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BN Cuisine with Dooney’s Kitchen: Ofe Okazi Na Akpuruakpu Mgbam with Plantain Amala Rings

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If you couldn’t pronounce the words above, don’t worry, I can’t too. Somehow in my head, it is stored as akpurukuku gunam gunam. Don’t ask my why, it just is. Funny, that pronunciation flashes across my memory at very odd times and I find myself chuckling unexpectedly, getting me weird looks from people around me. I have resolved to keep the ‘mgbam’ instead. I am a lost cause regarding its prefix. In case you are wondering, Ofe is the Igbo word for ‘soup’ and Okazi is a vegetable. Usu is a word I had never heard before. If you would have asked me to take a guess, I would have said it is another spelling for ‘Osu’ (outcast) seeing that okazi is also spelt ukazi and same with oziza vs uziza.

I have never seen this made before. I only saw it once and it was not even a clear picture. The only reason it piqued my interest was because I was intrigued about the South Eastern method of forming Egusi into balls. My Ijebu grandmother taught me how to use onions, and that has worked for me since like forever.

Being a food blogger, I have the privilege to be exposed to different food cultures from across Nigeria, and I have to thank the people who are willing to share their knowledge with me. I never thought this soup was within my reach, until Serah Ogidi.P kindly gave me some of her stash of Usu. Without her, it wouldn’t have been possible. I also have to thank Chichi G, Susan H, and most especially Chibruoma Iroegbu who painstakingly dictated the recipe to me over the phone.

Google is a resource for even the weirdest of things; but for this mgbam, no such thing exists. Whatever you see below is my interpretation based on the instructions I was given. This is also my first time of cooking Ofe Okazi. Nigerian food bloggers have the responsibility and privilege of being custodians of Nigerian food culture. Many dishes and food items are getting lost probably because of the lack of documentation, particularly food from the South East and South South which I find to be quite insular. Despite self proclaiming to be the poster child for 2014 Nigerian cooking, I still realise that some things must be preserved – well except there is a modern way to achieve the same thing.

Today, I humbly and proudly say  there is now a documented resource for akpuruakpu mgbam. Today, I will also be showing you a quick and easy way to use a hand mixer to make amala. Let’s cook.

What You Need
1 or 2 tablespoons of Usu – white chalk like substance NOT Potash
1 cup of ground Egusi
Dry pepper
Fresh pepper
Okporoko – stock fish
Dry fishlike azu mbas a or mangala
Ground crayfish
Assorted Meat
Palm Oil
Achi – powdered
Salt
Beef Stock
Water
Shredded Okazi leaves – fresh or dry
Achara
Isam – perwinkle
I would like to state that I could not source achara where I live, and I had run out of periwinkles

How To
Boil your meat with a lot of stockfish and dry fish. You need to get a very rich stock out of boiling your meats because you should not have to add seasoning cubes and possibly salt when you start cooking the soup.

Now to the hard part. Making the Mgbam. You have two options. The traditional way using a mortar and pestle or the cheat 2014 way using a chopper bowl.
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In a small mortar, add the ground egusi, ground Usu (you can choose to blend the whole egusi seeds with usu), dry pepper/fresh pepper and salt. Start to pound with the pestle until the egusi gets compacted, then you add hot water. Roughly about 2 tablespoons. The hot water is to aid the release of  the natural oils from the egusi. Keep pounding until you begin to notice the egusi form into a dough-like paste. Keep pounding, and the egusi will become even more oily. When the mortar comes off clean, that’s your cue that you’re done.
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2014 Cheat Method
Pour all the ingredients from above into a chopper bowl and whizz until the egusi forms a dough. Depending on the quantity that you have, you may need to transfer into a mortar to finish it off when the blades no longer spin the egusi dough, but the best part is the majority of the work has been done for you, in less time and less arm cardio, well unless you are like me on the perpetual quest for toned arms, then you can pound away from scratch.

