This post is dedicated to my late mother.
So last weekend I spent a fair bit of time thinking about my late mother. It’s just that time of year. The picture in my mind starts in the kitchen of our South London flat with her coming back from a long day at work and wondering what to cook for us. Even though, at the time, my sister and I were too young to care about where Nigeria was, she was able to quickly transport us to Calabar, where she grew up, in just a few minutes with one of her local dishes. For some reason, I have been wanting to make iwuk edesi (aka rice pottage in Efik and Ibibio) for a long while now. It originates from the Efik tribe, around Calabar in the South Eastern part of Nigeria. Something about it conjures up positive images in my mind. Before there was jollof rice as we know it today in Nigeria, there was iwuk edesi (or whatever it was called by those of you from other tribes) a native jellof rice. Cooked on special occasions, because rice was a special occasion dish in most households back then, there’s just something totally awesome and aromatic about this dish. Anyhoot! Enough of the meandering and reminiscing. Let’s get to the ‘organising’ and the ‘chopping’.
The ingredients are truly basic. And, if you think about it, they make total sense as these items were more than likely to be found in a native village kitchen.
I’m a bit anal when I cook. I like everything to be prepped first before I even turn on the burners. That way I’m not looking for stuff or trying to cut or clean anything the moment it’s meant to be hitting the pan.
Throw everything in, except the rice and chopped green veggies. Let it simmer for a bit and then add in the rice. I used Basmati rice. It’s light, fluffy and it’s my own personal spin on a dish that’s donkey’s years old. After that, at the very end, toss in the green veggies and…
…ta daa! Now where’s the fork?
Lessons I learnt while cooking this dish; Add the green vegetables at the very very end and cook for no more than 3 minutes after. Add in a small chopped bunch of fresh basil (I had run out).
1kg smoked fish
200g crayfish (ground)
3 cups Basmati rice
2 medium onions diced
4 small tomatoes diced
2 chilli or habanero peppers (optional)
1 tsp salt to taste
1/4 cup palm oil (1-2 cooking spoons)
- Soak the smoked fish in hot water and then clean thoroughly with salt. Be sure to rinse multiple times to ensure its clear of any grit
- Wash the rice and set aside
- Place a deep saucepan on high heat, add in the palm oil and allow become very hot. It will start to smoke when hot
- Peel, wash and dice the onions. Add these to the hot palm oil and fry for approximately 5 minutes. The onions will become translucent
- Add the prepared smoked fish and peppers and fry for another 3 minutes
- Stir the rest of the ingredients – tomatoes, crayfish and add in 3 cups of water. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until the smoked fish is tender
- Spoon in the rice and fold it in with the ingredients to ensure it is well distributed
- Pour in 1/2 more cup of water until it just covers the rice (if needed)
- Reduce the heat and allow the rice to simmer for approximately 15 minutes (basmati rice cooks quite quickly)
- Wash and roughly chop the ugwu (or pumpkin leaves or spinach)
- Add the green vegetables into the rice and mix in with the rice
- Leave the rice to simmer another 5 minutes. Test to see that the rice is properly cooked.
- Remove from the heat and serve piping hot with a garnish