This season is perfect for a hot bowl of nsala soup. Here’s how to go about it.
Fresh pepper and Cameroon pepper
Ehuru (calabash nutmeg)
Medium sized onions
Locust bean (ogili okpei, iru or dawa dawa)
6 medium sized cubes of raw white yam (for thickening)
4 leaves of utazi
Salt (to taste)
Cut, rinse and boil a few cubes of yam. When the yam is ready, put it in a mortar and pound until it is smooth. Set aside for later use. Rinse the chicken and put it in a cooking pot, preferably one that is big enough to make the quantity of soup you desire. Spice it with stock cubes, onions and salt and cook on medium heat. Let me mention at this point that I don’t use broiler in cooking ofe nsala. This is because it disintegrates quickly into the soup. I prefer using parent stock or old layer. They are a stronger breed of chicken and they taste better too. However, if you’re cooking ofe nsala with broiler, do not pre-cook. Add all the ingredients immediately so that the soup and meat will be ready at the same time.
Having said that, cut the fresh fish and remove the intestines. Catfish is usually slimy so I pour hot water over the fish. The hot water eliminates the sliminess and hardens the fish so that it does not disintegrate while cooking. After about two minutes, rinse the fish with cold water twice to ensure the sliminess is gone before setting it aside.
Blend or pound the crayfish, ehuru, uziza seed, ogili, uda and pepper. Rinse the dry fish with lukewarm water and salt. Set aside for later use. Rinse and cut your utazi leaf. This leaf is bitter but it adds a certain flavor to your soup so a little is usually enough. Add a little more water to the chicken. Then add the catfish, dry fish, pounded yam and the blended ingredients to the pot. The pounded yam is the thickener for this soup; please note that it is best added in small lumps for easy dissolution. Stir the soup and check the taste. You can adjust the seasoning if need be. Afterwards, cover the pot and allow the soup to come to the boil.
Also note that the responsibility of determining the soup’s consistency rests squarely on your shoulders. If you love your soup thick, you can allow the yam to melt completely into the soup. If you like it slightly thick like I do, then you can scoop out little pieces of the yam before it completely dissolves into the soup. Once the consistency you require is achieved, add your utazi leaf, stir your soup and turn off the heat.
Ofe nsala is best enjoyed with pounded yam.
Featured image source: Cookpad