The Niger delta is the largest river delta and mangrove ecosystem in Africa, and home to the 3rd largest wetland in the world. It's people and their diet are as rich and diverse as the land in which they live.
Every day is soup day!! Too many to mention, but a few of my favourites are banga, egusi, pepper, ofe akwu, okra and rice and stew. Unrefined palm oil and scotch bonnet peppers give most of these dishes their distinctive, rich taste.
The great thing about stews from the Delta region are that the recipes are totally flexible, forgiving enough to throw in any protein of your choosing! Every family has their own recipe. My father made one especially for me and i'm giving one to you. A meat free, low FODMAP version. Rich, but mild in taste and also mild on the tummy. A real comfort stew! It stores very well in the freezer so great to cook in bulk.
This rice and stew is made with salmon and tofu. Both are fried first which helps them stand up to being cooked on a low heat for a few hours. if you want to make a meat version of this stew, I would recommend a mixture of meats such as bone in chicken leg, thigh, oxtail or beef.
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 half a 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 take the place of 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. 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.
Our family stew is accompanied with coconut jasmine rice. The rice is washed first 3 times. Nobody knows why 3 times but for generations the ritual persists! I recommend coconut jasmine rice for this stew. A 1cm layer of desiccated coconut is layered on top of the rice, before boiling. Then some kind of magic happens ....leaving beautifully fragrant, fluffy white rice.
No rice and stew dish is complete without a few pieces of fried plantain. The blacker the plantain skin, the sweeter and more chewy they become when fried. I actually prefer unripe green plantain (pictured) because they give a nice crunch, alongside the stew. Green or black ....which you prefer is up to you!
Okra or ladies fingers are sometimes served with rice and stew (pictured). They are very firm when fresh and stay that way if cooked for 30 seconds in the microwave on high. They have a neutral, earthy taste. If okra are boiled or cooked for longer than that, they develop a slippery, slime like texture.
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 4 servings of rice and stew (1 serving pictured). How many servings you eat is totally up to you!
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.
Deep fry the tofu and salmon and/or the protein of your choosing. Set aside.
Use a blender to blend the red pepper, tomato, scallion green tops and hing powder. If you add a few vegetables at a time blending as you go, there is no need to them chop first!
Put on some gloves. Cut up your desired amount of scotch bonnet pepper and also add to the blender. Set aside the blended vegetable mix. Remove gloves, taking care not to touch your eyes or mouth.
Add 1/2 cup canola oil to a pan with a lid and heat on high for 3-4 mins
Take the pan off the heat and transfer to a safe heatproof surface. Pour the blended vegetable mix into the oil and cover immediately (the addition of the blended vegetables (containing water) causes the oil to bubble. It can spit so please take care).
When the bubbling subsides remove the lid and place the pan back on a medium heat. Add your fried protein (dried crayfish if using), palm oil and tomato paste and bring to the boil.
When the soup begins to boil turn the heat down to a low bubble. Add salt to taste and simmer until the stew reduces in volume by 1/3 (move on to step 8). You will know that the stew is cooked as it turns from a pale red/pink colour to a deep red orange.
While the soup is simmering, fill a pan with 1/2 cup rice per person. Rinse the rice. 3 times. Drain.
Add a 1cm layer of desiccated coconut. Cover with water 5 cm above layer of rice. Salt to taste.
Boil on a medium high heat until all of the water is absorbed.
15 minutes before serving, fry the plantains, until they turn brown. Golden brown for green plantain (5-8 mins) and dark brown for ripe plantain (also 5-8 mins). Drain on paper for 2-3 mins before serving
Take the chopped okra and cook in the microwave for 30 seconds (plus), depending on taste.
Serve and enjoy!
I'm very passionate about the management of autoimmune conditions in a healthy way.
I speak with medical professionals, read journals, try and test new recipes to share with you and diligently undertake research online. That being said, as you know, each autoimmune disease, as well as any set of symptoms you may be experiencing are unique.
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