Egusi is a West African name for the seeds of plants like squash, melons and gourds that when dried and ground become a staple ingredient in many West African dishes. Particularly, in Nigeria culture, egusi is popular with pounded yam; these seed are rich in fat and protein and adds these essential nutrients into West African cuisine. Egusi belongs to the Gourd family. It looks everything like watermelon on the outside but the inside is quite different. Unlike watermelon, egusi melon has a bitter white flesh but the seeds are used for quite a number of recipes in Africa especially West African countries.
Nigerian Egusi Soup
Is a soup thickened with ground melon seeds and contains leafy and other vegetables. It is one of the most popular soups prepared by most tribes in Nigeria with considerable variation and often eaten with dishes like pounded yams, prepared with goat or beef meat, fish or shellfish. Egusi has a very nutritional value about 50 percent of healthy fats, 30 percent protein and lots of vitamins. There is just something about Egusi soup that makes it totally irresistible for most people; maybe it’s the smell of the freshly prepared egusi soup or the appearance or the exotic taste. There is various method of cooking egusi depending on the tribe. And there are two most common method of cooking egusi soup, the frying and the boiling method.
Before you cook Egusi Soup
- Before preparing the soup, soak the dry fish and stock fish till soft. If you are using the very tough stockfish, boil it for 20 minutes and leave in the pot with the hot water to soak for about an hour. If using the softer stockfish, you can just soak them in cool water till you can break them apart with your hands.
- When the fish and stockfish are soft, de-bone and break them into sizeable chunks.
- Wash the ponmo properly and remove all the dirt. You either soak the ponmo a day before you cook your soup or you can boil it to make it softer.
- Few minutes before your cooking time, grind the egusi with a mill. Grind the crayfish and the dry pepper separately and set aside.
- Rinse the vegetables to be used and cut into tiny pieces and ensure there is no sand in the vegetable.
- If using bitter leaves, add it a bit earlier because it is a tough vegetable. Remember that they need to be washed to remove the bitterness unless your family prefers it with the bitter taste.
- The best meat for Nigeria egusi soups for swallows is red meat with beef being the most common, you can also use goat meat. Some even cook egusi soup with chicken, that is also fine but in most cases the elders don’t like it.
- Ogiri okpei is made with locust beans, it is known as iru in Yoruba. It adds a traditional taste to egusi soup.
- 2 cups of ground egusi melon
- ½ cup of water
- 1 ½ cup of palm oil
- 2 tablespoon of crayfish
- 1 cup of stock
- Salt to taste
- 1 pound vegetable (pumpkin leaf (ugwu), Bitter leaf, water leaf, spinach)
- 2 small ogriri okpei (optional)
- 2 medium sized onions
- Ponmo (cow skin)
- ½ pound of smoked fish
- 2 bouillon cubes
The frying method
- Pour the egusi melon and one diced onion in a bowl and use your hands to massage the onions with the egusi. This will infuse some onion flavour into the egusi and the oil in the egusi will also be activated.
- Add water and mix together to form a paste and set aside.
- Add oil in a pan enough to deep fry the egusi and fry for about 4 minutes turning halfway through on a medium heat. Don’t over fry else you will end up with crunchy melon.
- Remove from the heat and drain the oil and set aside.
- Add little palm oil in another pan or you use the one you have drained from the egusi and then add the second diced onion and let that cook for few minutes then add the sauce and also allow to cook for 5 minutes. You can use precooked sauce for this process.
- Add the crayfish, stock, salt to taste, stock cubes, if you don’t want your fish broken into pieces you can add the smoked fish much later.
- Now add the fried egusi to the sauce and allow cooking for 20 minutes on a low medium heat, constantly checking this to avoid burning and add water it its get too dry.
- Finally add your choice of vegetable with meat, Ponmo and leave to simmer for 5 minutes more or less depending on how tough or soft your vegetable is.
1. While boiling the meat or fresh fish alongside stock fish, add the palm oil into so it can boil. Add the Ponmo and dried fish too.
2. Add the blended fresh pepper, tomato, onion into the boiling stock; allow it to boil for 5 minutes.
3. Add the egusi powder and allow it to boil for about 10 minutes.
4. Add crayfish and locust beans
5. Add the sliced vegetables, and then cook on low heat for 1o minutes
6. Taste to access the salt content if not enough then you can add more till you get the desired taste.