Hello Tribers, this post i wrote on instagram two days ago, inspired me to share this recipe.
I went shopping with Big Oladunni today and I felt like hugging all of you in Nigeria.
Oh my goodness, everything was so expensive. I just kept yelping and opening my mouth and exclaiming. Even my bargaining Ijebu skills had to bow and succumb. Before, when you walk away, they’ll call you back. It only happened once. From crayfish to pepper to, don’t even go near tomatoes, I just kept wondering how people eat well. Things I used to take for granted, converting to pounds, I must have used the calculator on my phone ten times today, compared with just last November.
I looked at the money I took with me, and was frantically checking my bag to find out if I wasn’t robbed or something because I was scrambling for leftover change to pay the lovely young man who helped us carry things in the market.
I know for some, market prices don’t mean anything to you, because you live in surplus, but for those that it does, here’s a big hug from me. I hope things getter soon, I’ve never been this hopeful before, but I felt empathy in waves today. So, I’m going to give out my tomatoeless stew recipe, and it’s a good one. It is Big Oladunni’s recipe. You won’t even miss it. Let me just manage to get my butt off to the local market and buy meat. I bought snails today, and I wanted to carry them around like a baby. Those things are more expensive than gold now ???
As sad as it sounds, this almost visceral need for a tomatoe-less stew recipe started last year. I posted a bowl of chicken stew that i made for a client last year – June 21st 2015 to be precise and the comments on that post were along the lines of, Dunni, tomatoes are like gold now ooooo, please release this recipe biko.
At that time, I hadn’t visited Lagos, so i couldn’t really understand. Geez, I understand this year. I felt empathy in waves, i mean come on, the ability to pay for essential food items are a basic human right. This isn’t champagne or caviar, this is Tomatoes. Flipping tomatoes. I am sorry, all that planting season, yadi yadi yada is BS. BS. How do sensible governments in the west do it, they are not immune from nature are they. In the case of Nigeria it is just bad planning, bad management, bad everything i can recite as long as my arm. But today is not about getting political, even the NLC strike didn’t work. Today is about a life saving recipe. It has no tomatoes inside and it is not “peppery”. Not at all.
As I said on Instagram yesterday (see why you need to be following @dooneyskitchen)
Tomatoes don’t only bring colour to the Nigerian red stew, they add sharpness or sourness from the acidity of tomatoes and they also add sweetness and help balance out the heat from the peppers.
In the absence of tomatoes, you replace with ingredients that mimic just that. So much so, if you get it right, it will be almost impossible to detect that the stew wasn’t cooked with tomatoes.
Yup. This is my mother’s recipe, but technically it is my Great Aunt’s recipe. When Big Oladunni walked in yesterday she said “obe e yin ta san san o, bi Obe Alhaja Risi”. For me i heard BOOM!!! In my head. In English, what she said was, this your stew is smelling nice, just like the stew her Aunt Alhaja Risi used to make. When Mummy gave me this recipe in June last year, she said Alhaja barely cooked stew with tomatoes, if at all she used it, it was very small. So, try her recipe. Mummy didn’t get to eat that stew last year, so you can imagine how chuffed i was when she made that statement.
So, what ingredients did i use to mask the absence of tomatoes. For me, there were two or should i say four ingredients
Ginger – it brings sharpness to stew, because naturally Ginger has a sharp taste plus buckets of flavour.
Iru 9fermented locust beans) Ogiri Isi or Dadawa – were you surprised? If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen this. Iru brings the sourness. Iru is a bad ass strong seasoning, so you only add just enough for it to bring the sour and creamy element to the stew, but not too much that you can smell it, unless you like Iru. If you absolutely detest Iru, you would have to use Garlic. That’s another substitute.
Finally, onions. Lots of it. More than you would have used, if you were cooking stew with tomatoes. Tomatoes are sweet and acidic. Onions are sweet and acidic, plus they help balance the heat from the peppers.
Shombo – long red chili. For sweetness. Chilies may be hot, but they are also sweet.
Add all the ingredients stated above and no one will ask you if you used tomatoes. They simply won’t notice. For extra oomph, you can add like 2 or 3 tablespoons of palm oil, mehn, you will be happily licking your fingers. Which tomato? Lol.
Because the pepper police have started leaving comments on Instagram and i was just shaking my head. One would think they were paying for this recipe, with all the complaints they were writing. I had a good mind to release this recipe strictly on the app which people would have to pay for, but I said to myself, nah, i won’t let the utterances of a few ruin the good i was trying to achieve. To the doubting thomases, reading this recipe, you don’t have to try it, in fact, don’t try it, and continue spending money on tomatoes. hehehehehehe. that’s my mischievous, slash slightly irritated by the ungrateful nature of some people talking. Try it first, before you knock it. Rant over, let’s cook. Let’s Cook
- 500 Naira Tatashe (red bell peppers) they came sold as 200 naira per portion, I bargained it down to 3 for 500
- 100 Naira Shombo (long red chilli) - you can use half of it, but i used everything.
- 50 Naira ata rodo (scotch bonnet or habanero pepper) - i suggest picking the bigger pieces, they are not as hot as the smaller ones
- 25 Naira Ginger - they came sold as 50 naira per bunch. I used half
- 200 Naira Onions - they were quite large onions, I used 3 out of 4
- 50 Naira Iru (fermented locust beans) - used half. If you like Iru, for even better flavour use the whole wrap. Substitute with garlic if you don't like Iru.
- Vegetable Oil
- Ike Eran - hump of the cow
- Palm Oil - optional. Very useful should your stew be too hot.
- Blend all the ingredients to a smooth puree.
- Taste it, and don't forget to come back and tell me it wasn't hot. In fact, i added more ata rodo t(scotch bonnet) to the original formulae above, because it wasn't hot enough.
- Normally, i wouldn't boil this ata lilo (ground pepper mix), but this is the one case i will make an exception. Boil it. You need that time to let the flavours of the pepper mix intensify, plus you get an added bonus of a rich red colour developing, so much so that it will look like you added tomatoes.
- Heat up oil, add some chopped onions, if you want to add more iru, here's the time to add extra to the oil and fry, or add extra garlic. Add the boiled pepper and allow it to fry till it has thickened. Lighten it up with beef stock, and in my case fried meat and taste and re-season as you go along and se fini. Tomatoeless stew.
- Oya, say thank you. LMAO. Just joking. This is enough stew to last a family at least a week, and you can walk past the tomatoe sellers and do shakara. Total expenditure - less than 1,000 Naira. Talk about being economy friendly.