We are about to have a Happy New year while serving up some Suya! There is this universal love for Suya amongst Africans that just warms my heart. At first, I thought it was more of a Nigerian thing, until I started seeing Ghanians and Kenyans making suya.
Suya is a form African street food in form of a kebab which is seasoned with a blend of aromatic spices. The meat is seasoned with the spices; then grilled over an open flame. The meat, when done is usually crispy on the outside and tender/juicy on the inside with the spices infused into every grain of the meat.
Let me digress a bit here.
There is something about meat that seems to make the average African happy and giddy with joy. It is supernatural! Living in Nigeria for example, you could see people spending time at different ‘joints(a small make shift restaurant that specializes in finger foods and alcohol). Individuals spend time with friends at these places; having what seems like a serious conversation about politics, soccer and sometimes marriage and religion. These conversations are usually done over bottles of beer and trays of meat. From peppered snails to Suya and roasted spicy chicken. You could see in these restaurants, different people from all walks of life. Men with their “babes” in tow, munching away at some type of peppered meat or chargrilled suya…smiling, love and laughter in the atmosphere with a good bottle of Heineken stirring their conversations.
You know how there is one person that lightens up your mood or the feeling you get when you see your favorite thing, that is exactly what Yam potage means to me. For so long I had people ask me “Why Yam Pottage? Why do you love it so much?” until recently when I sat down to ask myself the same questions and I realized, we had come a long way through difficult times or days when I had to survive in school or a new environment; just to lay more emphasis on this, I am very selective when it comes to my food so I would rather make the food or have someone I trust do it and back in Secondary School when I was in the hostel, the food was scary and just by the sight of it, I always lost my appetite, anyways has God will have it, the hostel matron opened the doors of her kitchen for me to prepare Yam potage whenever I found it difficult to manage the hostel food.
Oh! the joys of growing up as a little girl with a mother whose joy was in making food with age old recipes. Native yam pepper soup was always a hit whenever my mother made it. She used to make it with all kinds of dry fish, crayfish and aromatics. My favorite part was always the yam; which mother cut into huge chunks. It was soft and usually had the taste of the pepper soup…And to eat this meal, you had to dip the yam in some oil and pepper; then chase it with the pepper soup. It was just jazzy!
Ji mmi’ri oku is literally interpreted in English as hot water and yam. It is medicinal especially for new mothers; as it is known to help heal the insides after child birth.
Speaking of child birth, Nigerians have different rituals for new mothers. For the Igbos, this dish is made immediately the mother has had her baby; and the earlier she starts; the better for her stomach to heal. We also have another ritual where the woman is supposed to tie a big piece of cloth around her stomach to help keep the stomach flat. A good belly massage with hot water and a towel helps a great deal. She is also expected to sit only on hard surfaces for a few months to prevent her hips from spreading.
I remember after having my ajebutters, I had to eat ji mmi’ri oku; even if I didn’t want to observe other rituals. I like yam, so I didn’t really care. Even now; this meal is helpful in the curing of the flu, it helps with stomach upset and is a gives a great hug during the winter months. When I had my ajebutter1, my Aunty made me some and she had all kinds of aromatics, spices, stock fish and dry fish in the bowl. My brother served it to his visitors and it quite pissed me off! I was meant for me to heal…hiss lol
The healing properties of this meal comes from the spices and aromatics used. My favorite Nigerian spice is Ehuru and it is known to heal the stomach. As a matter of fact, I have used it for my upset stomach and it helpled to sooth it greatly. I actually made this pot for my ajebutter1 on the day she had a small stomach upset. She ate it all day and was playing by evening. The uyayak pod is also a soother. Many a time, I have had a cold and I have made regular pepper soup with the uyayak pod and the ehuru and it has helped put me to sleep; to help me rest; as what you need when you have a cold is sleep and fluids. You’d be surprised what these little spices can do for your body. It’s no joke!
