African breadfruit pottage, Ukwa etelu ete
Breadfruit pottage is the paramount breadfruit dish. It is made with the heavy arsenals of Igbo cuisine. African breadfruit or Ukwa pod comes from the large ukwa tree. The heavy Ukwa pod falls to the ground and is processed to get the delicious ukwa seeds.
It is cooked and eaten at home, parties, weddings, burials etc. In some parties, Breadfruit pottage, Ukwa etelu ete is reserved for the special guests because it is expensive especially during its offseason (the price starts going down around March). Competition for ukwa is usually at its peak during the Christmas period which is party season in Nigeria, this coincidentally, falls within the off-season for ukwa making it difficult to source and uber expensive.
There are many ways to cook ukwa, it can be boiled and eaten plain or with other ingredients added, it can also be toasted and eaten with coconut or palm kernel nuts called Aki na ukwa. Memories of Son no. 2’s preggy is filled with Aki na ukwa and he incidentally liked it as a child, not so much now I think.
You can buy it fresh or dry and for those living where fresh ukwa cannot be accessed, dry ukwa is a saving grace. People buy fresh ukwa when it is in season and cheap then dry it for use during the expensive, off-season. If well dried, it can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge or freezer in places where temperatures are high, for up to one year. Cook dry ukwa like fresh ukwa, no pre-soaking and the end result is totally the same.
Breadfruit pottage, Ukwa etelu ete is similar to Bitter leaf soup (Onugbu soup) minus the ede (cocoyam). Another peculiar trait of Ukwa is that it reduces in volume when cooked. Always account for this when estimating the quantity of ukwa to cook. Some people like onions, groundnut oil etc, all unconventional and modern additions to ukwa. Personally, I don’t enjoy these but you can give it a try you might actually like it.
To tenderise African Breadfruit, Ukwa
If you cook ukwa alone, it will take like forever to get soft and will never really get desirably soft and mushy, so akanwu or ngu is added to aid and quicken the cooking of ukwa.
Ngu, an alternative to akanwu, is derived from burning dry palm fronds and collecting the ash. This ash is called ngu, it is not as commonly available as akanwu. Ngu just like akanwu also acts as an emulsifying agent in the preparation of Abacha ncha, Ugba salad, Okazi (Afang) salad, Homework, goat trotters in spicy sauce (nkwobi) etc.
Tips about African breadfruit, Ukwa
- When you want to buy ukwa, make sure it is not all broken up with lots of tiny bits.
- It should have a strong pleasant aroma of ukwa.
- It should not be all glossy and hard, you should be able to crush it easily between your fingers.
- Ukwa can be bought fresh or dry.
- Fresh ukwa needs to be cooked as soon as possible especially if you live in a particularly hot and humid environment.
- If you are not going to cook your fresh ukwa immediately after purchase, spread it out on a tray and place under the sun or in an airy place and stir and spread from time to time.
- Putting uncooked fresh ukwa in the freezer is a hit or miss. Most times, it affects the texture when it is finally cooked. It is better to air dry uncooked fresh ukwa or cook it then store in the freezer.
- If uncooked fresh ukwa is left uncooked for sometimes just a day, you will notice a hint of green colouration. Wash thoroughly and cook.
- Once it begins to undergo this change colour, mould will invade it and it will become slimy. At this point it is inedible, throw it away.
- If after the addition of akanwu, your ukwa doesn’t soften, it might be that you bought the bad or poorly processed ukwa.
To prepare African breadfruit pottage, ukwa etelu ete
5 cups ukwa (breadfruit) 1 tablespoon akanwu (Potash) salt scotch bonnet (fresh pepper) 1 tablespoon palmoil 40g washed and processed onugbu 1 teaspoon ogili isi dry fish, goat meat, smoked fish 2 seasoning cubes
In a small bowl, place akanwu and add 1/4 cup water, stir well and set aside to allow any sand in it to settle at the bottom of the bowl.
Wash dry fish and pick out the bones, set aside.
If using goat meat or stock fish cook, adding salt only, until softened, set aside.
Pick out sand from ukwa, place in a bowl of water and wash.
Wash by gently rubbing handfuls of ukwa between your palms in the bowl of water and ensuring not to break up the seeds.
Scoop ukwa out of the water, discard dirty water.
Do this several times to ensure there is no sand in the ukwa.
Put ukwa in a pot add enough water to reach about 3 inches above, place over medium-high heat.
Boil until the water turns milky.
Swirl akanwu gently and add 3-4 tablespoons of the akanwu liquid, the cooking liquid will immediately turn pale yellow.
Cover and continue cooking until the ukwa is soft.
Place a sieve over a bowl and pour ukwa and cooking liquid into the sieve.
Pour 1 cup ukwa cooking liquid back into the pot (if you don’t have up to 1 cup ukwa cooking liquid, complete with water) and place over medium heat.
Add salt, fresh pepper, palm oil, onugbu, ogili isi, seasoning cube and dry fish or cooked goat meat.
Cook for about 5 minutes till dry fish has softened.
Add ukwa stir well and cover.
Cook until your breadfruit pottage is almost dry.
Take off the heat. It will absorb the little water remaining, that way it won’t end up dry.
Your breadfruit pottage, ukwa etelu ete is ready to be served.
Serve with the cooking liquid or use the cooking liquid to prepare Ukwa soup.
- If using goat meat add part of the stock to the breadfruit pottage, ukwa.
- Be economical when adding stockfish stock to ukwa, the flavour it is very strong and will overwhelm your breadfruit pottage.
- Frozen fish (eg croaker, mackerel) and chicken should be cooked and serve on the side and not inside the ukwa.
- Add smoked fish to your breadfruit porridge at the very end.
- When washing ukwa, the water will be cloudy, don’t worry that the nutrients are leaching out, there is plenty where that came from.
- If after about 45 minutes your ukwa is not soft, add more akanwu/ngu liquid.
- If ukwa is soft but the grains are standing alone like well-cooked rice, add a little more akanwu/ngu water.
- Don’t mash your ukwa to make it look like a porridge if you need to do that, it means you didn’t add enough akanwu/ngu or you bought the bad type of ukwa. You will end up with a mash of ukwa mixed with hard seeds, very unpalatable.
You will also enjoy my African breadfruit porridge (Ukwa porridge), African breadfruit soup (Ukwa soup), Adalu (Beans and corn Porridge) and Plantain porridge. Do you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.
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