Moulding the Mgbam: Squeeze portions of the dough in your palm and squeeze out the oil until the egusi dough starts to feel dry. Pinch the dough, flatten and manoeuvre with your thumb, index and middle finger into an oval shape. Repeat until you exhaust the egusi.
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Fill a big pot half way, add palm oil and bring to a boil. I took some cook’s artistic license here by adding some ground crayfish into the water, for extra absorption of flavour. Drop in the mgbam and let it boil until it turns completely white. This would take quite some time and you would need to top up the water again. You will know the mgbam has cooked completely when it is also white inside when you bite into it.

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Take out the mgbam from the pot and transfer into another boiling pot containing assorted meats, shredded stockfish, isam, dry fish, palm oil and fresh pepper and achara (if you are using). This is a rich stock that forms the base of your soup. The flavour of the stock should have a deep robust flavour. If you are not quite there yet, add a tablespoon or 2 of ground crayfish, leave to boil for about 2 minutes and it should do the trick.

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Allow the mgbam to boil in this stock for 5+minutes to absorb the flavours in the pot. Mix 1 tablespoon of crayfish with 1 tablespoon of achi powder. The crayfish is needed to prevent the achi from forming lumps. You only need a little achi to thicken the soup, because ofe okazi is not a thick soup at all.

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Add the achi-crayfish mix to the pot and stir quickly. Leave it to cook  for about 5 – 7 minutes to thicken the soup. If you have never cooked with Achi before, a little caveat. It would look at first as if the soup is not getting any thicker. DO NOT be tempted to add more. That is a rookie mistake I myself made a few times years ago with achi and ended up with a thick globby mess, before I got the hang of it. Give it some time and the liquid stock you started with would get thicker and take on a pleasant light yellowish orange colour.

Add the shredded Okazi leaves to the pot, stir and give it another 3 – 5 minutes, take off the heat and serve.

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Amala process
Take the plantains out of the freezer and leave to sit on your kitchen worktop for 30 minutes, which will make it easy to peel off the skin. It will be best to chop the plantain in small pieces before blending to a smooth puree.IMG_3784_watermarked

Transfer to a pot/saucepan. Where you would have normally gotten out the wooden spoon, get out the hand mixer and attach the whisk rods.

Set the engine in motion and whisk. Start slow to prevent the puree from splashing all over the place. As the puree thickens, increase the speed and keep it at a speed you are comfortable with.IMG_3785_watermarked Because the whisking motion is faster than what turning with a wooden spoon will achieve, it makes the plantain amala much quicker.
As the mixture, thickens as a result of heat, the amala wraps itself around the whisk rods, in a rapid circular motion, making it very light and fluffy.

IMG_3793_watermarkedSo here’s what it looked like when I served it!

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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

60 Comments

  1. mrs chidukane

    August 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Looks good. Kudos

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Thank you Mrs chidukane

      1
    • BuBu

      August 9, 2014 at 2:51 am

      Dunni, can you please write the english names for the ingredients if you know them? Or perhaps the Yoruba? Because I’ve been scratching my head wondering what all these things are! Thanks

  2. sum1special

    August 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    why cant this meal be served the regular way, Plantain Amala on a plate and soup in a bow. Prefer it that way..hehe,,all this effizzy way of serving the meal takes the enjoyment away.

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Effizy is what takes a dish from ordinary to extra ordinary. It is one of the reasons we pay so much to eat in fancy restaurants. Nigerian food also deserves that kind of efizzy.

    • iheoma

      August 9, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      hmmm, been salivating. But this is Ngwa in Abia state soup. Mgbam is just egusi and akpuruakpu means moulding but is better served with fufu and achara. please soup in a bowl.

    • Lindsey

      August 8, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Plus the effizy makes it more appealing to other nationalities and that’s how delicacies take on global appeal. Moroccan food and Ethiopian delicacies are more globally acceptable just cos of the way it’s presented. The way dunni has dished / served this delicacy piques curiosity of those who never heard of it

  3. Ihyyy

    August 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    My gurrrrl Dunni! Awesome recipe. I am so trying it out today. And believe me, if Dunni made it, then it must be GRRRRREEEEAAAATT!! (From personal experience:D *wink, wink*)

  4. Grace E

    August 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I’m hungry!! : I miss my mummy’s food now 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  5. chimoh

    August 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Dunni what i don’ understand is if the plantain is supposed to be ripe or unripe? and any special reason on why we need to keep them in the refrigerator?

