Boarding school made me detest Ogbono soup. It was always served as this watery light brown sticky soup that just reminded me of something I am too polite to mention here. The smell was also atrocious and it turned me away from Ogbono soup. It didn’t help that I had never eaten Ogbono soup at home, so for a good 6 years of my life I never went to the dining hall when this soup was served.
All that changed when I moved to Abuja for my Internship and I met Aunty Joke, another cooking heroine of mine, who re-introduced me to Ogbono soup. The first time she offered me this dish, I respectfully declined and she asked me why? I told her I hated it and she said, not the way I prepare it you won’t. I remember turning my nose at her and saying to myself Ogbono soup, really!!!!. I’ve spent more than a decade detesting this soup, it stands alongside Garden egg stew which I also detest. If anyone has a wicked Garden Egg stew recipe and you believe you can change my perception, please send it to me. Aunty Joke succeeded in changing my mind and I have been an Ogbono soup convert ever since.
So today this post is called Ogbono soup re-defined. I know so many people reading this must think, re-defined how? There are not that many ways to make Ogbono soup. Yes you will be correct about the method but what makes mine re-defined are the ingredients. I will surprise you and I can bet that you will never see Ogbono soup the same way again.
Here are my personal pet peeves with Ogbono Soup
a. I won’t touch it if it is watery, light brown or even dark brown – it just brings back memories from boarding school
b. As it is a creamy soup it must have loads of bite sized chunks to chew on otherwise it just reminds me of baby food
c. If it is not very sticky or elastic I’m not having any of it
d. It must be hot and spicy
e. When it is cooked with so much vegetables you are wondering if you are eating vegetable soup
f. Ogbono cooked with Ugwu
People tend to underestimate and underrate Ogbono because it is seen as some simple soup that you don’t need to do much with. Some even say it is the soup of the poor man because you just need a little to make a big pot of soup. Not the way I make it. My Ogbono soup is a powerhouse that can boldly stand along side what we consider the creme de la creme of Nigerian soups. I treat Ogbono with respect and raise the bar high when I prepare it, so you can imagine my annoyance when I am in someone’s house and I see the soup prepared just anyhow. Lol
So, what will you need
1 cup Ogbono seeds – blending in a mill will give you around 1 3/4 cups
1 big handful of Okra
1 handful of chopped Uziza leaves (hot leaf) – are you a little surprised?
1/2 cup of Iru – fermented locust beans
1 wrap of Ogiri – fermented oil seeds. Still surprised?
500g – 1 kilo of Assorted Meats
1/2 cup of ground Crayfish
1cup of Shredded smoked fish – you can use Eja Osan, Eja Sawa or simple Eja Kika
1cup of smoked large prawns
1 medium sized Stock fish
Periwinkle – (optional)
2 Red bell Peppers – Tatashe
4 pieces of Ata Rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
2 cooking spoons of Palm oil
Here’s how to
1. Boil your meat and stockfish, make sure it is well seasoned with salt, seasoning cubes and onions. Remember to boil your offals separately. When the offals are soft, simply pick them out from the pot and add to the pot containing the meat. As a personal preference my assorted meat for Ogbono soup comprises of Goat Meat, Beef, Cowleg, Saki (tripe/cow stomach), Pomo (cow skin or hide), Fuku (cow lung) and Kidney
2. While your meats are boiling, blend the ogbono seeds in a mill. Make sure you blend till you get a fine consistency. Never mind, it will be a little grainy. Just blend till bits of the powder begin to stick to the edges of the mill then you are sure you are done. Set aside in a dry bowl.
3. Also blend the Tatashe and Rodo. You may be wondering why I left out tomatoes and onions? Their acidic content neutralises the stickiness of Ogbono so if you have been having problems achieving a long lasting sticky result, those are your culprits. Also blend your crayfish – I rinse mine to get rid of the dirt and roughly blend. Rinse the smoked fish and tear apart with your finger
4. Now that your meats are soft, pick out the stockfish and tear into bite sized pieces, then add the blended pepper and let this boil for 2 – 3 minutes. Then add the iru and ogiri and let this boil for 5 minutes till you can notice a change in the aroma which is from the ogiri dissolving.
5. Add the ground crayfish, smoked large prawns and shredded smoked fish. Let this boil for 5 minutes and you will be left with a delicious stock with all the flavours from all the ingredients beautifully combined
You may know of a method of adding the palm oil first, then other condiments and then finally adding the ogbono powder into the pot. I don’t do that.
6. I mix the ogbono powder with palm oil to get a smooth paste then I add to the bubbling contents in the pot and then stir. The secret is your stock must be bubbling to prevent the curdling taste of palm oil on your tongue. Once you add the paste to the pot simply stir continuously and watch how the paste melts in the pot, combines with the rest of the ingredients and bubbles start to form. I used 2 cooking spoons of palm oil because I don’t like light brown looking Ogbono – major pet peeve
7. Like Egusi, you have to cook Ogbono for some time. Some people take it off the heat too quickly and it has this funny taste I really detest. This is Aunty Joke’s tip. You need to let Ogbono really cook, the longer it cooks the more sticky it gets and better tasting. So cook your ogbono for at least 20 minutes, stirring regularly and watching as the bubbles increase.
8. The soup will thicken with time, simply add hot beef stock or hot water and stir, taste very 3 minutes and you will notice that with each time it tastes different. It has a real sublime taste on your tongue. The more it cooks the better it tastes.
9. Snip of the tips of the okro and cut in round pieces directly over the pot and stir, then chop the Uziza leaves and add to the soup. Uziza leaves make a world of difference. Like Efinrin (or basil) this is a very aromatic but also spicy vegetable. Oh my, oh my, it instantly transforms the Ogbono soup in aroma, taste and flavour. Once the okro and the oziza leaves are in, stir and cook for another 2 -3 minutes.
If you have been using Ugwu previously or spinach, stop it today, Lol. Ugwu has no added flavour. Try Uziza leaves instead and tell me about the result. That is what clinched it for me and till date I can never cook Ogbono without Oziza leaves. When I have people over, or I take this soup to a friend’s house I’m always asked Dunni your Ogbono soup tastes different, OMG we love it, what’s in it – That’s my secret. Uziza leaves.
10. You will need a ladle spoon to test the consistency of the soup but about 10 – 15 minutes of cooking you should get a great result. Another thing is with Ogbono soup, I tend to leave it on the cooker overnight and reheat the next day before I pack it away in the freezer. It is one of those soups that you need to let it sit undisturbed for hours, simply reheat with hot water the next day and taste it. You would think some fairy godmother tampered with your soup overnight, because the flavour has amped up tremendously.
So, I hope I have been able to give you Ogbono Soup redefined. Please let me know how it works out for you. I am especially waiting for those who have never tried it with Oziza leaves before. Serve with Hot Amala or Yellow Garri
P.S – Weevils chewed through my Ogbono pods, so I have asked a friend to give me some from her cupboard. I will be making this soup again and posting step by step pictures. I hope you are not discouraged. The recipe is still the same, and it works very well