Sunday, 27 July 2014

Must Have / Can't Do Without "Nigerian Style" Stew

Funke Koleosho's Must Have Nigerian Style Stew

Must have, can't do without...... this is how I describe Nigerian style stew. For so many, myself inclusive, having a pot of this stew tucked away in the fridge/freezer, resolves many problems that may arise in the food and eating department.

My mum used to say, "you cannot say there is nothing to eat when there is stew at home!" This is because the stew can be eaten with a lot of different meals, rice, pasta, bread, yam, plantain, beans, etcetera etcetera.... so really a good, well prepared stew is a Must Have in the Nigerian household!

What is the "Nigerian Stew"
"Nigerian stew" is not quite the same as its known in the western world. I believe this dish is referred to as a stew for convenience of description. Matter of fact, the way the dish is made, using blended tomatoes, peppers and onions, results in a sauce (pretty much like pasta sauce) not a stew. Meat or fish pieces are merely added at the final stages of cooking to allow all to "stew" together.

Now there are various versions of this "stew". It can be made using meat (beef. offals) or fish separately or combined. It is really a personal preference. While some like the stew thick, others like it loose and thin. It could be made spicy according to some people's preference. Really its about varying the ingredients to achieve the most preferred taste.

Mama-Put / Bukka Style
There is a significant difference between home made stew and stew bought from road side canteens known as "bukka or mama-put joints". The difference can be attributed to the method of cooking and the proportion of ingredients used. One thing I observe about the bukka / mama-put stew is that the huge pot in which the stew is cooked remains on the stove (under low heat) through-out the time its being served. This I believe adds to flavour development and makes the stew "delicious" and a favourite with many people.

Mama-Put Style Nigerian Stew
I often get messages from a lot of western ladies, married to or in a relationship with Nigerian men, asking for advice on what to cook....., my advice, is learn how to make Nigeria Stew! This is the first, and in my opinion the highest hurdle to jump, when it comes to feeding your man!

Making Your Nigerian Stew Delicious!
"Deliciousness" is relative, but below are some key things to consider when making Nigerian Style Stew.
  • To make you stew delicious you will need well ripened tomatoes. Very ripe tomatoes have less acidity in them, and using them ensures the resultant stew does not have a "sharp" (tomato/uncooked) taste. Canned plum tomatoes can also be used.
  • You also need ripe red peppers (preferably ramiro peppers). Choose large ones as the small ones tend to have a bitter taste. Peppers add thickness/body to the stew, so the more used the thicker the stew. 
  • Other ingredients include onions, spices of choice (typically thyme or curry powder) and some chilli peppers to give the stew the much desirable spicy kick. Ginger and garlic can also be added for added tastes and flavours.
  • Finally an indispensable ingredient to making your stew delicious is good quality chicken or beef stock. The addition of stock to the stew defines the overall taste and flavour development so its important to use good quality one. Its not unusual to use stock/bouillon cubes as an alternative
  • Another key tip - after an initial bout of cooking the stew under high heat, I cook the stew to completion under a low / simmering heat. This enhances flavour development. Quite importantly, it also helps to avoid burning the stew, which gives it an unfavourable darkened colour to the stew. 
Nigerian Style Stew

Versatile Nigerian Style Stew
This stew is so versatile, it combines well with most other dishes. "You can't say there is no food in the house, when you have a pot of soup in your fridge/freezer" - my mum. Because this stew is so versatile, one of the advices given to Yoruba brides regarding feeding their husbands, is to ensure there is always a pot of stew at home at any point in time! The stew can be made in batches and frozen until needed.
  • You can serve the stew directly with other foods such as steamed rice, cooked pasta (spaghetti, macaroni etc), boiled yam, boiled or fried plantains, steamed mixed vegetables, 
  • Serve as an accompaniment with other vegetable soups such as okra soup or jute leave (ewedu) soup, when eaten with pounded yam, eba or amala. Can also be served with efo riro or egusi soups.
  • The stew can also be served with other dishes to enhance taste. For example the stew can be served with jollof rice, yam potage, bean.
  • The stew can also be used as a base to make other dishes such as fried eggs / egg sauce or "concoction rice".
Now lets get to cooking the stew. I have previously posted a recipe on Assorted Meat Stew (see the recipe here). Today, I offer a different recipe based on my cravings for and memories of Mama Put style Assorted meat stew.

Mama-Put style Assorted meat stew

What you need
  • 800g of very ripe plum tomatoes (or two cans of peeled plum tomatoes)
  • 300g of fresh sweet red peppers (the more peppers used the bolder/thicker the stew)
  • 150g of onion
  • 1-2 scotch bonnet chilli peppers (the more the spicier)
  • A clove of garlic (optional)
  • 10g of ginger (optional)
  • 500ml of good quality chicken stock (alternatively use chicken stock/bouillon cubes)
  • Precooked assorted meats of choice (example; chicken, turkey, beef, tripe, cow-foot, etc. Could include any or a combination of each)
  • 200ml Cooking oil (I tend to use coconut oil but other vegetables oil of choice could be used

What to do
  1. The really first step is to prep and cook the different types of meat you will be using in your stew. If this includes meat or chicken, ensure you cut into small bite-size chunks, season and cook until tender. Save the resultant stock and set aside till later. 
  2. After cooking the meat, grill for about 10 minutes, mainly to drive out its moisture. Also set aside. If you would also include cow-foot and tripe, clean them thoroughly and boil them in separate pots until soft. (Using a pressure cooker helps to half the time required to cook the cow-foot.) When cooked, cut also into bite-size chunks and set aside.
  3. Then wash the peppers and tomatoes, cut into small chunks and place in a blender. Also add the onion, scotch bonnet, ginger and garlic (if using) and blend until smooth. Add a cup of water to aid blending. Not needed if using canned tomatoes). Using a high voltage blender will help you achieve this easily.
  4. In a large pot, heat the oil and carefully add the blended peppers/tomatoes. Stir well and allow to cook for about 10 minutes under high heat. Then add the stock and stir well. Cook for another 5 minutes under high heat then turn the heat down. Add the pre-cooked meat pieces and stir well. Cover the pot fully and allow the meat to heat up in the sauce for another 5 minutes or so. Taste for salt and adjust as required. Then turn heat down to simmer. 
  5. Simmer, with the pot partially covered until oil begins to float on top of the stew. A good layer of oil on top is desirable as a visual appeal for some and it is thought that the layer of oil on to helps to preserve the stew. But the excess oil may cause possible health concern for some...., however, you can worry less health if you use coconut oil. Also ensure you strain off excess oil while serving the stew. 
  6. You are done! 

Mama Put style Nigerian Stew