Ogbono soup is one of the universal soups we have in Nigeria. Kids usually have their first introduction to “swallow” using ogbono soup. This is due to its mucilaginous nature—the ease with which it slides down the throat, its lack of obstructive ingredients and its simplicity in taste.
Ogbono has a nutty and earthy flavour. When well prepared, it aids the accompanying ‘swallow’ down the throat so easily that you end up overeating. It is similar to okro soup.
Ogbono is the seed of the african bush mango, which is not really a specie of mango.
There are 2 varieties of Ogbono, each is obtained from a different specie of ugiri (bush mango) fruit (Ugiri has 2 known species).
The superior, flavourful ogbono is the kernel of the seed of the bitter ugiri fruit. The smell is distinctly richer and bolder than that of the seed of sweet ugiri fruit . It is very mucilaginous (very drawy) so a little goes a long way and the taste is very earthy, rich with a hint of sweetness.
To test the seed for quality and freshness, besides the look and smell, break one seed into two, wet the broken edges and rub them together. Rub, rub, rub, then gently pull apart, there should be a thick and sizeable amount of slime as you pull.
Different leafy vegetables can be used to cook Ogbono soup e.g ugu, uziza, onugbu (Bitter leaf), Anala (garden egg) leaf, spinach, kale. Most recently, on a trip to Udi, near Enugu, for a traditional wedding, I discovered Ogbono soup made with ora leaves, I have since replicated it. It was like unveiling another dimension of flavour.
To prepare Ogbono Soup:
Meat Dry fish Stockfish 1/2 cup palm oil 1/2 cup ground ogbono 3 cups stock + water 1/4 cup chopped onions 1/4 cup ground crayfish 3 scotch bonnet (fresh pepper) 3g okpei (1 inch cube) 2 seasoning cubes Salt 1 cup shredded ugu vegetable
If using whole ogbono, grind (mill) to a fine powder. Set aside.
Dissolve okpei in a little bit of water and set aside.
In a pot, season the meat and stockfish with salt, seasoning cube and sliced onions. Boil till tender.
Soak the dry fish in boiling hot water for 2 minutes to remove any grit or sand, drain and rinse well in cold water. Add to the pot of boiling meat and boil for 5 minutes more.
Put palm oil in a seperate, dry pot, over low heat (Do not bleach). When the oil is warm, add the ground ogbono and stir till it dissolves.
Once Ogbono has dissolved, add meat stock and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, till you perceive the nutty aroma of the ogbono.
Add your meat, dry fish, stockfish, onions, crayfish, ground pepper, okpei and seasoning cube. Stir well and taste. Add salt.
Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. If it is getting too thick, add a little water to lighten the consistency.
Ogbono soup has a tendency to burn. If it starts to burns lower the heat. Boil for another 10 minutes.
Add shredded ugu and cook for about 5 minutes and you are done.
Enjoy with any ‘swallow’ of your choice. Garri, Semovita, Agidi, Wheat, Oatmeal, cassava etc.
- After grinding ogbono seeds, there might be some clumping which doesn’t really matter, dissolve them in the warm oil.
- Do not over fry your ogbono in order not to lose it’s viscosity (‘drawiness’ or ‘draw-draw’).
- When stirring your soup, avoid scraping the burnt bottom into the soup because, it will make the soup bitter.
- If using dry or dehydrated vegetables, after washing and soaking, add with the meat and other ingredients.
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