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      The plantain is supposed to be unripe. Placing it in the fridge helps it retain a pale colour. Most people who have tried the plantain un-frozen ended up black amala.

  6. Noble (http://www.lagosconvo.com)

    August 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Chai! Nna m gozie gi nwanne m. Ofe ukazi n’akpuruakpu, chai. I’m already salivating here. You didn’t put achara?

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Thank you Noble. No, I didn’t. I couldn’t find any achara sadly

  7. tunmi

    August 8, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I love what you do and that you help us maintain our culture via foods. In a way, I am glad you haven’t opened that restaurant (yet) as my entire income would gladly go there…in 5 years, i shall have the Rooney account.

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Hugs Tumi. Thanks a lot. I hope in the future, I would still be able to count on your patronage

  8. Jane Public

    August 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    You must be an old woman inside a young person’s body. The ONLY person I have ever seen make this was my great-grandmother. She always sent it in batches from the village to her children in Lagos. Eating mgbam died with her. My Grandmother never attempted mgbam at all because it was too stressful. Seeing the pictures just brings back memories. Ofe Okazi is a serious big deal in Igbo land. See how you slayed it on your first trial. I have always been impressed with your cooking but this is serious technique even many native Igbo women cannot do. I booooooooow. The plantain amala with the soup is simply beautiful

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      Aaaaaaaw, thanks. I get told that sometimes. I hope you can re-start the mgbam tradition in your family.

  9. chris

    August 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    gbam! on point dat soup makes my dad do the imaginable at home when he has taken it when he was still on earth me i took same from him that soup is my first eleven nice one dunni

    • Simplyjane

      August 8, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      How does one understand what you have written now, oga?

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Thank you Chris

  10. Antoinette

    August 8, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    As a caterer I have learnt soooo much from this lady. I am a big fan, I will definitely try this

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Happy to help Antoinette. Thanks

  11. Mz Socially Awkward...

    August 8, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    LOL’ing as I look in wonderment. 🙂 I’m Igbo and I can categorically state that I have NEVER heard of Mgbam. Truly ignorant regarding the existence of such a food item and shall, in fact, be quizing my mother during our next conversation. You’re, sha, veering unto the path of a culinary Mungo Park, in this your quest to discover all manners of Naija native dishes. Keep at it, no bad thing at all.

    So, this mgbam – it’s just there in the bowl to munch on, along with the meat and other ofal? Interesting… My okazi is way too precious to pour all of it into one soup pot (I’m one of those pedantic Nigerians who will only countenance okazi that was bought fresh from a Naija market and then delivered to me when any visitors from the homeland arrive… hence the cautious use of my stash) … so I can only enjoy authentic okazi soup when I’m in Naija.

    I’ll daydream about yours, anyway. 🙂

    • Jane Public

      August 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      Culinary Mungo back. #dead. Rotflmao. Dunni that is a cookbook title idea for you. Just pay Ms S.A royalties. I can help with your question Ms. S.A. Yes it is there to munch on like meat. Mgbam is also used as a snack. As per the recipe she wrote, you only need a handful of Okazi. My grandma uses more okazi than Dunni used for this soup. I guess down to preference. So you see Ms S.A your stash is safe. Getting the usu is the koko here. Let me call that my aunty i haven’t spoken to since like forever. Asking my mum for Usu would be like asking a blind man how bright the sun is.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 15, 2014 at 9:08 am

      My culinary brethren! Ewooo, I’m just happening upon your responses – Fridays are my days for “cashing-up” on previous BN food posts as I decide what (or whether) I’m planning to cook during the weekend…. 🙂 🙂

      Thanks for the tip, Jane! Hmmm…. Usu…. *calculates which Naija store in Abz might have it*

      @ama, sis, I dey far from Peckham oh… 🙂 Thank you for the pointer, though. I better start buying up okazi, anyway, now that food imports from Naija to the UK might be curtailed…

