If you ask me what soup is a must-eat among the vast variety of Cameroonian foods, I’ll have to say ‘Eru’ most definitely. Eru to me is the easiest and most delicious soup of all time. It’s that meal that I eat, and refuse to wash my fingers. Mum would tell my siblings and me to ‘just hang the plate around your neck’. This could preach ain’t it? Eru is a valentine’s day kind of soup. Cooked for those we love. I didn’t say you should use it to charm somebody’s husband ooo. Don’t quote me!
Eru is a native dish to Cameroonians, especially Southern Cameroonians. I hear it is also eaten in Nigeria. Don’t get confused! Eru is not afang soup. Though okazi leaves are used in both soups, the methods of preparation and the consistency are different.
Back to Eru guys. Eru is cooked with a combination of Gnetum Africanum (the botanical name for Okazi leaves), waterleaf, crayfish, assorted meat and lots of red palm fruit oil. Ingredients that give it that distinct flavor no other soup has. One of my followers on Facebook asked me if I could come up with a healthy version of Eru for those on a diet. Two things:
- That’s a hard task right there!
- Who wants the copy when you can have the original?
I know right? Lol. 🙂 Listen, this is not one of those foods that you can simply swap this for that? No way! When I began considering how to make it healthier and thought of what to swap, it quickly dawned on me that it will have to be THE OIL. That’s the only ingredient that is overboard (in my humble opinion) in this recipe. I have actually seen Eru swimming in a sea of oil. Talk about an overflow! :). Sometimes it scares me.
There is no Eru without (enough) palm oil. You can’t even call that eru now ah ah. Call it dry okazi soup if you will but definitely not Eru. That will be an insult to the people of the Southern parts of Cameroon whom the soup is native to. There is enough wahala the Southern regions of Cameroon are going through right now and I’m not going to add food wahala on it! M’ba oooo (not me)! My Southern Cameroon friends, I’m with you guys on this one. Together, we will overcome!
O.k. back to making Eru healthier. With the above said, creating a healthier version of this original, one-of-a-kind, finger-licking goodness, is almost (emphasis on ALMOST) impossible.
There is good news. Most of the ingredients used in making this delicious soup are VERY healthy. Let’s take a closer look at the three main ingredients:
Eru/Okazi/fumbua/okok leaves – an excellent source dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and essential amino acids.
Waterleaf (Talinum triangulare) – also an excellent source of dietary fiber which provides bulk in meals, as a result, our need for starchy carbohydrate consumption is reduced. It is a rich source of vitamin C and E, Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, proteins and much more. This wonder veggie is strongly recommended for pregnant women as it helps boost blood levels and prevent anemia AND aids digestion. It’s high antioxidants and soluble fiber content makes this leaf to act as a mild laxative. Want to reduce and regulate blood sugar, this is one veggie that can do just that. Waterleaf has even been found to prevent the onset of growth of certain cancers and tumors due ti is high antioxidant content. Waterleaf is a SUPER ingredient.
Crayfish. First of all fish and shellfish is food for your brains. Crayfish have a super healthy amount of protein containing the amino acid tyrosine that literally energizes the brain, making you more attentive, motivated and mentally energetic. Could this be the reason why I feel pumped after a plate of this delicious dish? Hmmm, I am seriously wondering here. Guess I have to find out if there is any research to prove this. 🙂 In addition, Crayfish also contains high amounts of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, a healthy supply of vitamin A and D as well as calcium, potassium, copper and zinc.
Are these three foods reason enough to convince you that Eru is THE SOUP? Ehen, I thought as much! For my friends who want the reduced-oil version to fit in your weight loss meal plan, here are my 3 secrets to ‘healthifying’ this soup.
- Double the spinach quantity: The main reason why people add so much oil while cooking eru is to ‘soften’ the meal. One way to acquire this softness without overdoing it with oil is to use a generous amount of waterleaf (or spinach).
- Soak Eru in ‘kanwa’/akanwa/natron/carbonate of sodium water: especially if you are using dry eru/ okazi leaves. What kanwa will do is twofold: first, it will soften your okazi leaves (this is meant for dry leaves only) and secondly, it will give your leaves an intense green color. All you need to do is boil a pot of water (that can cover the leaves when cooking) add a small piece of kanwa and let it (the kanwa) dissolve. Once water starts boiling, add the okazi leaves, remove from heat and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Depending on the amount of kanwa used, you will obtain soft and green okazi leaves. Now you want to make sure to thoroughly wash out all that kanwa from your leaves under running water.
- Reduce oil: if you followed option 1 and/or 2, you will automatically use less oil to cook as you will not need much oil to soften your eru. Your eru may look kind of dry but believe me, it will be soft and delicious.
If all the tips mentioned above are not options for you, then you may want to reduce your intake of the accompanying ‘swallow’ or ‘fufu’ to cut overall calories in this meal. Eat just about a tangerine size of eba (garri) or pounded yam with this soup to slash calories as these are high in starchy carbohydrates. If you are on a low-carb diet, your best bet will be to replace garri or pounded yam with eggplant or cabbage fufu. Recipe for the latter loading. 🙂
Oh and one more thing. I used onions to boil my beef and in the recipe itself which is usually not included. I just love the flavor onion adds to it and by the way, I also love to break rules and my new ones that suit me. So don’t blame me for that. You can leave onions out or include it. Your food, your way! Be creative, try new things, break boundries and barriers, get out of the confort zone and OWN IT! 🙂
This Eru will make a great meals to reconquer your man’s heart. 🙂 Was I able to convince you to try this soup? If so then please feed me with those wonderful comments of yours. Also, tag me at shape_up_african to get your food picture featured on my Instagram feed.
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Now let’s get right to it!
Watch the 2-min video recipe below, print the written recipe, shop for ingredients and make this delicious dish.
- 125g Eru/Okazi, fresh or dried
- 500g waterleaf or spinach, fresh or frozen
- 500g assorted meat, beef, tripe, kanda etc.
- 1 large dried fish of choice
- 1 cup palm oil
- A handful of crayfish
- 1 onion (for boiling meat), chopped (optional)
- Habanero pepper to your taste
- Beef bouillon cubes
- Sea salt to taste
- If you are using dry okazi/okok leaves, boil water, add a small piece of kanwa in it. When the kanwa has dissolved, add the okazi leaves and let it sit for sometime checking for softness regularly. When desired softness is reached, wash leaves thoroughly under running water to remove any kanwa residue. Strain and set aside.
- Add water to a pot or pressure cooker, add onions, cubes and salt and cook whatever meat you are using till tender. If you have leftover stock, store it for later use in another dish like fried rice.
- Now add waterleaf or spinach to the meat. This will quickly wilt under heat. You don't want to cook it for long as this will change your waterleaf's color from green to brownish.
- Add your dryfish and part of your crayfish. Season and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Then add your okazi leaves and cook for another 5 minutes on medium heat untill it is completely soft to the touch. Now you are ready to add oil.
- Make a small hole in the middle of your pot, pour in the oil, add the remaining crayfish and pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Serve hot with garri, or waterfufu or eggplant fufu if you are watching carbs.