Delicious Bitterleaf Soup(Ofe Onugbu) Delicious and Bitter don't sound right together Right? I know but this soup is one that makes the two words work together Trust me. So on today's menu we have this delicious soup from eastern Nigeria. It is cooked with a type of vegetable called bitter leaf. like I Said don't worry it's delicious, despite the name of the vegetable used. The bitter leaf is washed till most of the bitterness goes off. you need to let some of the bitterness hang around though, because that's what gives the dish it's unique taste.
Different Ethnic groups in eastern Nigeria cook with this vegetable but in different ways. It is a delicacy for the Anambra people and some parts of Imo that share borders with Anambra like Arondizuogu people. The Ibibios call there brasses not sure of the spelling please correct me if you know the spelling. But theirs is cooked mixed with another vegetable like UGU (pumpkin leaves)
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This version of bitter leaf soup, requires some special ingredients like ogiri, and a thickening agent usually boiled and pounded cocoyam, achi from the Brachystegia eurycoma plant or mkpuru ofo from the deuterium macrocarpum plant. I would be using ground mkpuru ofo for this recipe.
Recall that the bitter leaf vegetable has to be washed to reduce its bitterness. It could take a while, but these days, the washed ones are available for sale in the markets either wet or dried. I hardly see anyone washing their bitter leaf vegetable themselves these days particularly in Diaspora and this makes the cooking process a little easier. CAVEAT you still have to wash it a bit when you get home from the market because besides hygiene the sellers try not to wash away much of the bitterness so the buyer can determine how much bitterness they desire for their soup.
I have heard of people in Texas who plant the vegetable in their gardens and wash them in washing machines when they want to use them. I haven't tried that so I don't know how that works. I would believe they have a separate small washing machine used specifically for that as a regular machine would have soap residues and therefore won't be healthy.
In this recipe, I used the washed but sun-dried bitter leaf brought to me from Nigeria by my sweet mama. I store mine in the freezer till I am ready to use them. You don't have to since it is dried. When I am ready to cook my onugbu soup, I simple measure out the quantity needed, wash then boil for 30 mins, rinse and squeeze, boil for another 30 mins add a little potash or baking soda about ½ a tsp. Rinse again and squeeze and store in the fridge for cooking the next day. I do this the day before so that I can spend less time prepping to cook the soup. This simple means the soup gets ready faster and everyone is happy. Enough said, lets get cooking.
Delicious Bitterleaf Soup ( Ofe Onuegbu)
- 500 g Meat Precooked
- 800 g Cow/beef foot Precooked
- 500 g Stock fish Precooked
- 1-2 Dry fish
- 250 g Bitter leaf vegetable Check recipe notes
- 3 Uziza leaves (Finely chopped)
- 1-½ tablespoon Mkpuru ofo powder
- 2 tablespoon Cameroon pepper ( reduce quantity if you don't like heat
- 2 tablespoon Ogiri ( or 2 wraps)
- 200 g Palm nut paste (Or 1-½ cup palm oil)
- ¼ Cup Coarsely ground crayfish
- Put about 8 cups of water in a pot. Add salt and bring to s slow boil. then add the ground crayfish and ground Cameroon pepper.
- Add the precooked meats, Turn down the heat to low. ( Don't cook meats for too long remember they are already precooked)
- Add in the palm paste or palm oil and stir.
- Mix Ogiri with a little water and add to the pot. Then take a cooking spoon of hot liquid from the pot to dissolve the mkpuru ofo powder. Pour the dissolved mixture into the soup and stir. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
- As the soup thickens, add onugbu leaves followed by the uziza leaves.
- Stir in properly, Allow simmer for about a minute. Turn off heat. Do not cover pot immediately
- Enjoy with any African swallow food of choice