My favorite Nigerian soup in the world is Okro. Plain Okro and fiery hot stew. Followed by íla asepo'. Which is the kind of okro that's mixed with palm oil and all sorts of yumminess and with some pumpkin leaves (ugwu) added. Comfort food at its finest for me.
A close second is Ogbonno soup. With Okro.
Do you see the trend here?
I find that I usually plan to make soups so its a pretty elaborate process for me. Making sure everything is just right. A few weeks ago though, I had a craving for okro and ogbonno soup. The kind of craving that had to be satisfied immediately. I opened my freezer. I had no dried fish. No yellow pepper. 6 okro, or is it okros? Or is it pieces of okro? (hmm). I was not going to be deterred. I forged ahead with my mish mash of ingredients.
I started with some 8 pieces of lamb I had languishing in a Ziploc bag that I had planned to grill. Threw the pieces into a pot. Seasoned with salt, a stock cube, my condiment blend (blended onions, garlic and ginger) , added some water and let the meat boil. I know some people will clutch their pearls in horror seeing the garlic and ginger added here - especially as I will not be straining the stock - clutch said pearls and hold on to your hearts....LOL. The base of any good soup (no matter what kind of cuisine it is from) is stock that should be full of flavor and able to hold up to the ingredients that will be added to it.
Once the lamb was almost cooked through, I added some ground Cameroonian pepper, some locust beans and ground crayfish. Added a dash of palm oil. Some salt after tasting and the ground ogbonno. By this time, the reality of my soup hit me. This would be pretty uninteresting. I grated my okro and set aside and opened the freezer. I found some uziza leaves that I had cut and had leftover from a yam porridge recipe. And some seafood mix - which had shrimps, mussels and octopus. Dare I add to my soup?
Without thinking too hard, I threw the okro, uziza leaves and seafood mix into the pot. Stirred everything well and crossed my fingers.
Oh yumminess. First of all, adding uziza leaves to anything elevates it from ordinary to pretty freaking spectacular. The seafood mix while unexpected just made the soup sexier. I have never had ogbonno mussels or octopus but it worked just fine adding that óbstruction' to the soup that we Nigerians like and wonderful texture too.
The moral of this post: food made in a hurry can be a lot tastier than planned out labored pots. Try introducing the unexpected to regular fare - it might just work.....