The third in the series of delicious recipes is one that reminds me of childhood, of coming home feeling weary from a long day of school. Nigerian Pepper Stew (or soup).
The sweet smell of this Nigerian classic often greeted me on the stairwell and I used to race home, my mouth watering, drop my bag in the hallway and head straight to the kitchen where the windows would be steamed up and there on the stove would be a big shiny pot bubbling with sweet, spicy and heart-warming pepper stew, so red, it almost looked like blood, so tasty, it set your tastebuds alight.
I would steal a piece of succulent meat dripping with the soup, then suck all the soup from it, as my belly growled in anticipation and my dad would shout from another room to ‘leave that meat alone you thief and to wait for dinner!’ Anyway, this was my ritual and it is this recipe I yearn for when I’m far away from home, sick or feeling sad. It is comforting, yummy and I don’t know if this is just because of the flavour, or if it’s because it reminds me of home. Either way, I think it’s the best!
Pepper stew is a traditional broth style soup which can be eaten with rice, pasta, ground rice or pounded yam . It is full of vitamin C, so brilliant for the winter months. Of all my delicious recipes, this is my fave but I’m sure you’ve gathered that! No matter how many times I cook it, however, it never seems to taste as good as my dad’s! I’m also sure there’ll be some comments from Nigerians who’ll say this recipe is different to theirs: as with all good homemade recipes, everyone thinks theirs is the best, but I say, providing you cook it with love, it will always taste yummy!
Chicken, Cow Foot, tripe ( or ‘Shaggi’ as we used to call it!) Beef, whatever meat or fish you want to eat or have in the fridge.
3 fresh large tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
2 large green bell peppers
2 scotch Bonnet peppers
a few teaspoons of vegetable oil (Palm oil in Nigeria but this is very bad for you and the environment!)
Salt – to taste
Seasoning – 3 Maggi / Knorr cubes, if like me you’re scared of the MSG in the Maggi (though my dad’s been using Maggi all his life and seems to be fine!)
How to make it
Did I mention it’s also very easy to make? Chop up the onion into quarters and do the same with the tomatoes, peppers and the chilli. I like the soup so hot and spicy so I’ll be panting for breath and sweating, therefore, I’ll use 2 whole Scotch Bonnets! Just bear in mind that they are potently spicy peppers, so add according to your tastes! Put them all in the blender and blend until you have a pale pink liquid. Taste it, it should be sweet and tangy.
Put the teaspoons of oil into a frying pan and fry your meat with seasoning cube. Once the meat has fried, add it to a pot with your blended sauce and 500ml of water. The liquid should now appear redder in colour and very watery. Boil this soup for at least one hour on a medium heat to reduce the water. The meat should soften and the soup should thicken and redden even further. Once it has thickened, you can then add some tomato purée for further thickening and salt to taste too. Remember that the seasoning cubes also have salt in them so try not to add too much more. I usually cook mine on a low-medium heat for up to two hours. Again, it gets better with time! Enjoy this with fried plantain, yam, ground rice or just on its own. I used to drink cups of it when I was younger, especially if I had a cold!