While I was away from home I seriously missed the taste of Nigerian food. For three months I suffered through bland meals made by chefs whose idea of ‘spicy’ was a few pieces of jalapeno pepper. *tears* Nigerians who live abroad for years are strong o, I honestly can’t do it. If I had the option to live around the corner from a Nigerian market, maybe I would consider. Maybe.
One day I got fed up and requested efo riro from room service. As I described how to make it, I knew that what I would get wouldn’t come close, but I was desperate.
As I ate, I distracted myself from the blandness by creating a recipe for a spicy vegan efo riro in my head and savouring the imaginary taste. I couldn’t want to get back and make it.
So of course one of the first things I made when I returned home was this recipe. And I am happy to report that the real thing tasted even better than I imagined.
Efo riro is a Nigerian soup made with spinach and red bell peppers (tatashe). Fermented locust beans (iru) give the soup a distinctive taste. Starting with the traditional ingredients, I added tomatoes to my recipe to boost the nutritional profile and to add flavour. I also added brown lentils and mushrooms give the dish that chewy consistency that I love in Nigerian soups. It’s so chewy that you don’t miss the meat at all!
What you will need:
+ a fistful/bunch of efo (African spinach), sliced
+ 4 large tatashe (red bell peppers)
+ 4 firm tomatoes
+ 2 atarodo (Scotch bonnet peppers)
+ 1 medium size red onion, chopped
+ 6 tablespoons palm oil
+ 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms (these are the chewy kind, you can use a different kind but chewy the texture will be missing)
+ 1 cup brown lentils, pre-soaked for at least 4 hours
+ 2 tablespoons iru (fermented locust bean)
+ 6 large garlic cloves, diced and crushed
+ Spices: ½ teaspoon ground ehuru (African nutmeg), 1 teaspoon curry powder, salt
How to make it
1.Boil the lentils in unsalted water for 20 minutes, until soft and almost mushy. While the lentils are cooking, soak the mushrooms in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Drain, but do not discard the liquid. Chop the mushrooms into different sized pieces and set aside
2.Blend the tatashe, tomatoes and atarodo into a very rough paste with just a little bit of water; use the pulse function to avoid overprocessing
3.Fry the onions in the palm oil until transclucent, then add the tatashe paste to the pot. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes
4.Add the iru, garlic, lentils, spices mushrooms and liquid used to soak the mushrooms to the pot. The sauce should not be watery. If it is so thick that the lentils are not incorporated in the sauce, add a bit of water. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. If it is watery, leave to simmer uncovered
5.Add the spinach to the pot, but do not stir. Cover and let simmer another 5 minutes. After the leaves have wilted, stir them into the soup and you’re done!
I had my efo with brown rice. Pure joy!