I have referred several times in the past to nutritious, delicious agushi (aka agusi, agushie, egusi) seeds.Today's recipe is a classic stew that combines the seeds with fish. There are, of course, other versions using meat or poultry, but this is my favorite.
I'm posting 2 versions of the same recipe: one is a richer, more nuanced, and expensive version. It uses salted cod, smoked fish, real agusi seeds, fresh tomatoes and peppers and palm oil; the other, is faster, cheaper, and lighter and uses canned tomatoes, canned fish, dried pepper, pumpkin seeds, and peanut (or canola) oil. Take your pick, or combine elements of each in your preferred version. The green seeds in the photo below are the pumpkin seeds, the white ones the agushi seeds
Let's begin with the slightly more complicated, fancier one.
Recipe #70: Agusi Frowee (melon seed) Stew with Fish
Version 1: Assemble ingredients
- 4 oz agushi seeds (about a cup), ground or unground
- 7-8 ounces of smoked fish (I'm using smoked whiting today), after bones and skin are removed
- 2 good-sized ripe tomatoes (plus a Tablespoon of tomato paste if you like)
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of palm oil (dzomi if available)
- a small piece of salted cod (about an inch cube, about 1/3 of an ounce), or koobi (salted tilapia)
- 1 large onion (about a cup, chopped)
- fresh red pepper to taste
- If the agushi is not ground, grind it in a blender. Mix it with a cup of water and set aside until later.
- To remove some of the salt, I rinse and soak the salted fish in hot water while I prepare the other ingredients.
- If the fish has bones and skin remove them and discard.
- Peel and chop the onion.
- Prepare the pepper and garlic (I grind mine together in a blender with about a Tablespoon of water). You will need to judge your preference for heat. You can always adjust the heat later by adding more ground dried red pepper later.
- Chop the tomatoes (if you want to be extra fancy, peel and seed them first--drop in scalding water, then cold, to remove the peelings, and grind them in a blender). Mix in a Tablespoon of tomato paste if you like.
- Heat a heavy frying pan on the stove top, add the oil and chopped onions, stir well, then add the salted fish.
- Fry together on medium heat for several minutes, then add the pepper and garlic and cook a couple more minutes, then add the tomatoes and tomato paste.
- Stir in the smoked fish.
- Stir the agushi to see that all of the lumps are gone.
- Stir the agushi-water mixture into the stew, lower the heat, then cover and allow it to simmer, without stirring, for half an hour.
- The cooked agushi will look a little like scrambled eggs.
- If you're like me, go ahead and skim off any oil that has risen to the top (or just stir it back into the stew) and check the seasonings. Add some dried red pepper if it isn't spicy enough for you. I cannot imagine it needing more salt, but add some if you must.
This stew goes well with rice, ampesi (plain boiled starchy vegetables like yam, potatoes, plantains, banku, or kenkey. (Note: You can search Betumiblog for recipes for banku and kenkey).
Here is the second, lighter, cheaper, and faster version:
Assemble the ingredients:
Assemble the ingredients:
- In place of the smoked fish, substitute a 15 oz can of mackerel
- In place of the agushi substitute raw pumpkin seeds
- In place of the fresh tomatoes, substitute tomato puree (a cup), OR 2 or 3 Tablespoons of tomato paste mixed with a little water OR a small can of tomato sauce
- simply slice, rather than chop, the onions
- Do not bother soaking the salt fish
- In place of the palm oil, substitute any white oil like canola or peanut of safflower (I avoid olive oil because of its distinctive flavor) and reduce the amount to 1/4 cup (2 oz)
- In place of the fresh hot peppers, substitute dried ground red pepper to taste (about 3/4 teaspoon to begin)
- Omit the garlic
Follow the same basic steps as above, omitting any steps unnecessary due to using already processed ingredients: grind the pumpkin seeds, mix with a cup of water in a small bowl, chop the onion, open the can of mackerel. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add the onion and salt fish. Cook a few minutes, then add the tomato puree (or paste, sauce), cook a couple more minutes, then add the canned fish and dried red pepper. Stir the water-pumpkin seed mixture into the stew, lower heat and cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes without stirring.
My nephews Sam (left) and Ernest (right) stopped by at the beginning of this 4th of July holiday weekend, and sampled both versions. I topped some leftover coconut rice with the stew, and steamed a little fresh spinach on the side.
Sam added salt to the first version; Ernest found it a little too salty. Ernest added red pepper flakes to his; Sam found it spicy enough.
Both found either acceptable, but preferred the richer version (as do I). Sam said of the second one "This is lighter. Americans will love it."