Bitter leaf soup is a soup prepared with the freshly squeezed or dried leaves of the ever green plant called Vernonia amygdaline.
Bitter leaf soup is popularly eaten by the Igbo speaking people of Eastern Nigeria, and The people of Cameroon. Called Ofé Onugbo by the Igbos, the Cameroonians call it Ndolé.
As would be expected, there is regional variation in how this soup is prepared.
Like most other African soups, this authentic African food sauce is prepared with fish, meat, snail, either in combination or singly, with added spices and other condiments.
We shall describe both recipes for ofé onugbo and ndolé, the Nigerian and Cameroon versions of bitter leaf soup respectively below. Whether you are a Nigerian single or married, wherever you live in, you can prepare your bitter leaf soup without having to take a flight to Nigeria or Cameroon.
The following are the ingredients for Bitter Leaf Soup
1kg of assorted meat (Beef, ox tail, shaki, cow leg, goat meat)
I medium smoked fish
I big size stock fish
100grams grounded Crayfish
2 Maggi cubes
1 big sized onion
2 tablespoonfuls dried grounded red hot chilli pepper
10 tablespoonful of red palm oil
2 medium sized white cocoyam
Freshly squeezed or dried bitter leaf
Salt – ½ teaspoonfuls
1 tablespoonful of dried curry powder
½ teaspoonfuls of dried thyme leaves
10 cups of water
Cooking Time : 90 minutes
Thoroughly wash the assorted meat in clean warm water. Put in a medium sized pot, add about a cup or two of water and two cubes of maggi seasoning or bullion cubes, half onion, sliced, salt to taste, little sprinkle of dried curry powder – about ½ tablespoonful, dried thyme leaves, and bring to boil for about 20 minutes.
Thoroughly wash the stock fish with sponge to remove any vestige of sand gain and allow to run under plenty of tap water. The stock fish is best soaked overnight to allow it absorb water and become tender. Cut the stock fish into servable bits and add it to the boiling meat. Allow to boil for 5 – 10 minutes.
Add the washed medium smoked fish, and allow the whole mixture of assorted meat, stock fish, and smoked fish to boil for another 5 minutes.
Now add about 4 cups of water into the pot of boiling meat and fish, and add about 1 or 2 tablespoonful of dried red hot pepper to taste and freshly squeezed or dried bitter leaf (3 to 4 balls of hand squeezed fresh bitter leaf, or 3 – 5 tablespoonful of dried bitter leaf. Allow to boil for 3 – 5 minutes.
At this point, add the palm oil, and already cooked and mashed cocoyam to thicken the soup. Where you can not get cocoyam a sprinkle of garri would do the same.
Add salt, and pepper to taste again, and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
Your bitter leaf soup is ready to eat.
Bitter leaf soup can be eaten or served with pounded yam or semolina or eba.
You can cook and enjoy your bitter soup without needing to take a cheap flight to Lagos or Cameron.
Ndolé is the Cameroonian version of bitter leaf soup. You know what; it is about the most delicious soup I have ever eaten. It is rich in vegetables, a wide selection of meat, fish, and sea foods, as well as spices. It is very filling and satisfying.
If you have the resources, do not fail to try out this most delicious African vegetable stew soup.
Traditionally, Ndolé is prepared with bitter leaf, mixed with water leaf, spinach, rough periwinkle ( Littorina saxatilis ) , prawns or shrimps, stock fish, and assorted meat, and served with cassava fufu.
Modern ndolé is prepared with improvising to match what is locally available. I will not cook ndolé without bitter leaf though. It cannot be said to be bitter leaf soup if no bitter leaf is included.
The following are ndolé recipe:
5 – 10 tablespoonful of dried bitter leaf
2 regular measure of fresh spinach
A selection of other vegetables like collard green, or turnip greens if available
2 tins of chopped tomatoes or about 8 balls of medium size whole tomato fruit
2 large onions
1 ½ tablespoonful of dried red chilli pepper
3 – 4 balls of fresh pepper (chilli)
1 tablespoonful of fresh blended ginger
1 tablespoonful of fresh blended garlic
1 tablespoonful of thyme
1 tablespoonful of dried curry powder
100grams of grounded crayfish
100grams of blended peanuts or egusi seeds
1½ teaspoonful of salt
½ cup full of red palm oil
2 -3 cubes of Maggi
2 cups full of fresh shrimps / prawns or 1 cup full of dried prawns/shrimps
1 big size stock fish
1 large smoked fish
2lbs of assorted meat (beef, chicken, goat meat, shaki)
½ lbs of periwinkle or snail if available
Cooking Time : 90 minutes
Thoroughly wash meat and put into a medium to large pot. Add onion in small slices, thyme, curry powder, maggi seasoning, a sprinkle of garlic and ginger, salt to taste. Allow to boil on medium heat for 20 – 30 minutes.
Wash previously soaked stock fish (best soaked overnight in water to make tender and succulent) and add to meat in the pot. Allow to boil for 5 – 10 minutes. Then add washed smoked fish, turn to low heat, and allow to simmer. Add your periwinkle or snail at this stage too.
Soak the dried bitter leaf in warm water for about 1 – 2 hours. Slice the other vegetables into small bits.
Blend the tomatoes, fresh chilli pepper, remaining onions, and dried red chilli pepper added to as can be tolerated. If you do not like very hot chilli, you can leave this out.
Now into another medium to large pot, add about ½ a cup of red palm oil after the pot has been dried, free of moisture. Do not bleach oil. Just allow the oil to warm for two minutes.
Add blended mixture of tomatoes, chilli pepper and onions into the warm oil carefully. Look out for a spill here and protect your face. Fry this for about 10 minutes, gently stirring every minute or two to prevent it burning at the bottom.
Now add the blended peanut or egusi. Allow to cook for 10 minutes
Your kitchen should be filled with a pleasant aroma by now.
Add the boiled assorted meat and fish at this point. Pour in the broth too. Allow to simmer for another 10 minutes under low heat.
Add the vegetables now and bitter leaf, and prawn or shrimps. If using dried prawn or shrimps, they could join the pot of boiled meat at the same time as the stock fish, to allow them soak some water and become tender.
Stir the content of the pot regularly as you allow it to boil for 10 minutes.
Your ndolé or bitter leaf soup is ready to eat.
Serve this Cameroonian version of bitter leaf soup with cassava fufu or eba or pounded yam. You can also eat this soup with plantain or yam.