One of the most beautiful Nigerian dishes is Egusi Ijebu. And it's the step before efo, although a lot smoother.
- Toasted Egusi (melon) seeds – very important, to toast in a pan to ease out the natural oils from the egusi, which help it form that very vital smooth texture
- Red/white Onions – lots of it
- Tatashe – red bell pepper
- Ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
- Iru – fermented locust beans. You can leave this out, if you can’t source it
- Ogiri – one – two wraps, depending on the volume of Egusi. You can leave this out, if you can’t source it
- Smoked Mackerel – optional
- Smoked fish
- Assorted Meat – preferably goat meat, but any type of meat is fine
- Hake – or any firm fish like croaker
- Palm oil
- Stock – from your meat
Toast the Egusi seeds in a dry frying pan, until the seeds start to brown a little. Be careful they don’t burn
Blend all the ingredients save for the Fish, meats and Ogiri in a blender. Kitchen Tip: egusi Ijebu is meant to be smooth, smooth, smooth. So therefore, eveything you need to add flavour, that will not dissolve naturally (like Ogiri), should be blended. You also need to blend with water and beef stock, because the paste should be quite watery to start with. It will thicken in the pot don’t worry, besides Egusi Ijebu is a very fluid soupy soup.
- Empty the contents of the blender Jug into a pot, and pour in Palm oil. As soon as the pot is on the heat, you have to stir and stir with your back into it, because if you leave the Egusi undisturbed, it will start to clump together and naturally form lumps, or at the least pebbles, which you don’t want, so you stir, stir, and stir, while it is cooking, to incorporate the palm oil, at first, and then as it cooks.
- Keep stirring until you can see and feel the egusi thickening. The palm oil should have properly combined, and the signature Egusi Ijebu colour, should be slowly forming. Midway before this stage, you should have added the Ogiri. It will dissolve, and the aroma is amazing.
- You now need to let the Egusi bubble up and cook some more. You know you have done a good job of stirring, if when left alone, it doesn’t clump up, stick to the bottom of the pot or form pebbles.
- While allowing the Egusi cook undisturbed, fry the hake. When the soup has thickened sufficiently, add the fish and assorted meat pieces – goat meat, beef, saki, pomo, cowleg, anything you have at home. Once they are in, stir, taste for salt and seasoning cubes, and re-adjust if necessary.
Give it much longer on the heat, and you should notice the colour of the Egusi deepen to a mustard-ish shade. Also teeny tiny patches of palm oil interspersed with the natural oil of the Egusi should be doing Peek-a-boo on top of the soup………………and you are done.