Egusi soup is one of Nigeria best soup and very common too. You can basically find this soup in all part of South Eastern and south western part of Nigeria. We will be discussing the two basic method of preparing egusi soup in this article. The frying method and the caking method.
The caking method consumes less oil, appears less oily and healthier than the frying one
4½ cups (600g) Egusi (Melon) seeds
2 cooking spoons red palm oil
Beef: Best cut and Shaki (cow tripe)
Fish: Dry Fish and Stock Fish
3 tablespoons ground crayfish
Pepper and Salt (to taste)
Vegetable: Ugu or bitter leaves
3 small stock cubes
1 Ogiri or Okpei (traditional locust bean seasoning: optional)
Important cooking equipment
Spice grinder for grinding egusi (melon) seeds:
Stage 1: Before you cook Egusi Soup
Before preparing the soup, soak the dry fish for about half an hour. If you are using the very tough stockfish, boil it for at least 20 minutes and leave in the pot with the hot water to soak for about an hour. If using the softer stockfish, you can just soak them in cool water till you can break them apart with your hands.
When they are soft enough, remove the bones and break them into sizeable bits.
Grind the egusi with a dry mill. Then grind your crayfish and fresh pepper separately and set aside. Make sure you wash your vegetables before cutting them into tiny pieces.
Boil the meat (shaki) stock fish and dry fish in 1 liter of water with the stock cubes till they get soft enough. Wash the beef to be used for the soup, add it to the pot and cook on medium heat till done.
Stage 2 Cooking Directions
In this method, as soon as the shaki, fish and meat are done, remove them from the stock (water used in cooking the meat and fish) and place in a different pot or plate.
Add the ground egusi to the stock and stir. If the stock from cooking your meat and fish is not enough to give you a medium consistency, add some water to get the consistency of evaporated milk or a bit thicker. Cover and cook till the egusi cakes. Stir and add a little bit more water. watch it closely so that it does not burn.
Keep stirring and adding water at a time till you are okay. After about 25 minutes, you will notice the clear egusi oil coming to the surface of the soup.
Add the red palm oil, pepper and salt to taste and cook for about 7 minutes. You know it is good to continue when the palm oil and egusi forms a good blend of light yellow color.
Add the cooked meat and fish. You can now add your ugu leaves at this stage and stir the soup.
Add salt to your taste, stir and leave to simmer for 2 minutes maximum.
Turn off the heat. Leave to stand for about 5 minutes before serving.
Method 2 (Frying Method)
The ingredients here are same as the Caking method. The only addition here is the palm oil. You will have to add more oil since you will be frying the egusi. An addition of two cooking spoon will be needed.
Pour the red palm oil into a dry pot and set on the stove to heat. As soon as the oil melts, add the ground egusi and start frying. If the oil is not congealed, add the egusi as soon as the oil is translucent. Mix the ground egusi with oil till every grain of egusi turns yellow.
Start stirring the egusi on low to medium heat. Keep stir-frying for about 10 minutes.
Add the meat/fish stock (water from cooking the fish and meat) little by little while still stirring the egusi. So you add a bit of the stock, stir-fry for some time, add another, stir-fry and so on. When the stock is exhausted and you feel that the soup is still too thick, you can start adding hot water in the same way till you get the consistency you want. If your choice of vegetable is bitter leaf, add it at this time.
Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes, stirring at intervals. Also, top up the water when necessary. If you don't stir it, it will burn. It takes 30 minutes to cook egusi properly else the soup will not taste nice to someone with authentic Nigerian taste buds. Also, egusi that is not cooked long enough may cause upset stomach. The egusi is done when you notice that the oil has separated from the mix.
Once you are happy that it is done, add the ground crayfish and pepper. Stir and add ugu.
Stir very well and add the cooked stockfish, shaki and meat.
Add salt if necessary. If it is too thick, add some water to bring it to a consistency you like.
Cover and leave to simmer and it is done!