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Yam Porridge As A Delicacy
By Enna Amobi
A quick question – is it supposed to be called “porridge” or “pottage”? Some people may call it yam pottage while others call it yam porridge. Someone could wonder if these are exactly the same or are different dishes made of yam. Lol! They are actually the same thing in the Nigerian Lingo. In the original context, that is, the context which the Europeans use, it is greatly different from our context. In the original context, ‘porridge’ is a common word used to describe the meal made from different grains and boiled in water or milk. According to the English dictionary, porridge is a dish made of grain or legumes, milk and/or water, heated and stirred and usually served as breakfast. An example of this is the oat porridge which is quite popular over there and in Nigeria too. Another question, does our yam porridge fall into this definition? LoL! A big NO!
Moving further to pottage, the English dictionary also defines it as a thick soup or stew. It is prepared from different ingredients (usually vegetables, meat, fish). This is definitely more nutritious than the porridge variant. Even in the Bible, Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of pottage. It’s that good. Hmmmmm! This is seeming like our ‘yam porridge’. From the definition, pottage is widely cooked in Nigeria and it is a main dish too. Both porridge and pottage mean the same thing in Nigeria, so, as a Nigerian, referring to any of them doesn’t make you wrong. We can call it yam porridge or yam pottage, but the most popular name is yam porridge. Another reason why I think pottage should be the right name for it is that going by the definition, a couple of ingredients are cooked together till thick in one pot. It can be said that pottage is every thick soup or stew other than a porridge. Pottage is cooked by putting in all the ingredients into a pot and allowed to cook by boiling till it is done. Grains are seldomly used or not used at all for this kind of dish.
Going by the definitions, I’ll gladly refer to this dish as yam pottage. This dish is super easy to prepare. The first time I made yam pottage, my mum brought out all the ingredients that I used, in the quantity that will be used and measured out everything. When it was time to cook, due to the fact that I was still learning how to tell the time at that point, I had to start cooking when it was 5 o’clock in the evening. All the times we ate yam pottage and still eat it is usually in the night – as dinner. In most Nigerian homes, I’m sure this is true. Yam pottage is usually for dinner. Okay, so, right now, I’m going to switch right back to ‘porridge’. Lmao! Laugh at me too. Although yam pottage is the right description, it just doesn’t sound right in my ears at all. I’m used to calling it yam porridge and that will not change anytime soon. So yam porridge it is abeg.
When it was time to cook, I just put everything in a pot and put on fire and left it to cook by boiling. I’m sure you may be wondering if I put everything, like everything? Nahhhhh! I was also instructed that the vegetable(s) come last when the yam is done and the mixture is thick. As time went by, I started measuring the ingredients by myself and also started flopping this dish. LoL! I was only allowed to cook when my dad was not around, so anyhow it turns out, we’ll eat it that way or if it was too bad, throw it away. So, sometimes, the dish was too watery, or had too much palm oil or was too salty or the yam was not soft enough. But hey, all those mistakes made me learn how to perfectly cook yam porridge.
This dish is aromatic, it has a distinctive smell. Whenever you perceive it, you know that yam porridge is cooking. Generally, the taste of yam porridge is mellow, that is, it has a gentle and smooth flavour except when you decide to make it extra spicy. It can also be savory. Every ingredient blends so well to give a tasty and palatable dish. The taste can also be altered by your choice of vegetable used at the end of the cooking, you could use ugu leaves, uziza leaves, nchanwu (scent leaves), etc. Also, the taste can be altered too by the quantity of ingredients and spices used and the taste can range from tasty to savoury to spicy and to salty (yes salty). Therefore, when cooking, you have to be careful when adding your ingredients so you don’t add extra that will spoil your dish or not add something that will enhance your dish.
Let us cook now;
Yam is the base of this dish, that’s why it is called yam porridge. The ingredients are yam, palm oil, seasoning cubes, ground crayfish, an onion, blended fresh pepper, dried fish, smoked fish (optional), salt and ugu leaves (this is optional, or you can use any other vegetable of your choice). For this dish, you do not need so much ingredients to make a really tasty yam porridge, the basics listed above will give you a very tasty pot of porridge.
First, you prep all your ingredients. I like to get all my ingredients ready before I start cooking. It kinda makes cooking easier and faster.
You cut your yam, peel the back, wash and put in a clean pot.
Wash dried fish with warm water and salt and keep on a plate.
Peel, wash and cut onion and add to the yam in the pot.
Pick, wash and cut ugu leaves and put in a plate for when the yam is done. The quantity of the yam determines the quantity of the ugu leaves. If you feel you cut too much leaves for the yam, when you use the quantity you need, you can spread the remaining in a tray for it to dry and use it another time.
In the pot with yam (a small quantity), add 2 pairs of knorr seasoning cubes, 3-4 cooking spoons of palm oil, 2 cooking spoons of ground crayfish, 1 teaspoon of blended fresh pepper (or more if you love pepper), the cut onion, washed dried fish and ½ teaspoon salt.
Next you add water. The quantity of water should not cover the yam, you still have to see the yam even when you’ve added water. The yam in season now is still soft and doesn’t take time to cook.
After adding the right quantity of water, you cover and put on fire. This cooks by boiling for 15 – 20 minutes(or less). When it’s almost 20 minutes, you check if the yam is done by digging a fork into a piece. If it goes in smoothly, the yam is ready. When it is done, before adding the vegetable, you taste to know if more seasoning or pepper will be added, you can add if needed.
Lastly, on medium heat, you add the cut leaves and 1 more cooking spoon of crayfish, stir and leave to cook for about 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, your yam porridge is done and ready to be eaten. You can add pieces of smoked fish when it is done – amazinggggg! Do enjoy your bowl of yam porridge and please do not sell your birthright or anything for this.LoL! You can prepare one for yourself.
Dear reader, I’ll love to hear your feedback. You can send a DM on Instagram or an email via thecravefactory.ng and [email protected] respectively.
Contents provided and/or opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine or any employee thereof.
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