I’ve reflecting a lot lately, and thinking about all of the different influences that shaped the way I eat– and cook. Somewhere within that autobiographical journey, I stumbled on an old memory from sometime in elementary school; it was an assignment that asked me to describe my favorite food. Easy enough, right? Pizza! Fries! Apple Fritters!!! But I wasn’t really able to give the true answer until a lot later: it really depended on where I was.
With my mom– a proud Long Islander who was determined to establish a satelite of Nassau county in our Atlanta home– it would be curry goat or corned beef– both with cabbage. My older sister is the family grillmaster, so anything she makes should also be on that list. Then, there’s the more “exotic” Nigerian foods that I only got to eat when I visited my dad– or Gambian foods we got from my honorary aunties and uncles. The latter two aren’t really things that have “caught on” outside of the cultures, but I’ve always been just as happy to eat with my hands as I’d be in the stuffiest, most avant-garde restaurants in the world. You know what? It’s time to bring more of that to the blog.
My iyaiya travels more than anyone in the family– she might be in Nigeria…or Canada…or Chicago…or Los Angeles. If I’m lucky though, I’ll catch her at her house in Ondo so she can spoil me with food. One time she made akara with waaay too much pepper, and it was still delicious. I’m down for whatever she makes.
Ilalasepo is an okra stew from Ondo– where everything from the Yorùbá dialect, to the attitude is regional. The stew’s name is pretty informative: ilá-la-se-po (pronounced: “ee-lah-lah-seh-poh”) means “okra cooked together”. Normally, okra stew is served as a “side” with tomato stew, like in this terrible– but tasty picture:
Since you eat stews with your hand (with pounded yam, pounded casava, or amala) the okra makes it easier to scarf it down.
Here though, you cook everything with the okra. You can put any meat you want in this one– but I prefer chicken and fish. You make a stock with the bones, onions and peppers, and add it to chopped okra, meat, crayfish, and greens.
Serve it with some pounded yam, and eat.
2 Catfish Filets
3-4 Chicken Thighs
2 lbs Okra, chopped
2 Cups Kale/Spinach, chopped
1 Onion, minced
1-2 Habañero Peppers (to taste)
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tbs Dried Crayfish
2 Tbs Palm Oil
1 Tbs Garlic Powder/Onion Powder
1 Tbs Paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Season chicken and fish to your liking, then sear both in a heavy pot. Once cooked, removed from the heat, and Sauté onions, and peppers in the same pot. Add 2 cups of water, dried crayfish, season, and boil for 20-30 minutes to make a stock.
2. In a separate pot, saute okra in palm oil, and add stock one cup at a time until it thickens. Add chopped greens, and remaining stock. Once fully thickened, chop the meat into bite-sized pieces, and add to the stew.
3. Taste for seasoning, then serve with pounded yam.
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