Abak atama soup is a delicious palm fruit soup similat to Igbo banga soup; the last time I travelled home my mum gave me a wonderful surprise with a delicious, aromatic and fresh looking dish called ‘Efere atama (banga soup) made with ‘Abak’ (palm fruit extract), till today, it is still fresh in my head what she used to make that spicy soup which tasted so nice and flavouful. She made used of palm fruits (eyop), crayfish, smoked fish, snails and uyayak (aidan fruit) to prepare it. Guess what? The uyayak and the palm fruit extract really turned the whole soup upside-down which I really enjoyed (salivating)!! . Before I talk too much, it is needful I go straight to the point.
Atama leafissometimes refers to as English bush apple leaf (leaves), it has a botanical name known as Heinsia crinite. Atama is usually found at the backyards of many Ibibios and efiks.The soup is mostly prepared with the fresh atama leaves, the fresh leaves can be thinly sliced and dried in the sun till they become brittle and then preserved in a nylon bag. Should in case you find it difficult in getting atama leaves, when you get to the market, ask any Calabar woman and you would be directed to where you can get it.
Basically there are fourmethods of preparing atama soup which are as follow:
- Atama with water leaf (talinum triangulare)– This method of preparing atama soup is similar to the way afang soup is being prepared, after which the fresh atama leaves are added last.
- Atama leaves with egusi (Ikon or melon paste) If you are familiar with the way egusi soup is being prepared, you would have an idea of how atama leaves are being prepared with water leaves. In this method, the fresh or the dried atama leaves can be used but mostly it is the sun dried leaves that are used for egusi atama.
- Okro/Okra with atama– This method is usually termed the simplest method of atama soup because it is just straight forward. You can make this just the way you would have cooked okro andogbono with ugwu leaves.
- Abak atama , which is sometimes called atama abak (palm fruit with atama leaves)– This method seems to be the most preferred, even though the three methods of preparing atama soup are distinct and delicious especially when they are prepared with some generous amount of ingredients, abak atama is tastier and juicy to look on. You should just experiment with any of the four methods to find out your favourite method of making atama soup
Preparations for abak atama
(How to prepare atama leaf)
- Before you start to prepare abak atama, there are certain things you need to put in placeto make it simple and fast while preparing the main soup. I advise you start by shredding the atama leafinto tiny pieces, just as you would have done with afang leaf. When you are done shredding atama leaf, pour it into the mortar pound for 10 minutes until the sharp pieces have become smaller, however, if you have a very sharp knife, you can cut the leaf the second time to become very tiny to avoid pounding it with mortar.
- After you have achieved that,wash the leaves with warm water to get rid of the slimy liquid, drain with a colander (filter) and keep aside. Remember to taste the leaf to know if it has a little bitter taste, if that is the case, you would have to rinse the ponded leaf up to 3 times to get rid of the bitterness.
(How tosqueeze out juice (palm oil)from palm kernel)
- The second thing to do is to startboiling the palm fruit for 15 minutes, after rinsing it. Once it’s soft enough, pound the seed and make sure the fibre or the flesh separates from the hard nuts. When this has beendone, boil about 3 cups of water and pour into the palm fruit, mix it with your hand until all the juice comes out of the pulp thenuse a colander to sieve the juice into the pot you would use to cook your soup and keep aside.
- Lastly, cut the shelled periwinkles at the tail if you are using that, wash thoroughly and soak in salt water.If you are going to use snails, crab or kpomo (cow hide), this is the right time to dress them and keep aside until they are needed. The snails can be washed with limewater or alum to get rid of the slimy substances. Once all these are done, it will be very easy to make abak atama without further waste of time.
Ingredients forpreparingof abak atama soup
- 1 medium bunch fresh atama leaf (dried atama leaf could be substituted)
- Palm fruits( eyop), 3 cups (tin milk cup or 1/2 mudu)
- Beef or goat meat,1/2 kilogram
- Shelled periwinkles, 2 cups
- Snails orcrabs, any amount
- Kpomo(cow hide),1 piece
- Stockfish,1head or any part
- Smoked fish, 1 big size
- Uyayak (aidan fruit or local spice of your choice) 1/2 piece
- Crayfish (ground)1 cup
- Fresh or dried groundpepper (as desired)
- Seasoning cubes,4 cubes or to taste
- Salt to taste
Steps on how to prepare abak atama
- Wash; season your beef or mutton with stock cubes, onions, pepper and salt. Cook the meat together with stockfish for 15 minutes
- While the meat is on the fire, dress or de-bone the smoke fish and keep aside.
- Check the meat after 15 minutes, add the snails and kpomoto the meat and cook for another 15 minutes if you are using these. When everthing is wellcooked, remove the pot from heat.
- Bring the pot you have sieved the palm fruit extract into and drop on the heat, turn the meat, periwinkle, and the smoke fish into the content on fire.
- Add the Aiden fruit (uyayak) and leave to boil for 15 minutes. Important tip: Cut into big round sizes two okra (ladys fingers) and add to the soup (it does another wonder to your soup, I did not tell you earlier); okra makes the soup to be slightly viscous, but you can use waterleaf instead if you prefer, just like i did.It is better not to allow the soup to be too thick while cooking it because it might become even thicker the next day (let it be neither watery nor thick.
- Add the remaining seasoning cubes, a pinch of salt and pepper and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the atama leafand allow the content to boil for few minutes before stirring it.
- Stir thoroughly and make sure all the ingredients are well mixed. taste and adjust seasoning if need be.
- Put off heat and serve with fufu, semolina, eba, alebo or anything starchy food of your preference.
Simple Steps to prepare abak atama Soup
1. After cooking meat, stockifish and periwinkles and you are sure everything is soft and ok, bring the palm fruit extract into the pot containing the meat and other protein and bring to a boil.
2. Add the Aidan fruit (uyayak), onions and crayfish; leave the content to boil for 15 minutes.
3. Add the remaining seasoning cubes, and pepper and pinch of salt;allow the content tosimmer for 5 minutes on a medium heat.
4. Add the atama leaf and allow the content to keepboiling for few minutes before stirring it. if you are giong to add to water leaf to this soup, do that and wait for 3 minutes before adding atama leaf.
5. Stir thoroughly and taste for seasoning; make sure all the ingredients are well mixed. if the soup is too thick, you can add a little water into it to moderate it.
6 Reduce the heat and allow the soup to sit on a low heat for 3- 5 minutes, then put off the fire and serve with fufu, semolina, eba, alebo or any swallow of your choice.