Saturday, 23 March 2013

Ila-Asepo (Okra Soup)

Ila-asepo or okra soup is the Yoruba way of cooking okra soup. I’m not quite sure what it means literally translated, but I know it’s grated/chopped okra cooked in beef stock. Another way of cooking okra is to cook it in some water and serve with fish soup, which is then eaten with a starchy mould of your choice.
This would be my second attempt at making this. The first attempt was tasty, but I blended the okra with I guess a bit too much water and it didn’t draw as much. This time, I grated/chopped fresh okra to avoid the prior mistake.
I learned to make this from a friend of mine who makes the meanest ila-asepo. A few things I learned is not to add onions when cooking the okra as that prevents it from drawing and the entire essence of okra is the ‘draw.’
Without further ado, here’s what you’ll need to make Ila:
25-30 fresh okras
10-12 pieces tripe/ shaki
10-12 pieces goat meat
1/2 s/m red bell pepper
1/2 s/m tomato
2 scotch bonnet peppers/ habanero
1 tsp minced garlic
3 knorr cubes
3 tbsps ground red pepper
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Goya Adobo seasoning w/ cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup Palm Oil
1. Wash, rinse okra and set aside
2. Rinse goat meat and tripe in cool water.
3. Turn stove on to medium heat. Drain and season meats in pot w/ garlic, 2 knorr cubes, ground red pepper, crushed pepper flakes, adobo and curry powder (don’t add water here). Put on stove, let sweat for 30 minutes.
4. After 30 minutes, add enough water to cover all the meat/tripe. Let cook for 2-3 hrs over medium heat (I like the meat really soft). Check every 45 minutes and ensure water doesn’t dry out, if it is, add 1 more cup of water till desired softness. *You want to retain at least 1-2 cups of stock after the meat is soft*.
5. While meat is cooking, grate okras using the smallest side or chop into tiny pieces with a knife. Set grated/chopped okras aside.
6. While meat is cooking, blend tomato, red bell pepper & scotch bonnet peppers. During the last 45 minutes of boiling the meat, add the blended peppers and palm oil to cook with meat. Once pepper is cooked and meat is soft, reduce heat to low.
7. Add grated/chopped okras. Stir with wooden spoon gently. Let cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes (taste at 5 min mark for seasoning, add last knorr cube if needed). Stir gently to ensure okra is spread evenly. *Some add ‘kaun’ to help it draw more (not sure what the English name is for kaun, but you could probably get it at an authentic African/Nigerian store*.
8. Remove from heat and let stand. Serve with pounded yam/ iyan, eba, amala.

Adding the blended peppers is an optional step, I just like it for that extra kick. My friend sometimes adds chopped spinach to hers, but I didn’t have any on hand, but you could if you want for a different dimension to it.
Also, if you decide to store any left overs still in the pot in the fridge, when you re-heat, don’t add water, just re-heat on low heat, water added will reduce the draw factor of the okra.
There are also different schools of thought as to whether or not to cover the soup when its cooking and um, I’m not really sure. If I recall, I covered the meat when it was boiling but not when I added the okra just so I could keep a close eye on it. Honestly, I don’t think it makes much of a difference; supposedly when you cover the pot, the okra doesn’t draw or it bubbles over furiously. However, IMO, either way is fine.
Some cook ila-asepo differently, but this is how I like to cook mine. Some prefer to blanch the palm oil (heat it till it becomes clear and starts smoking), but I’m not sure how that would translate, so I wouldn’t know what to tell you on that one. Try different ways and pick whichever works best for you. For right now, this would be it for me. In the event that I discover another way, I’ll be sure to share.

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