I’ve been excited to try ogi for over a month now, ever since I first encountered it in Sandor Katz’ wild fermentation, described as a fermented millet porridge enjoyed in West Africa. Finally got around to grinding and soaking the millet, excited for the next leg of my fermentation world tour. Rolling the porridge into balls between my fingers and dipping them into a saucy bowl of beans sounded irresistibly fun.
I ended up spending more hours than I care to admit sucked into the black hole of the internet, initially just trying to find a recipe for an authentic West African stew that I had ingredients for and could get excited about. The main seasonings in most of the Nigerian and other West African recipes I came across appeared to be bouillon cubes, dried crawfish, and palm oil — none of wish I had laying around nor any desire to consume. Stripping away these ingredients, I was left with onion, salt, and chili pepper. Black eyed peas are so delicious, I can and do enjoy them even plain right out of the pot, but I was hoping for something a bit more alluring and unique to represent the region and jazz up my bowl of porridge. I finally ended up adapting a recipe from All Nigerian Recipes for fried beans… another delicious reminder that sometimes the simplest meals are best.
I learned a few interesting tidbits along the way. First, to set the record straight, ogi is Yoruba for a fermented porridge made with corn, or a mix of corn, sorghum, and millet (a greenish-grey grain quite distinct from what we know as millet in the States). The grain is soaked whole for a few days first, changing the water each day, then blended and strained to reserve only the starch, which is then further fermented before being cooked in batches to make a thick custard-like “pap.” From what I could gather, it seems ogi (akamu in Igbo, koko in Hausa) is generally enjoyed as part of a breakfast meal, often with milk and sugar mixed in as well. I found no reference to rolling it into balls to eat with soup, as is done with fufu (prepared in a variety of ways from rice, corn, cassava, yam, or semolina, but not millet as far as I can tell).
It is in Eastern Africa, rather, that millet is first ground into a flour before being cooked into a thick porridge, ugali, that is rolled into balls and dipped. Millet flour is also fermented, as is sorghum and corn flour, alone or in combination, to make a thin breakfast porridge, uji. I’m excited to enjoy ugali tomorrow, accompanied by a stew from Tanzania. And to come back soon to try a few more of the unique Nigerian dishes, like moi moi and akara, that sound irresistible.
But for tonight, I was just grateful for the opportunity to learn a little more about the world and enjoy a hearty meal at the end of rainy, historic day.
Fried Ewa (Black-eyed Peas)
A few tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (or palm if you like)
1 onion, chopped
A teaspoon or so coriander
A couple sprinkles ground habanero or other chili pepper, to taste (or minced fresh in season)
2 cups cooked black eyed peas (drained of cooking liquid)
1-2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste
Heat coconut oil in pan and sauté onion for several minutes, until soft. Stir in spices and cook a minute or so longer, then mix in beans and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until coated and heated through. Adjust seasonings to taste and enjoy!