Low FODMAP Egusi (Melon Seed and Bitterleaf) Soup
I'm blessed that some of the food I love is also Low FODMAP. Egusi soup is made from ground melon seeds and unrefined palm oil, mixed with various types of green vegetables to balance out its distinctive, very rich taste.
The great thing about Nigerian cooking is that it's recipes are so flexible. You can throw in any protein of your choice and really make any dish your own. I added smoked catfish, dried crayfish and masgouf (smoked freshwater carp). I wouldn't usually add masgouf, I just had it left over in my freezer. I would normally add snapper or sea bass filet. Firm fish is preferred as it holds its shape better during cooking.
Scotch bonnet peppers are used in a quantity that adds flavour rather than heat. If you don't mind a bit of heat, then I would recommend using a whole scotch bonnet pepper. if you like your food even hotter, than its a free country - add as much as you like!! Palm oil gives this dish a deep orange colour and a unique flavour.
Hing powder and green scallion tips can take the place of onion, if you are sensitive to onion. Hing comes from the resin of fennel plants and has a strong sulphur odor that fades to a pleasant flavour during cooking. A definite must for this stew.
If you can tolerate onion, 1 medium onion very finely chopped would be fine.
Dried crayfish also give an added depth of flavour. If you haven't eaten or cooked with dried crayfish before though, its worth noting that dried crayfish has a very strong, pungent aroma!! If you aren't super keen on fish definitely leave them out.
Bitter leaf is a herb that is quite robust and mildly bitter in taste. It comes in dried form, and it is soaked, alongside the smoked catfish in boiling water for at least 20 minutes before using. I like it a lot and add lots to my version of egusi soup! If you cant get your hands on bitter leaf, you could add a fresh 'bitter' lettuce like watercress or lambs lettuce. It would would give a similar effect.
All of the ingredients in this soup, like crayfish, bitter leaf, locust beans and catfish are widely available at ethnic food stores and even on amazon. Here is what some of the ingredients look like;
If you wanted to make this dish vegan, a smoked version of tofu would work instead of fish, fried beforehand. If you prefer meat, I would recommend a mixture of meats such as bone in goat or boneless beef cubes.
Not sure why but certain foods just 'go together'. Like fish and chips, curry and rice........Egusi soup goes well with a big dollop of starchy carbohydrate....pounded yam, starch or cassava. Myself, I don't eat pure starch too often. Here I used 2/3 pounded yam to 1/3 starch..
If you decide to give this recipe a go, share your thoughts, pictures and recipe tweaks. Good luck!
Notes before we get cooking!
FODMAP red, amber green rating reflects the total amount of Fructose (FTS), Lactose (L), Mannitol (M), Sorbitol (S), Galactooligosaccharide (GOS) and Oligos Fructans (FTA) in the TOTAL volume/weight of the ingredients used in the recipe.
This recipe makes approximately 6-8 servings of egusi soup (1 serving pictured). If this is too much, you could half the recipe. Egusi and pounded yam store very well in the freezer, so great to cook in bulk!
I'm a big fan of simple recipes that don't need fancy equipment. For this recipe it does help to have a blender and a big pan with a lid.
Warm the palm oil in a pan. Add the ground melon seeds and 'saute' as you would onion for 8-10 mins. The melon seeds should be saturated in palm oil and not stick to the bottom of the pan. If the mixture is sticking, first add a little more oil, or turn the heat down a little. Burnt melon seeds can give the soup an unwanted, bitter taste.
Add the hing powder/or onion, scotch bonnet pepper and the locust seed. Saute for a further 3-5 minutes
Add the stock water and heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Once it begins to bubble, turn down the heat to medium/low. Add the bitter leaf, smoked catfish, and white fish (or your chosen protein). Leave to cook until the mixture reduces by 1/3.
In the meantime, put a separate pan on a medium/high flame. Pour in your desired starch ( I used 1/3 corn starch to 2/3 pounded yam). 1.5 cups of mixture yields enough for 3 people.
Make a well in the middle of the powder. Add 1/2 cup of hot water, stir vigourously. At the start the mixture will be lumpy and difficult to stir. Keep adding water, 1/4 a cup at a time, stirring and working out any lumps with the back of your spoon. This takes about 10 mins. Strong arm needed!
You will know when you have added enough water and worked out enough lumps as the mixture will come together easily and take on the consistency of well kneaded bread dough. Turn the mixture out of the pan and set aside.
Return to your egusi soup mixture. Add dried crayfish and water leaf or other lettuce (like lambs lettuce/watercress) and simmer for a further 2-5 mins.
Serve and enjoy!
I'm very passionate about the management of autoimmune conditions in a healthy way.
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