When I found Achara sold in my neighbourhood I nearly danced because I had been looking for Achara for a while. Achara with akpuruakpu egusi had been on my to-do list along with just a simple Ofe Achara.
Ofe Achara with Akpuruakpu Egusi is a delicacy of the Abia people of south-eastern Nigeria, as well as some parts of Imo State. Enjoyed by so many other people. I particularly love the texture of Achara and the chewiness of the seasoned balls of akpuruakpu egusi. I love to pair this soup with pounded yam.
Special thanks to Grandma White, who was my consultant through this cooking, she gave me instructions and explained some ingredients and the balance to me.
About the ingredients
Certain ingredients tie this soup together and make it different from any regular egusi soup.
- Achara (Pennisetum purpureum) is loosely called Elephant Grass. Achara is neither Lemon grass nor leeks nor spring onions nor bamboo shoot (though I think that bamboo shoots may make a good alternative for those in the diaspora who have no access to Achara). What you need is the soft tender core of the Achara. That will require you to remove several layers of tough grass to get to the softcore. Better still have that done for you in the market.
- Usu is a mushroom used as a thickener or binder. It is usually ground to a white powder. When you buy your Usu in the market ensure that Achi or Ofor has not been ground before your Usu, or else it won’t bind the egusi.
- 2½ cups Egusi seeds
- 2 tbsp Usu
- *1 tsp Uziza seeds (optional)
- 2 cups Achara
- A handful of Okazi sliced very thinly
- Cayenne pepper
- Crayfish powder
- 1 tsp Ogiri
- *seasoning cubes (optional)
- *Achi (optional)
- Assortment of meats
- Assortment of smoked fish
- Palm oil (roughly 2 cooking spoons)
- Rinse vegetables, chop and set aside.
- In a clean pot on medium heat, start cooking your meats with onion, salt, cayenne pepper your choice of seasonings and some water.
- While your meats cook use a dry mill blender, blend your egusi (if using uziza, blend with uziza). Alternatively, you could grind it in the market where you buy from so you skip this step.
- Chop or blitz one onion into little bits and set aside
- In a clean bowl add ¾ of the ground egusi, usu, cayenne pepper, salt, *seasoning cube*, chopped/blitzed onion. Mix with your hands and knead like you will knead bread until the egusi starts to ooze oil. Cut the egusi into small bits and roll in your palms to form balls, then press slightly to a disc and set aside. It is important to season the egusi properly so it is not bland when you bite into it.
- Add stock fish, smoked fish, crayfish, ogiri, palm oil into the meats you are cooking, you may need to add some more water into the meat stock. Let it cook for about 5 minutes with the lid on.
- Next, add the egusi discs and the rest of the egusi that wasn’t made into balls into the pot. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes with the lid on.
- Next stir in the vegetables (Achara and Okazi)
- *If you have too much fluid in your soup, add a thickener like Achi or Ofor*
- Let it simmer with the lid off for another 5 to 10 minutes.
- Take it off the heat and serve with your favourite accompaniment.
Drink Recommendation FDVie Avocombo