Cooking for the complete newbie!
Nigerian Stew is the basis for most Nigerian soups/stews. It is made from a blended mix of peppers, tomatoes and onions and it’s then boiled with oils and is often strong tasting because of the peppers. Once it’s been boiled, you can add any cooked meat of your choice to the stew; chicken, turkey, goat meat, meat/beef, tripe/shaki are some examples of what can be added to the stew.
Nigerian Stew, while a liquid, should not have too watery a consistency. Its consistency should have a happy medium between watery and thick, but bordering more on the watery side.Across the board, the consistency for various Nigerian Stews vary; for instance, Fish Soup typically has a more watery consistency than say Meat/Chicken/Turkey Stew. For that reason, while you can call Fish Soup, Fish Stew, it is more often called Soup than Stew as soups are generally known to have a more watery consistency. Hence, the same analogy for Nigerian Peppersoup.
Nigerian Stew is sometimes called Red Stew, simply because, well, it is red (sometimes borderline deep orange). When I was in my freshman (first) year of college, I used Ragu to make stew, lol. I’ll feature that recipe on here for the total newbie :)
Beginner Basics are a series of posts geared towards the complete beginner interested in learning how to cook Nigerian Food. No need to be ashamed if you can’t cook (Nigerian Food), we all had to start somewhere ya know.
I started with White Rice; came home from secondary/high school one day and was expecting food as usual, went to the kitchen and there was nothing! Went to ask my mum how come there was no food and she gave me this bad eye enh, lol (memories!) & said that if I wanted to eat, I better go make some rice and she would warm the soup…yikes! Yeah, that was my beginning :)
To learn how to make Nigerian Stew, here’s what you’ll need:
|Prep Time: 15 mins||Cook Time: 30 mins||Difficulty: Easy||Serves: 2-4|
- 2 s red onions OR 1 medium
- 3 s red bell peppers (tatashe) OR 2 medium
- 2 m tomatoes
- 5 scotch bonnet peppers/habaneros (ata rodo)
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup palm oil
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 2 knorr cubes
- 6 garlic cloves [optional]
- Ginger (size of garlic cloves) [optional]
1. Wash peppers and tomatoes, peel onions, garlic & ginger, rinse
2. Cut red bell pepper in half, remove seeds and stems, set aside
3. In bowl, quarter red bell pepper, onions, tomatoes; add peeled garlic & ginger
4. Transfer cut peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic & ginger to blender; add 1 cup water
5. Use the ‘blend’ button on your blender and start blending
6. Blend till smooth (no chunks)
7. After a few minutes, the color of your blended peppers will darken a bit (no biggie!)
8. Add canola and palm oil to pot over medium heat
9. If your palm oil is solid, not to worry, it will dissolve; stir oils together
10. Let oil heat up, till you can hear a light sizzle; add blended peppers
11. There will be leftover blended peppers in the blender
12. Rinse the sides with 1/2 cup water
13. Add blended remnants to pot
14. Let boil 10 minutes; add curry powder and knorr cubes
15. Stir, keep boiling another 20 minutes till cooked
16. Once cooked, cover and leave to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving
17. It’s a wrap!
- To add the water to the blender in step 4, I normally use the lid of the blender instead of using a cup. Initially you can use a cup till you develop your own rhythm.
- The reason for adding the water is twofold: for one, it makes the blending go a bit more smoothly and two, once you start boiling the pepper, it will reduce and thicken, and the water helps balance things out.
- Remove as much of the seeds from the red bell pepper as you can. Some people like their soups/stews with seeds in them (the seeds hold most of the heat anyway, but bell peppers are not hot, so…) while others cannot digest seeds. I once knew someone who had an allergic reaction when she unknowingly ate a tomato sandwich which still had some seeds! Most Nigerians, however, I doubt, have that kind of allergy, lol.
- If your blender doesn’t have a blend button, you could try ‘liquefy,’ or something similar that will give you a smooth texture, similar to the texture of a smoothie.
- The blended peppers change color soon after you open the blender because air/oxygen gets into it and makes it oxidize or change to a darker color. It doesn’t affect the taste I promise!
- Even after the stew is cooked and it settles, it will still get darker. Case in point, the last photo was taken almost immediately after the stew was cooked and the first one, was taken some minutes later. Second day stew always tastes much better though, just fyi!
- If your Knorr cubes don’t crumble in your fingers, just drop them in the pot, they’ll dissolve. Be sure to stir once they’ve dissolved so it gets evenly distributed.
- Tomatoes are very important because they temper the heat of the peppers and balance out the taste of the final result.
- How do you know when the stew is done? When you’re done blending the peppers, smell it. It’ll smell ‘raw’ and at when the smell hits the back of your throat, you can tell it needs to be cooked. Now, when you’ve added the seasonings and it’s cooked, smell it again. At this point, it’ll smell totally different and just ‘cooked.’ Do the before and after smell tests and you should be able to tell, even without tasting it.
- If your nose is not discerning enough, dip your finger in the blended mixture and taste it. You should still taste that ‘rawness.’ At about the 20-25 minute mark, dip a spoon in it and taste it, it should taste totally different now, like it’s almost cooked. Few more minutes later, taste it again, now, it should taste like something you can eat.
- Instead of Knorr cubes, you can use Maggi cubes or Jumbo cubes. Your choice!
- Garlic and ginger are completely optional, though I have to say that the addition of fresh ginger takes the taste of your stew to a whole new level and gives it a unique taste! You can leave out the garlic if you must, but if you don’t mind fresh ginger, I say add it!
- You can use white or yellow onions if you can’t find red onions. Personally, I prefer red onions for stews/soups because it has a stronger, sharper, ‘oniony’ flavor. I use white or yellow for milder foods, like beans.
- Any variation of red tomatoes will work just fine. Plum, roma etc are all good to go.
- If you cannot find scotch bonnet/habanero peppers (ata rodo), you can use jalapeno (long, green hot ) peppers instead, just use less, say 1 or 2.
- If you cannot find any such peppers, you can use the dry, red pepper. It’s not the best, but it will work.
- If you have no tomatoes, you can use tomato paste or tomato sauce (say 1 cup).
- You can use any kind of clear oil instead of Canola. Vegetable and Corn oil work as well.
- Palm Oil can be optional, but most Nigerian Stews have it in some form or another.
- Prefer not to use Palm Oil? Try Annatto Oil.
Eat with white rice…
With some Ila (Okra soup)
Eat with bread or fried yam