Why would anyone want to eat anything made from a leaf called bitter leaf? If you’re asking this question, then you’ve clearly never tried the BITTER LEAF SOUP known to Nigerians as ofeonugbu/obe ewuro, and to the Camerounians as Ndole, the bitter leaves go through a process and are turned into fantastic soups with the barest hint of bitterness carefully balanced out against other flavours.
Bitter leaf soup, from the vernonia amygdalina plant species, is as popular for its culinary uses as is for its medicinal properties. The saying ‘good things come in unattractive packages’ has perhaps never rang truer than in the case of bitter leaf. This green herb is packed full of what is referred to as ‘natural quinine’ (responsible for its bitter taste) and provides several health benefits for the human body, among which are boosting liver health, kidney health, lowers blood sugar levels, anti-cancerous, reduces cholesterol levels, cures malaria and several others. For medicinal benefits, the leaves are brewed or the juice extracted from the fresh clean leaves.
Asides from these, the bitter essence in bitter herbs like bitter leaf, yarrow and rue stimulates the tongue’s bitter receptors and trigger a series of reflexes from the body’s central nervous system. So how do you make simple bitter leaf soup? Here’s how, in 7 easy steps:
STEP 1: Put all your ingredients together and prepare them. These are:
- Seasoning cubes
- Red crayfish
- Ground crayfish
- Pepper mix (onion, tomato, pepper)
- Ogiri (fermented castor oil seed)
- Meat cuts (carefully cleaned and washed)
- Dried fish (washed in hot water and salt)
- Stock fish (washed in salt and hot water)
- 4-5 small pieces Cocoyam (washed, boiled and peeled )
- Palm oil
- 2 cups, washed squeezed Bitterleaf
Boil all meats with onions, garlic, ginger, and preferred seasonings. If this includes tougher cuts like tripe (shaki) and oxtail or tough organ meat, you want to start with these first, and then the more tender cuts like beef or chicken and boil with little water until soft. When you’re sure its soft enough, add your stock fish, crayfish and dry fish
Add your pepper and palm oil to the eats and stock in the pot, leave to cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add ogiri and leave all to cook together until the smell and flavour of the ogiri is evidently in the soup. Check for salt and seasoning and adjust suitably. While you’re waiting for it to simmer, pound your boiled and peeled cocoyam in your hand mortar until a smooth paste is formed, and then add to the soup slowly to preferred thickness of choice. Then add your ground crayfish.
If you think the stock is too thick, at this stage, you can lighten your creamy base with a bit more stock.
It’s okay to now add your washed and debittered bitterleaf to the simmering broth.
Serve with swallow of choice
NOTE: If you want to use fresh fish for this soup, put your fresh fish in a pot, add water and season with garlic, onions, salt and other seasoning of choice, and leave to cook. When it’s ready, remove fresh fish and continue the process by adding dry fish, stock fish, crayfish, oil, pepper etc without the fish so the fish does not get mashed. When the bitter leaf is ready, you put fish back and leave all to cook for about a minute, then serve!