Have you ever seen how much palm oil goes into Efo Riro? My goodness, you could drown a small goat in it. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good bowl of Efo as much as the next person, but all that oil, all the time cannot be good for you. So I came up with this version that uses literally one tablespoon of oil and that’s it – and it doesn’t even have to be palm oil – you can use olive oil if you like. For those of you in other parts of the world, Efo is one of the local varieties of spinach that grows in Nigeria. When the health nuts tell you to gobble up you dark green leafy vegetables, this is exactly the sort of leaf we’re talking about – really green, intense flavour, substantially fibrous and quite hardy. When I lived abroad, I would use organic baby spinach to make a dupe Efo Riro when I was craving a taste from home. With a bit of palm oil, maggi and crayfish, almost any green leaves will imitate the effect of Efo Riro if you shut your eyes while you’re chewing and transport yourself out of the snow and into hot sweaty Lagos, complete with all the background noise and generator smoke…
Luckily I live here in Lagos now so I don’ t need to fantasize anymore and I don’t need to use impostors :). I can find actual Efo anytime I like. If you live in Accra, head to Tudu – there are some Yoruba ladies in the market there who sell it. If you live in London, put on your bullet proof vest, say your prayers, and head to Peckham. They get fresh leaves flown in every other morning from Lagos, and a fiver will get you a good amount. If you don’t feel like an adventure, then just use spinach – fresh or frozen – either is fine. Anyway, without further ado, here are some pictures of the preparation and resultant meal. Method as always, below.
- Start of with the stew as it takes the most time
- Chop some onions, and then blend tomatoes, tatase (use red bell peppers if you can’t get hold of tatase) and hot scotch bonnet peppers (ata rodo) in the blender
- Heat a small amount of oil in a pot, and throw in the onions. Once they are soft, add the blended tomato and pepper mixture
- Turn the heat down and leave to simmer. When it has reduced in volume, add some tomato puree
- Season the stew with all your usual bits and bobs
- Then wash and season the fish – here I used croaker but you can use any other fresh fish. When the stew is cooked, drop the fish in, and leave to simmer until the fish is cooked through, then take off the heat. Avoid lots of turning at this stage so as not to break up your hunks of fish
- Now you can set the yam to boil. While it is boiling, you can make the healthy Efo Riro as it doesn’t take long
- For the Efo, chop the leaves into medium sized shreds. Don’t make the shreds too chunky or too fine
- Put a minute amount of oil in a non-stick pan with some finely chopped onions, flaked dry fish, and iru (otherwise known as oil bean). Season with salt and crayfish and a bit of dry red pepper.
- Let these sizzle away gently for 2 minutes and then add the washed and chopped efo leaves. Stir fry this mix until the efo is wilted and cooked through. Add a smidgen of water if you need to.
- Serve and enjoy!