Nigeria – Ofe Achara
by Verdzekov Bernard
They say, Ofe Achara is the most traditional way of preparing Egusi soup in Nigeria. This has a traditional name called Mgbam. This means molded Egusi. And it is said, the Egusi is not just any type of molded Egusi. With this type of Egusi, the Egusi becomes solid, tasteful and delicious when cooking process is over. Egusi could be used in the preparation of Okra, Vegetable (Njamajama), could be used to prepare Egusi stew and so many other dishes. Egusi helps to make the dish rich and nutritional. I have written a couple of articles on local cuisine where Egusi is used. Egusi is extracted by cutting a matured melon open. The seeds are visible. Remove and dry the seeds. This should take about a week or two with intense sun light for the Egusi to get dry well. You can as well boil the pumpkin from where the Egusi seeds where extracted and eat. To prepare Ofe Achara, follow guide below;
- Pumpkin seeds. 5 cups.
- Salt to taste
- Handful of Okazi leaves
- Glass of crayfish
- 1 Osu
- Palm oil
- Broken pieces of Achara
- Dried cat fish
- Ogiri Okpei
Before going into preparation process, I will first of all tell you about some of this Nigeria traditional names you don’t know about so that you don’t get confused.
Ogiri Okpei is made from locust beans and it is known as iru in Yoruba. This ingredienst helps to add that traditional taste to the soup.
Osu on the other hand is an ingredient that helps to hold the molded Egusi together. That is during cooking process, when the Egusi is molded, the Osu helps to keep it that way.
Achara is an igbo language which means Elephant grass. If you are in a Nigerian market just go by the names and if they don’t understand your pronunciation, give the meaning of what you saying. But you have to NOTE, Achara is not sugar Cain.
I have writing on soups and okazi leaves have been used in the preparation of some. This leaves can also be known as Afang leaves whose scientific name is Gnetum Africanum.
I purposely did this because this is one of the most difficult dishes I tried to prepare. Difficult in the sense that, I found difficulties looking for the ingredients. I thought the ingredients will just be around the corner like all the other cuisines. But it was not. So, for you to be able to prepare this meal, please go through the names of the ingredients and make sure you have them all put together before you proceed to cooking. Of course, this will take you some time. But I aim at bringing to you, all possibly simple steps for food to arrive in your mouth delicious.
- Grind your crayfish and keep aside.
- Chop your Okazi leaves and keep aside.
- Make sure your Egusi is dried and the outer skin peeled off. Grind also and keep aside.
- For your dry fish and stock fish, soak in water. When it gets soft, wash and keep aside.
- Grind your Osu seeds with Ogiri and keep aside.
- Peel your Achara until you get to tender part. When you get to the tender part, break into shapes. When breaking, any part that is too easy to break keep aside. It won’t be used for cooking.
- Boil your fish with salt to taste. The steeping you did earlier will make it easy for the fish to get softer perfectly.
- Put some Egusi in your pot add some of your grind Okpei and ogiri, add some of the crayfish then you add some of the fish stock, then mix well until a dough is formed.
- In another pot, boil water, after boiling turn in your molded Egusi in the pot and cook for 7-10min.
- When it has boiled well, add the remaining crayfish, dry fish, Okpei and ogiri and the remaining Egusi. Add some water and allow it to cook well. This should take about 15-20min. Make sure you stir so well so that your Egusi don’t get burnt.
- When it has cooked so well and you are able to see some emitted Egusi oil at the top, add your palm oil. Stir well. Allow for about 5min for your oil to cook a little, add your dry fish with stock, add you Achara and Okazi. Add your salt to taste and maggi. Add your pepper. Stir well and close your pot. Allow for 20-25min. About this time, it should be boiling, open and stir one last time. Your Ofe Achara is ready.
- Serve with fufu or cooked garri.
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