91 Ways Volunteer Jane Nebe is a Doctoral Researcher & Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Bristol. Here she shares her passion for food and Nigerian celebrations:
“I like food. It is the first thing you are likely to conclude about me when you meet me for the first time. Where I come from, food is part of your cultural identity because there are food types that are associated with particular ethnic groups.
I grew up in South-West Nigeria although I am from the Igbo ethnic group of South-East Nigeria. Rice is very popular in most Nigerian homes and it is prepared in different ways – Jollof Rice, white rice with sauce (we call sauce ‘stew’), Fried rice, Coconut rice and lots of other meals made with it.
While, ‘Jollof-Rice’ is actually regarded as a Nigerian speciality, in Northern Nigeria, there is ‘tuwo shinkafa’, which is made from rice flour. Nigerians also have lots of different ways of making soup. From Egusi to Ogbono, Ewedu, Okra, Ora, Efo -vegetable, Onugbu – Bitter-leaf, Groundnut, they are eaten with different kinds of carbohydrates such as cassava flour, yam flour, maize flour or semolina.
The essential part of any celebration in Nigeria is most likely the food. Any celebration without food would be perceived as incomplete. These celebrations include weddings, funerals, child naming/child dedication ceremonies, birthdays, graduations, house-warming and so on. My best Nigerian meal is Fufu with Ogbono soup.
Ironically, I never enjoyed cooking. It was just one of many chores, but I am good at it because my Mum taught me well. I am the first child/daughter in my family and that comes with huge cooking responsibilities. I learnt how to cook by helping out in the kitchen. Then, I began to make simple dishes, progressing to more complicated ones. My mum is a great cook – it used to be her profession years ago.
I moved to the UK few months ago for my studies and my cooking has changed drastically, mainly that I now enjoy it! Perhaps it’s because it is more fun to do than being buried in books and my laptop!
I am always trying out new things and even checking out YouTube for recipes – That was so NOT me!
I am also try to cut down on carbs and filling up with lots vegetables instead. My favourite meal now is carrot sauce with anything – rice, spaghetti, noodles, potatoes and beans. It seems that I just can’t get enough of my carrot sauce! My carrot sauce is usually made by boiling slightly or frying with minimal oil some onions, cabbage or lettuce, sausage or other meat or fish, pepper, broccoli – and a lot of carrots! I then add salt, a stock cube, chilli and curry to spice it up. I am looking forward to cooking more healthier and innovative meals in the coming years.
Jane’s Ogbono Soup
Ogbono is the Igbo (a Nigerian dialect) name for bush mango seed. The soup is made from the grinded seeds and becomes thick when cooked. It can be prepared in different ways but this is the way I prepare mine:
Ingredients (adjust quantities depending on taste and number of guests)
Fish/ meat/Ponmo (cow skin)
Vegetables (Pumpkin leaves or bitter leaves)
Onions, salt, pepper and stock cubes
- Boil the meat or fish until it is slightly tender. Add salt, onions and stocked cubes.
- While it’s cooking, mix the grinded ogbono with a little palm oil until it forms a paste.
- When the meat or fish are tender, add the ogbono paste, grinded crayfish and pepper to the boiling water. Leave to cook for about 5 minutes.
- Then add the vegetables, some onions, stocked cubes and salt. You can also add sliced Okra at this point.
- Leave to cook for another 2-3 minutes and serve
There are two types of Fufu: one made from marshy cassava which is complicated to make. But you can also make it from processed starchy foods like semolina. This is the way I do it:
- Powdered Semolina
- Boil water in a pot.
- Mix small quantity of the semolina with cold water in a bowl until you have a smooth paste.
- To the boiling water, add the semolina paste and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth consistency.
- Then start adding the powdery semolina little by little while stirring, until your desired consistency is achieved.
- Allow to cook. You will need to keep stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
- You might need to add water at some point to allow it cook for some time.
- Check the taste then it’s ready to serve!
This meal is best eaten with your bare hands. You can serve the Fufu and the Ogbono soup in separate dishes or in one dish. People from my ethnic group (Igbo) serve it in separate dishes.