How I Cook Ogbono Soup with Okro
Ogbono is a taboo for Asaba people, according to my dad. My dad was a traditional man, though a Christian, and I loved that he kept us grounded to our culture. The story goes that back in the days, Asaba people could eat whatever they liked including Ogbono. Most of them followed traditional religion, and were worshippers of Onishe, a river goddess.
Onishe treasured purity, and her color was white, which meant that all her followers only came to her shrine wearing akwa ocha. On a certain day, a man ate Ogbono, unknowningly stained his clothes and still came to worship. Onishe was not happy, and banned the drawy soup ingredient since it made her worshippers sloppy and dirty. Since then, a lot of people discarded it from the menu.
We grew up in Enugu, but my parents, from their own parents, were used to not cooking or eating Ogbono. My mum made her okro soup with enough okro and vegetable to thicken the sauce. So ogbono was not something I was used to until I went to boarding house, where without it, our soups would have become rivers of water with oil floating on top. Of course I exaggerate, but you get the idea.
I didn't mind the taste, and when nothing happened, my superstitious mind relaxed. Still, it wasn't until university when I ate an amazing ogbono soup made by one of my classmates that I really began to love and pay attention to what it really was and how it was cooked. By the time I moved into my own place and started making my food, it was decidedly on the menu. Enjoy my recipe below.
3 cups Ground Ogbono
5 pounds of your choice of beef, cut
2 large smoked mackarel/tilapia
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large tomato, diced in large pieces
2 tablespoons of ground crayfish
3 teaspoons of ground pepper
1 cup of palm oil
2 cubes of maggi
2 packs cut and frozen Okro (optional)
2 packs of frozen chopped spinach (optional)
Salt to taste
1. Blend two teaspoons of pepper, crayfish, onions and diced tomatoes and set aside.
2. Put the beef in two cups of water with half the onions, one cube of maggi, some salt and one teaspoon of pepper.
3. Bring to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or until almost cooked.
4. Add your palm oil and heat until it starts to simmer.
5. Pour in your ground ogbono and stir till completely mixed up.
6. Simmer for the next 15 minutes. Make sure all the lumps are well blended into the oil and stock.
7. Add the pepper mixture to the ogbono.
8. Put in the smoked fish, add the other cube of maggi, check for salt and then bring to a quick boil.
9. Add the spinach and okro, then reduce the heat. Allow to heat till it begins to gently simmer, and then turn off the heat.
Your soup is ready. Eat with a side of poundo, amala (elubo) or eba. With the quantity of ingredients used in this recipe, you should have some leftover.
Like I mentioned in the ingredients section, the vegetables are optional, you can make ogbono without either, or with one and not the other. You can also use other vegetables like bitter leaf.