Traditional Yoruba (Nigerian) Cooking Part V – The Okra Stew

The Stew portion of the traditional Yoruba meal is a two-parter, with each part having it’s own function. In the previous posts we’ve  made the Pepper Stew, in which your meats are cooked. We will now make the second part, the Okro (or as known in America, Okra) stew.  Compared to the pepper stew, Okra stew is very simple and quick to prepare.

If you’ve had any experience with Okra you will know that it has a slightly slimy texture. People either love or hate that about Okra. It is this same property that makes it an important part of this meal. The Okra stew we will be making today serves as a kind of lubricant for getting the Pounded Yam meal down your throat. Pounded yam (as you will see in the next post) is quite sticky. If you ate it by itself it would stick to your throat, which could be a little uncomfortable. The Okra stew rectifies this, in addition to it’s own unique flavor.

Depending on your locale, fresh Okra could be hard to find, but I find that most grocery stores carry frozen Okra. Today we will use the frozen Okra in this stew. I will show how to use the fresh Okra in a future post.
There is one traditional Nigerian condiment that is commonly used in Okra stew that I have omitted because I can’t find it locally. It’s Yoruba name is Iru. It’s known in english as fermented locust bean. To me it gives off a kind of Umami flavor found in indigenous asian foods. I must warn you that Iru  is a very PUNGENT condiment. In other words, the stuff stinks to high heaven, and is not for everyone. But boy oh boy, it takes your Okra to the next level of deliciousness.

Ingredients

12 oz bag frozen cut Okra
1 tsp salt
1 C water
1/2 Tbsp dried shrimp
1 bouillion cube

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African Style Dried Shrimp (found in an African grocery store)

Method

1. Chop down  the frozen okra in a food processor into a slightly rough consistency, being careful not to over-pulverize.

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2. Place the water, salt, dried shrimp and bouillon cube in a small saucepan, and bring to a low boil.

3. Once the water starts to boil, turn down the heat and add the chopped okra.  Cook on low heat for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until tender to the bite.  Stir periodically to keep from boiling over.

Set aside until ready to serve with the rest of the meal.

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That is it! Wasn’t that easy?

On monday, we will be making the main event, the Iyan  (pounded yam).

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Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Ingredients/Shopping List
Part 3: Prepping the meats
Part 4: Making the Stew/Obe Ata
Part 5: Okra Stew!
Part 6: The Pounded Yam (Iyan)
Part 7: Putting it all together/Conclusion

Traditional Nigerian (Yoruba) Cooking Part IV – The Sauce–Obe Ata

Now we’re getting somewhere!

The Stew, or Obe Ata is the backbone of this meal. You could skip the Okra if you really needed to (and I can’t imagine why you’d want to), but you definitely can’t skip the Stew. The stew is where all gorgeous the flavor is concentrated.

Obe Ata  literally means Pepper Soup or Pepper Stew. However, Obe Ata is heavily tomato based. It is definitely NOT like spaghetti sauce, tomato soup or anything else that’s heavily tomato based. It has a more complex flavor due to the slow cooking and the inclusion of the broth from the meat prep.

Here’s a little chemistry lesson: Cooking tomato sauce with protein neutralizes the acids and lends it a mellow flavor. In return, the acids further tenderize the meats. It’s a win-win.

You’re welcome

So, here’s what you need for the stew:

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Ingredients:

4 medium Tomatoes cut up
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 sweet red pepper (not pictured) cut up
1 medium onion cut up
1 habanero pepper, cut up, seeds discarded (or 1 teaspon pepper flakes)
***habanero is of THE hottest peppers, so handle with care.***
1 Tbsp palm oil
1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil.

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Method

1. Cut up and place all ingredients except the oils in a blender. Blend to a fine puree. Blend in 2 batches if needed. Set aside.

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2. Add the oils and the pureed tomato mixture to the chicken broth from the meat prep.

Bring to a rolling boil, then turn down and simmer on low heat.

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3. Continue to simmer until the stew has thickened a bit (approximately 30 minutes). Taste and add a little more salt you’d like.

4. Once the sauce has thickened a bit, it’s time to add the meats that have been dried in the oven.

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5. Cook for another 5-10 minutes to allow the meats to soak up the stew.  Set aside until ready to serve.

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Making the stew is the bulk of the work for this mean. Luckily once it’s made the stew can be kept in the fridge up to 1 week after cooking, and used for several meals. To reheat, I suggest scooping out what will be used for one meal, in order not to further break down the meats.

So now the stew is done, it’s time to make the Okra Stew!

Please subscribe to this blog here so you don’t miss a post!

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Ingredients/Shopping List
Part 3: Prepping the meats
Part 4: Making the Stew/Obe Ata
Part 5: Okra Stew!
Part 6: The Pounded Yam (Iyan)
Part 7: Putting it all together/Conclusion