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The inspiration for this soup was drawn from my mum's eldest sister. Ogbono soup with bitter leaf happens to be my mum's sister's favourite soup. Growing up, each time I visited her, there would always be an ogbono soup with bitter leaves in a pot relaxing off in the kitchen. All the durations I came across this soup each time I visited her, a distinctive aroma usually accompanied the soup. Being that ogbono soup is my favourite soup (preferably, ogbono with okra soup), my sensitive taste bud would always beckon on me to feast on this palatable soup whenever the opportunity presents itself. Interestingly, my aunty never for once, got it wrong with this soup. So, here I am, taking my aunty's recipe idea for ogbono soup with bitter leaf, making it my own simply to appease you. The only difference here is that I used a smaller portion of bitter leaves compared to the size my aunty would ideally add in her ogbono soup. Then again, I used stockfish fillets instead of stockfish head or whole stockfish. Well, that's what makes cooking super fun - the ability to tweak things each time, but yet for an excellent outcome!
If probably this is your first time of hearing about an ogbono soup, you might be wondering what it is. So, what is ogbono soup? Ogbono soup is a type of soup that is cooked with ground dried ogbono seeds (Irvingia or African bush mango) as the base ingredient. Just so you know that "there is no ogbono soup without ogbono seeds". Ogbono is botanically known as Irvingia gabonensis. Irvingia gabonensis belongs to the genus Irvingia and species of African trees. Irvingia gabonensis is also known as wild mango, bush mango, odika, African mango, andok or dika. The tree bears edible mango-like fruits and it mainly grows in Nigeria, Angola, Uganda, Ivory Coast and Congo. The fatty and protein-rich nuts of Irvingia gabonensis are the edible parts used for cooking soup. In other to cook an ogbono soup, the seeds must first be ground. Ground ogbono seeds serve as a thickener for the soup.
Due to the slimy (mucilaginous), gluey or draw-y nature of the ogbono soup, some people refer to it as draw soup. Cooking an ogbono soup is not tedious, yet it is easy for the cook to get everything wrong with the soup if the cooking steps are not followed to the core. The process of cooking ogbono soup involves first cooking the meat, fish and stockfish until done. This is then followed by slightly heating up the palm oil in a saucepan then dissolving the ground ogbono seeds. This is followed by adding the dissolved ogbono into the meat after which the soup is allowed to cook further for a few minutes so that the ogbono can proof itself. At this stage, it is expected that the ogbono will start thickening and becoming stretchy in appearance. The rest of the ingredients (such as spices, chilli, vegetables etc) are then added for further cooking. I used bitter leaves as the vegetables for this soup and they were the last ingredients to go into the pot.
Ingredients for cooking a typical ogbono soup include palm oil, local seasoning (ogiri okpei), meat, fish, pepper, stockfish, salt to taste and leafy vegetables such as ugu leaves, spinach or bitter leaf. Ogbono soup can also be cooked with okra too. This ogbono soup with bitter leaves is pretty easy to cook, tasty, aromatic, flavourful and above all filled with assorted meats and fish to appease your taste bud. The soup can be served with either pounded yam, eba, poundo, fufu etc. Simply plate up, dive into the plate and dig in. I encourage you to grab the necessary ingredients, follow the detailed recipe steps and cook for yourself, family or friends a delicious pot of ogbono soup. In the end, I doubt if you will be disappointed with the soup.
Things to bear in mind while cooking ogbono soup:
(1) Do not sauté onions in the hot palm oil before adding the ogbono to dissolve. Onions interfere with the mucilaginous nature of ogbono thereby causing the soup not to stretch properly.
(2) Coldwater also interferes with the mucilaginous nature of ogbono. Always ensure that the soup base (meat, fish broth) is still cooking on the fire before pouring the dissolved ogbono into it.
Watch this video to learn how to treat pots before cooking on charcoal fire!
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup onions
- 1 dried fish
- 2kg assorted meat
- 200ml red palm oil
- 4 Knorr stock cubes
- 1½ cups stockfish fillets
- 1 yellow habanero pepper
- 1 cup ogbono seeds (ground)
- 2 ogiri okpei (local flavouring)
- A handful of washed bitter leaves
- Treat the cooking pot and place on a charcoal fire.
- Wash the meat and add in the pot.
- Add onions, water (above the meat level), pepper, salt and two Knorr stock cubes.
- Stir the meat, cover the pot and allow the meat to cook until tender.
- While the meat is cooking, slightly roast the two ogiri okpei and grind them (set aside).
- Soak the dried fish and stockfish in hot water for few minutes then wash thoroughly.
- Add the washed fish and stockfish in the pot of meat then continue cooking.
- Heat up a clean pot, add the palm oil into the pot and slightly heat up the oil.
- Add the ground ogbono, stir to dissolve.
- Pour the dissolved ogbono into the pot of meat.
- Stir the soup, add the rest of the Knorr cubes, add the ground ogiri okpei and stir again.
- Cover the pot then cook until the ogbono soup is thickened and stretchy.
- Add the washed bitter leaves into the pot of soup, stir and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Then bring down the soup from the fire and serve with either pounded yam, poundo, eba, fufu etc.
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