So, my maternal grandfather was a fisherman apparently (I never got to meet him) and he used to fish as far off as the islands of Sao Tome and Principe (so I was told), but aside from that my family comes from riverine area of South Eastern Nigeria now known as the Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. Although I didn’t spend that much time there when I was younger, we did get to eat lots of dishes made with seafood in our house. To top it off I grew up in East Anglia in the UK and we lived minutes away from the sea and I spent many a summer’s day with my brother fishing for whatever sea creature would get caught in my net. Anyway, I decided to try my hand at making okra soup. I had woken up early last Saturday morning to hit the fish market at Makoko in Lagos and I came back with a gorgeous stash of fresh seafood. So, of course, not all of it was destined for my deep freezer! I just had to cook something with fish and the prawns at least. On the way back from the fish market I stopped over at the fruit and vegetable market on my way home and found the greenest and plumpest looking okra I’ve seen this year. So soup it was, with fresh seafood and fresh vegetables. Here it is. A take on Nigerian okra soup which I dedicate to all the fishermen out there.
While cooking, the one thing I make sure I do is get all my prep work done before I even turn on the stove. It makes preparing dishes so much quicker and prevents me from realising that I didn’t clean, cut, or chop something the moment it’s due to be added to the pan.
The best thing about preparing this dish was that it was done in just about 30 minutes and you can literally add any and every kind of seafood you like into it. Now you can’t beat that!
1kg Fresh fish (of your choice)
2kg Fresh Nigerian tiger prawns
500g Dried fish or smoked fish (or both)
500g Stockfish (optional)
1 cup Crayfish
3-4 Habanero peppers
1/2 kg Fresh spinach or pumpkin leaves (ugwu)
100g Fresh basil leaves
2 Medium onions
1 cooking spoon of Palm oil
Salt to taste
- Clean and wash the fresh fish, shrimps and dried fish
- Place the smoked, stock and dried fish in a pan with 4 cups of water and boil for 15 minutes. (If you are adding stock fish, this needs to be cooked first for about 45 minutes until it softens then add the rest of the dried fish)
- Chop the onions into large chunks, chop the peppers and fresh basil
- Clean and grind the dried cray fish in a food processor
- Add in the fresh fish, tiger prawns to the boiled dry fish, along with the chopped onions and peppers and dried cray fish and allow to cook for 5 minutes
- Add in the okra and using a folding action mix these in gently with the rest of the ingredients. Cook the soup for another 5-7 minutes until the okra is al dente
- Pour in the palm oil and cook for another 5 minutes
- Wash and chop the fresh spinach or pumpkin leaves and add these to the soup and allow to cook for another 5-7 minutes
- Remove from the heat and serve the soup while hot. An accompanying starch (Garri, our pounded yam is optional)