Ẹ̀fọ́ Riro: Yorùbá Spinach Stew

Without fail, I usually have a heavy craving for Nigerian food at least once per month–I just don’t always act on it. Some things require too many special ingredients, or time to prepare–and as I’ve learned multiple times, you really can’t rush “slow food”.

“Ẹ̀fọ́” (pronounced “Eh-foh”) is kind of a generic Yorùbá word for leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. At the base, though, is the standard West African “Trinity” of peppers, tomatoes and onions. You start by blending and stewing it until the tomatoes lose their sour, raw flavor. These days, I use canned tomatoes for these recipes, because they are usually more ripe than the ones at the store, and pre-cooked, which saves a lot of time. I also find that you need less oil with canned tomatoes, which I’m sure will be good for me somewhere down the line…

Nigerian stews are notorious for having “assorted meat,” or a combination of poultry, red meat, tripe, and even some fish for good measure– but I’m satisfied with chicken and shrimp for most of my renditions. Either way, sear all of the meat, and set it aside until the stew base cooks down.

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Timing is a little arbitrary for this, but you basically cook it until it darkens and the oil starts to separate from the tomatoes. Then you add the Ẹ̀fọ́, and watch it all disappear–literally.

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At first, it is going to disappear almost instantaneously, and all that will remain is extra water. It’s as though the stew was designed with Nigerian grandmothers in mind — no matter how much spinach you think you put in, you’ll always need to feed it more. I add the spinach in first, since it is going to release the most water, and then add the kale toward the end to keep the leaves intact. You’ll eventually hit a tipping point at which the leaves will stop disappearing–then all you have to do it let as much water evaporate as possible.

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Once the water is gone, add the meats back in, and serve it with iyán (pounded yam)– in this case “poundo yam” because I used yam flour rather than fresh yam. It’s not as starchy as the real thing,  but it does the trick,  I guess…

This stew is delicious…especially when you eat it with your hand–just remember that ours is a right-hand culture!

Let’s cook.

You’ll need:

2 lb of Chicken Breast/Thigh, cubed

1 lb of Shrimp, peeled

2 Cans of Tomato, diced

1 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1-2 Habanero/Scotch Bonnet Peppers, minced

1 Onion, diced

4 Cups of Spinach

4 Cups of Kale/Collard Greens

1 Tbs Dried Crayfish

1 Tbs Onion Powder

1 Tbs Coriander Powder

3 Tbs Palm Oil

4 Cups “Poundo” Yam (Yam Flour)

Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Place a pot on medium-high heat. Season meat with salt, pepper, and coriander, then sear on all sides, and set aside.
  2. Blend tomatoes, onions, and peppers into a smooth puree, then pour directly into the hot pot. Add palm oil, and stir well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.
  3. Once the oil begins to separate, and the stew darkens, season with additional salt, and add onion powder and coriander. Turn the heat back up to medium-high.
  4. Add the spinach, and stir. As it wilts, add kale, and stir to encourage the water to evaporate.
  5. Add the meat from step one, and stir to mix. Turn the heat down to low.
  6. Transfer yam flour to a large pot or metal bowl, and mix in boiling water until a uniform paste forms. mix continuously to get rid of lumps, and activate the starches so that it becomes slightly “stretchy”.
  7. Plate and serve.

Done.

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