      @DooneyRooney, that your cookbook will sojourn far past just Nigerian cuisine, if you want it to. You have the appetite to learn & teach about so many kinds of food, it’s an amazing gift. 🙂

      @nike, we are one, don’t worry. Following my discovery of Efo Riro, dodo-gizzard & trilogy stew, I’ve made ample room for my Yoruba side to break forth. The same way my friends have come to know and love Nkwobi and Ofe nsala. Food is a wonderful unifier. 🙂

    • amaa

      August 8, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      No be small MSA I no blame you but if you live in UK try east street or peckam in central London they bring it fresh every day. I swear there isn’t anything you won’t find there that is from home. If you are in USA I can’t help you. Dunni the mgbam was made separately and wrapped in banana leaves when I was growing up we enjoyed it as a snack when ever we were privileged to go with granny to the village market

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Thanks for the tip @amaa. My Mungo Park antenna is buzzing again. Did you say mgbam in banana leaves? Tell me more. I am guessing after moulding, it is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for ages. I hope that is right because I am going to try it.

    • amaa

      August 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      I will ask granny thankfully she still alive .I will email you when I get an answer

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      Culinary Mungo Park, my my, that is HILARIOUS!!!!!! Thanks @jane public for your response. You are very correct. When you get your hands on some okazi, don’t forget to also ask for Usu. You would enjoy this soup. Trust me

    • Obi

      August 11, 2014 at 1:47 am

      I remember it being “slow roasted” or dried over a smoldering earthen stove once when I visited my aunt. The dried kind is usually broader/ wider shaped and eaten as a snack; can also be broken into smaller pieces and added to soup. It preserves better of course like dried fish. Mgbam is definitely an Ngwa staple that is slowly dying like so many other food items once popular in that area.

    • nike

      August 8, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      You are Igbo! Always thought u were yoruba. U are still my sistee in my head though. Lol

  12. jcsgrl

    August 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Ok am I the only one that noticed that Dunni’s picture was taken by the very handsome Rev Dr Craig? Hmnn lemme start putting two and two together…daydreaming, calculating, analyzing, etc
    Ok back to post, Dunni your God save you say you no dey my area. You would have been chasing me away from ya house cos I will be crash, stalk and invite myself over anytime. It is well… *calling momsie to make some ukazi soup with gbam from her stash b4 i return from work

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Ha, @jcsgril. Haaaaaaa, your eyes are too sharp. You want the Bella Naijarians Craighive to come after me. Hands up in the air o. Lamide is my person, not the kind your mind is calculating and analysing. He kindly agreed to take some shots of me cooking. His other passion is Photography, you should check out David Craig Photography. When you are in London, just let me know, you can crash, stalk and invite yourself over anytime. I hope you sit down to a hot steaming bowl of Ofe Ukazi after work today. My regards to Mummy

    • jcsgrl

      August 8, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      *scratches head to figure out when next I will be in London. Issokay, consider yourself warned…just be ready for me ooo

  13. uchechi

    August 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    This is a native soup of IsialaNgwa people in Abia state. Mgbam is the ngwa name for egusi. Akpuruakpu means moulded. Akpuruakpu mgbam literally means moulded egusi with ukazi.
    You did a good job for someone who is not even Ibo. Most of our isialangwa women cannot even make akpuruakpu mgbam. Good job dear

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Aaaaaaaw, thank you for the validation. Much appreciated

  14. ola

    August 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    thank you Dooney

  15. A Nigerian

    August 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    This is my native soup from isi Ala ngwa south,in Abia State,Nigeria. Dooney you tried.well done

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      You are welcome Ola

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Thank you very much. Coming from an Abian, your words read like high praises to my eyes. Thanks

  16. metche

    August 8, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Dooney, You cook very well and I enjoy your cooking on “So You Think You can Cook” The name for that white like substance is called Osu. Its a sort of thickner for soup.

    My question, Is this what they call Ofe Owerri? they look like the same.

