On our menu today is Ogbono Soup. This soup is quite popular in Nigeria; almost all the ethnic groups prepare it. Ogbono Soup is versatile; it can be prepared with or without ogili, onions or vegetable. Ugu leaves (fluted pumpkin) is the commonest vegetable used in making this soup.
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The first time I ate Ogbono Soup with bitter leaves was at my Aunt, Ethel’s home. She was already cooking it when I arrived. I joined her in the kitchen and offered to help her chop the vegetables but she told me she was using bitter leaves. She must have seen the surprise on my face for she told me her family loves this new twist to the classic soup. Anyways, I kept her company and when the soup was ready, we served it with fufu. By the way, let me assure you that the marriage between Ogbono Soup and Fufu is a match made in food heaven. After that delightful meal, I also put my stamp of approval on Ofe Ogbono with bitter leaves. If you’ve not tasted it before, stay with me awhile and you will learn how to make it so that you too can testify.
Two handfuls of Ogbono Seeds
3 Tablespoons of Crayfish
1 Small Onions
1 Small Ogili Okpei, dawadawa or iru
2 Cooking Spoons of Palm oil
3 Stock cubes
Fresh Pepper and Salt to taste
How to Prepare
As usual, the first step in cooking is preparing the ingredients. So, rinse the goat meat and stock fish thoroughly. Season it with onions, stock cubes and salt. Cook till tender. Rinse the dry fish in lukewarm water and debone it. Set aside for later use. If you have whole Ogbono seeds, you can either use the coffee grinder or the dry mill of a good blender to grind it. If you don’t have either one, pound the seeds with mortar and pestle. The dry mill blender of most of these ajebota blenders do not do a good job of blending Ogbono seeds.
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Peel, rinse and dice the onions. Blend the crayfish, pepper and ogili. Set aside for later use. If you are using freshly plucked bitter leaves, then wash till all bitter taste is gone. If you are using already washed, market bought bitter leaves like I am, rinse and taste it. If the taste is okay, strain out the water and set aside for later use. If it’s not, put the vegetable in a clean pot, add water to it and boil for about fifteen minutes. Strain out the hot water and rinse with cold water. This should get rid of the bitter taste. Set aside for later use.
Pour palm oil into a clean pot and melt it on low heat. Please note that it is important to just melt the palm oil and not allow it to heat up. Once the palm oil has melted, add the onions and turn off the heat. Add the grinded ogbono into the pot. Use your cooking spoon to dissolve it in the oil. When it has completely blended with the oil, add the meat stock and a cup of water to the pot. Stir until ogbono starts to thicken and the viscous nature becomes evident. Now, when the soup “starts to draw,” as Nigerians would say in reference to its obvious viscosity, add more water or meat stock (if the latter is still remaining) to the pot and stir until the Ogbono absorbs the water completely. Check the soup’s consistency. Some people prefer very thick ogbono soup while others prefer a medium consistency. Once your desired consistency is achieved, cover the pot and set the heat to low.
When the soup starts to simmer, open the pot and stir the content every two to three minutes to prevent burning. When you stir, scrape off any Ogbono that sticks to the bottom of the pot. After about ten minutes, add the bitter leaves, if you did not parboil it. Continue stirring every two to three minutes to prevent burning. Do this for another ten minutes. Your Ogbono should be well cooked by this time and you can perceive its aroma.
Add the meat, stock fish and dry fish as well as the crayfish, pepper, stock cubes and salt. If you are using parboiled bitter leaves, add it now. Stir the soup. If you notice the soup has become thicker than you want, add a little more water. Cover the pot and allow the content to cook for eight minutes. Stir and turn off the heat. Ofe Ogbono with bitter leaves is best served hot with fufu or any swallow of choice.
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