Whenever I think of Ndolé, I cannot help but remember the dark green and extremely bitter drink my mum made each time someone had fever in the house! I remember, how she grabbed her knife and a small market bag and rushed down the farm about a few steps from our home to harvest a handful of these leaves I so dreaded. Next thing you hear is the sound of water boiling, some pounding and before you had a chance to blink, a tall glass of freshly made bitterleaf juice was handed over to you. Boy, how I hated it! It was so awful it made me pwuk! :(. Yet, it also worked wonders…every single time.
Bitterleaf, botanically known as Vernonia Amygdalina is medically known as a wonder food. The leaves are bitter in taste and are sold fresh or dried and can be used to prevent and cure a myriad of diseases. Recently, researchers have discovered that the plant is a non-pharmaceutical solution to persistent fever, headache, and joint pain associated. Read the more about the health benefits of Bitterleaf in THIS POST.
The great thing about this wonder plant is that it can be used to be prepared a variety of our dishes. One of my favorites of all time is Ndolé is made from ‘bitterleaf’, peanuts, lots of herbs and spices and ‘crayfish’ aka dried prawns.
The peanuts used in this dish are rich in monounsaturated fats. They kind that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 21% when consumed in their right quantities. Peanuts are also a great source of vitamin E and Folate, making it great for pregnant women.
Combined with fresh groundnuts, crayfish and other healthy ingredients like tomatoes, onions, white and black pepper and accompanied with boiled ripe plantains – a brain-boosting, immune-building fruit , bitterleaves makes a healthy well-balanced enjoyable meal!
How do you cook your Ndolé? Have you tried this recipe? I love your comments and feedback, so feed me with pearls of your heritage
Let’s get cooking.
- 250g fresh bitterleaves, partially washed
- 300g peanuts, with or without skin
- 250g lean beef, cooked
- 200g fresh prawns
- 200g stockfish, soaked and cooked
- 1 handful dried schrimps aka. crayfish
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 1 thumb ginger
- 1 tsp. white and black pepper each
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 large onion
- 1 handful parsley leaves, fresh
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or any vegetable oil
- 1-2 -scotch bonnet pepper, optional
- 1/2 stem leeks
- Bouillon cubes to taste, optional
- Seas salt to taste
- Peel ginger and garlic, chop onions and set aside.
- Boil pepper with a pinch of salt
- Boil beef with half onion, salt, and bouillon cube. You may want to add some white and black pepper, ginger and garlic to intensify the flavor of the beef.
- Bring a pot of water with a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda (kanwa) to the boil and add sliced fresh bitterleaf. Immediately bitterleaf is added, turn down the heat completely, cover the pot and let it cool. When water has cooled down, rinse bitterleaf in a colander under running water thoroughly untill all the bicarbonate of soda has been washed away. At this point, your bitterleaf should be just mildly bitter.
- Marinate fresh prawns with bouillon cubes and refrigerate.
- Boil peanuts till almost cook. I recommend not completely cooking the peanuts, this way it will blend into a coarse paste so you can have little bites of peanuts. You can cook till overcooked too if you wnat it to have a fine consistency. The choice is yours.
- Soak stockfish for several hours or overnight to soften it and reduce the cooking process. Do not add salt when boiling because it is salted before drying.
- Now that all spices have been prepared, use a food processor and blend the rest of your ginger, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, cloves, leeks and parsley first. When spices are finely puréed, add peanuts to the spice mix and coarsely blend.
- In a hot pot, add spice and peanut blend and let it cook for 15 - 20 minutes adding stock from beef or water as needed. Make sure to cook on medium heat. Then add in the crayfish.
- Now add bitterleaf, salt, bouillon cubes, some more beef stock if the peanut mixture is too thick and let it simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring from time to time.
- In another pot or pan, heat oil, add onions, then fresh prawns and fry until prawns are cooked. This would take just about 2 minutes. Now pour the mixture into the pot of Ndolé et viola!
- Serve with boiled ripe or unripe plantain or yams.
- 1. If you are using dried bitterleaf, make sure to discard sand and/or stones and then soak overnight before boiling in water without kanwa. If the leaves are still too bitter for your taste, add kanwa and boil for a while before thoroughly rinsing with water.