Watch this video recipe of Egusi with Bitter Leaf Soup!
Sometimes a rich and delicious soup just sounds like the perfect thing to calm the body and soul down. This was the case last weekend. While pondering on what to do with the rest of the bitter leaves I had after cooking my sumptuous bitter leaf soup, I came to the conclusion that an egusi with bitter leaf soup will perfectly fit the bill. And I was right!
You probably may or may not have heard about the keyword "egusi" and then wonder what it is. Egusi is botanically known as Citrullus colocynthis (Curcurbita citrullus L. or Citrullus lanatus Thumb.) and it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It is known by various names such as agushi, egwusi, bitter cucumber, agusi, pumpkin seeds, egusi melon, squash, vine of Sodom plant, wild gourd, bitter apple, colocynth or desert gourd. Traditionally, egusi seeds are shelled with hands, however, there is also a machine for shelling the seeds. Egusi seed contains a high amount of oil, especially the unsaturated fatty acid, and protein. Egusi is distinguished by its fatty and protein-rich seeds that are mostly dried, ground and used as a soup condiment for cooking egusi soup (melon soup). Read more about egusi and its health benefits here.
A typical egusi soup comprises of the following ingredients: egusi, meat, fish, dried fish, stockfish, peppers, seasonings, onions, red palm oil, water and vegetables (for eg. bitter leaves, fluted pumpkin leaves or ugu, spinach). In the absence of the egusi seeds, pumpkin seeds can equally serve as a great substitute for egusi. Egusi with bitter leaf soup does not have to be difficult nor daunting to cook. When cooking a delicious soup such as this, I recommend that you gather the best ingredients you can lay your hands on. Please don't compromise on the necessary ingredients to cook this soup so that you won't be disappointed. Since this recipe calls for bitter leaves as the vegetables, I encourage you to also use bitter leaves for your own pot of soup. Although the ugu leaves are commonly used as the vegetables for cooking the egusi soup, the taste of bitter leaves in this soup is so distinctive. You can never go wrong by adding a handful of bitter leaves in this soup -- Trust me on this! But ensure to wash the bitter leaves thoroughly so as to get rid of the bitterness before embarking on adding them in the soup.
Basically, ground egusi seeds are used as a thickener for an egusi soup. Apart from egusi soup, egusi seed is also used for preparing assorted African cuisines such as egusi stew, egusi and ogbono soup etc. Just to forewarn you, this egusi soup recipe makes a huge portion of soup. The soup is quite rich and nutritious so you do not actually require a large portion of it at once, although I won't judge you if you do! You can decide to eat up the whole pot of soup at once---LOL.
But I can assure you that cooking a large portion of egusi with bitter leaf soup ahead of time so that you can store it in the freezer for future use saves you a lot of time. I prefer sharing the soup into sizeable containers before storing them in the freezer. That way, I won't have to thaw the entire soup whenever I need the soup. This really makes it so easy for anyone to pull out a container of soup from the freezer whenever the need arises and then warm and enjoy with any swallow of choice.
This soup is also a perfect soup to serve to guests or for events and festivals. The whole process of cooking this soup is pretty simple. The only part that could be a bit time consuming is washing off the bitterness from the bitter leaves. The process of washing the bitter leaves is not overly difficult, but in the end, everything comes together so well for an amazing outcome. The full recipe for this soup is down below.