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Thank you Metche. Ofe Owerri is a different soup entirely. I have the recipe for Ofe Owerri on BN cuisine and also on my blog dooneyskitchen.com

  17. Dunni Obata

    August 8, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Happy to help Antoinette. Thanks

  18. Iretidayo

    August 8, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I agree with you Dunni,we need to document our food so it does not get lost. I hope you will write an illustrated cookbook on Nigerian cuisine,the more comprehensive,the better,I will most def buy it.

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Well said on the illustration. Thank you Iretidayo

  19. Teju Bakare

    August 8, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    You’ve ran out of ideas madam, abegi cook something else abeg… highly overated…

    • Dunni Obata

      August 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      You can submit your own new cooking ideas to BN Cuisine. May I provide you the editor’s email address? Looool

  20. Angel

    August 8, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Hope to try this sometime, bless u Dooney, am impressed really, thanks.

  21. gr8fulmi

    August 8, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    The Umuahians in Abia state are the original owners of this soup. She missed out Achara, a must for the soup. We call it ofe Achara na akpuruakpu egusi. The Periwinkle, traditionally is not part of it and it’s best with akpu or eba. Itz a heavenly soup but stressful to prepare due to d protocols involved. For us d umuahians, no event witout it.

    • Obi

      August 11, 2014 at 1:50 am

      That’s why its called akpurakpu egusi and not mgbam in Umuahia. Different communities may share similar dishes but approach it differently and of course call it different things.

  22. Adamazi

    August 8, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    This is good Dunni. The food looks succulent and exquisite. 10/10 on presentation.

  23. Proud Ohuhu Babe

    August 9, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Chai chai chai lol I remember ekpe this soup “ofe achara and akpuruakpu egusi” was a constant. You dare not cook only rice and stew for your visitors lol. It’s best eaten with akpu.

    It’s been ages I went for Ekpe (sad face)

    Well done Dooney u would have gotten a pass mark from my mom it’s the amala that will subtract marks from you lol

    P.s: Growing up iwa achara (cleaning out the achara) was a form of punishment (as it’s very itchy worse than the yam peels) meted out to I or my sisters by my mom if we misbehave lol

    • zichuka

      August 10, 2014 at 6:59 am

      Not just for ekpe. This soup is the main menu feature at traditional weddings as well. No ohuhu event is complete without it. Gosh Dooney for even attempting this you’re phenomenal. More grease……………………………………………

  24. www.jeenager.com

    August 10, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Well-done ma’am

    jeenager.com

  25. lc

    August 10, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    grew up eating this soup, was a delicacy for speeeeeeeeeeecial occasions in my villa..even my babies love it…achara would have made it hmmmmmm.. salivating also.. weldone

  26. lc

    August 10, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    yes achara..itchyyy…i avoid iwa the achara.. rather buy it waad(ehmmm,could not think of any english word for iwa achara biko)

  27. zee

    August 11, 2014 at 10:11 am

    aww Dunni, you really made this ritual seem like child’s play. this is our Umuahia Soup, though Abians as a whole lay claim to it, mention Achara anyday and you d b asked ‘are you from Umuahia’? it is our ceremonial delicacy – like rolling out d drums for occasions or weekends. my mother was a market woman at Boundary and we ate Achara/Akpurakpu egusi/ukazi every wknd until we loathed it! now in our individual homes, it has become a luxury. Iwa Achara means peeling the stalks frm the Achara grass until you get to the edible part, if you have a sensitive skin, like moi that reacts to yam, pepper etc, then don’t even bother. now, you can buy the already peeled achara at Oyingbo mkt but the Akpurakpu you have to do yourself. i salute you, sister, cos many umuafo abia cant even make this soup. for those saying they have not heard of mgbam, it is popularly known as akpurakpu elile [egusi] and i think i v only heard mgbam once from sum part of abia.

  28. Goodness

    August 11, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Woah! This delicacy is my native dish! I grew up eating this mostly as weekend dish. Thanks Dooney for reminding me of my long lost love. Akpuruakpu Mgbam is simply moulded egusi or egusi balls. Love your recipes

  29. tmc

    August 27, 2014 at 2:27 am

    i didn’t know you can whip amala? i love the presentation. you really made everything into bite size. I wonder if upscale Nigerian restaurants serves Nigerian foods like that.

    themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

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