After working for 5 days in Yaounde, I had a day off to myself. One of the women I met through work kindly offered to take me to the fabric market, which I had been on a mission to visit, and then invited me to her home, so that I could see the “real” Yaounde. The fabric market was great, but one of the coolest parts of the day was when my host, P, showed me how to cook a Cameroonian dish. She was preparing for a party the next day, and was going to make Egusi pudding (pronounced like “goosey pudding”, which I thought was what P was saying until she spelled it for me). Inspired by a fellow blogger friends, Starvacious Gal and La Phemme Phoodie (though their blogs look much more professional than mine!), I decided to document the experience. (SG and PP, this one’s for you and all my other foodie friends who love to cook!)
As best as I’ve understood it, Egusi pudding is made from some kind of a ground seed. I don’t have a good understanding for what kind of seed is used exactly (apparently it can be bought in African grocery stores as “egusi”, so that doesn’t really tell me much), but according to one recipe I found online, you can use pumpkin seeds or pepitas as a substitute. You grind the seeds, and then add water to get to a sort of pasty consistency.
Now, your ground seed & water mixture needs to sit for a while for the seeds powder to really soak up the water and get to the right consistency. I wouldn’t know what was the right consistency myself, but P seemed to know when it was exactly right. While the mixture is sitting and getting to that optimal consistency, you prepare some of the other ingredients. There’s the smoked fish, which has to be shredded and then soaked in water to sort of reconstitute. And there’s the meat that needs to be cooked.
Now, after the fish is soaked for a little while, it is thrown into the pot with the fish, and simmered for a while. There has to be some water in the pot so that a sort of fish/meat stock is made while the meat and fish are cooking. While this is going on, if the ground seed mix has reached the desired moisture level, it’s time to start stirring some of the lumps out of the mix. This task was given to me, and I was given a big wooden spoon and the bowl and I started to stir. It’s a thick, pasty mix, so I had to put some muscle into it, and gave it my best. The bowl was pretty full so it was a challenge to firmly stir it without making it spill out of the top of the mixing bowl, but I managed….. for the most part. Only a small amount fell over the lip of the bowl…..
After P was satisfied with the consistency of the mix, and had checked on the absence of lumps (apparently I did well, and she was ready to continue) she prepared the additional ingredients. A metal bowl of what I thought looked like tomato sauce was pulled out – it wasn’t tomato sauce; it was a home-made hot pepper sauce. Wow! Hot. An egg was beaten. The stock from the fish & meat was cooled down to the right temperature to be mixed into the grain mix.
Next, the fish/meat stock is added, and blended into the seed blend. Now, I really couldn’t tell you how much to add. P started to add some and thought it was enough, but then after stirring it, she decided to add more. As far as I can tell, it just takes experience in making Egusi pudding to know how much is just right. When she was satisfied with the color and consistency, the egg and pepper were mixed in as well. P wavered a little trying to decide whether or not to add a second egg, but decided that she wanted it to be fluffy but not too firm, so one egg would be just right. If you say so, P! 🙂 After everything was blended smoothly together, it came time to add the fish & meat mixture to the bowl.
Then, the ground, dried crayfish was sprinkled across the top before being mixed in. And some Maggi seasoning cubes and a generous helping of salt helped give the pudding flavor.
Now that the pudding is mixed together we get to the really cool part…. at least from my perspective, as this method of cooking is very much out of the ordinary for an East-Coast American girl! P started by lining a pot with aluminum foil, as sort of a back-up method in case the traditional method of wrapping the pudding failed her. The traditional method is to wrap the pudding in banana leaves. The leaves were cleaned, and the center part that leads to the branch was shaved down to make it more flexible and easy to use. The foil lined pot was then lined with banana leaves, and the pudding was poured into the pot.
After the pudding is placed inside the leaves, the leaves are tied together, and trimmed off at the top.
Once the pudding is wrapped and tied, it’s time to ready the pot for steaming. The pot has to be deep enough so that it can be closed or covered over the top of the tied off pudding. To make sure that the bundle doesn’t sit directly on the heat source (whether it is coals or a stove element – though I’m told that coals or open fire are the best way to cook it), roots and sticks are put in the bottom of the pot, and water is added so that it steams the bundle, without the bottom getting burned.
Now that the bundle of pudding is steaming, you leave it for 24 hours. After 24 hours, it will be cooked and you can enjoy it! Unfortunately, I had a plane to catch in less than 24 hours after we put the pudding in the pot, so I can’t tell you how it should taste….. but even if I didn’t get to try it, I enjoyed the experience of cooking this traditional Cameroonian dish! Maybe next time I go to Cameroon, I can actually try some! 🙂
Until the next post,