Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ndolé (Bitterleaf) Soup


Ndolé (or N'Dolé, or Ndole) is a hearty soup from Cameroon. It is made from a variety of ingredients that, for the non-African, might seem to be an odd combination. Look for bitterleaf and dried shrimp in international grocery stores. As the name implies, the bitterleaf (also called bitter leaf) adds a distinctive flavor to the soup, but if none is available substitute spinach or other greens. Skip the optional ingredients to make the most basic Ndolé soup.

  • two to four cups fresh or dried bitterleaf (bitter leaf), or several cups of spinach, or similar greens (kale, collards, or turnip greens are good) -- a combination of various greens and spinach can also be used
  • two cups fresh shrimp or prawns, or one cup dried shrimp or prawns -- crabs could be substituted
  • two pounds dried, salted, or smoked fish (such as cod) -- or -- one pound of dried/salted/smoked fish and one pound of either stew meat, oxtail, or chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • two cups raw shelled peanuts (or a cup of peanut butter and a cup of hot water)
  • one chopped onion
  • two teaspoon of fresh ginger root, finely minced (optional)
  • two cloves garlic, finely minced
  • six ripe tomatoes, chopped and mashed may be peeled if desired (or canned tomatoes)
  • one-half teaspoon thyme (optional)
  • one-half teaspoon rosemary (optional)
  • one green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • one chile pepper, chopped (optional)
  • four cups of chicken broth or chicken stock, or beef broth or beef stock, or Maggi® cubes dissolved in water
  • palm oil or vegetable oil for frying
  • salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper (to taste)
  • If you are using dried or fresh bitterleaf, wash it in cold water, rinsing several times, and allow it to soak for at least a few hours, then chop it into pieces.
    If you are using spinach leaves, clean and chop them immediately before cooking the soup.
    If you are using any other greens (such as kale or collard greens), clean, chop, and parboil them briefly before cooking the soup.
  • Marinate the shrimp (or prawns) for a few hours in a paste made from half the minced ginger, half the chopped onion, and a little oil. If using dried shrimp, add a little water.
  • Soak the dried/salted fish in water for a few hours. After you have started cooking the soup cut the fish into pieces and remove any skin or bones.
  • If using fresh peanuts: Remove the skins from the peanuts. (It might help to boil them for a few minutes first.) Crush or chop the peanuts and then simmer them in two cups of water for about an hour. Add water if necessary. After they have cooked, crush them into a smooth paste.
  • If using beef or chicken: Fry the meat in a skillet and then add a cup of appropriate stock, broth, or Maggi cubes and water. Set aside.
  • Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large pot and fry the remaining onions, garlic, ginger, rosemary and thyme for a few minutes. Then add the tomatoes and reduce heat to a simmer for several minutes.
  • Add the bitterleaf (or greens) to the pot. Stir and simmer for several minutes more.
  • Add the cooked peanut paste (or peanut butter and hot water). Stir and continue to cook the soup at a simmer.
  • Add the fish (and any other meat) to the pot, along with the green pepper, and any hot chile pepper, salt, and red or black pepper you think it needs. Cover the pot and continue to cook over low heat.
  • When the greens seem tender (after thirty minutes to an hour), heat oil in a skillet and stir fry the shrimp (or prawns) along with their marinade. Add them to the soup.
  • Cook soup (adding water or stock if desired) until it is the consistency you like.
  • Serve with Baton de Manioc (also called Chikwangue), Fufu, or boiled Yam or potato.

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