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Egusi Soup - Igbo Stew Recipe

I recently went to a Nigerian wake-keeping. After the service, food was served and one of the dishes was Egusi Soup with Pounded Yam or Gari.

Egusi Soup is a favorite seafood stew served all over Western Africa but primarily in Nigeria with many local variations depending on food availability to the recipe. Egusi is a melon indigenous to Africa. The seed of the egusi melon is ground up and used as a thickener for Egusi Soup.

You can try to find egusi seeds (also called agusi, agushi, egushi) in an African, Caribbean or International grocery store. If you can't find egusi seeds try substituting pumpkin seeds or pepitas (which can be found in a Latin American store).

Egusi Soup
Recipe:

3/4 cup egusi seeds
1 1/2 pounds of cubed beef stew meat
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
18 ounces tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound fresh bitter leaf, washed and chopped (optional)
salt

Method:

1. Put egusi seeds into a blender and blend until a paste - about 30 to 40 seconds. Put into a bowl and set aside.
2. Rinse beef and season with salt.
3. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot.
4. Sauté beef in hot oil until browned. Do not cook through.
5. Place chopped tomatoes, onions, and pepper into a blender and blend until smooth.
6. Add blended tomato mixture to the meat.
7. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 40 to 60 minutes until meat is tender.
8. Add tomato sauce, paste, water and shrimp and simmer for 10 minutes.
9. Add chopped bitter leaf and ground egusi seeds and simmer for 10 more minutes.
10. Serve with pounded yam or fufu.

Makes 6 servings

Variations:

*Pumpkin seeds or pepitas can be substituted for egusi seeds.
*Goat meat or chicken can be substituted for the beef.
*Chile peppers can be used in place of the habanero pepper.
*Spinach, collard greens, kale, sorrel, or turnip greens can be used in place of bitter leaf.
*Prawns, dried/salted/smoked fish can be used instead of shrimp.
*Some people like to add one or two Maggi® cubes or sauce to this recipe.
*Okra is sometimes added.

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