I decided to spend Labour Day with my family today so
bright and early at 2pm I showed up with two pots, a set of knives, cutting boards, some Knorr bouillon cubes, stewing beef and chicken. I wasn’t there just to visit, I was there to get lesson 1 of 100 from my dear mummy on cooking, Nigerian style (or maybe it’s more precise to say Yoruba style).
The lesson was on cooking obe ata (pepper stew). I know many of you have been cooking obe since you were old enough to reach the stove but alas, Good Naija Girl has not. This in fact was the first stew I have ever cooked in my entire life. This means that in the over four months that I have been living on my own, I have had obe in the house on only two occasions: early on when my family came over to help me set up some furniture while my mom cooked some stew, and two weeks ago when she gave me some of her efo riro (literally translated “stirred spinach”) to enjoy at home. The rest of the time I have been eating my white rice plain! Can you imagine? I have truly been suffering and it was all my fault (I had many many opportunities to learn to cook but I wasn’t interested at the time).
To my dear non-Nigerian readers, a Nigerian stew should never be confused with what North Americans call stew:
North American Stew
- slightly thicker than broth, and similar in colour to broth
- meat and vegetables appear in bite-sized chunks
- wouldn’t be described as spicy (words like “hearty” and “rich” come to mind)
- generally doesn’t require a blender in its preparation
- eaten on its own, with a spoon, like soup
- usually thicker than North American Stew and red in colour
- meat appears in larger than bite-sized chunks and the vegetables do not appear in bite-sized chunks â€” they’re blended in
- usually spicy
- a blender is essential for its preparation
- could be eaten alone with a spoon but is
oftenalmost always eaten with something else
(I’m sure there are other differences that are currently escaping me).
(you can click the picture to make it bigger)
This particular stew is meant to be served over rice or with a variety of things that I will call nkan riro, which literally translated from Yoruba hopefully means “things that are stirred/mixed” which is about as vague as I can be, but I’m talking about dishes like eba, iyan, and amala. Some visual examples of these things can be found here, here and here respectively.
At first it was my mom and I in the kitchen but my dad was so fascinated by my lack of ability that while making his own pot of stew (a married African man who cooks! You can see why I am expecting my own husband to comfortable in the kitchen), he began to give me pointers too. Something that drives me nuts about cooking Nigerian food is the lack of precise measurements. It was enjoyable to see both parents estimating how much of various things I would need and then I’d measure it out and they would say “Oh, no, that’s too much” or “Ah ah, that is not enough”, as if I should just “know” how much is “enough”. But happily, the stew turned out well! I’ll supply pictures of the process in the future, especially when I have to make it all by myself without a parent looking over.
Oh, I have a question: