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BN Cuisine with Dooney’s Kitchen: A Tale of Two Dishes – Abari & Epiti

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The journey to making these dishes was hilarious at best. I wanted my next post on Bella Naija to be something quite unusual but still undoubtedly Nigerian. I looked through my list of recipes not yet published or cooked and ticked a few options. Going further down the list, Abari stood out, and then Epiti, which gave me the idea to write a post about the tales of 2 uncommon Nigerian steamed dishes. Oh dear, I should just have gone with my original idea to cook Ofe Akwuko using a recipe a reader Mrs Eze sent to me. Going to Peckham to buy Ugba (which was the reason I didn’t cook it), would have been way less stressful than what I went through. Refusing to give up, I tried different combinations till I found something that worked. If you live outside Nigeria and cooking these two steamed dishes has always been a pain for you, you will want to read this. If you haven’t eaten these dishes before, especially now that corn would soon be in season, you want to pay close attention.

What is Abari? It is simply Savoury Steamed Corn. Think Moin Moin, but with corn instead of beans. Abari is the Ekiti name for it. Abari goes even further, because garden eggs are added. In other cultures it is called Ukpo Oka, Sapala, Oka Ekusu or Ekoki, Igba Ngwu Oka. I would like to know what you call it in your culture. The Igbos and The Efiks add vegetables to it like scent leaf or nchawu, ugu leaves, anyara leaves and sometimes Uziza. I was initially going for the Ekiti-Igbo/Ekiti fusion but with the frustrations I faced while making it, I totally forgot about my idea and churned out the pure Ekiti version. You can update my recipe and do a multi cultural fusion dish. Please remember to send me your pictures or drop comments on the blog when you do.

I don’t know how I thought it would be a good idea to blend dry corn to make Abari. While blending it, with my blender groaning a little, I realised it was not going to work and that is how I became an accidental ogi maker. If you would like to know how to make your own Ogi in 5 days, go to my blog. Refusing to be deterred by the dried corn, I used fresh corn sold in supermarkets which I scraped off the cob. Another disaster. You would have thought I was steaming a stone and waiting for it to soften. The abari spent ages in the oven and refused to solidify. It tasted pretty amazing though, but not firm enough to be plated beautifully. Trial 3, I opened cans of sweetcorn, repeated the process. A little better than the last trial but it fell slightly apart and didn’t look to great. I was close to pulling my hair out at this point. I am sure many of you who have tried this dish must be nodding your heads and remembering your own experience. I left the kitchen in a right old state and when to cool off on the sofa. Minutes after, it hit me. I needed to thicken it with something. In my frustrated state, all sorts of things came to mind including Garri. I settled for flour. Just before I placed the mixture in the oven, it occurred to me to try thickening it corn flour too, which led me to making another batch thickened with corn flour just so I could compare. Honestly, no difference. Whichever you have in your pantry, both would work. What took ages in the last three trials, was cut down to a mere 15 minutes in the oven. Did I mention that I faced the same problem while making Epiti too. I know I will not appreciate my electricity bill when I see it next month.

Before fresh corn comes into season, you can use any kind of corn you can find. Frozen, sweetcorn, mini corn on the cob. The key is to thicken it.

You Will Need

Corn – fresh, frozen, sweetcorn
Tatashe – red bell pepper
Chopped red onions
Crayfish
Garden eggs – substitute with aubergines
Ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
Salt
Seasoning cubes
Dry pepper – cayenne pepper or paprika
Shredded smoked fish
Plain flour or corn flour – to thicken
Palm oil – you can substitute with vegetable oil
Banana leaves or heat proof containers

How To

Rinse and quarter the garden eggs. If you are turning your nose up at garden eggs, believe me, I used to until I tried something else apart from boiling. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: the solution to your garden egg pet peeve is to grill it. Place the quartered garden eggs on an oven tray, season with salt, a sprinkling of crushed seasoning cubes, dry pepper and a little topping of oil. Whack in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes.

The garden egg ‘chips’ would come out smelling and tasting great. Only a slight tinge of bitterness would be left, you may not even notice.

While the garden eggs are grilling, blend the sweetcorn with tatashe and rodo till a smooth paste.

Pour into a bowl and add chopped red onions, crayfish, shredded smoked fish, the grilled garden eggs fresh from the oven, salt, chopped red onion (optional), seasoning cubes and palm oil.Be careful with the palm oil though, otherwise you will end up with a sharp orange abari, and not the pleasing moin moin type colour. Add palm oil in tablespoon increments. You can also choose to use vegetable oil, or even mix both.

Combine all gently, taste for salt and seasoning and readjust accordingly. With the crayfish, smoked fish and grilled garden eggs already with some salt content, you want to be careful about the amount of salt you add.

Stir in corn flour or plain flour. I added fresh pepper at this point only because I forgot to blend it with the corn.

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This step is important to give the paste some body, otherwise you will find yourself steaming forever, running up a gas or electricity bill and the abari would not come together and solidify. I learnt my lesson the first time. You only need to thicken with about a tablespoon or 2 of flour. it doesn’t affect the taste but saves you the frustration.

If you have the local banana leaves, fold into the traditional shape, pour in the corn paste and steam in a pot. If you are using oven proof containers, simply line with a little oil, pour in the paste and whack in the oven.

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Likewise you can bake in Muffin cups

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Yes, you can bake abari in the oven, so with moin moin. Remember to fill a baking tray with water, and place in the oven. This is to keep the oven moist and steamy, thereby recreating the steaming process in a pot.

Bake in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade (Farenheit conversion) for roughly 15 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, it should still be soft, but not squidgy.

That’s your Abari done. Serve with Garri and cold water.

or go the full Corn Monty and serve with Pap.

If you want your Abari to come out this moist, remember to fill a baking pan with water and place in the oven. You should also cover with foil by the halfway mark.

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Now to Epiti.

What is Epiti? I am not exactly sure which part of Yorubaland the name Epiti is local to. I welcome your suggestions. It is a close cousin to Abari, in that it is also made with corn, but corn and over ripe plantain. The combination of both gives a sweet steamed dish that is savoury at the same time. A very good play on your taste buds. Like with Abari, I also faced problems of steaming forever. It is even worse with Epiti because over ripe plantains have a very mushy texture. Luckily, thickening with flour also worked here. The recipe is basically same as that of Abari above (except garden eggs). The mixture of blended overripe plantain and corn is a blank canvas to which you can play around with it, adding as many ingredients as you wish. Some even add boiled eggs to it, sardines or corned beef.

The process is the same, except you blend the over ripe plantain with the corn. Over ripe plantain has quite a strong flavour, therefore add enough sweetcorn to match that flavour, otherwise all you would taste is the plantain. To half a plantain, I used two 165g cans of sweetcorn.

Blend the plantains and corn to a smooth pulp.

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Add the peppers and onions (optional) and blend further

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Add powdered crayfish, and tear in softened smoked fish

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add Palm oil. About a cooking spoonful worth or more, depending on the volume you are working with

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Stir in corn flour to give it more body, not necessarily to thicken it. The flour will help keep it together and firm up while in the oven.

Pour into ramekins, and place in a deep oven tray filled with water. Place in the oven and bake at 180 degrees (350 Fahrenheit) for 15 – 20 minutes.

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When you take it out of the oven, it should feel soft to touch, and succumb to the pressure of your fingers, like Moin Moin

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Sure does look like Moin Moin doesn’t it? As with Ebiripo, I decided to serve Epiti with a fried Palm Oil sauce.

IMG_8796_watermarkedIMG_8804_watermarkedWe all know about Moin Moin, for some of us with links to Ijebu land, Ebiripo (steamed cocoyam) is another steamed savoury dish you will be familiar with. I am always looking to learn more about Nigerian food, so please share any more savoury steamed Nigerian dishes you know.

I hope I have inspired you to give these dishes a try. Expand your steamed Nigerian Savoury dishes repertoire. You can also share, which one you have been inspired to try first, or if you will do both. I am repeating it again, if you are not using proper fresh corn, with the leaves, hairs et al,don’t forget the flour.

Before I go, let’s talk about the Dooney’s Kitchen giveaway.

The Prize – Dooney’s Kitchen Giveaway

To celebrate 1 year of being a contributor on BellaNaija, I would like to thank you all for the support these past few months. I only become a food blogger in March 2013, and it already feels like so much longer. I am grateful for the experience and also thankful for the support. My contribution to BN cuisine truly shone a spotlight on my blog and the support from you Bella Naijarians has been immeasurable. My parents raised me to always give back as the hand that gives gathers. To show my appreciation, I would like to give away a food processor to one lucky BellaNaija reader who of course lives in Nigeria.

To make it more fair, as luck didn’t get me here but hard work, I would like this giveaway to mirror my ethics of practice. A bit of ‘work’ will be needed on your part. Don’t worry, not so much. To win this food processor, you have to answer two questions.

1. What was the first recipe I posted on Bella Naija and what date was it.

2. For this contest, I deconstructed Abari i.e. I took out all the other ingredients to make a sauce, whilst steaming the corn and corn flour on its own. I would like you to invent a name for this dish. Sorry, calling it Deconstructed Abari is not creative enough. Imagine if this was going to be a dish in your restaurant, what would you call it?

A winner will be selected from the correct answers and the most creative responses. The winner will be announced on Dooney’s Kitchen Facebook Page and the recipe for Deconstructed Abari (insert whatever name is selected) will be posted on my blog with credit for the name of the dish given to you.

Part II of the challenge

To enter, please Like Dooney’s Kitchen on Facebook and Follow on Twitter or Instagram as your responses would have to be sent to me using those social media, just to verify you are who you say you are. If you don’t have any social media accounts, please subscribe to the blog and send me an email {the_experience(at)dooneyskitchen(dot) com} using the address you used to subscribe. The competition closes in a week from today. {4th April 2014}

Thank you and Good Luck.

______________________________________________________________________________________
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 it has a lot to offer globally. Visit her blog – www.dooneyskitchen.com

I'm an IT Project Manager by day and a cook the rest of the time. I love entertaining, and one of my bad habits is feeding people, so guests beware. When I'm not cooking, I'm watching Food Network, American TV series and National Geographic in that order. When I want peace and quiet, I curl up on the sofa and read a good book I'm very passionate about Nigerian food. I believe our food has a lot to offer globally, and with the right exposure, it can stand proud alongside food from other cultures. I'm hoping to get us all fired up and talking about Nigerian cooking irrespective of whatever part of the world you live in. Welcome to Dooney's Kitchen

36 Comments

  1. Kisses and Huggs Club

    March 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Sumptuous!

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:18 am

      Thank you very much

  2. kokie

    March 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Lovely. thanks for the reciepes
    Bye the way, the akara pancakes worked out nicely when I tried it.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      March 28, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      What akara pancakes? Puhleaze, share some more about this discovery…

      Dunni, that second recipe looks like something we used to call “plaintain moi-moi” when I was growing up. Can I ask whether you steam the dried fish first of all, or if it just softens in the oven while the epiti’s cooking? This is the first I’ve heard of either dish, by the way, so thank you for expanding my Naija culinary knowledge! You’re truly using food to make us a more united country… 🙂

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Yels Ms SA. Akara Pancakes. Yes, it is also called Plantain and corn moin moin. Only found out it was officially called Epiti recently. I soaked the dried fish in hot water prior to adding to the paste. Thanks for the compliments, in the times we live in, pointing out our similarities may help us feel more united, who knows. Here is my recipe for Akara pancakes: http://www.dooneyskitchen.com/2013/12/27/akara-pancakes-eating-akara-the-healthy-way/

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:19 am

      You are welcome Kokie. Welcome to the world of eating Akara the healthier way

  3. Teni

    March 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Sure looks yummy,will try it someday!

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Please do try it Temi

  4. Concerned_Boyfriend

    March 28, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Been a huge fan of your blog since day 1. Keep up the good work. I took on your Ayamashe a couple weeks ago and I nailed it. Will send you pics. I’m going to try Abari & Epiti soon. *Bookmarked*

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:22 am

      Really? Wow. I am impressed. Can’t wait to see the pictures. Please do try Abari and Epiti. They are quite simple dishes

  5. TA

    March 28, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Here I was minding my own business on a dreary Friday afternoon and you had to assault my senses and memory with ‘Ekusu’,(that’s what the pureed corn steamed in moi moi leaves are called where I come from) Its so so yummy. When am in Naija during corn season I make it over and over again till the stuff starts ‘growing from my head’ I use smoked prawns and it must be moi moi leaves or else I forget about it. Tastes are ingrained in my memory and I try to preserve it as much as possible,so this cooking with sweet corn and oven dish business ain’t for me. :–)
    As for the plantain based dish, its called ‘Emieki’ in my language and its made using over ripe plantains (almost rotten sef) , plantain flour (elubo) and a little banga. The 3 are mixed until very smooth,not too thick or watery. If too thick just add a little more banga never water. Lots of fresh pepper, palm oil,crayfish, onions and I like to add curry and a bit of thyme to mine. As you wrap in moi moi leaves, you could add dried fish and plain parboiled beans. Yes you heard me parboiled beans. It takes forever to cook but the results are amazing. I stock in my freezer and reheat as needed from time to time.
    Disclaimer: Please stay away from any of these dishes if you are even entertaining plans of weight loss. Emieki in particular is very high in calories: carbs,sugar,fats and oil ( not much of trans though), sodium and all the evils you were told about in weight loss class. Yes, they are all in there.

    • Atoke

      March 28, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      Thank you oh! I’ve told this Dunni that she wants the devil to use her. I came to see her and na so so devil-imbibed food she dey bring! Shame to bad people. Dunni is evil!

    • Bleed Blue

      March 28, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      Ahn ahn! So you people are seeing (and even involving Dunni’s chops) and did not include us? Upon all my hook-up, link-up and meet-up suggestions up and down?

      Mz S.A, you see life? Atoke and Dunni it is well oh.

      Aaaaaaanyway, no matter the vex, I can never vex for your recipes! These right here are just fantastic looking. Will try the Epiti at the weekend. I have some plantain that is very dark in complexion…should do the trick.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      March 28, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      *standing next to Bleed Blue with my pursed lips and judgemental gaze*

      Una see yasefs? Sotay the food wey sweet, come cause Atoke to forget say she no suppose dey expose her “infraction” like this.

      Not to worry. Sista Bleed Blue and I shall also have our own cooking date, once she deals with that dark complexioned plaintain (babe, no fall my hand oh).

      Hahahaha! I can’t vex, sha, would have arrived with “take-away” bowls if I’d been in Atoke’s shoes… 😀

    • whocares

      March 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Doons f life!!! Na wa o.. This is how Atoke has been “solo wacking”, chopping, cleaning mouth and then coming onto BN, and you have been enabling her… Godiswatchingyouboth. LOOL.
      Oooh I am definitely going to try this. My mom made some moinmoin last weekend and I got such bad heart burn from it. This has the same colour but i am interested in finding out if it has the same texture.. I have never heard of abati and ebiri(?) but they do sound delicious,and easy to make as well. Thank you for sharing this.

    • TA

      March 28, 2014 at 11:04 pm

      Never ever trust a skinny chef – Albert Einstein (1908- 191962)

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:25 am

      Please Atoke, you are running my Cooking Mojo. Please Bleed Blue and Ms SA, my house is open abeg. At least I am sure nothing will be off the table with you guys. Hehehehehe

    • Edo sis

      March 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      You are my sister…lol.I was trying to remember the names of both – thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:24 am

      Wowzer. That quick recipe you shared is a must try. Thanks

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:27 am

      Yes @whocares, it does have a very similar texture to moin moin but slightly more squidgy. Don’t know if that makes sense. If beans gives you issues, Abari or Epiti, is definitely for you

    • Cat on a hot tin roof

      March 29, 2014 at 9:38 am

      Aha, I thought I knew that corn pudding. Ekusu is what it was called in Benin. I hated it with a passion though. Perhaps it wasn’t being well made. Going to try this sweet corn and plantain recipe today.

    • gbaskelebo

      July 30, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      You must be from Edo State, miss this dishes Ekusu,Emieki,Ikpakpa, as I write i am already salivating…Damn!

  6. temmy

    March 28, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    hmmmn,remind me so much of my home town,my small London *smilling* Ekiti one of life wow

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Yes o. Thanks to you guys for giving this dish such a sexy cosmopolitan name

  7. Her Excellency!

    March 28, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    hehehehehehehe Dooney on BellaNaija…..
    Fan from SYTYCC on facebook and dooneyskitchen
    Tried ur ‘Ofe Nsala’
    Will do dat ‘Buka Stew’ soon…l want my husband to speak in ‘tongues’ too 😀

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:29 am

      Well done with the Ofe Nsala, and good luck with Buka Stew. if it is speaking in tongues you want, you will definitely get it with the recipe. All the best

  8. olajumoke okedairo

    March 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    i dont like sweet corn and corn in general..is there a substitute for corn?
    it looks sooo yummy,

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:30 am

      Try the Epiti then. Instead of fresh corn or sweetcorn, use cornmeal. I hope that helps

  9. Bev

    March 28, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Epiti is the same as Kwokar, Ikwuokar in Warri, not sure about the origins, Itsekiri or Urhobo. I use corn meal. Toss fine corn meal into blender with ripe plantain or for grittier kwokar, add fine corn meal to bowl of blended plantain. I like it spicy to combat the sweetness of the plantain, at least that is how self-respecting Kwokar Mamas made them.

    • Dunni Obata

      March 29, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Ooooooh, thanks for the additional name from Warri. Learning seriously with this post

  10. Xtsy

    March 29, 2014 at 5:09 am

    Thanx for the recipes.
    Split peas is my go to substitute for Nigerian steamed savoury puddings, hope to try out these sweet versions.

  11. bae

    March 29, 2014 at 7:40 am

    How do I enrol? I want to be in your catering school, live in your kitchen and shop with you in the secret recipe market! I hope your willing to take in new recruits *closes hand and says prayer* just say YES. PLEASE

  12. Blessing N

    March 29, 2014 at 8:34 am

    In my place, Agbor in delta state, it is called Ukpo oka and Ukpo ogede, for the Ukpo Oka we use is fresh corn use a knife to remove it from then u blend it roughly not smooth add all d ingredient except the garden egg. No need to use flour to thicken it, it will be firm as long as you are careful with water you use while blending d corn. In d olden days it was mortar and pestle than is used to blend d corn. Thanks I love ur cooking 🙁

    • Ewi

      March 29, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      See my agbor sister!,spot on jare….doons doons you’re making me hunger for ukpo oka seriously,Thank God the corn season is almost here.

  13. Stephanie

    March 29, 2014 at 11:43 am

    wow!
    blogsvila.blogspot.com

  14. Mariaah

    April 3, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Haa!!! The great “Ikpa-Kpa Akpa” (I am Idoma/Igala BTW! 🙂 ) Thinking about it, I might try cooking Ikpa-kpa soon since its corn season and beans and corn (like what’s fresh corn season without beans and corn ehh? 😀

    Dunni you are a wonderful cook! We should be best friends LOL..

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