1 small Nigerian yam tuber(peeled and washed)
1 large dry fish(washed and deboned)
8 ehuru seeds(Jamaican nut meg)
one uyayak pod. Aka Aidan fruit (try breaking it into pieces, but not into a powder)
3 small African negro pepper i.e (uda)
3 small habanero peppers(ata-rodo)
1/2 tbsp. crayfish
1/2 tsp dry chili powder
A hand full chopped scent leaves or basil
salt to taste
Roast the ehuru over open fire or toast it in a pan. Blend with the habanero pepper. (the scent is heavently)
Roast the negro pepper and remove the seeds by slightly crushing the pod.(do not blend into a powder…discard the seeds and use the slightly crushed pod in the soup)
Pour the peeled and washed yam into a pot. Pour water into the pot; until a little above the yam. Add all the seasonings except the dry fish and the scent leaves.
cook until the yam is tender. Remove the yam from the pot(this prevents the yam from over cooking); then add the dry fish and dry pepper.(if you need to add more water, you could do so at this point and adjust seasonings). Cook for a few more minutes. Add the scent leaves, check for seasonings and serve with yam, crushed habanero and palm oil.
What are your customs and traditions when it comes to meals like this? Please share with us in the comments 🙂
Food does make pretty much a lot of us happy. Is it weird? Well, sort of; but in a good way 🙂
Food is in a lot of ways source of healing. Have you ever seen the way Antony Bourdain talks about food? or is it Ree Drummond from the Food network with all the food porn she serves?
Food brings people of all kinds together. There is always a certain feeling of togetherness when people come together to celebrate with food. Have you been to a foot ball party to see how people just unite over food? Have you ever seen a nagging couple nag over good food? I watch Nollywood so much that, I know that when every fight between a couple ends, it ends with the question “have you eaten?” It has now become a form of apology
I remember how I came about this food thing. Apart from the fact that my mother is a retired chef, it’s personal for me. I suffered from depression a while ago and as you know, it’s sometimes hard to relate to one who suffers from depression; except you have been there. To some people it causes them to eat and to some it causes them to loose every appetite. And for me, I hardly ate at this period.
“well snap out of it!” that is the last thing to tell one who feels low and cannot see anything good in themselves. I have been there. Some will say, you better “grow up! and stop acting like a kid.”
What’s pepper soup? It’s pretty much a spicy soup seasoned and cooked with different herbs spices and seasonings. The best kinds are really the ones which have been marinated with the spices; hence you’re able to taste the spices in the meat 🙂
I don’t know a person who completely hates pepper soup. In fact it is known cure some stages of the flu…
I like this version of pepper soup because of it’s use of ginger which is medicinal. I remember being little and in my mother’s kitchen, my mother used to let me have some meat stock when I showed any sign of being ill. The meat stock; which is different from pepper soup would also help me feel better. I guess it was because I needed fluids to feel better at that time.
One of my favorite things to order from a local restaurant would be pepper soup. Goat meat pepper soup; precisely. Then the addition of the tripe and intestines always made it worth while; especially if the restaurateur is a good cook. Everyone seems to have their own version of pepper soup, but this recipe is my favorite. The basic pepper soup ingredients would be the calabash nutmeg, uda, and the uyayak pod(I’ll explain in a later post). Whatever combinations of these spices that seem right to you will work just great! You could also add ginger or even garlic. Food is versatile…
For this recipe, you could use offals, just make sure you cook them n a separate pot. All you have to do is, put it in a pot with water and it bring to a roaring boil; then drain and rinse before adding it to the pot of cooking pepper soup.
