Vegan edikang-ikong soup + oatmeal swallow

Before the Calabar cooks association hangs me out to dry聽(the way Nigerians tore into Jamie Oliver for daring to customise聽jollof rice), let me just say that this soup is not exactly edikang-ikong, and it wasn’t trying to be. I purposely broke a LOT of rules, like no onions, ratio of water-leaf to ugwu, water content, etc.聽Thanks for letting me use the name though 馃檪


This recipe聽is my quick and easy vegan version of the popular Edikang-ikong聽soup, made without seasoning cubes or meat stock, and still mad tasty! You won’t even miss the periwinkle 馃檪

This takes about 20 mins to prepare, with prior prep time of about 3 hours (to cook the beans). If you soak the beans and ukwa the day before and use a food processor to chop the leaves, you can cut down prep time in half. (That Phillips food processor…one day sha. *sigh*)聽This makes about 10 servings of soup if you’re like me and eat more soup than swallow, and keep going back to refill my plate with more soup 馃榾

What you’ll need for the soup

  • 2 bunches of ugwu leaf聽
  • 10 handfuls of waterleaf *or enough waterleaf to roughly match or slightly exceed the quantity of Ugwu. Just eyeball it, no need to worry about precise measurements. Even if聽the quantities aren’t exactly right the soup will still turn out great!
  • 1 full drinking glass of聽black beans

0912_black beans

  • 1/2 a glass聽of Ukwa or breadfruit *I used the already cooked kind which people eat as a snack. I hear聽raw Ukwa takes ages to cook 聽


  • 聽5 fresh or dried chestnut mushrooms *This was all I had – feel free to use more if you have them!


  • 6 tbsp dawadawa/iru (fermented locust bean) *The whole type, not the mashed type. I used 3 spoons of black dawadawa聽and 3 spoons of the brown kind

0912_black dawadawa聽 聽 聽0912_brown dawadawa

  • 1 bunch African Negro pepper *Another popular peppersoup spice. The aroma is heavenly!

0912_peppersoup spice

  • 1 tbsp Ehuru (African nutmeg) *This is a common element of peppersoup spice mix. I used the already ground stuff out of a packet but you can also get the ehuru seeds, roast them and grind them as needed

0912_African nutmeg

  • 4 cloves of garlic *I used the local garlic – if you use the bigger imported kind, you’ll probably need just 2 cloves. I find the Nigerian garlic is more potent and just more garlicky in general though.
  • 2 medium size onions, chopped
  • 3 small yellow peppers, chopped or blended depending on how brave you’re feeling
  • 2 tbsp palm oil

Ingredient prep

A bit of ingredient prep is necessary before you start the soup,聽because the soup should not be on the stove too long.There’s no time to prep ingredients while the soup is already cooking.

Soak black beans and Ukwa for 1 hour and then boil for 2-3 hours, or until the beans are crushable (but not mushy) between your fingers. *I cooked the Ukwa and beans together, but it’s better to just soak the Ukwa as they actually didn’t need further cooking. My ukwa turned out very mushy because I overcooked them 馃槮

0912_Black beans and ukwa

Chop the waterleaf into big chunks and the ugwu into 1cm wide聽strips.

0912_chopped waterleaf聽 聽 聽 聽0912_chopped ugwu

How to make the soup

The entire soup cooking process should be done on low heat to preserve the nutritional integrity of the leaves. They cook very quickly and you want the final result to be crunchy, not soggy.

  • Fry the onions, pepper, garlic and dawadawa in the palm oil until the onions turn translucent.

0912_Step 2

2. Add the mushrooms, ehuru and half a teaspoon of salt. Simmer for 2 minutes.
0912_Step 2.1

3. Add 1/2 a glass of water and drop the Negro pepper into the pot whole. Leave to simmer for 5 mins to allow the Negro pepper flavour infuse the stock.聽*I didn’t crush mine, but I’ve read that crushing before adding to food releases flavour better. Will try that next time.

聽 聽 聽 聽0912_Step 3聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽聽

4. Add the waterleaf, stir well and cover the pot. Allow to simmer on low heat. *The waterleaf may look like it is too much at this point but don’t worry, it will shrink significantly. 聽聽

0912_Step 4

After 3 minutes…

0912_Step 4.1

5. Add the ugwu leaves, stir and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the leaves are incorporated into the stock, then turn off the heat. Do a taste test and adjust seasoning – add more ehuru, dawadawa, dry pepper and/or salt if necessary.

0912_Step 5

6. Add the beans and ukwa, stir the soup and you are done! If the beans and ukwa were cold, turn on the heat for a few minutes.聽*Cover the pot partially to allow steam escape; otherwise the leaves will continue to cook. We don’t want that!

0912_Step 5x

Done! I discovered I had too much water at the end so I drained some off into a cup and drank it. Problem solved! 馃榾

0912_Finished soup 2

How to make the swallow

Blend dry oats into coarse powder to form the flour. *I prefer whole, steel-cut oats like Millville to Quaker Oats which have some of the fibre removed. Quinoa adds a subtle nutty flavour; if you have it, blend it raw together with the oats.聽Experiment with it to get the right ratio of oats and quinoa聽that works for you

Prepare the swallow聽the same way you would make聽semolina. It turns out like wholewheat semolina聽but this聽alternative is gluten free and has way more fibre – it’s more filling so you eat less of it 馃檪


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