White Bean and Swiss Chard Egusi Soup with seed coated Polenta bites

Egusi!!!!

My first recollection of egusi is in Nigerian food. I once came across the seeds when I asked the salesman what it is made of and he told me egusi is a wild watermelon and the oil and seeds of this watermelon are what we use in cooking. When he showed me the seeds I took a few and my mother noted that these are seeds of a wild watermelon that just about grow anywhere.

A couple of years ago, I was taking a tour of the land belonging to the boarding school I went to and I was with the man in charge of the cattle farm. As he showed us around (well beyond the boarding house and school grounds) we came across a few of these wild watermelons and he also very excitedly noted how that watermelon is a wild watermelon and doesn’t go off very quickly and is nutritious but only it’s seeds are used as the flesh itself is not very pleasant to the taste buds.

But of course we cracked one open on the ground and let it meet our teeth 😂because it was my first time (as far as memory serves me) that I had come across this small watermelon that just grows!! Egusi is white inside and is it not sweet, it is bitter, it is also not as moist. Most animals don’t even bother with it.

But Hello! Hellooo!!!! THE SEEDS!!!

I am not sure if my mother or the farmer from boarding school ever cooked with these seeds but I first came into contact with their culinary use in Nigerian cooking, particularly one of my favorite Nigerian soups – ogbono soup! Let me not get started on that soup.

A certain internet source says Egusi is the fat and protein rich seeds from of squash, melons and gourds. I assume that the wild watermelon seeds are combined with these other seeds for richer content and more production. These seeds are dried and ground.

It is also known as wild gourd or desert gourd.

What I know is that Egusi is the fat and seeds of the wild growing watermelon (egusi melon), I spoke above a bit earlier – it is it can grow just about anywhere and it is not the typical watermelon we get at stores. This makes it a great source of food even in terrible conditions as it just grows. The seeds are the most important part of egusi.

While watermelon seeds are inedible, egusi seeds are protein rich and edible!

It is also known as agusi, agushi, neri, ogiri – isi, ose – oji and avrouda.

These seeds can be eaten as snacks, added to soups or stews, roasted and ground into butters or used to make high protein patties.

A little bit about Egusi nutrition and uses:

✅Anti-inflammatory properties

✅Anti-cancer properties

✅Anti-bacterial properties

✅Anti-arthritic properties

✅Dermatological properties (the oil can be used to make soap)

✅Livestock fodder (shells from oil extraction, leaves and gourds)

✅Aids digestion

✅Boosts appetite

✅Anti – diabetic properties

✅It is great for thickening soups and stews as well

In this recipe I’m using ground Egusi

1 Cup small white beans, soaked overnight

3 Tablespoons coconut oil

Onion, medium, finely chopped

2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 Small Red Chillies, finely chopped with their seeds

1 Tablespoon mixed herbs

4 cups green Swiss chard, washed, vein removed and chopped

2 Jam tomatoes, sliced

2 Cubes vegetable stock

500ml hot water

3 Tablespoons oat bran

3 Tablespoons ground egusi

1 teaspoon dried garlic flakes

Method:

1. Boil the beans in a pot with 500ml of water with the lid on until the water dries out, add another cup of water and boil again.

2. Once the water has dried out again, reduce the heat to medium and add to the beans, the coconut oil, onion, chillies and garlic. Cook for about 15 minutes.

3. Add the mixed herbs and Swiss chard and stir. Cook for 15 minutes.

4. Dilute one vegetable stock in the 500ml hot water and add it to the pot. Add the sliced tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring now and then.

5. Add the second cube of vegetable stock to the pot.

6. Add the egusi powder and garlic flakes and simmer for 15 minutes.

Taste the beans so that you have your desired texture. I like mine with the shape still intact and not too soft inside.

Polenta:

It is best to make the polenta the day/night before so it can cool down and firm up.

I made mine a little firm as I wanted to be able to do other things with it, plus it can always be made into porridge with a bit of water later.

1/2 Cup Polenta, fine

2 Cups Boiled Water

Pinch of salt

Teaspoon of butter

Mixed seeds

1/2 teaspoon herbal salt

1 teaspoon Coconut oil or more you need more.

1. Add the boiled water to a pot on low heat and salt and then add the polenta, whisking to avoid lumps. Add butter and let it cook with the lid on for 30 minutes.

2. Pour into a container of your choice. Let it cool down and refrigerate overnight.

3. Add the seeds and herbal salt into a separate bowl.

4. Slice the polenta and then cut into cubes. Add it to the seeds and coat the polenta with the seeds.

5. Heat a pan up on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.

6. Lightly fry your seed coated polenta on both sides until golden brown.

Serve the soup with your polenta and some pan toasted seeds from your pan and enjoy.

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