I am sure, you must be thinking, Dunni huh? which soup is that? Lol. Well, let me me tell you how I got to that conclusion. My mum has friends from many parts of Nigeria and by consequence, I have “Aunties” all over the place. This is her recipe, modified. For non Nigerians reading this, culturally in Nigeria, the term Aunty is not only meant for your mum or dad’s sister. Any female friend or family member of your mum or Dad is called Aunty. The same applies to men, you refer to them as Uncle so so. It is a way of showing respect, as we do not call women or men who are way older than us by their first name. Serious abomination. It took some getting used to, when I started schooling in Plymouth. Having to call my lecturers John, Kevin, Laura, Mindy was very strange. I started out with calling them Mr this or Mrs/Miss that and they kept correcting me by saying ooooh Dunni don’t, Mr Carlton is my father, call me John or no Dunni Mrs Raymond makes me sound like an old grandmother, call me Mindy please. I am fine with it now, but I would definitely not allow my friends little children call me Dunni. Ah, nooooo, I am not that much Westernised. Lol
Back to food. Okay, there is a soup native to the South South region of Nigeria called Editan Soup. I had this at an Aunty’s house a long time ago and I remember very well because it was bitter and I did not really enjoy it. My Aunty wrote me a recipe, stating that I should wash out the Editan leaves properly to get rid of the bitterness. Because of the medicinal properties of the leaf, she said she did not wash the leaves for too long, hence the bitter taste, but for we modern city girls, I can wash for as long as I want to. I came across her recipe while I was preparing a shopping list for my mum and I wrote down bitter leaf, because I simply assumed that Editan was the Efik native name for bitter leaf. Ha!!! Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I asked a question on the group So You Think You Can Cook and I was told that Editan leaves are different from Bitter leaf. It is also bitter, but it is not the same. See why I keep saying that group is the place to be for any cook? If you haven’t joined yet, I recommend that you do. Even if you hardly use Facebook, you will find it useful. I was also corrected in my assumption that it is an Efik dish. Editan soup is an Ibibio dish. It gets better. Some women kept saying the leaves can only be sourced in Akwa Ibom State, but someone else disproved that saying, Editan leaves can be sourced in Oyingbo market in Lagos. Still in doubt about joining the group? If you need to know where to buy any ingredient in any part of the world that you are, just ask. Trust me, someone will know. It is a global group of over 12,000 members. One big happy family of cooks and chefs. Since I did not use Editan leaves, but substituted with Bitter leaf (which is a very good substitue) it will be wrong to still call it Editan soup, hence the term the Bitter leaf version of Afang Soup. Here’s how I made it
You will need
Water leaf and Bitter leaf – in a 3:1 ratio
500 – 700g of Assorted Meats
3/4 cup of beef stock
2 pieces of Ata rodo – scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
1 cooking spoon of Palm oil
1/2 cup of Smoked red prawns
1 handful of shredded stockfish
1/4 cup of ground crayfish
Salt – if you need to
Seasoning cube – if you need to
1. Boil your meats till tender and the stock is thick and rich. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: remember to use my tip of adding a strong smoked fishy additon to the pot shortly before the meats have cooked through. I used stockfish. Other options are eja sawa, smoked red prawns or whole crayfish.
2. While the meats are boiling, give the water leaves a good rinse and shred roughly. (personal preference – i don’t like water leaves shred finely). Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: always shred water leaf shortly before you cook with it. Never shred and keep lying around, except you are trying to dry out it’s water content by leavng it on the window sill, for example, otherwise it will disintegrate very fast and become slimy.
Proceed to washing the bitter leaves, after which you pound in a small mortar and pestle, till the bitter leaves break down and flatten, or you roughly blend. Careful though, you are not trying to turn the bitter leaves to a paste.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: to wash bitter leaves, pick the leaves from the stalk and place in a bowl of warm water. You wash bitter leaves by rubbing the leaves in both palms to release the dark green juices, which are in essence the bitter part of the leaves. You keep rubbing in both palms, creating a friction between your palms and the leaves, mimicking the motions of washing a piece of cloth. Dunk the leaves back in the bowl of warm water and the colour should be really dark green. Squeeze the leaves in your plams to let out more of the dark juice, then decant the water, fill the bowl with fresh warm water and repeat the process again. You will have to do this several times, otherwise the soup will be inedible, unless you have a high tolerance for bitter tasting food. With each time you decant the water, take a small bite out of the leaves, to taste for the potency of the bitterness. You will likely spit out the leaves on your first 2 or 3 trials, till you will get to a point where the water is less dark and the bitterness is palatable with a sweet-ish after taste in your mouth.
After which you pound. You will go from this
to this. Notice the difference in texture?
3. In a clean pot, add stock fish, assorted meats, and half of the amount of stock I listed above, then add roughly ground ata rodo and smoked smoked red prawns. Stir and let the pepper cook for a minute or two.
then add the water leaves. Shake the pot with you hands, turn the heat to low and leave to simmer for 3 – 5 minutes. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: i stated to use half of the stock i listed because water leaves have a very high water content. At the beginning, use stock sparingly so you don’t end up with a watery mess. When I cook veggies, I always cook on low heat from start to finish, to retain some of its nutrients, and to also prevent the stock from drying up faster than the water leaves can leach out their water content.
4. Once the water leaves have wilted down and you can see more liquid in the pot, add the palm oil, stir and cover the pot. This is to let the palm oil steam for 1 – 2 minutes with the contents of the pot, also adding its flavour.
Open the pot and taste the stock. You should not feel a curdling taste on your tongue. If you do, let it cook for another minute or so. The stock should not have a slight orange tint to it, so with the white meat like Shaki (tripe) and cow leg.
5. Add the bitter leaves to the pot, the other half of the stock and stir. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: i added the rest of the stock now, as bitter leaves have a rich fibre content, which will absorb the liquid in the pot, so adding the other half of the stock counteracts that. Pounding the bitter leaves, will break down the toughness a little and allow it to cook faster (3 minutes tops).
6. Add the crayfish, stir, wait for 1 minute or so and then taste for salt and seasoning. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: i always end my soup with the addition of crayfish because it introduces an ooomph to your soup that hits your taste buds immediately. Crayfish is also naturally salty, which means you may not need to re-season with salt or seasoning cube. If you feel you need to, add crayfish first before you add more salt or seasoning cube before you over salt your soup and get pissed. Lol
……………………and there you have it.
I was told this is a Calabar dish called Ukwogho Etidot. Tongue twisting, I find it funnier to call it the Bitter leaf version of Afang Soup. Lol. If anyone knows where Editan leaves can be sourced in London, please hit a sister up.
Update: I was just informed by someone on the group, that you can also get Editan leaves to buy in Mile 12 from Calabar women. It looks like Afang leaves i.e. Okazi but bolder and softer. Editan is the Ibibio name but Igbos call it Nkanka. So, my people if you know where I can source Nkanka in London, supply the information please. If you can find Nkanka, please cook it and send me your pictures. Thanks