Of soups, stews and sauces. When it comes to Nigerian dishes, are we really sure what it means to eat a stew, soup or a sauce? And the fact that every Yoruba person I have met calls what “we” Nigerians call soup a stew even confuses me more than anything else when it comes to this subject. Or may be it’s because most of the Yoruba dishes have either a tomato or a pepper base. Okay let me explain what I know a soup, stew and sauce to be. To most Nigerians, a stew is made up of tomatoes or peppers with assorted meats or fish; while a soup is anything like Egusi, Ogbono, Afang etc. A sauce is mostly curry like; with a meat or vegetable base. I nor know oh, na the one I sabi I talk oh. No ask me abeg 🙂
I remember going to the village for Christmas and my aunt; my dad’s sister would always make some mushroom soup for us. One time she made it and it was filled with sand and I don’t think any of us cared. It was a mixture of wild mush rooms, achi and azu okpo(dried fish). I used to like Achi, but these days I rather go with Ofor. Achi and Ofor are simply thickeners used by the Igbos for local soups.
During the holidays in the village, we hardly ate jollof rice. In fact the jollof rice was a light skinned concoction that was so sticky with no maggi. Omase o. Anyway, we always ate rice and stew and on very special occasions my mother would make a whole bag of fried rice because our cousins and pretty much the entire clan were always in our house. I remember my Dad’s Aunty Da’da Priscilla also known as Da’da Prisci. She sold Akara at Ukwu Ukwa(at the root of the bread fruit tree). She always brought some for me. Maybe I was her favorite Grand niece hehehehe(jk). I remember going to her house and watching her cook and my favorite times with her was whenever she gave me a bowl of Oha soup and a plate of Akpu (fermented cassava swallow). The Akpu was always so soft and it would slide down my throat with such ease. I miss her ukpaka and Ji’akwu(African salad)
My favorite times growing up was eating from a tray with my cousins. I also loved Wednesdays because it was jollof rice day. One time I made Nigerian jollof “supergetti”(spaghetti) and I added some syrup type of thing. I thought it was some kind of oyinbo seasoning o. I found out later that it was pancake syrup *coversface….I used pancake syrup to make pasta. New recipe for y’all *laughs
I also loved eating with my father. I used to sit by his feet and at the end of his meal, he would share his meat with me; as baby concerned na hehehe :). At some point, I was in charge of making my dad’s meals. He ate a lot of “oiless” okra and dry fish. I miss that part with everything in me. May God rest his soul.
I have so many kitchen stories. Oh my dislike(for lack of a better word) for Ogi i.e pap (fermented corn meal) and my love for cerelac as a child. We couldn’t even eat our meat until after we finished our meals. My parents owned three farms and I didn’t like the cassava and yam farm because of the mosquitoes. But daddy used to only have me pack up the cleared grass and eat the roasted yam and spicy oil we took with us. I loved the corn farm because playing in it was like running through a maze. We made our own garri and Akpu for years. We also fermented our own corn for ogi. See, I’m not all the way an ajebutter :). We lived in the NNPC estate and our smallest farm was behind our house. We grew, pepper, we had small yam ridges, oha trees, okra, pumpkins, almond fruit trees, pineapples etc. I didn’t like that we had to eat beans that took hours that felt like days to cook. I didn’t like cooking Palm oil cream soup i.e. Banga; because it meant that I had to wash oily dishes(sigh! I hated doing dishes). Or was it Sunday rice and stew that took forever to cook? Olorun!
