Last year we celebrated my husband’s 40th birthday with close friends and family dining and partying the entire weekend. We ate food far removed from the Nigerian Cuisine; perfectly cut pieces of steak, timed to cook to perfection. There was no such serenren this year. Instead, I cooked Nigerian food, for him and his squash buddies. They dined on beef that had been boiled, fried, and stewed. They ate pieces of meat which didn’t look dainty or pretty; Bokoto, Saki, Ahan, Ofun, fuku, edo! That’s cow foot, tripe, tong, liver, kidney and so on! I used to be embarrassed as a teenager having to explain to my non-Nigerian friends why there were pieces of chicken foot in my mum’s plate! Now I love the way Nigerians hold on stubbornly to eating every edible part of a cow; ignoring the irritating vogue of cling filmed meat looking perfect in supermarkets . I now proudly tell my non-Nigerian friends that ‘we’ respect the importance of living sustainably, ‘it’s not all about recycling bottles you know’, we eat everything – waste not, want not, we are deep like that.
So I immerse myself in Nigerian cooking and God knows its long! boiling, frying and stewing! I left out the assorted meat shhhhhhhhh but I am not a huge fan of tripe, tong, liver etc, except for Oxtail! I will blow my healthy eating habits completely, adding palm oil here, knor there, frying the fish, frying the gizzard. I even found ogiri in the market (fermented pumpkin seed), now that will go in my efo and peppered stew. On the menu is Efo elegusi, peppered stew, fried and stewed fish, oxtail, dodo and gizzard. If you are reading this and you have never experienced Nigerian food, you are dulling! When I cook I come correct, with passion. For me cooking is an expression of love, of friendship and a desire to see others pleasured. Good cooking is like good sex, you just can’t rush it. So when people ask me for my recipes I will share it freely. But the secret ingredient I can’t give you is patience and timing, people are always looking for short cuts; one night stands, easy money, friends with benefits, sugar mummies. Good food like good sex or any lasting relationship needs time. Fine Nigerian dishes need a solid foundation and that’s simply fresh and fine ingredients (cheap ingredients taste cheap). And remember, patience and timing. People often ask how I make my peppered stew, some call it red ayamase, the one with eggs, they can’t quite believe the simplicity of this stew; simple ingredients cooked slowly in palm oil for up to two hours or more; don’t just throw things in the pot, marinate it, build it up; cooking need not be complicated.
Recipe peppered stew
- Mixed Peppers – Red and Green
- Scotch Bonnet – To taste
- Onions – Red and White
- Plum or chopped tomatoes – a can
- Ogiri – a smidgen
- Blend all the above ingredients.
- Heat your palm oil, be as generous as you dare. However, you must, must heat it slowly, with the lid covered ((this is important for flavour) for up to an hour or two. It must be on low heat or else you will burn the palm oil.
- Now pour your peppered mixture in and cover and cook for another two hours – it requires patience.
- Buy a cut that lends itself to slow cooking, we Nigerians like to murder the meat after its dead but stay with us, it taste sooo good. Leg of Beef is the cut you need. Season it with Knor and onions only, boil and fry – deep fryer yields the best result.
- Pour some or all the stock in your cooking pepper mixture above, cook it some more, now wait until you see palm oil floating on your peppered stew – its ready, now pour in your fried meat and switch off the cooker immediately.
- Boil your eggs and use as garnish. Thank me on the blog!!