If life gives you a bitter leaf, simply make an authentic bitter leaf soup out of it. Bitter leaf soup happens to be one of my favourite soups, my mum's favourite and my father-in-law's favourite soup. In fact, bitter leaf soup is one of the favourite soups of a majority of the people from the Igbo tribe of Eastern Nigeria. Any traditional event or festival in Igboland that isn't graced by a bitter leaf soup is always deemed incomplete. I know I've posted a couple of bitter leaf soup recipes on my blog in the past, which are all good, but I couldn't resist posting this particular one simply because this one is a winner.
The three reasons why I can't resist making this recipe are:
(1) To make a video of the bitter leaf soup recipe.
(2) To prove that an authentic bitter leaf soup can still be cooked even with dried bitter leaves.
(3) To show how to cook bitter leaf soup with charcoal fire.
Now the third reason was the key motivator for creating this recipe. If I may ask, did you know that charcoal-cooked or firewood-cooked foods taste better than their counterparts cooked with contemporary cookers? Well, don't take my word for it, try it and let me know your opinion. Since we are now officially in summer, the weather being so favourable, the right ingredients being available, I knew outrightly that this is the perfect time to get the ball rolling and make this recipe a reality. I was planning on adding some stockfish head (isi okporoko) to the soup, but then I couldn't buy any at the African shop I visited. But since I was able to buy some stockfish fillets and dried catfish, I confidently assured myself that I need not bother. And the soup still came out so so well that the aroma oozing out from the soup saturated the entire neighbourhood! Winks--- All that I wish for in a bitter leaf soup were all present in this soup. Whether you cook this bitter leaf soup with stockfish head, or you cook it with just stockfish fillets, you can never be disappointed, trust me!

Before you read further, watch this video on how to cook bitter leaf soup!


Of course, I had to use the cocoyam flour I previously processed by myself as the soup thickener. You can find the video on how to make cocoyam flour here. Then again, I made a video of how to revive dried bitter leaves so that the leaves can look as fresh as freshly-washed bitter leaves. But you can still use the freshly-washed bitter leaves for the recipe as well. Did you know that you have to treat the exterior of your pot before cooking on charcoal fire? Again, I made a video on how to treat a pot before cooking on charcoal fire or firewood. Check it out hereSince all things were equal, it was then a perfect avenue to make such a palatable soup and it was perfect. The entire ingredients paired up so well for an awesome pot of soup and it was fun to cook outdoors again after the long winter period. Before you read further, let me quickly point out what bitter leaf soup.
What is bitter leaf soup? Bitter leaf soup, which is commonly referred to as ofe onugbu by the Igbo people of the eastern part of Nigeria is a rich soup that must be cooked with bitter leaves in order to retain its title. The bitter leaves are what make the soup what it is. Apart from the bitter leaves, there are a few key ingredients that must be thrown into the pot while cooking the soup and these ingredients are cocoyam paste and ogiri (local flavouring). Bitter leaves, cocoyam paste (ede) and ogiri must be part of a bitter leaf soup in order for the soup to be truly what it is. The rest of the ingredients can be used interchangeably in the soup for example; instead of using red palm oil for cooking the soup, one can use palm kernel nut paste or red long sweet peppers as alternatives. The essence of adding red oil is simply to add colour to the soup. Of course, some people do not even include oil in their meals hence the reason palm oil isn't one of the key ingredients for this soup.

As the name suggests, you probably might assume that this soup is a bitter one if this is the first time you've heard of this soup. Just so you know that before any bitter leaf soup is cooked, the bitter leaves must be washed thoroughly so as to get rid of the bitterness in the leaves. FYI, the soup won't come out well if you fail to wash the bitter leaves well. In my opinion, I think why most people love this soup is because it is plentifully stocked with assorted meats, meat parts (like tripe), stockfish, dried fish and other interesting condiments. The peculiar choice of flavour and spices used for the preparation of bitter leaf soup always stand out the soup as a WINNER.
Bitter leaf, which is botanically known as Vernonia amygdalina is an African herb that is distinguished by its bitter green leaves with a distinctive smell. Bitter leaf trees grow up to 5 meters tall in height when fully grown while the bark is grey or brown coloured in appearance with a rough texture. Learn more about the health benefits of bitter leaf here. As previously mentioned, another unique ingredient that must not be found missing in any bitter leaf soup is ogiri. You probably might ask what is Ogiri? Ogiri or (ogili) is a local flavouring produced from either fermented castor oil seeds, melon or egusi seeds or sesame seeds. Ogiri is distinguished by its strong pungent smell and it is this smell that makes any bitter leaf soup authentic. Ogiri, which is commonly known as ogiri Igbo is a popular flavouring in the Igboland. Ogiri is made with any one of the oilseeds (castor seeds, melon seeds, sesame seeds) plus water and salt.
Cooking this bitter leaf soup especially with a charcoal fire was a delight for me because the soup turned out amazingly well. While I was cooking the soup, the distinctive aroma oozing out from it enveloped the entire neighbourhood. Don't take my word for it - try the recipe yourself and let us know what you think. Serve your bitter leaf soup with any of your favourite swallows such as pounded yam, poundo, eba, amala, fufu, plantain fufu etc. Bitter leaf soup can also be served alone, just go ahead and enjoy!

Watch this video to learn how to revive and wash dried bitter leaves.


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