I spoke to some friends and acquaintances to share their kitchen stories and some of them had this to say;
“Now that you made me think, not sure this is part of what you want, but I remember we (siblings) never liked eating together but will jump for joy if asked to eat with our mum. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why…LOL we eat from separate plates” ….Elsie
“I remember my mom cooking bitter leaf from 4pm-9pm and at the end of it…..it feels like you’re drinking alomo bitter(lol).I love you mum!”….Phina
“I remember first learning to bake pound cakes. Cooking came quite later. But cooking Czech food takes about as long as cooking Naija food so it was just too boring. I learnt to cook quick stir fries and other modern meals my mom would not cook. Then I discovered seafood and it was love at first sight for me and my dad. But one dish I remember since I was a kid… My mom made borsch and I refused to eat it”….Blanka
I’m remembering my visit to an aunt and every time I was at her place, she was always cooking fish and oil with peppers. I never understood for the life of me what she was eating until she explained that it was fisher man soup. My aunty is from Bayelsa and Fisher man soup (which is different from the “Native soup”) is predominantly made and eaten by the people who are from the riverine areas of Nigeria like Bayelsa, and the other Cross riverine areas. (A little history)…According to the different people I asked, Fishing has always being a dominant profession in the riverine parts of Nigeria and the fishermen eat most of what they catch. In the early days the fisher men with the little palm oil they carried with them would make soups out of their catch and sometimes eat it with roasted yam. According to my sources, the people of these areas love their seafood and liken their soups to good sex…well I won’t dabble too much into the sexual aspect as we are keeping it Pg. I have to say though, apart from the act of wooing :), this soup is just one more thing these folks have perfected
There are several recipes for this soup, some people add tomatoes and pepper, some people add only pepper etc. I like this variation better as it is quick and easy. I skipped some steps, like removing the fish from the pot and adding your thickener. I do not see any need for that as it’s a messy process and could break the fish. I am not a Lazychef for nothing :)) I like to cut the cooking process in the kitchen when necessary.
There are different types of fish that are good with this soup such as Tilapia and cat fish. I always used Tilapia until I learnt how to properly clean cat fish. I never liked the slimy skin but one quick trick in my recipe works wonders. You may also add any sea food you like to your soup. For this version, I used fish, crabs and prawns. Any seafood should work
This soup has become one of the staples in my home and can be served with fufu, rice, eba, yam or even boiled potatoes.
What you will need
I whole cat fish; cleaned, gutted and cut into steaks(medium-large)
I medium to large Onion
Half a pound of shrimp crayfish palm oil about 40mls(add more if you want to)
1 habanero pepper or ata-rodo
1 finger cayenne or chili pepper
1 bell pepper
A hand full of garri for thickening(make sure it is soaked)
salt to taste
1 tsp dry pepper
A hand full of chopped basil or scent leaves
!On how to clean cat fish steaks look here
*To cook soup:
put fish into a pot
roughly or smoothly blend all your peppers and pour over fish(some people use tomatoes, I never do). Slice your onion into the pot. Add your dry pepper, palm oil and crayfish. Season with salt and bouillon. Pour hot water into the pot without flooding. Just right to the top of the fish then cover pot and on medium heat, bring soup to a boil. Let it cook for about 10 minutes Once the fish is almost done, check to see if the soup is thickened; then add your prawns. If the soup is still watery, add your soaked garri along with the prawns and shake the pot to combine. Do not cover the pot. Let the prawns cook until they have turned a good shade of pink. Your soup should be thickened at this point. Garnish with Basil or scent leaves and. Let soup rest for 10minutes before serving
*Please do not stir the soup, so that you do not break the fish. Always shake the pot to combine the ingredients. If using crabs, add them right before you add the shrimp and let them cook for a few minutes.
White yam pottage. My very creation. I don’t know if there are any recipes out there, but this is my easy one pot no mess recipe. The first time I tried this recipe was with sweet potatoes and boy was it yum!
Anyway, I was one yam richer and dude I made everything you could have thought of with the one yam. This recipe inclusive. haha!
Coconut yam pottage or white pottage as I call it, is my favorite kind of pottage. Why? Well because of the use of coconut milk; which is one of my favorite ingredients.
I remember the first time my dad told my aunt that he wanted to eat his yam with Enemundo sauce, my siblings and I were stunned by the name because we had never heard of it until that time. Out of curiosity, I asked my aunt what my dad was talking about and as you would expect, she said to me “if you want to know, come and learn what it is and how to prepare it in the kitchen” but I was reluctant with a lazy ass to watch her prepare the meal so I passed on that first opportunity. Once she was done, trust me, I could not resist the temptation to have a taste of it as I just stared at my dad eat his meal on the dinning table from the living room. I warmed up some courage and asked my dad to let me have a taste. As soon as I tasted it, it tasted better than any continental dish I had ever eaten in my entire life.