Nigerian Isi Ewu: Spicy Goat Head
The process of preparing isi ewu is so similar to that of Nkwobi that lots of people find it hard to differentiate between the two of them.
One major difference is that Nkwobi is prepared with cow foot while Isi Ewu which literally means goat head, is prepared with goat head!
INGREDIENTS FOR ISI EWU
1 Goat Head 15 cl (150ml) Red Palm Oil
2 teaspoons ground Ehu seeds (Calabash Nutmeg)
1 tablespoon powdered edible potash (Akanwu/Kaun/Keun)
2 big beef flavoured stock cubes
2 medium onions
About 10 Utazi leaves (Gongronema latifolium)
2 habanero peppers (or to your taste)
Salt (to taste)
TO GARNISH THE ISI EWU
About 10 Utazi leaves (Gongronema latifolium)
NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS
1. In Nigerian restaurants, the goat heads are cooked whole (without cutting them up) because they have a big pot where they can pile several goat heads and cook them at the same time.
When preparing one goat head, it is not be practical to cook it whole because you will need lots of water to get the goat head well cooked.
And since we do not want lots of water in the meat when done, it is better to cut the isi ewu up before cooking it.
2. Goat meat is quite tough so if you have a pressure cooker, do use it for cooking it to save time and gas/electricity.
3. Ehu (Calabash Nutmeg) is a very traditional ingredient that is difficult to find outide Nigeria. If you can’t buy it where you live, just prepare the Isi ewu without it.
Ordinary nutmeg is not an alternative to this because they are not similar in any way. If you have friends or family in Nigeria, they will be able to buy ehu seeds and send to you, a small quantity goes a long way.
4. Potash is what makes the palm oil curdle as you will see in the video below. An alternative I know is what we call Ngu in Igbo. Ngu is even more traditional than potash so if you can’t find potash, chances are that you won’t be able to get Ngu either.
5. Utazi adds a nice bitter flavour to the Isi ewu. if you can’t buy it where you live, use spinach (bold ones), it gives the same effect and actually tastes nice!
BEFORE YOU MAKE THE ISI EWU
1. Cut the goat head into pieces making sure that the essential parts: ears, tongue etc are whole cuts that is, they are not cut into pieces.
2. Remove the brain and put in an aluminum foil bag then fold the bag to close just like with Nigerian Moi Moi.
3. Wash the meat very well with foam and iron sponges where necessary, using a knife to scrape off the tough top skin especially on the tongue. There will also be traces of sooth from burning the fur off the goat, ensure that these are all cleaned.
4. Put the powdered potash into a bowl. Add a small quantity of water (about 4 table spoons) and stir well. Pass it through a fine sieve and set the liquid aside.
5. Cut the 2 onions into 4 big chunks.
6. Crack and remove the outer shell of the ehu then grind with a dry mill eg coffee grinder.
7. Pound the pepper with a mortar and set aside.
DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING ISI EWU
1. Cook the goat head with the chunks of onion, the stock cubes and as little water as possible. Top up the water as necessary but make sure there is as little water as possible in the pot.
This is because we do not want any stock in the pot when the meat is done. Remember to cook the brain too.
2. While the meat is cooking, slice the onion for garnishing into thin rings.
3. Cut half of the utazi into thin slices. Cut the other half into tiny pieces. The first will be used for garnishing while the latter will be added into the palm oil paste.
4. When the meat is done, remove the chunks of onion, take out the brain and mash it up till smooth.
5. Add salt, stir and cook till all the water has dried.
6. Set the meat aside to cool down.
7. Now, pour the palm oil into a clean dry pot.
8. Pour in the potash mixture (sieved) into the oil.
9. Stir with a wooden spatula as you pour the potash. You’ll notice the palm oil begin to curdle and turn yellow. Keep stiring till all the oil has turned yellow. Use as little potash as possible because too much of it can upset your stomach.
10. Add the pepper, mashed brain, ehu seeds and the utazi that has been cut to tiny pieces. Stir very well till they are all incorporated.
11. Add the goat head to the palm oil paste and stir very well with a wooden spatula.
12. Put it back on the stove/cooker and heat till the Isi Ewu is piping hot.
13. Serve the Isi Ewu in a wooden mortar as shown in the image above.
14. Garnish with the thin slices of utazi and onion rings for the full effects.
Best served with chilled drinks: palm wine, beer or stout and soft drinks.