The very first time I ate ofada was at my aunt’s house and I don’t know if it was the leaves used to serve it, or the local rice that got me thrill. Tried it out with my family and they haven’t stopped asking for more since then.
To prepare the ofada sauce, you are going to need the following ingredients;
- Protein: usually meat (commonly the assorted type – the organs), cow leg and even beef. I also don’t mind fish especially if it is smoked.
- Red palm oil
- Fresh tomatoes
- Fresh red pepper
- Chili pepper (locally called Tatashe)
- Locust beans (Ogiri, Iru or Dawadawa). I prefer the seeded not the already grinded type, because the seeded ones seem fresher to me.
- Salt and spices
- Rice (ofada rice or regular rice)
- Uma leaves (shaped like banana leaves), same type used for wrapping moi-moi or agidi.
This is a little more complicated because you have a bit more preparations to make.
- First, wash the Uma leaves (they can be dirty sometimes) and put out to dry.
- Cut the meat into small cubes, bigger than a seasoning cube though, (maybe the size of a grape); seasoning properly with garlic, onions, curry, thyme, seasoning cube, ground red pepper, ginger if you like and cook with almost no water, on low heat. The meat most times has a lot of water in it and it comes out when cooking. Check the meat regular to know when its own water is drying up and if it’s done. You don’t want to eat charred food. This is the time to also boil your fish n a different pot of course.
- Next, time to chopped things up; unlike the traditional ofada stew when the pepper and onions are blended and then drained, I prefer to chop mine up. I’m not so much into spicy foods. Pepper to taste is just okay for me. Also, I like the sauce red and traditional, so no green pepper from the original version for me either. Somehow I associate green pepper with western foods, (fried rice you are to be blamed).
- Dice the fresh red pepper, chili peppers, fresh tomatoes and onions into very tiny, tiny bits (the size of a bean or corn seed). Don’t forget to remove the seeds from the chilly pepper.
- Grind the crayfish but not to an entirely powdery form.
- Crush the fresh “Iru” slightly so it’s not a paste. I don’t grind it. I don’t know why I feel I should see a bit of it in the sauce.
- In a clean pot, place over medium heat to dry, add your red palm oil (not palm kernel oil) 1 or 2 cooking spoonful. I don’t bleach my oil either; I still hold the bleached oil is unhealthy.
- Allow the oil to heat up for a minute or two, then add the chopped onions, stir continuously, don’t allow it to get burnt.
- Add the fresh pepper and chilly after 30 seconds – 1 minute of stirring the onions.
- Next add the crayfish and iru. Iru, just like garlic smells, so I usually add them in the early stages of preparing a meal when they can still add their flavours but won’t stink as much when food is done.
- Next up, fresh tomatoes, this has some juices in it and you have to fry it till the water is almost dried up.
- Add the meat and/or smoked fish and the very little stock. (Nothing goes to waste). And stir. Add spices and salt if need be to taste, don’t forget that the meat stock you added contains its own spices.
- On another burner meanwhile, wash the rice and start to boil. All you need to add to the rice of course is salt to taste. Most people parboil the rice, then, wrap it in the Uma leaves (shaped like a cone), then steam it till it’s ready. Well, I’m probably too clumsy for that style. I just cook my rice till it’s done, wrap it in the leaves still and keep in a cooler for about 10mins. It achieves the same aim to me. It adds its aroma to the rice.
To serve, open the wrapped leaves with the rice in it, don’t discard the leaves, place on the plate and add the stew beside it.