I thought it would be interesting to start this journey into African/Nigerian food with a soup that can be quite ‘controversial’. What I mean by ‘controversial’ is that some people love it, some hate it and some are not very sure what to think about it :). But let’s get into it and see if you guys can guess the name of this soup before I reveal it at the end of this blog.
We used to go shopping for African/Nigerian ingredients at a local African/Nigerian shop, and I always loved how you can feel a little bit of Africa in that little crowded room. I love the music, the smell (not always though:)) ), but what I like the most is the fact that for a few minutes while people (and here I am referring to Africans) do their shoppings, they connect with their mother land and become their true self - all accents become real and an amalgam of different languages can be heard. Simply love it! Anyways during all this Coronavirus situation we turned towards online shopping, as I am sure many of you did, but even though the variety and freshness of products is sometimes better online, we realised that the prices are even higher than they usually are in a physical African/Nigerian shop. Therefore, we decided to open our own online African/Caribbean shop and try to bring people quality products at better prices. You can check out our website here.
Anyway, for this ‘slimy soup’ we will usually need the following ingredients: wild mango seeds (of course these are not usually called like this, but if I tell you the name here, I am basically telling you what this soup is called;) ), palm oil, vegetable (which can be spinach, pumpkin leaves or bitter leaves), ground crayfish, onion, stock cubes, salt and pepper and of course the mighty ‘leave the best at the end’ (as every respectable Nigerian - not sure this applies to all of Africa - family eats their meat at the end of the meal) assorted meat :).
Once we have all the ingredients the fun begins: the actual cooking! Oh believe me when I tell you that it can be funny, or maybe even tragic?! I guess it depends from whose point of view you see it :D. In my journey into African/Nigerian food, I had many moments when I felt that I was actually ‘terrorising’ my husband with my cooking :)). My first try of any Nigerian dish was always quite far from the truth and I knew it, but I still allowed my husband to eat it and pretend to like it, because well he loves me and he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings :) So I guess from his point of view my cooking was tragic indeed :)). This particular soup is even worse because if you get it wrong, there isn’t much you can do to save it, as doing it wrong can make it sour… In essence it is not a complicated recipe, but it does need a few trials before you get the hang of it, or at least I needed them :D. You need to pour the palm oil into the pot and allow it to melt, once this happens add the grounded seeds of wild mango ;) and turn the heat level very low. When the powder is completely dissolved in the oil you can add the water from the meat little by little while stirring. At this point the soup will start to thicken and draw (it kinda put me off the first time I saw this, but then the taste is really good… so I guess I am that person that isn’t too sure if I like ogbono soup… whoops a slip of my tongue, but I can as well go ahead and admit that yes it is ogbono soup I am talking about, because by now I am sure everyone realised this. You then need to stir until the water is absolved and repeat the process until you get the right consistency (for about 20 mins). You then add the meat, salt, pepper, crayfish and stir very well. Finally add the vegetable you prefer and turn off the heat. Time to enjoy, well at least those of you who actually like this ‘slimy soup’ :). Don't forget your pounded yam or eba.
What I love about African/Nigerian food is that it actually tastes different every time you eat it. And usually two people never cook it exactly the same. So, I am sure you guys will probably contradict me in some of the steps above, but that’s the fun of it :). What do you usually do different when cooking ogbono/ogbolo soup?