This edikaikong recipe will send your taste buds reeling from the flavours of low fat greens, seafood and yellow scotch bonnet peppers in a one-pot wonder.
I have recently dived into the world of Nigerian cuisine and I am in no way making light of the matter. Nigerian food is a big deal; so big that there is an apparent level of rivalry between the diverse numbers of tribes within the country; on which group of people have the best food, amongst other less trivial issues. I have studied the topic of Nigerian food on and off for over 18 months now. I have always found the thought of writing about Nigerian food daunting; not because the food is difficult to cook but because of the pomp and grandeur with which anything to do with Nigeria and Nigerians is presented. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being pompous and flamboyant if that is the way your cookie crumbles – I could always use a bit of colour and effervescence in my life – but there is something quite intimidating about the way a Nigerian will come and tell you to your face that “such and such” is just not good enough.
On studying a few prominent Nigerian food websites, the most difficult and initial hurdle to get over was the use of language within the recipe. When one reads an ingredient list calling for a little bit of iru, ata rodo and ofada rice, this alone is enough cause for confusion. Even when iru is translated to locust beans, it still creates a level of uncertainty as to what the ingredient should look like and what flavour it contributes to a dish. When in doubt I have simply improvised and used a readily available substitute. The second hurdle to get over is to understand that Nigeria is so diverse and that there are over 250 languages to contend with. So whilst you attempt to navigate the Yoruba’s efo riro, keep in mind that the Efik’s have a sister dish known as edikaikong made with a special leaf known as water leaf (talinum fruticosum).
I have discovered over the past few months that I am actually not alone in the world of short cut African cooking and innovative fusion delights. With the likes of Chidinma Okpara, the Nigerian Lazy chef, and Lohi Ogolo, who cook up dishes good enough for the #fitfam as well as create completely new treats, I take comfort in knowing that I too can create meals inspired by popular Nigerian foods, and truly make them my own. When I wanted to create this dish, I walked into my supermarket and headed towards the smelliest and flavoursome ingredients I could use. Smoked mackerel and crayfish were just the perfect British ingredients to use. Ofcourse this is not authentic edikaikong due to the lack of availability of waterleaf in London, but I did not let that stop me. I substituted this with spinach and cavolo nero.
After my move to Nigeria, however, I got to taste waterleaf first hand and my trusted steward and cook, Joseph, guided me in the essentials of making edikaikong. He mentioned one subtle difference in the way the scotch bonnet peppers (ata rodo) should be prepared. They should be chopped very finely or blended, such that the flecks are not visible once the vegetables are cooked. I will share more cooking tips and lessons from Joseph as I go along. So please stay tuned.
- 1 onion
- 1 yellow scotch bonnet pepper
- 500g beef braising or stewing steak
- 250mls chicken stock
- 100g chestnut mushrooms
- 200g cavolo nero (dinosaur kale or kale)
- 800g fresh or frozen spinach
- 300g assorted fish pie mix
- 80g crayfish tails
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Cut the beef into chunks and add into a generously sized, non-stick pot or pan. Chop the onion and scotch bonnet pepper and add into the pot. Add the chicken stock and simmer the beef until tender. You may need to add more water to the beef, but ensure that it dries out before proceeding to step 2.
- When the beef is soft and with about half a cup of broth left in it, slice the mushrooms and add to the pot. Allow the mushrooms to cook down for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the cavolo nero and defrost the frozen spinach and squeeze out the excess liquid.
- Add the cavolo nero and spinach and allow to cook down. Follow with the fish pie mix, stir into the leaves and allow them to steam for 7 minutes.
- Remove any visible bones from the mackerel fillets then add them along with the crayfish tails, paprika and vegetable oil. Allow to heat through for 5 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped spring onions and serve with boiled plantains, pounded yam, stiff oats porridge, polenta or semolina balls.
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- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: Serves 6