Abula & Braised Short Ribs

It’s been too long! These days, I’m still cooking, but it takes a lot more effort to balance everything. The Nigerian food cravings haven’t stopped though; this time I needed something more than Jollof Rice. Abula is a Yoruba stew– actually, it’s three stews that you serve together. It’s a little labor intensive, but the flavor is worth it. Just like last time, I’m going to jump straight into the recipe. If you want a little more context (and pictures!) just scroll down and little further.

Let’s cook.

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 lb Beef Short Ribs
  • 3 Onions, diced
  • 8 Roma Tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers, diced
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
  • 2 Habanero Peppers
  • 4 Cups Jute Leaves
  • 4 Cups Black Eye Peas, peeled
  • 6 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Palm Oil
  • 3 Tbs Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbs Locust Beans
  • 2 Tbs Dried Crayfish
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season the meat generously with salt, pepper, and paprika. Transfer to an oven-safe pot with garlic, half an onion and 2 cups of chicken stock. Cover, and braise until tender.
  3. Rinse the peeled black eye peas with cold water, and remove any remaining shells. Place in a pot with 1/2 a diced onion, and 1/2 a minced habanero pepper (or more to taste). Season generously with salt, pepper, and dried crayfish. Cover with chicken stock, and boil until the beans are soft. Set aside until cool.
  4. Puree the beans until very smooth, then return to the stove and simmer. Add palm oil, and season to taste.
  5. Add remaining onions tomatoes and peppers to a blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a large pot and fry in vegetable oil. Continue to stir to distribute the oil evenly, then simmer on medium until the oil begins to separate. Season with salt, pepper, bay leaves and dried crayfish. Stir in tomato paste, then cook until the sourness mellows out.
  6. Remove the short ribs from the oven. Add to the stew with the tomatoes and peppers and simmer for an additional five minutes.
  7. Add the jute leaves and locust beans to a blender and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. Add small amounts of water as needed. Transfer to a small pot and simmer until it thickens. Season to taste.
  8. Plate and serve all three stews with the fufu/swallow of your choice (Iyan, Eba, Amala, etc).

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First it was the #JollofWar, then the “Fufu Challenge” (only talking about the respectful ones)–now I’m here to complete the Nigerian food takeover. You’ll find lots of different ways to get your fix on the blog already, but this time it’s going up a level.

I guess there’s a reason why I can’t remember eating Abula at home: it’s labor intensive, and requires a few specialty ingredients that used to be a lot harder to source (locust beans, jute leaves). Plus, I don’t think it’s particularly popular in my family…until now. I found peeled beans, jute leaves and locust beans at a local African market and took it as a sign from the ancestors.

Fermented Locust Beans

One of the hardest aspects of tracking down ingredients in learning their names in multiple languages. Take these locust beans– in Yoruba they are called “Irú” but you might see the Hausa name “Dawa Dawa”or even the Mandinka name “Sumbala”. This is honestly the first time I’ve been able to find them in person at a reasonable price– I usually just use miso paste instead, but I wanted to be authentic this time. They smell vaguely like chocolate, but add a deep savory flavor to stews. Use these for Ewedu and Efo Riro to push the flavor over the edge.

Dried Jute Leaves

The Ewedu leaves can be challenging to find as well. It was easier for me to find them dried for use in an Egyptian dish called Molokhia. If you can find them fresh or frozen, they will be a little bit lighter, but these worked perfectly for me this time.

Gbegiri (pronounced “Bay-Gee-Ree”) right after you add the palm oil.

Now, three stews sounds intimidating, but as long as you can manage a few pots and pans, it’s not terrible. The combination is genius: the jute leaf stew (Ewedu) behaves like okra, and allows you to “draw” the other stews with fufu. It’s fragrant, but otherwise not that remarkable on its own. Enter Gbegiri (the bean stew) and Obe ata (red pepper stew). Mix Ewedu with the silky Gbegiri and familiar Obe Ata, and you’ll understand why this whole operation was worth it. I’m biased to LOVE Nigerian food, but this one really is next level. I kept it tame with just one type of meat, but search for this on Instagram and you’ll see just how loaded these stews can get.

Obe Ata (Red), Gbegiri (Yellow), and Ewedu (Green)

If I somehow haven’t convinced you to love Nigerian food yet, this is literally me using a cheat code. Try this, and there’s no turning back.

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