Veggie "Swallow" (Gari/Eba)

Funke Koleosho's Veggie "Swallow
In Nigerian cuisine, most side dishes or soup accompaniments are oddly referred to as "swallows". I guess mainly because these foods are not chewed but rather swallowed in small morsels with a variety of vegetable soups/stews!

Now, this may sound unusual to non-Nigerians (or non West Africans for that matter), especially since it is considered that chewing your food has many advantages, especially for the process of food digestion. The whole idea of swallowing, I have been told, is to keep you "fuller for longer"....hehehe (you see, this concept of feeling fuller for longer has existed for eons in Nigeria, compared to the new fad we see in today's culinary arena).

These "swallows" are gelled doughs produced from one or a combination of carbohydrate rich crops such as yams, plantain, cassava, coco-yam, rice, corn/maize, potatoes etc. These crops are processed into grains or flour and then cooked in hot/boiling water until a smooth paste is achieved.

Nigerians love their "Swallows"
The typical Nigerian never jokes with their "swallow". It is thought that an average Nigerian will have a "swallow" at least once a day. Some older generation folks in fact, consider all other types of food, that is not a swallow, as snacks, and it wont be unusual for them to ask "when are we going to have our real meal", if they haven't had something to "swallow" in a day!

Gari/Eba Veggie Swallow served with Stewed Spinach & Fish
I personally, do enjoy having a "swallowed" meal now and then, but no more than twice or thrice a week. This is because I feel eating more "swallow" per week will not suit my mostly sedentary life style. The fact is all swallows are really rich and high in carbohydrates and due to their subjected processing, most of their vital minerals and vitamins have been lost.

The regular consumption of Nigerian "swallowed" meals is often linked to obesity and type two diabetes and I tend to agree because as I mentioned earlier, these foods are very high in simple carbohydrates and eating too much of them does not suit a sedentary lifestyle. You need to be a hard/manual worker to get away with eating large portions of swallows daily! Because that way you expend all the excess energy.

Since these swallowed meals are undeniably popular and cannot (and should not) be taken off menu permanently, the caveat is to look for ways to make them healthier and more wholesome. I have often wondered that, if these foods originated in the western world, by now there will be so many variations of them; incorporating all manner of healthy twists/concepts....I imagine there would be things like organic gari, fortified gari, wholemeal tuwo ....etcetera.

It is not too late though to incorporate these health driven concepts and after discovering the addition of cauliflower to one of Nigeria's most popular swallows gari/eba, in Tuedon Morgan's health and wellness group, I went to town with the addition of different vegetables to my swallows. Name it, I have added it. As one would expect, some have turned out good while others I shan't be trying again.

Gari/Eba Veggie Swallow

Why you should "Swallow" Differently
  • You increase the nutritional profile of your swallow
  • You increase the bulk of your swallow without packing the calories, filling you up more.
  • You increase fibre content of your swallow 
  • You increase the variety of your diet
  • You make visually attractive meals (the contrasting colours of the swallow and the vegetables is simply gorgeous...)

Things to bear in mind
  • Not all vegetables are suitable to add to your swallow but with several trials you will discover those that are most suitable for your palate. 
  • I found that vegetables with no overpowering taste of their own worked well, such as brockley, cauliflower, cabbage (both white and red), spinach and ugwu.
  • You do not need to precook the vegetables and they must be chopped finely to enable them to cook quickly
  • Do not add any salt to the vegetables
  • I have only successfully tried this out on gari/eba, pounded yam made from poundo flour and tuwo 'n' shinkafa (rice)
  • I started off by adding a small portion of vegetables but then gradually increased the vegetable/gari ratio. The more the vegetables the healthier your swallow gets. I increased the vegetables to the point where the authentic taste of the swallow can still be perceived.
Trust me, you would not notice much difference in taste...(if blind folded, you cannot tell apart which has added vegetables! Just for the health benefits that this concept promises, surely you owe it to your health to try it out....

What you need
  • Gari granules
  • Some of your favourite soup/stew such as stewed spinach, ogbonna, okro etc
  • Vegetables (in this recipe I used brockley but you can use any other vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, spinach or ugwu)
  • Water

What to do
  1. Wash your vegetables and fine chop. Bring some water to the boil in a large pot and add the finely chopped vegetables. 
  2. Give the vegetable a swirl in the pot to avoid settling and ensure even distribution 
  3. Then add the gari granules in a steady/continuous flow until it hardens and turns in to a paste. 
  4. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon while adding the gari to avoid lumps developing. 
  5. You should continue to add gari until it gels up/harden enough as you prefer, add hot water to adjust consistency. 
  6. Stir well to even-out the gari into a smooth paste. 
  7. Serve with your favourite vegetable soup.

Veggie Eba/Gari with stewed spinach

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