Great Soups Of The Igbo - Ofe Okro
By Iwedi Ojinmah 7 months ago
Okra ( Abelmoschus esculentus), known in many English-speaking countries as ladies' fingers or ochro, is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. Here in Nigeria, it's known as Okra, Okro, Okoro and many other names. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of West African, Ethiopian, and South Asian origins. The plant is cultivated in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions around the world. ..
What we do know is that West African slaves carried it to the Caribean and the Americas where in the US it is eaten as Gumbo a thick spicy delicacy eaten with or over rice especially by the Creoles in Louisiana, and by most African Americans who fry it.
In Brazil, it is dished out with a tomato and chicken casserole and as Quiabo refogado over rice and beans. In Jamaica, it is a national favourite that goes hand in hand with dumplings and their famous Aki and fish.
But it is in West Africa, at least in my humble opinion, where its cooking has been taken to another level when used to prepare the all mighty Okro soup which can be eaten with both yam and rice as well as the long list of other carbs and starches so beloved in the region.
As you can guess there are so many different versions of the aforementioned soup each slightly different and varying from tribe to tribe as well as from country to country.
Right here among us Igbos where it is especially eaten through its harvest season being from April to July, there are at least a dozen different ways to cook it, each one scrumptious in its own way.
Regardless of how you intend on making it, some non- negotiables that one must have to create a superb end-product are fresh ingredients and excellent palm oil that is thick, red and fragrant in taste.
Okay, let's get started
Okro (a medium size bowl full) make sure it passes the snap test and breaks to ensure its fresh
1 kg of meat (beef, chicken, turkey, ) remember to always wash your hands when using poultry
Fresh fish Tilapia or Cat
2 to 3 cubes of Knorr
Salt and pepper to taste - Pepper fresh (pref Scotch Bonnets) as well as dry
Red palm oil
half cup of ground crayfish though you can use less so as not to make your base too fishy which the stockfish might do if you use too many chunks
Slice the okra and set aside in a bowl - remember the traders in most Nigerian markets can assist you with slicing the okra, but you can also try using a kitchen knife, I like to slice Okra myself, although there is no harm in using the help of the market women.
Some people like to grate their Okra to produce a soup with more draw but I like mine chunky.
You will need to parboil the fish with all the necessary ingredients for five to ten minutes. Please remember if kids are eating to be aware of the bones.
Then pick the pieces out with a fork leaving the extract (water from fish after cooking) in the pot, add two cups of water, then the hot-water-washed stockfish.
But if you are making this soup with cow meat you would want to parboil the meat with all necessary ingredients first, I like to parboil the meat with lots of ingredients and then use very few ingredients while making the real soup, to retain that simple clean vegetable taste.
Parboil with ingredients for about ten minutes then add about two cups of water and cook till the meat is tender.
Precook them together, but remove the fish after 8 minutes or it will become all mushy and like expensive mud in your mouth. Continue cooking the meat until it becomes soft.
Add the stockfish, cook for about 15 minutes till they too are soft for consumption. if you dont do this make sure have toothpick made of steel because you will need them later.
Add palm oil, crayfish, your Knorr, pepper and salt to taste.
By this time there should be a sweet perfume enveloping your kitchen prompting your neighbours to suddenly come visiting.
Pick your accompanying condiment and serve piping hot. Mine always tends to be pounded yam as I like its density and that subtle sweet taste that marries well with the slight saltiness of the soup.
Again please....no knives and forks. Strictly hands.
Benefits of eating Okra:
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people with diabetes are more likely to have a high cholesterol level. Therefore it was recommended that food with high fibre content and antioxidants qualities be regularly taken. This was supported by research done on diabetes lab mice.
It serves as an anti-stress reliever
Managing stress level is an important part of managing diabetes and there has been evidence that proves that the seed extract of okra has an antioxidant, anti-stress effect in the bloodstream. Long-term high-stress levels can cause good sugar levels to rise so okra has been used as part of the treatment plan for diabetes.
It has a high dietary fibre
Eight medium-sized pods were estimated to contain 3 grams of fibre. This aids in digestion and cuts down cravings thereby helping to reduce excessive food intake. So increased intake of okra soup can promote better treatment plan for diabetes.
It has anti-fatigue properties
Including okra regularly into your diet alongside a healthy lifestyle like proper dieting, exercise may provide you with the strength to work out long hours and have a more active lifestyle.