This recipe is a tribute to an incident from my childhood that is forever etched in my memory. It’s a testament to the saying, “Tough Times don’t last but Tough People do.”
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I recreated this recipe from memory. I remember clearly the events that led up to making this soup. I must have been 11 years old at the time. My parents were going through dire straits financially at the time. My dad’s business had gone bust, mum worked as a nurse employed by the federal government and they had us, 4 kids, with my baby sister under a year at the time. My dad had taken to using the family car an 80’s Datsun Cherry GL as a cab. He’d set out pretty early in the morning and return late at night after picking up passengers as an off licence taxi.
On this day in particular mum had cooked the last meal available as breakfast and that was it. Nothing else was left but prayer because there was absolutely no cash at home not until daddy returned home at night. Mummy explained to us at breakfast, we said a prayer and corporated with her. By lunchtime when we got hungry we decided to play our hearts out. As evening approached we were famished. I could tell my mum had cried that day. She was emotionally exhausted, she barely even scolded us for playing too hard or playing too loud. I remember her laid down on the worn-out wine/red three-seater couch in the sitting room. Her kids were hungry and she had no food to give them.
Somehow in that moment I remembered that our neighbour upstairs had gifted us palm oil they had just produced on their farm the day before. We also had Soya beans flour. My mum used to add Soybeans flour to nutritionally fortify the Ogi (akamu/pap) she gave my baby sister. Our neighbour next house grew Bitter Leaf (bitter leaf my mum planted when we lived in that house, many years prior), our neighbour who had gifted us palm oil was at that moment frying garri in my dad’s defunct factory at the back of the house.
A light lit in my head and I had a bright idea. Ask our neighbour for permission to take some bitter leaves and make soup with the bitter leaf, soybeans flour and palm oil. Next, I went to the neighbour who was frying garri to ask for some garri, the garri was piping hot, we only needed to add cold water and it made us Eba. Mum made the soup, with the bare minimum ingredients, she added Iru and some crayfish powder we didn’t have any meat or fish in the soup and we devoured it with relish.
I don’t recall if we made that soup again after that day, but I recall we went for bed with a full belly and even left some food for daddy to come back to.
As the first child, I experienced first-hand what it was like while my parents went through really difficult times. Today we don’t look like what we have been through, such that my baby sister has no recollection of any time when things were tight. I lean into some of the things I witnessed my parents go through when I was younger as a reminder that regardless of what I may be going through, things will get better and I will pull through.
- Soya beans flour
- Washed bitterleaf
- Palm oil
- Crayfish powder
- Cayenne pepper (dried pepper, ata gigun)
- *Seasoning cubes (optional)
- Assortment of meats and fish
- In a clean pot on medium heat, cook your meats, *stock fish if you are using any* with onion, salt, dried pepper your choice of spices or seasonings, and water until it is cooked.
- Once the meat is cooked, add crayfish powder, palm oil and Iru.
- Add soybeans flour and allow it simmer for with lid on for 10 minutes. Adjust the liquid volume after add Soybeans powder if it is too thick by adding water.
- Take the lid off and add properly washed bitterleaf.
- Leave to simmer for 3-5 minutes with the lid off
Enjoy with your favourite accompaniment. Eba, Pounded yam, Semovita, Wheat
Juice recommendation, FDVie Juice Pineapple/Ginger