Labour Day cooking (now with a picture)


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

Nigerian Stew

  • 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 — they’re blended in
  • usually spicy
  • a blender is essential for its preparation
  • could be eaten alone with a spoon but is often almost 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:

[poll id=30]

24 thoughts on “Labour Day cooking (now with a picture)

  1. Am I first?

    Errr..did you say this 'Nigerian' stew can be eaten on it's own but mostly with something else? Hehehe, cos the stew I know and the Nigerians I know, never eat their stew alone just as stew without anything else like rice, yam etc. Ever. Abi no be so?

    Truly, I don't know how we all manage to cook really tasty meals this part of the world without exact measurements. I just 'know' that this amount of oil is enough for this amount of rice and this amount of salt is just perfect or this amount of 'maggi' will do… know? I just know and usually, I am right!

    Talk about mastering the art of cooking!

  2. You are right about our cooking has no exact measurements! you just need to be skilled at 'getting it right'

    The GNG, more grace! more stews! more soups! more cooking! more food! and I hope we would be opportune to have some real taste someday……………………

  3. YAY!!! next time you need tasters.. please alert me! Good job on learning. Its never too late. Your parents sound so wonderful.

  4. You've just learnt how to make stew?

    *SHOCK* lol ;)

    I guess that's because for me learning to cook was not optional, my mum had me with her in the kitchen since I was like 8 years old!

    I feel you on not having precise measurements for anything, we learn with practice and trial and error. I had to endure some horrible versions of jollof rice before I finally got it right!

    Can I see and taste your stew? Way to go girl, we'll soon have you making all the major Nigerian delicacies!

  5. Put the recipe for us on your blog…I love recipes you know that. Nice way to spend labor day with family, l was with my baby…hope you enjoy your week.

  6. i totally understand the just "knowing" part… as you continue cooking, you'll become better at it… so you've been eating white rice plain? not even w/soy sauce or a stir fry sauce? very brave… anyways hurry and show us a pic!

  7. I don't come back to check but if there are any comments made after mine,they are sent directly to my inbox cos I cross the notification subscription box.

  8. â–ºEnkay
    You are first and you earned your position quite rightly! Well, you could eat Nigerian stew on its own, but you’re right that it’s almost always eaten with something.

    Mmm, I agree with you!

    Yes, I envision lots of trial and error in my future when it comes to cooking Nigerian food!

    Yes, I hope you will come and visit one day so I can cook for you!

    â–ºMs. O
    hehehe…you’re one of blogville’s good cooks; I’d be too scared to cook for you!

    Thanks o…I agree that it’s never too late to learn. And yes, my parents are awesome! I won’t say we always see eye to eye but gosh, their love for their children and for each other is just something else.

    â–ºFavoured Girl
    I know, I’ve lost any respect I had by admitting that I am 30 and am only just cooking my first stew. My friends have said the same thing, that they were cooking at age 8 or slightly later. I have been spoiled but now that I’m on my own, I’m going to learn!

    Ok, I will put up a picture tonight when I eat it with some rice. Stay tuned!

  9. â–ºYNC

    I'll definitely post the recipe. I'd like to try it on my own first before posting but maybe I can post it and people can adjust as needed. :)

    â–ºDiAmOnD hawk

    Sometimes I add a bit of soy sauce but I'm afraid of getting too much salt in my diet.

    There's now a pic up!


    Thank you for taking the time to comment and letting me know! I'm not sure if many readers use that option.


    lol…but can you cook also? :)


    Awww! I'm glad you had an awesome weekend!


    lol laugh away. I can cook oyinbo food better than Nigerian food. Give me a bit of credit now. ;)

  10. stew- basic Naija food we all need to learn how to cook.

    good job tho. at least u acknowledge u need to learn. with time- u'll get better.

  11. Can't wait to see the picture of your stew!!!

    You're right…we don't have precise measurement for our food….we just measure it with our eyes!

    I think I'll start measuring and writing down the measurement too…may be we shld all adopt that format!…Then we can write a blogville cookery book…what says you?

  12. Thats one funny thing about Naija meals.

    No precise measurements.

    You just go with your guts.

    And mess up a lotta meals.

    You become more accurate with time though.

    Well done on your pepper stew…

  13. Lol, I am glad you were able to learn. Ok, wait, you did learn, no?

    I am surprised none of your parents were on your case to learn this a long time ago.

    I feel you on having a husband who can cook. I grew up with almost every guy around me being able to cook, and it irks me when i think of my husband proudly not knowng how.

  14. â–ºtigeress

    Thanks for the encouragement!


    I've put a pic up…maybe I should put one of the stew in the pot up.

    Wouldn't a Blogville cookbook project be a brilliant idea?


    Thanks for the comment and for admitting that there's trial and error. Some of these formers would have me think that they sprouted from their mother's womb cooking like a pro ;)


    Thank you! And yes, I learned something new…the first of many!


    I did learn! I guess the true test will be when I cook alone, in my kitchen.

    My parents were on my case to learn a long time ago but my mom also loves cooking (in fact she should and could be a caterer) so I think she wasn't interested in us learning so that she could take a break. She always said that I'd regret not knowing how to cook. With me, I never do anything until I'm ready, even if it ends up taking me longer in the end.

    lol at "it irks me when i think of my husband proudly not knowng how." It would irk me too! If I do happen to meet a man who cannot cook, I will tell him that I learned how to cook Naija food late in the game so I don't mind if he takes a while to learn too :)

  15. You just learnt to cook stew? Good on you! LOL.

    Well done girl and nice you spent the day with family. Travelled to a new city myself and enjoyed it.

  16. You try girl. I only learnt how to cook after coming to the US. Hunger nearly finished me. Now I am an expert in all kinds of soup: okro, egusi, bitterleaf, afang, fried rice and chicken, stew, moimoi, goat soup. Give me a naija recipe and I will beat it to death. Funny thing is i did it to prepare for a naija marriage. I ended up with Oyinbo. God laffs.

  17. â–ºMyne Whitman

    lol "better late than never" right?

    Glad to read that you enjoyed your holiday too, and discovered a new city!


    Wow, your learning to cook later in the game gives me hope (unless you came to the US when you were six years old). lol does your Oyinbo enjoy Naija food at least?

  18. lol…eat nigerian stew on its own…maybe to lick when u r bored

    @Nolimit…measuring stuff will be boring jo…i dont think i can ever measure…you just know :)

    all the best with the cooking…proud of u

    As to ur question..i dont come back to see if u replied cuz i subscribe to follow up comments.

  19. I tried to make my first stew on the weekend. Despite following all insructions it just didnt taste right. Don't know where I went wrong!!! I usually check back on the comments whenever I remember, usually within a week but sometimes longer!

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