So, my 2015 pledge to you was to bring you even more Nigerian recipes. The deal was to contact old Aunties to dig out recipes from the past, or their hidden secrets, tips that make their food rememberable. This is definitely one of them. Most definitely. Like my Grandmother’s Scented Efo Riro (recipe HERE), this is a flavourful aromatic Egusi soup, that is nothing you have cooked before, as regards Egusi. How did I find this recipe? Well through the means I wrote above – old Aunties. A reader left a comment on my Banga Soup recipe, telling me her Aunty thickened her Banga Soup with Egusi. She asked me if I knew anything about it. I had no clue but I thought the idea was very interesting. Anyone who reads Bella Naija, must have read very wise comments from a commenter called Ekwitosi. She has more sense than you can imagine, and she is a fabulous writer too. Remember my Anniversary giveaway last year? Well, one of the food processors was going to a reader on Bella Naija. Ekwitosi entered the competition and won. Kenwood is not a popular brand in the US, and we couldn’t find something suitable, so we both agreed that when next she is in the UK, she would get her prize.
A few months ago, she came over for a wedding and we got to meet. She is such a darling, like major. At her friends house, I got to meet a much older woman. Ekwitosi was busy introducing me as Dunni the food blogger, and suddenly the conversation changed to food. I looooove discussing Nigerian food with much older women. The juicy tidbits they give out, is worth their weight in gold. Eba and Egusi was a late Lunch, and that is how this kind Aunty from the East, started telling me about using Ehuru in Egusi soup. I had never, like ever, ever, ever heard of that before. Quickly I filed that into the recesses of my memory, and told myself don’t you dare forget. Don’t you dare. Weeks after, I was at my friend Ade’s house and we agreed on Egusi soup for dinner. Suddenly I remembered the Ehuru tip. Luckily, Ade had some at home and I was giddy with excitement. It was then I found out that Ehuru is a spice you have to treat with a lot of care and respect. A flick of your wrist, and your lovely soup will turn bitter in an instant. Oh dear, Ade was so disappointed. She is just as experimental with food as I am, and imagine both of us waiting for the magic to happen, only to end up with a bitter soup. It wasn’t even the bitter leaf Egusi kind of bitter. It was just nasty. Ehuru tasting everywhere, like some herbal concoction. I did try to remedy the situation by adding more egusi and blended onion, but it didn’t restore the soup. I remember apologising profusely, and we ate it like that. So, experiment 1 was with Palm oil and over used Ehuru.
When a food experiment doesn’t work, I try, try, try again. So, at home, I tried the soup again. This time, Experiment 2 was with Palm Fruit Extract and Ehuru. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t have that wow factor for me. I couldn’t taste the difference with using Palm fruit extract instead of Palm oil. If you’ve cooked Igbo native soups like Ofe Onugbu and Ofe Owerri with Palm Fruit extract instead of Palm oil, the difference is veeeeeery clear. It is soooooo much nicer, and I was expecting that with this Egusi soup. Also, I was expecting should I say “wonderment” from the Ehuru, and it was meh!!! Usually, with food experiments, I get it on the second try, and this one I just thought okay, maybe my expectations were too high, and abandoned the idea, until my fellow cooking sister Nma, put up a picture about “Banga Egusi”. Then I remembered I wanted to give it another go, but I wanted to know where I went wrong the second time. Hey, the first time was obvious – too much Ehuru. I may not remember your name tomorrow, but with cooking, my memories are usually intact. So, I rewound time back to cooking at Ade’s house and wondered why I added too much Ehuru. Then it came to me. I couldn’t taste the Ehuru, so I kept adding more. What did I add to the pot before the Ehuru? Crayfish. Ah ha!!!!!!! There was my answer. The offending ingredient was nothing other than crayfish. If you have read my recipes with seafood, you will see that I don’t add crayfish. The reason, the flavour can be quite domineering. I kept adding more Ehuru the first time because the crayfish didn’t allow me detect the flavour of the Ehuru.
With Experiment 2, I was even more wary of adding the Ehuru, and Mr crayfish made sure it didn’t shine, so with Experiment 3, I totally left it out. Wowzer!!!!! Again Woooooooowzer!!!! OMG, WHAT!!!!!! I kept shaking my head, and smelling and tasting, and nodding my head and sighing. Geeeeeeeez. It felt like Egusi soup cooked in a clay pot by your grandmother. There was this earthy, native flavour to it. Egusi raised to the power 5 million. A friend came to visit and said okay Dunni, I stayed too late. I have to feed the Mister, I hope you have soup I can take with me, and just make Eba or rice, when I get home. That is how I gave her a bowl from the freezer. Minutes after she got home, the ping was. I am not feeding him your Egusi o. He might expect that all the time. Plus it is too good, that I really don’t want to share. Recipeeeeee, I can’t wait to try it. Until then, this is for me and my mouth only. SCORE!!!!!!!!!!!
When I posted how to remove the shell off the calabash nutmeg, I started seeing comments about using this in Egusi. Soooooo, I have been late to the game since. So not fair people. Share these golden cooking tips oooooooooo. Pleeeeeeease.
- Egusi seeds
- Half an Onion
- 2 tablespoons of Iru - fermented locust beans
- Palm Fruit Extract - either from a can or from scratch
- Ground Ehuru/Iwo/Posa/Erhe/Gudan Miya (calabash nutmeg) - in teaspoonful measures
- Assorted Meat
- Meat Stock
- Smoked fish
- Seasoning Cubes
- Green Vegetables of Choice
- If you would like to learn The New Nigerian Cookery method of removing the shells of the Ehuru to get to the seed within, The New Nigerian Cookery Style, click HERE
- Now you have your extract, boil and let it reduce a bit. If you are using the extract from a can, just add some water, and let it reduce too.
- By now, you should have your assorted meat almost boiled with smoked fish and ready to go. Add the reduced palm fruit extract to the pot of meats and add your fresh pepper and let them boil together to combine the flavours.
- Add ground ehuru. You start with a teaspoonful, stir give it a minute or two and taste. If you can't taste the flavour, add another teaspoon and work from there.
- Add the Iru and stir. This soup is a smogersbord of local flavours, I tell you. The addition of Iru will blow your mind, and remind you of soup cooked by your grandmother. I added roughly two tablespoons.
- Blend your Egusi with about half an onion and a little water, to form a thick paste. Add the Egusi puree to the pot in tablespoons full and let it settle and cook in the pot, with the rest of the palm fruit stock.
- Allow the egusi to cook, and stir periodically. If you added too much Egusi puree, just add water, and you will be fine.
- Let the Egusi cook, until you start to see patches of oil float on top. Taste and ensure you enjoy it. By now, the flavour of the Iru, Ehuru, and smoked fish would have combined oh so well, it will literally be the best pot of Egusi you have ever cooked. You will now understand why I did not put crayfish anywhere near this pot.
- Add the fresh green vegetables and stir.
- Give the vegetables time to wilt in the soup and take the pot off the heat.
- and that people, is a flavourful, aromatic and native inspired Egusi. You will almost want to throw your bottle of Palm Oil away and put Ehuru in everything. The aroma alone, the way the flavours dance on your tongue. Geeeez. Everyday Egusi just went from everyday to super fragalistic expealiegusidocious
This shouldn’t be your every day go to Egusi soup, or you won’t cook anything else. Hehehehehehe, like seriously. This is the kind of special Egusi that you cook, when you want to use it as a weapon. The kind you want something from hubby or Le Boo, or your in-laws are coming and you want to knock their socks off, or you really want to show off your cooking skills to your friends, or you are having a party, and you just want them to not stop talking about your Egusi Soup. You cook this, walk away and watch from the sidelines beaming like a Cheshire Cat. I definitely will be using this in the nearest future. *wink* *wink*.
In the spirit of the upcoming elections this year, patriotism and all that jazz, I would like to highlight what makes us special as a country through food. Hey, how about patriotic pounded yam pops.
If you like this recipe, remember that you can now Save this recipe. You will be prompted to open a Big Oven account, which is free. To take this a step further, download the Big Oven app on your phone. Happy New Year