I love experimenting in the kitchen and that is how i get ideas for baby-friendly recipes too, so i share with you today, a good substitute that can be used in a family recipe. This is Bitterleaf (Ofe Onugbu), a traditional soup of the Igbos especially in Anambra State, where I come from. It is normally thickened with cocoyam (ede), while some people also use ‘Achi’ in place of ede, but it is not such a popular choice in my area.
For those living outside Nigeria, it is often difficult to get fresh cocoyam, so we make do with substitutes like the dry ground cocoyam version, ground achi and even ground Quaker Oats. I personally don’t like the results of these and have kept away from cooking onugbu and cocoyam based soups, till I discovered using unripe plantain…thanks to Aunty Iyabo Lawani and her plantain soup recipe on the SYTYCC food group.
Onugbu Soup is a family dish and using unripe plantain as a substitute may benefit those that avoid cocoyam, for example, my mum as a diabetic avoids the soup. She however eats unripe plantain, so using it as a thickener in Onugbu soup is acceptable. Try this plantain thickener as against cocoyam and you will not even notice the difference.
Bitterleaf (Onugbu) Soup Thickened with Unripe Plantain Recipe
- Onugbu leaves (about 2 big palm-full already squeezed and washed to remove the bitter taste)
- 2 medium unripe plantain (a little goes a long way)
- Assorted meat of choice
- Dry fish (deboned and washed)
- Stockfish (cut and washed)
- 2-3 cooking spoons palm oil
- A heaped medium bowl crayfish (or a cup of ground crayfish)
- 1 tbsp ogili igbo (the smelly ash-like paste type of ogili usually wrapped in leaves)
- Seasoning cube
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Water for cooking
- Boil Onugbu leaves in water for about 20-30 minutes to remove more of the bitter taste and also soften the leaves. You can omit this stage if your washed onugbu is not too bitter and is soft…usually it’s hard to get this unless you bought and washed the onugbu yourself.
- Peel plantain and cut into chunks. Season and cook meat and stock fish, adding the plantain to cook with it. Once the plantain is soft, remove from pot and blend to a purée, add some water to help it blend well.
- Once the meat and stockfish is a bit softened, add water to at least the level of the meat. Scoop in some spoonful of the blended plantain and add the onugbu and palm oil.
- Leave the pot open until it starts boiling well. Add the crayfish, ogili, dry fish. Stir the contents very well to combine, while adding your pepper, salt and seasoning cube to taste.
- Cover the pot and allow it to cook for at least another 15 minutes, while intermittently stirring to prevent it from burning at the bottom. If the soup is not as thick as you want, scoop in some more blended plantain.
- Remove from heat once the plantain purée and the ogili has dissolved well into the soup.
- Serve with your choice of eba, oatmeal, semovita or pounded yam.
*Idea on my head now: Make an unripe plantain baby puree with added ground dry fish, crayfish, palm oil and a little ogili (it is a spice)…let’s call it ‘baby onugbu soup base puree‘. What do you say 🙂
Have you tried other cocoyam substitutes? Have you tried this? Let’s hear your feedback.