Where do I just start from? Well, let me start by asking if you've ever eaten any tasteless meal?
Yes I've had some unlucky occasions when I ate some tasteless meals and I have no doubts you too must have experienced such. Food tastelessness can be as a result of using the wrong ingredients or possibly using the right ingredients but with the wrong cooking methods. Whichever one still leads to food tastelessness but this post will focus on a particular local spice that can help to boost your food aroma especially local soups.
Although some contemporary seasonings and spices do exist such as stock cubes etc, yet we oftentimes especially when cooking some local delicacies would love to draw out all the natural tastes and aroma attached to such food. This can only be successful by using the right local seasonings and spices. There are loads of local seasonings out there and each country has their preferences. I will try to cover as many local spices and seasonings as possible on this blog, hopefully very soon but this particular post will focus on a local Igbo seasoning known as ogiri okpei.
You might have known about this seasoning, used it and still using it or, mmmmmm…. this might be your first time ever hearing about this local spice. If you belong to the category that knows and uses this spice, continue enjoying the great aroma and flavor from this special spice but bear it in mind that this post will also benefit you as you will get to learn more about what this spice is all about and how to make it on your own. However, if you are a first timer, then fasten your seat belt as I ride you through the nooks and crannies of this delectable spice “ogiri okpei”.
Ogiri okpei is a food flavoring produced from fermented oil seeds such as egusi seeds, Prosopis africana (Mesquite seeds), castor oil seeds, fluted pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. It has a very strong aromatic smell that sets the whole house on a high pitch once the ogiri okpei jumps into the soup pot. Ogiri okpei originated from West Africa, precisely Igbo part of Nigeria and it is characteristically dark-brown in appearance. Different parts of Nigeria have different names for ogiri okpei; for example, the Yorubas call it Iru while the Hausas call it Dawadawa.
Ogiri okpei has remained the pride of culinary purposes from time immemorial and it is interesting to mention that this spice had and continues to play a major role in serving as a nutritive protein substitute (being produced from leguminous seeds) as well as serving as an aromatic flavouring for dishes especially soups. This soup is almost unavoidable in several local dishes such as ofe nsala (white soup), melon (egusi) soup, ogbono soup, ofe akwu stew, yam porridge etc.
Although this spice is usually applied in very little quantity, yet its smell is unavoidably noticeable. Apart from ogiri okpei’s distinctive taste and aroma, this spice is believed to be highly nutritive and beneficial to health. Economically, this local spice is marketed both in Nigeria and beyond but the spices are easily obtainable from any African shops in the Western world. Nutritionally, past studies reveal that fermented vegetable proteins are potential protein supplements as the f-Lipase activities usually becomes very strong and on the rise during the period of fermentation. Ogiri okpei fits the bill in this scenario because it is produced from leguminous seeds that are highly proteinous and healthy.
How To Make Ogiri Okpei
1.The seeds of choice are first sorted, washed and cleaned thoroughly in clean water. Remember that you can use either egusi seeds, fluted pumpkin, Prosopis Africana (Mesquite seeds), castor oil seeds or sesame seeds. 2. Cook the seeds until they get softened so that the seeds coverings can easily peel off for easy removal. Afterwards, wash the cotyledons and pour in a sieve to drain excess water. 3. Then add the cotyledons into a canister or vessel then cover with local leaves like plantain leaves etc and allow to stay for at least 4 days to undergo fermentation. 4. It is optional to place the vessel under sunlight during the process of fermentation so as to hasten up the fermentation process. 5. Once the fermentation process is complete, ground the fermented seeds into a smooth thick paste, then mold into small balls and allow to dry under the sun. 6. Once the ogiri okpei is sun-dried, it is then ready for usage.
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