called Atama Soup in their culture, due to the use of the Atama leaf. The spices are the same though.
This is a spicy rich soup, cooked without the usual ingredients of Palm oil or any leaves (which is common in most Nigerian soups) – which is how it became known as “white soup”. Some people believe that because Palm oil has been left out, white soup is healthier than your usual egusi’s, afang, etc but I doubt it. All that yam or cocoyam, Lol. The health proponents of any soup always depends on the ingredients used and white soup comes with its own fair share of oil when cooked with some of the ingredients I’ll be listing out below so the key is maybe using leaner meat/fish? Something to ponder on.
White soup can also be defined as a thicker and richer type of peppersoup, no more no less. The only difference is that it is made so that it can be enjoyed with starchy solids such as Garri (eva) or Pounded yam, but you can eat it on its own if you are calorie conscious. As long as you’ve got your usual peppersoup seasoning, loads of meat/fish, a thickening agent, assorted pieces of offals (mainly tongue or gizzard) and the usual native seasonings, you can whip out your pot and get this show on the road.
You will need
1 whole chicken – cut into pieces.
1 tilapia fish – scaled, gutted and cut into pieces
1kg of red meat – in my particular case, I used lamb-chops which… didn’t exactly pan out the way I planned so I exempted them from the final product; however, I strongly recommend goat meat or mutton, for reasons I’ll go into later
1 large piece of dried fish
5 scotch bonnet peppers – ata rodo/habanero pepper
2 large onions
1 cocoyam – if you don’t have any cocoyam, 1 tablespoon of plain flour should do
1 cooking spoon of dried prawns
Uziza pods – the little skinny ones that have a strong smell, you only need about 3 of these; but if you haven’t got Uziza pods, you can use 3 teaspoons of the blended peppersoup seasoning which is usually sold in African shops
dawadawa – iru: fermented locust beans
4 maggi cubes
The pictures of the ingredients can be found on the Ingredientspaedia page
1. Blend the onions, smoked prawns, scotch bonnet and a pinch of dawadawa. Ms S.A’sTip: Traditionally Ofe Nsala doesn’t call for dawadawa, but I like it in soup.
2. Peel the cocoyam and cut it into small pieces, wash the smoked fish, break apart into large pieces and kept both ingredients aside.
3. Boil the chicken in a pot on high heat with a little water for 10 minutes. Ms S.A’s Tip: very little water as the blended mix gets included shortly afterwards. Add the blended mixture from Step 1, season with 2 Maggi cubes and cover the pot tightly. Leave this to boil for 30minutes under high heat. Ms S.A’s Tip: I like to exercise my chompers and don’t like soft meat so I don’t boil beef or chicken until it falls off the bone but other people may prefer to leave the chicken boil until it softens to their own preference. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: if you are going to be using supermarket grade ‘soft chicken’ please take it out of the pot after 15 minutes and continue with the cooking process, otherwise you will end up with shredded chicken. You can always reintroduce the chicken into the pot towards the tail end of cooking when you add the tilapia.
4. The chicken has been cooking for 40 minutes in total. Reduce to medium heat and add the smoked fish, cocoyam and red meat. If you have any assortment of offals, add it now. Ms S.A’s Tip: In the absence of cocoyam, mix 1 tablespoon of plain flour with enough water to form a thick paste and add to the soup. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: I was taught to boil the cocoyam with the skin on, until it soft enough to peel off easily. Then you proceed to mashing the cocoyam in a small mortar to form a paste which you add to the pot. Save yourself the trouble and use a blender. A food processor is too much trouble to assemble just to mash a few pieces of cocoyam.
- Remember I mentioned above my unfortunate error with the Lamb chops. Well this is what happened. I saw Lamb chops at the store and thought it would be a good idea for soup, thinking it is almost equivalent to mutton. Wrong! 5 minutes after I included the lamb chops, I knew they were never pre-destined to be in a pot of soup. They were so tender but when I cut into one, I found that the meat was still red. Those babies were always intended for roasting so I just scooped them all out and popped them unto an oven tray instead for grilling. Therefore I’ve now gained two dishes instead of the one originally planned, not bad at all, eh? Lol.
- So on the question of which red meat to use – this is why I would suggest either goat meat or mutton as your best options. My experience of Ofe Nsala is more commonly associated with goat meat, which gives it a distinctive taste but since relocating, I’ve used mutton to cook it and found it has a nice taste. Lamb is a bit too mild so it doesn’t compete properly with the strong flavour of chicken, crayfish etc. but the key thing is to use red meat that comes ‘on the bone’ because when boiling it, the flavours & stock contained in the bone really adds to the body of your soup.
5. Let this cook for another 15 minutes (because I’ve now omitted red meat, otherwise I would have cooked until the meat is ready) and taste for heat from the pepper, the flavour of the smoked prawns and the peppersoup seasoning. If you need more, re-season.
6. Add a sprinkle of salt and the tilapia. Once the fresh tilapia is in, cover the pot tightly and turn off the heat to allow the residual heat cook the fish without overcooking it which can result in the tilapia breaking apart. I think it’s such a waste to spend so much on fresh tilapia, only for it to break into pieces in soup.
……..and voila, Ofe Nsala is served! It should be quite thick and dished up with healthy portions of fish/meat/assortment of offals.
Ms Socially Awkward has been very nice to send this in, and a very big thank you from me. She has saved me trouble of using the cocoyams I have at home for white soup. I will direct it towards making Ofe Onugbu (bitter leaf soup) instead, so stay tuned for my recipe. Ms S.A made this for a friend who is breastfeeding who was really pleased. It is a great offering to carry along to see anyone who’s just had a baby and it doesn’t involve too much cooking time.
I am very happy to know that I am not the only one that does this. Bringing along food when visiting someone who has just had a baby is a very lovely thing to do. New mums always have their hands full, so that bowl of soup, pepper soup, or stew that your bring along may just saved her some days off from cooking. So people, don’t just bring a gift for the baby or show up empty handed when visiting. Cooking is a labour of love, so show that friend or family member that you were thinking of her.
If you enjoyed reading this recipe, don’t forget to email me your own recipes of dishes you are great at.