Phew!!!!! I haven’t cooked Ogbono in the longest time. It is one of those soups that I must trust the source of the key ingredient before I cook it. Ogbono has disappointed me a few times because of bad batches that sometimes taste, smell and look awful. In some cases, it won’t even be elastic at all, so when I find a good batch that works, I buy tons and tons of it to keep. I have a particular woman my mother and I buy from in Lagos, at Oyingbo market. My mum brought some for me when she came last year and I had totally forgotten about it in that storage chest of freezers that I have.
Yesterday, someone sent me an email asking for a large pot of Ogbono to be delivered today. Never gotten an Ogbono order before. Quite strange, but not so strange in the sense that I know a lot of people who also don’t eat Ogbono unless they trust the source it is cooked in. Many a time you eat Ogbono in restaurants and it is one shade short of gross. The next time you are eating out, observe your fellow diners, and see out of the crowd if you will find any or maybe one or two ordering ogbono. If your counter-claim to this is due to its sticky nature and people avoiding stained clothes. Look around you, you will find okro and ewedu orders abound, but rarely ogbono. It is one for those things that I’m afraid, due to the nature of the restaurant business, ogbono is usually not cooked as it should be, so people tend to stay away from it. So, when I got the Ogbono order, I kinda smiled and said to myself, aaaaaaaw, this client trusts that I would prepare a mean pot of Ogbono, home cooked style, and prepare it I did. This is my Ogbono re-defined.
I have a friend Vivian, an Edo girl who doesn’t like Ogbono. Strange I know because the Edo’s throw it down when it gets to Ogbono, especially when cooked in a clay pot. I have told her, I humbly accept the challenge to convert her to Ogbono. In fact, when I cook it for her, I am going to break out the Clay Pot my other friend Omolabake sent to me from Lagos. Vivian, watch out. A steaming pot of delicious Ogbono rising out of a clay pot awaits you in the future. This people, is my Ogbono redefined. Finally, you can get to see how I cook it in pictures
You will need
Ground Ogbono – about 1 – 1 1/2 cups
Dry Pepper – or tatashe (red bell pepper)
Ata rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper) – the yellow variety
Assorted meats – i used goat meat, beef, saki and cow leg
Generous amounts of beef stock
Eja Osan – smoked catfish
Smoked red prawns
Okro – sliced into rings
Kale – or spinach or ugu (the client requested for it this time)
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: You may be wondering why you didn’t see Seasoning cubes or Salt on the list. This is because I didn’t use it. Go back to my first post on Ogbono (click HERE) and you will see that it is not on the list too. That is because I don’t use them when I cook Ogbono. If you think huh? Foodie scout honour. I don’t. Seasoning cubes have a way of messing with the taste of Ogbono, so I steer very very clear of it. I rely on my beef stock (which is the only point i use a little seasoning cubes, but leave the smoked fish to do the major work). When I boil meat for Ogbono I dunk a large portion of Smoked red prawns, Eja Osan and Eja Sawa in it. So much so that the stock itself taste so delicious, you would be drinking it with a spoon and it is that stock that forms the base of the Ogbono. Even when I add hot water to lighten up the Ogbono, the flavour is still there. My last secret weapon? Crayfish.
1. Boil and season your meats with salt, a little seasoning cubes, lots and lots of Eja Osan (smoked fish), Eja Sawa and smoked red prawns. Bless you Omolabake for the huge stash of Eja Osan you sent from Lagos.
see the pieces of eja sawa, smoked red prawns and the big black eja osan peeking out?
2. Once the meats have cooked, take the fish out of the pot, for use at a later stage
3. Now, you have your generous amount of beef stock, add dry pepper or blended tatashe. I use either for their rich red colour. Remember, I am using yellow ata rodo, so I need the redness from somewhere to compliment the palm oil.
4. Allow the pepper to dissolve for a bit, then add 1 or 2 wraps of Ogiri Okpei and Iru. The the image below, Ogiri okpei is the grey substance, Iru is the brown seed-like looking substance. You need to allow the ogiri dissolve into the stock completely and le the stock bubble up. You will know by the aroma and taste of the stock.
5. Add roughly ground crayfish (i rinse mine in water first, to get rid of sand)
add blended yellow pepper (yellow variety of scotch bonnet/habanero pepper)
6. Leave the stock to boil to allow all the flavours combine
7. Mix the Ogbono with about a cooking spoon + half of Palm oil and add to the pot. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Too much palm oil gives ogbono a shockingly dark colour which is gross. You want a pleasant shade of orange with a hint of brown. Too little palm oil gives a gross looking shade of light brown which I just cannot stand. Some people do though. Personal preference. My ogbono came in lumps due to moisture, if that happens to you, just use a spoon or your fingers to squash it to a rough powder. Add the ogbono and palm oil mixture to the bubbling stock. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: it is essential that the stock is boiling when you add the ogbono palm oil paste, this is to allow the palm oil dissolve very fast, getting rid of that curdling taste on your tongue.
8. In about a minute or two, the ogbono starts to bubble up in the pot.
just let it continue to do so on high heat.
It will thicken with time, dilute with hot water, till you get to the consistency that you like. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: i will try to describe the consistency that you need in words. One of the times I wish I was shooting a video. Ogbono has a very high viscosity, its nature is to clump together. The longer it cooks, the less the viscosity but, you have to use hot water to help it along to get to that reduced viscosity that is pleasant to see and touch, otherwise, what you get a blob of soup that is gross. If it resists your spoon, you are not there yet. You should be able to slide the ogbono up with a ladle spoon in one swoop with not that much resistance. You should also be looking out for clumping like thick okro i.e. the ogbono should lift off in one swoop and almost look like you can see through it. Of course you wouldn’t but it should give off that appearance.
9. When you get the consistency that you want, add the vegetables. I started with chopped Kale (the client asked for it). Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: If you still want to use Ugu, you still can but make sure please that Ugu is not the only vegetable that you use. Ugu does nothing for Ogbono. Uziza leaves are my Pièce de résistance i.e. the most important.
and chopped uziza. A minute after the uziza goes in, you will know you have a winner on your hands. Amazing, how much uziza leaves transforms this dish.
10. Stir and leave to cook.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Let it cook along nicely, you may need to dilute with hot water and season with ground crayfish, but let it cook. Ogbono needs to cook for at least, at least 45mins – 1hour overall. It is one of those the longer it cooks, the better it tastes, and that after effect taste left on your tongue that some don’t like about ogbono tends to be barely noticeable if at all, when you’ve cooked it for an extended period of time.
11. Finish off by returning the smoked fish variants back to the pot and stir gently
at this point, I also added Smoked Mackerel, which I did not boil with the meats. I would have added a little okro rings but the client doesn’t eat anything okro, so I left it out.
12. The very last thing you need to add here is crayfish. It just gives that extra boost of flavour, that will pack a punch from the very first bite.
……………and that’s your Ogbono re-defined.
Ogbono packed up to be delivered this afternoon. As for the fairy godmother effect? I am going to leave strict instructions with the client to only scoop out the portion to be eaten today, and the rest should be left undisturbed, to be reheated tomorrow with a little water. He will be told to give me a call tomorrow and tell me the difference. Hehehehehehehe
This is how you want your Saturay afternoon Lunch to go, with a little Yellow Garri or Hot Amala on the side.