(Nigerian meat and vegetable stew thickened with ogbono seed)
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Ogbono is the dried seed of the African mango tree, and it is ground and used as a powerful thickener for dishes, to which it also imparts an earthy flavor.
Ogbono soup is popular everywhere in Nigeria and neighboring countries too. Each region has its own variations, but meat, greens and ogbono seeds are the common elements.
4 to 6 servings
- Palm or vegetable oil -- 3/4 cup
- Ground ogbono seed -- 1/2 cup
- Onion, chopped -- 1
- Chile peppers, minced -- 2 or 3
- Meat (see notes), cut into cubes -- 1 1/2 pounds
- Tomatoes, chopped -- 2 cups
- Water or stock -- 3 cups
- Greens (see notes), chopped-- 1 bunch
- Okra, cut into rounds -- 1 cup
- Salt and pepper
- Heat 1/2 cup of the palm or vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium flame. Stir in the ogbono seed and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until it gives off a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat the remaining 1/4 cup palm or vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the onion and chile peppers and saute until the onion becomes translucent, 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the meat and tomatoes and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes. Then stir in the water and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1 hours, or until the meat is starting to get tender.
- Whisk a spoonful of hot soup liquid into the fried ogbono. Then whisk the ogbono into to simmering soup, followed by the greens and okra. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.
- Serve hot with fufu or rice.
- Substitutes for ogbono: Ground ogbono seeds also go by the names agbono, apon, etima, dika and odika. They can be hard to find if you don't have an African market near you. You can get some of the effect of their thickening power by doubling the amount of okra. Or try substituting ground pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for the ogbono.
- Meats: Any kind of meat can be used in ogbono soup. Beef and goat and bushmeat are popular, but you can use chicken too. Other options are oxtails, tripe and kpomo (cow skin).
- Fish and Seafood: Dried, smoked or fresh fish are common — and for some, essential — additions to a pot of ogbono soup. So are fresh or dried snails, shrimp or crayfish, which are often ground to a powder. Use anywhere from 1/2 cup to 1 pound according to your taste. Add the fish or seafood at the same time you add the ogbono, greens and okra. Whole dried fish should be presoaked before adding to the soup.
- Greens: Use spinach, collards, turnip greens or kale. Or if you have access to them, use local Nigerian greens like ugwu, igbo, waterleaf or bitterleaf.
- Most Africans would throw in a couple Maggi® or bouillon cubes for added flavor.
- The tomatoes can be eliminated if you prefer.