Let me introduce you to one of the most prolific and versatile soups in Nigeria – Pepper Soup. If you haven’t come across Nigerian Pepper Soup – let me break it down to you. This soup is a simple broth – a consommé comes to mind – with very complex flavours. It is usually made with chicken, fish, beef or assorted meat (which is a way of using up different cuts of meat including the innards), and the complex flavours are courtesy of the mix of traditional spices from which this dish derives its signature.
Another defining characteristic of this dish is in the name..Nigerians really take the name “pepper” in Pepper soup literally. Boy, this soup is as spicy as it gets. Many years ago when I lived in Nigeria, I could easily tolerate the heat in a traditional Nigerian pepper soup. However, living in the diaspora for the last few decades has tamed my “spicy tooth” somewhat (although my favourite lunch-time Thai restaurant Talacker Bar in Zürich would beg to disagree, as I am always requesting extra chilli), as two years ago when I visited Nigeria, I ended up spending the best part of an evening in the bathroom after consuming a rather spicy pepper soup at a local restaurant.
I talked about versatility earlier, and by that, I mean this soup is all things to all people. Every respectable pub or bar has its own house Pepper soup on tap – the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of Gulder or Guinness Beer. Wedding feasts, Naming ceremonies are not complete without Pepper Soup. The old folks will tell you it is the cure for malaria, colds, and/or any form of aches and pains that one may have. New mothers will often receive more than one bowl of pepper soup from relatives to speed up the post-birth recovery process.
I don’t think pepper soup possesses these supernatural abilities (whisper!), however, the spices used (African Negro pepper, Alligator Pepper and Jamaican Nutmeg) are ancient spices that have medicinal qualities that are beneficial to the general wellbeing – so maybe that’s it?The hot and spicy nature of this soup is one that lends itself well to being sipped on a cold winter’s evening, but for me, an African living in the Diaspora, Pepper Soup is so reminiscent of home, that the ability to recreate it in my alpine kitchen in Switzerland, is a symbolic amalgamation of two distinct facets of my life – and so, I have given myself the permission to enjoy my pepper soup on a warm summer-like day in month of May.
Knowing me as you do by now, I have “jazzed” it up – you know – given it that Afro-fusion twist that I am all about. For starters, I made the base with bone broth. Y’all know the benefits of bone broth right – so I kinda upped the ante on the traditional peppered-water base used in pepper soup. My meat of choice was roasted grass-fed fillet of beef, which was browned to seal in the juices and roasted till rare, topped with ramen noodles – because we just love ramen noodles in Nigeria!
Is this recipe right for you?