This spinach soup with smoked mackerel and prawns was inspired by “efo riro”, which is a local delicacy in the Yoruba speaking parts of Nigeria. This soup is cooked in a base of blended red peppers, scotch bonnet and onions; same as efo riro, but is missing the iru (fermented locust beans used as condiment), palm oil and dry fish. For this reason, I can't call it efo riro, or my mum may just disown me! It is one of her favourite dishes. My spinach soup with smoked mackerel and prawns is good for when one, two or all three ingredients are not easily accessible, but you still want delicious spinach soup.
This spinach soup with smoked mackerel and prawns is as versatile as efo riro; You can eat it with anything. It goes with a plate of rice, pasta, fufu, plantain; whatever catches your fancy really. The addition of smoked mackerel and prawns make it a complete meal; you can even eat it on its own.
Growing up in Nigeria, I have memories of my mum cooking spinach and other local leafy vegetables. She would first cook the chopped leaves for some minutes; pour the water away, before adding the vegetable to whatever sauce she was preparing. When I asked for the reason, she said she was getting rid the “oro”, which means poison. I can remember the big disagreements we had when I came back home while studying Food Science to advise that she shouldn’t be doing that because she was basically getting rid of some of the nutrients in the vegetable; like vitamin B2 and B6, which are water soluble.
I had learnt that it was better to blanch vegetables, instead of cooking it. My mum wouldn’t have any of that though, and I had to prepare it her way when I was at home. Thankfully, she came around in the end. Now, with what I know, and with the type of spinach that is locally available, I don’t blanch anymore. I just pour the vegetables straight into the pot, allow to wilt, and remove from heat.
Spinach is a nutrient dense vegetable, which is rich in numerous vitamins (A, E, B2 and B6), Minerals (Iron, calcium, magnesium copper and Manganese) and fibre. Cooking this vegetable is actually good because; It wilts down so you eat more, and it makes the nutrients more readily available for the body. The thing is to not drain the water, like my mum used to.
Raw spinach contains oxalic acid, which binds with essential minerals like Calcium. Heating the spinach breaks down the oxalic acid, which then makes the mineral more accessible.
How to Prepare Spinach Sauce
To prepare this spinach soup with smoked mackerel and prawns; I cooked all the other components of the dish and added the spinach last. I left it for just enough for the leaves to wilt, which was a few minutes, and then removed from heat. The spinach will leach liquid into the pot, while wilting – please enjoy it, it is full of goodness.
I used whole leaf baby spinach, but you can use the bigger leaves (Just chop to smaller size); or frozen spinach. The additions of smoked mackerel to this recipe means you can get your one portion of the recommended weekly intake of oily fish. But to be honest, I love smoked mackerel and always find an excuse to add it to meals. You can substitute the smoked mackerel with hot smoked salmon or any other fish.
Spinach soup with smoked mackerel and prawns is delicious. The smoky flavour of the mackerel, with the slight crunch of the spinach combined with the juiciness of the prawns is just delightful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Lastly, add salt only after you’ve added the smoked salmon. Smoked salmon is quite salty and some of the salt will leach into the sauce.
Spinach Sauce with Smoked Mackerel and Prawns
- 3 Red bell pepper
- 1 Scotch bonnet
- 2 Onions
- 2 tablespoon Oil
- 2 cloves Garlic chopped
- 2 fillets Smoked mackerel deboned
- 150 grams King prawns
- Salt to taste
- 300 grams Baby leaf spinach
- 1 handful Basil chopped
- Blend the bell peppers, scotch bonnet, and 1 onion in a blender.
- Heat the oil in a pan.
- Chop the remaining onions and cook in the oil until soft and translucent before adding the garlic.
- Pour in the blended mixture and allow to cook about 10 mins.
- Add the smoked mackerel and king prawns followed by salt.
- Allow to cook for 5 mins.
- Add the baby leaf spinach and allow to wilt.
- Remove from heat, pour in the chopped basil and serve.