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Two delicious recipes using palm nuts

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Growing up in Delta State, one of my favourite meals was Banga Soup and Starch (Usi); served in the native clay pots (Evwere), bubbling hot from the stove, served with catfish, sprinkled with periwinkles-it was irresistible. On road trips from Lagos to Warri, I would also make pit stops at my favourite Banga Soup vendors.  Followed closely was Banga Rice, which I would buy from the local “mamaputs” on my way back from school. Years later I discovered Ofe Akwu which is equally just as popular for its deliciousness and similarity to the Efik’s Abak Atama. What do these meals have in common? Palm nut. I will share with you how to make 3 delicious palm-nut dishes.
 
BANGA RICE (PALM NUT RICE)
3 Cups Rice
5 Cups Palm Nut
4 Litres of Water (2 Litres to boil Palm nuts and 2 Litres to cook)
3 Tablespoons Ground Crayfish
1 Cup Smoked Crayfish
1 Smoked Fish
1 Tablespoon Banga Spices
Seasoning cubes to taste
Teaspoon Salt to taste
2 Scotch Bonnet, Chopped
1 Medium sized Red Onion, Chopped
1 Cup Beef Stock
Scent Leaves

PREPARATION
Wash palm nuts, and place in a pot with water to boil. After 30 minutes it should be thoroughly cooked so drain the water. Place the Palm Nuts in a bowl/pot/mortar and pound gently to extract the juice OR knead with your hands. If pounded harder the palm nuts would crack. When the skin is peeled from the nuts, add warm water and sieve out the juice. Repeat the process 2 more times to ensure you extract all the juice.

An alternative to this process is buying already made Palm Nut extract in the supermarket.
. Soak the rice you will use in boiling water and cover, this will allow it to parboil before cooking. In a pot, add onion, smoked crayfish, smoked fish, ground crayfish and stir for a few seconds.  Add the Palm Nut extract for and allow to cook till it boils, then add the parboiled rice and the blended pepper.  Also add seasoning cubes and salt.  Cover and cook for about 30 minutes.  When it is done, add more crayfish, and chopped scent leaves.   Stir and turn off the heat.

BANGA SOUP (PALM NUT SOUP)
4 Cups Banga/Palm nuts, an alternative is canned Palm Nut extract sold in supermarkets
1 Table Spoon Banga Spices, sold in stores pre-packed
Salt to taste
Seasoning to taste
2 Fresh cat fish, gutted and washed
5 Pieces of Smoked chicken (Optional)
4 Tiger Prawns (Optional)
1 Cup Periwinkle
1 Banga Stick
1 Red Onion (optional)
1 Tablespoon Beletete leaves
1 Tablespoon Dry blended pepper
 If you’re using palm nuts then follow step 1, if you aren’t skip to step 2

STEP 1
Wash palm nuts, and place in a pot with water to boil.
After 30 minutes it should be thoroughly cooked so drain the water
Place the Palm Nuts in a bowl/pot/mortar and pound gently to extract the juice OR knead with your hands.
When the skin is peeled from the nuts, add warm water and sieve out the juice. 
Repeat the process 2 more times to ensure you extract all the juice but ensure the extracts are thick and not too watery if not it will take a long time to thicken when cooking.

STEP 2
Place the extract from the palm nut or tin in a pot and bring to boil.
Add Banga spices – this is sold in many stores
Add periwinkle, smoked chicken, fresh catfish, salt, seasoning pepper, Banga stick and bring to boil.
After about 20 minutes the soup should be cooked, thicker and with oil floating on top. If you mind, you can scoop out the oil and use for another meal.
Add a sprinkle of beletete leaves and allow cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve with Starch or Garri.

STARCH (USI)
Starch eaten is sourced from Cassava and the same starch is used to stiffen clothes, however in different textures. Starch is the preferred pairing option for Banga Soup and quite easy to prepare.

INGREDIENTS
3 Cups Starch
2 Tablespoons Palm Oil
1 Cup Water, room temperature
 
PREPARATION
. In a nonstick pan, add starch, water and palm oil at the same time. Using a wooden spatula, combine properly (so that the mold of starch dissolves).  Turn on the heat, low to medium heat is required. Stir constantly; this process does not take long. The mixture will begin to thicken-almost look like thick gelatin, and it will turn a bright yellow or orange (depending on how much oil was added).
Once it thickens, it would need to be stirred till it forms a ball, at this point it would easily come off the pan.


In this article:
Palm NutsYemisi Odusanya
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