My forays into Nigerian cooking mostly involves making Jollof rice and fried rice. Yes i love my Jollof, but like many things can be tiresome when you have it 6 out of 7 days a week. Whilst watching a cooking show on BBC , a Masterchef meets Apprentice and Bake off style programme, I decided to try out a new Nigerian dish out of curiosity. The stew known as Efo Egusi or in English melon seed and spinach stew is possibly one of my favourite Nigerian stews. It goes well with pounded yams, cassava and ….drum roll..my beloved rice. Yes it looks like it’s going to be rice 7 days a week. There are 3 important sources of inspiration when making this stew.
1) A Nigerian or African shop
I walked into the Nigerian shop outside my flat to buy all the ingredients and to my amazement 2 much older ladies who were themselves shopping, started offering advice about the best ways of cooking the stew. The lovely man at the till also offered some advice by telling me the sort of fish to buy, what to do with the melon seed powder…to fry or not to fry, he basically went over the cooking process. I have to admit, many of it zoomed past my head. All I could think of was….this might just be as bad as my souffle attempt a few years ago. You ever tried making souffle in a cup because you didnt know what ramekins were ? .. well I did and I still get shivers. Anyways back to the food, their advice was pretty useful. I have a feeling I am going to rely a lot on advice from that shop in the future.
|Nigerian masterchef : He really gave me some good advice
2) Family Whatsapp group
My family chat group really helped. My mum and her many sisters gave me tons of advice, even if they did make fun of me a little. I spoke to one in Chicago and another in Lagos. The stew was definitely intercontinental. Blending onions and mixing it into the melon seed powder before you stir it into the pot of pepper blended stew was one key advice.
|Family chat picture 1
|Family chat picture 2
|Family chat 3
There are tons of good Youtube videos out there, however it can all be a tad confusing as people tend to cook it slightly differently delending on what part of the country they are from. So I would say check out some videos, but really study the comment sections to see what other Nigerians think of the recipe.
Research over, it was time to start cooking up a storm. Here are a list of ingredients I bought
3/4 cup of Palm oil
3 bell peppers
1.5 scotchs bonnet
1 plum tomatoes ( optional)
3 tbs of crayfish ( You can buy a liitle sachet )
3/4 cup of Melon seed powder ( you can buy a sachet )
Smoked catfish / stockfish ( 3/4 of a cup)
1 cup of Spinach leaves ( diced )
1.5 Cups of diced lamb – ( keep the stock when you boil this. You need 1.5 cups of stock)
1 knorr chicken stock cube
1 maggi cube
Let the cooking begin
Boil some well seasoned lamb ( you can season with onions, peppers, garlic , curry powder, knorr chicken stock cubes , salt and mixed herbs) for 40 minutes and save the stock. You need 1 to 1.5 cups of stock. Ps Nigerians can boil tripe ( shaki ) and ponmo as well. Non Nigerians should stick to meats of known origin as the assortments of meats I mentioned might make you grimace. If you want to try something new however, then ask your local butchers for those meats as well.
|Boil some meat
Blend the 3 bell peppers, 1 onion and scotchs bonnet together. You can also add plum tomatoes, but this seems to be optional based on all the advice
|Pepper mixture blend
Pour the palm oil into a pot and saute half a diced onion for 4 minutes on medium heat. Add your maggi cube and knorr chicken cube to the palm oil for a minute, then pour in your blended pepper mixture for about 8 mins. Pour in your cup of stock and let it simmer for 5 additional minutes.
|Fried palm oil and onions
|Blended pepper mixture
While the meat stock is doing its thing, blend half an onion and add this blend to the melon seed powder along with 2 spoons of the crayfish powder. Mix it and add it to the pepper mixture for 5 minutes.
|Melon seed to the left and crayfish on top.
|Melon seed powder, onion blend and crayfish
|Stew with melon seed mixture
Add in your meats and fish for 5 mins.. You can add some salt after you taste it.
|Boiled smoked catfish / stock fish and meats added into stew
Toss in your diced spinach leaves for 5 mins and take off the stove.My aunts also mentioned adding a few diced basil leaves, but thats optional.
|Spinach leaves in melon seed stew
|Stew is ready
There goes my first ever attempt. I had it with a plate of rice and plantains. A match made in heaven if you ask me. The verdict on my stew according to my taster was a healthy 7 out of 10. Pretty good for a first attempt. The recipe have added to this blog has been edited a little to encompass the comments. The maggi cube and 1.5 cup of stock instead of 1 cup is a new addition. I think adding tripe and ponmo ( meats ) also adds a bit to that flavour.
Give this a go and let me know what you think. If you have any tips, I would love to see it in the comments as well.
|Rice, stew and plantains