My very first post on Bella Naija was a throwback to my Delta roots. I must tell you, it made Daddy proud. So as not to marginalise my mum, today I’m honouring the Ijebu side of me, particularly Iperu Remo because I’m not about to start a tribal war in my house.
Until about 10 years ago I think, this dish was a hidden jewel amongst the Ijebus, then it started being served at parties and in a short space of time, it became the rave. Back home, it is popularly referred to as Obe dudu (dark stew). It is also known as Aya Mase.
Aya Mase is served with Ofada rice, which is basically unpolished rice. Before the rave in Lagos, Ofada rice was cheap and not very common in the local markets. Within a short space of time, it was everywhere and also more expensive than imported rice, which was great for the local producing community. Specialty restaurants sprung up, and the term Designer rice was coined.
I remember it was because it was more expensive than Jollof rice, and also highly sought after. Suddenly no party was complete without Designer rice. Rice served in banana leaves topped with a most delicious sauce. It is usually brought out after the main dishes of the party had been served.
Aya Mase is made with a combination of all kinds of meats. The preparation time is about an hour while the cooking itself takes about 30 minutes.
What You Need
6 cups of chopped meat -comprising of Beef, Fuku (lung), Saki (Stomach), Pomo (smoked cow skin), Cowleg, Liver, Heart, Kidney and Goat meat.
1 cup of Iru (fermented melon seeds)
1 1/2 cups of Smoked crayfish
2 cups of Palm oil – I’ll like to warn the health conscious. Aya Mase needs more Palm Oil than usual. It’s a guilty pleasure dish, like chocolate cake.
2 cups of chopped red onions
4 cups of pepper – 8 Green Bell Peppers and 10 Rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper)
Knorr seasoning cubes
Aya Mase is called Obe dudu because it really is a dark fried sauce. This is mainly achieved by bleaching the Palm oil. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #1: One thing I do is to bleach a big batch of Palm oil and store, so I don’t have to repeat the process every time. This process will ruin your pot I’m afraid. So you need to dedicate a pot to it. Preferably an old one or just buy a cheap one. I learned that lesson the hard way. Trust me
1. Heat the palm oil in a covered pot for 10mins on high heat. After which you turn down the heat to low, for roughly another 5mins.
Mind you I am using proper thick village palm oil, not the stuff sold in sealed bottles. Which is usually the decanted light stuff. Local palm oil has a very high smoking point, so this timing works for me.
2. Clean the stockfish thoroughly, rinse the beef and goat meat. Add all in one pot, and season with salt and Knorr Chicken (preferred). Rinse the offals and do the same. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #2: I boil my offals separately so as not to taint the beef stock.
3. Roughly blend the Green Bell Peppers and Rodo. Decant into a pot and place on high heat. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #3: You need to boil the pepper till most of the moisture has evaporated.
4. Rinse the smoked crayfish and blend finely with a little water. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #3: Roughly blending crayfish retains some of its flavor compared to fine blending. I blend with water rather than dry blend, so I can rinse out the crayfish. Crayfish is notoriously full of sand and dirt
5. Rinse the Iru – Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #4: When rinsing Iru, don’t drown it in water. Just enough water to rinse and pick out the seeds is sufficient, so you don’t throw the flavor down the drain.
6. When the meats are soft – dice into square cubes, about the size of a Knorr cube. Tear the stockfish into bits too (if you are using). Here’s where the hard work starts. Chopping the meat. This “express” cook tried to use a food processor once, and as much as I love the thing, it gave me shredded meat much to my annoyance, so it was back to the chopping board.
7. Decant the Palm oil into another pot, and turn up the heat. When hot, add the chopped onions and Iru and fry till the onions are translucent, then add the chopped meats and stockfish and fry. Turning regularly. You are trying to achieve a fried meat taste, not necessarily texture. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #5: At first it’ll look like the meats have absorbed all the oil. Just stir regularly. As the meats fry, you’ll start to see the oil bubbling through.
8. Keep frying for 10minutes, then add the boiled pepper, and fry for another 10minutes. Keep stirring. It is inevitable to see some burnt bits. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #6: You’ll soon realise why I said earlier, boil out the moisture in the pepper. At this stage, if you have watery pepper, all the time you spent frying previously will be wasted, as the water in the pepper will boil the whole mixture. When you add the pepper, the frying process should continue and not be converted into boiling.
9. Then add beef stock, in little quantities. You should need about ¾ of a cup to 1cup. Be careful now, you don’t want to drown the sauce. Remember, you also blended the crayfish with water.
10. Let his continue frying, and be topping up with stock on intervals, if needed. When you get to the point where you have a fried stew look when you turn with a cooking spoon, then you turn down the heat to low and just let it simmer for 3 – 5 minutes. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip #7: You’ll should see a thick creamy bubbly sauce float on the surface. If you don’t achieve this, the sauce is too dry. Add a little more stock and keep frying.
So, your Aya Mase is done. Take the time to taste at intervals, and re-season if necessary. Serve with boiled Basmati rice. If you have Ofada rice, just know I’m envying you already. I tired to source local leaves to plate this dish, but alas I couldn’t find any before this was published. If you do make this dish, and you have the leaves, please take a picture and email it to me. I usually kick it up a notch by serving Aya Mase with Dodo (fried plantain) or boiled yam. No one has complained so far. The sweetness of the plantains/yams with the savoury sauce is an amazing combination.
Dooney’s Kitchen Extra Tip
During the first 10 minutes of bleaching the Palm Oil, you’ll see smoke seeping from the covered pot. During the next 5 – 10 minutes, this will reduce till you can barely see/smell the smoke. When this happens, your palm oil is ready. Turn off the heat. DO NOT SHIFT THE POT OR OPEN IT. Leave it to cool undisturbed. You should be left with blackened oil. Remember, use the Extractor fan, and open the windows. The timing all depends on the volume of Palm oil you are heating up. If you are using more, you will need to bleach the palm oil for longer. Be careful though, because if you bleach it for too long, you will end up with a sauce that tastes burnt or better still “charcoaly”
If you know you’ll be making this often, I suggest you boil a big batch of various meats and devote time to chopping them up. Use a portion and freeze the rest. Generally I chop meats enough to make extra 2 or 3 batches. Also, Aya Mase keeps well. So do what I do, make a big batch at once. When you have guest you want to impress, you don’t have to serve rice and stew.
As a parting shot to the Ijebus: Eweso o, omo Ijebu alare. Mo ki yin kabo. Ke mi tiri, Ke mi ti se. Se dada rim ba wen. We rurunkurun oni se yin o. Aye Ayewa oooo. I hope I got it right, otherwise my grandma will be rolling in her grave, shaking her head and saying Omo Yibo yi.
Have a nice weekend all.
Dunni Obata is an IT Project Manager by day and a cook the rest of the time. She loves entertainment and one of her bad habits is feeding people. When she’s not cooking, she’s watching the Food Network. Dunni is very passionate about Nigerian food and believes they have a lot to offer globally. Visit her blog – www.dooneyskitchen.com