Egusi Ijebu is a delightful trip down memory lane, it always brings back my childhood memory because my parents are a native of Ijebu and they love it so much.
I remember while growing up, Egusi Ijebu was our most cooked meal, we usually combine it with Ewedu and the best swallow for it back then in my house was Eba… Yes, Eba! I know some people will prefer it with Fufu or Amala but Eba is the most preferred in Ijebu. We sometimes use the Egusi Ijebu to eat white rice.
You may be thinking what is so special about this soup, let me tell you…Egusi Ijebu is that special, especially among we the Ijebus.
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What is Egusi Ijebu?
Egusi Ijebu (as anyone can guess from the name) is a native soup of the Ijebu people. Ijebu is an ethnic group in southwestern, Nigeria (Majorly Ogun state and few in Lagos state).
The English word for Egusi is Melon seed. This melon seed is rich in nutrients and is flavourful. It can be used to cook different African dishes like Egusi vegetable soup (Frying and non-frying method), Egusi soup (The Igbo version and the Yoruba version), Egusi Okra Soup and Egusi pepper soup. Egusi is a staple dish in Nigerian and it has different styles of cooking it which depends on the tribe.
This Egusi is mostly preferred by adding any type of vegetable to it but for this Egusi Ijebu recipe, it is prepared plain just like you prepare your stew. It is smooth and the consistency of the soup is neither too thick nor watery. It should be thick enough to be able to hold up the morsel of your ‘swallow’ when eating.
Why I love Egusi Ijebu
This soup is one of the quickest and easiest soups I have ever made. I think after Ila-Alesepo (Okra soup) and Ogbono soup (African wide mango soup), it is this soup that is next. Very easy, fast and doesn’t require many ingredients to cook it.
The major ingredients for Egusi Ijebu are smoked fish and dried chilli pepper, these are the ingredient that makes the soup very delicious. Other ingredients will help to enhance the taste too. Some people add Ogiri or Iru to this dish which is also good but I prefer to just add the Iru (Locust beans) to the Ewedu.
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What is Ewedu?
Ewedu (Jute) leaf is what I usually combine with the Egusi before eating it with any starchy (solid) food. Ewedu soup is a green slimy soup, also a native soup that is common among the Yoruba people in Nigeria. This soup is commonly used as a side dish and it is usually served alongside Gbegiri (beans stew) to enhance the taste of fish or meat stew so that it will be fit to eat with any solid meal like Amala, Pounded yam, Wheat, Eba or Fufu.
I like adding Jute leaves to my Egusi soup to spice it up because of the extra delicious flavour that it adds to the soup. It is delicious and also nutritious. Asides from using Jute leaves as a side dish it also serves many health benefits.
What makes Egusi (Melon Seed) special?
1. Healthy fat
Egusi is a healthy fat, it is known to contain a lot of oil, essential fatty acids which are unsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol-free fats. It helps to prevent any heart related diseases due to the unsaturated fatty acid (Omega 6 fatty acid) that can help to lower the cholesterol level in the blood.
They are high in protein which is crucial for body growth and maintenance. A large amount of protein in Egusi helps to build and repair the body tissue, bone and muscle. Protein in Egusi is high enough, it serves as essential macronutrients that the body needs in other to prevent malnutrition.
3. Improves Vision
They are rich in vitamin A which helps to improve vision health and ensure the functioning of the immune system and organs.
4. Great for Bones
It contains some essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium for strong and healthy bones.
5. Rich in Vitamins
It is high in Vitamin B1 and B2 which helps to aid digestion and helps in regulating the functioning of some organs in the body like the brain, nervous system and heart. It also helps in the development and functioning of good skin.
6. Anti-inflammation properties
Egusi has anti-inflammation property (Methanol) that help to reduce inflammation in any part of the body.
7. Rich in antioxidant
This is due to a high level of minerals and vitamins present in Egusi such as zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E. They help to boost the immune system and protect against any cell damage caused by free radicals.
How to cook Egusi Ijebu soup
Egusi seeds- 2 cups
Dried chilli peppers (Ata-gbigbe)- 1 cup
Red bell peppers (tatashe) – 4 medium sizes
Smoked fish- 4
Beef or goatmeat- 8 pieces
Crayfish- 1 cup
Onions- 2 medium sizes
Palmoil- 4 tbsp
Seasoning cubes- 2
Salt to taste
Directions For the egusi ijebu
- Prep your Egusi by first picking any form of specks of dirt, stones and peels from it. Rinse it properly and sieve the water with a mesh strainer. Repeat the process with your dried chilli pepper, red bell peppers, crayfish and onions.
- Prep your meat by rinsing it properly. Rinse the smoked fish and the ponmo properly too (NB- it is advisable to also soak your ponmo and smoked fish in hot water after rinsing with ordinary water just to disinfect it from any germs.
- Pre-cook your meat and ponmo, add 1 cube of seasoning cube and salt to it. NB- it is best to keep the meat broth simple if you want to use the meat stock for the Egusi.
- In a blender or grinder, add your cleaned Egusi, dried chilli peppers, crayfish and onions. Blend everything into a smooth paste
- Heat the palm oil in a large saucepan on low-medium heat. Allow it to sizzle, add your blended Egusi mixture. Leave it to boil for about 10-15 minutes before adding any other thing so that the egusi will not have lumps in it. NB- The aim is to achieve a smooth consistency.
- Add your meat stock and seasoning cubes with salt. NB- just ½ tsp of salt should be okay, this is because Egusi can easily get too salty and we have meat stock, crayfish, smoked fish and seasoning cubes that can easily enhance the taste of the soup.
- Add your pre-cooked meat and ponmo into the egusi and stir them together. Leave it to keep cooking for about 5 minutes.
- Lastly, add your smoked fish to the Egusi, stir carefully so that the smoked fish will not pieces in the soup. Leave for 2-3 minutes
- Check if the soup is not too watery or too thick and taste the soup. Add seasoning cube or salt if necessary. If it is too thick just add little water to loosen it. The consistency of the soup should not be too watery or too thick, just somewhere in the middle, hahaha.
- Switch the heat off and let it simmer on its own before serving it.
- Now, it is ready. It is time to prepare our Ewedu soup.
Directions For preparing Ewedu (Jute Leaves)
- Prep your ewedu by plucking the ewedu from the stalk, one after the other.
- Rinse the plucked ewedu like 3-4 times in a bowl and drain the water in a colander. If you notice sand settling at the bottom of the bowl, use your hand to scoop the ewedu little by little into the colander before draining, you can rinse again in the colander until the ewedu appears really clean without any form of sand
- For this recipe, I used a blender to blend the ewedu but you can as well use a chopping board to chop the ewedu until it has a smooth texture (I was brought up with the chopping board method, hahaha) and you can also use the Ijabe (cooking broom) method (the Ijabe method of preparing Ewedu is a common method of preparing Ewedu in Western, Nigeria- it is used to mash cooked Ewedu until it is smooth).
- Blend the ewedu with the locust beans and a small size onion, add 1 cup of water to the ewedu (I use onion to replace potash, potash is commonly used to enhance the viscosity of the Ewedu). The onion can be chopped into the Ewedu while cooking it or blend with the ewedu.
- After blending, pour the Ewedu mixture into a small saucepan and allow it to cook on low heat, stirring continuously, add a pinch of salt to taste. Cook it for 4-5 minutes and remove from heat after it appears perfectly smooth and viscous.
- Remove from heat and add a little of the Ewedu to your Egusi soup.
- You can serve it with any Okele (swallow food) of your choice but I enjoy my own with Eba or white rice.
That is all for my traditional soup, hope you found it interesting and you will give it a try? What do you think about this soup? Leave a comment, thank you.