The head of the goat has traditionally been discarded, and not used in meals by most ethnic groups in Nigeria. But relatively recently, the traditional dish of the Igbo people of southern Nigeria, made of the goat skull cracked into small pieces, and cooked in its brains has captured the hearts and stomachs of the Nigerians, and can now be found in most restaurants in the country.
It may sound a bit put offish, and it is not a dish that appeals to everybody, since some people don't fancy finding the eyes, ears or tongues of the animal in their dish. And also, it usually causes terrible diahrea in everybody who eats it for the first time, since a laxative leaf is part of the mixture.
But it is not only good looking once prepared, it also tastes very good. It looks like small pieces of meat with lots of bone lying in a thick stew in a small wooden mortar. It has a very distinct, strong and spicy taste, and is eaten with the fingers.
Getting the ingredients
You will of course need a goat head. Samuel Chuks has some advice for us:
(Some helpful hints for the translation: Naija = Nigerian; Na = is; No = know; Boku = are in sizeable number; Oyibo = white person)
"Isi ewu (Goat Head) boku boku for Yankee Doodle landieo. If you come
Alabama, Big Man Size goat na only $30 because Naija no plenty here. If
you go Atlanta, Georgia, Man Size goat na from $90-$150. You no say i
live for Atlanta for about 7years. When you go the farm to buy goat
early in the morning like 6 am., Naija don boku dey fight for goat. The
farmer, one oyibo man just do small economics for hin head say, since
Naija boku wey want goat, and na only me dey sell, price of goat just
Adey, this is no kidding time, I am dead serious, Goat boku, for
Wherever there is a Naija, there must be Goat."
In your hometown, you will probably need to go through another process to get the head of the goat. Most farms that have got goats will probably be able to sell you the head of the goat. Maybe you can get it for free, since it is sometimes thrown away.
You will also need the following:
3 fresh chilli pepper
8 fresh tomatoes
1 clove garlic
I teaspoon peppersoup seasoning
3 tbs. lemon juice
4 tbs. tomato puree
200 ml/7floz palm-oil
1 lt/2pints stock or water
1 onion (sliced)
Chopped wild mint
Palm oil may be a bit difficult to get. Palm oil is the red, acrid tasting and viscuous oil extracted from the nuts of the palm tree. No, not the coconuts, they only grow on coconut palms. The real palm trees, which look much like the coconut palm, but have got thicker and vertically rising stems, have got a large number of small red nuts with a very oily skin and small hard kernel inside the nut. Palm oil is retrieved by mashing the oily skin to a pulp, and collecting the oil that flows from the skin.
You can get this at any African shop, and I am sure that there is one near your home. Ask the next African you meet, and he might know.
If the goathead you get is still hairy, you will need to place it over an open fire and singe it. You then scrape off the hairs, and continue to singe it. In the end, you should end up with a blackened and hairless goat head. Note, this process will cause a terrible stink. Burning goat hair smells very strongly and the odour sticks around long, so it is better done outside.
Wash the head thoroughly to remove the residue ash. Chop the head into small pieces with an axe. Alternatively, you can use a wooden mortar to crush it. Depending on your taste, you can either discard the brains, or lay it by the side to use in the stew.
After the pieces of meat are gathered together in a pot, pour in the lemon juice, and let it soak in for 15 minutes. Grind the onions, garlic, chillies and tomatoes, sliced onions, chillies, stock and seasonings in, and place everything together in large pot filled with water. Cook for 45 minutes. Stir it frequently. Add the ground chillies, tomatoes, onions, palm-oil and wild mint. Bring to boil and allow it simmer gently for 30-40 minutes until the meat is tender
The meal is traditionally served in a small mortar made of wood. For reasons of economy probably, the bottom of the mortar is as thick as the scooped out hollow part. If you do not have this mortar, a bowl will also do.
The meal is eaten with the fingers, each piece of meat taken out at random, examined to make sure it is nothing gross like an eye or the ear, and then chewed and swallowed.
If you bite into the eye of the goat, liquid usually squirts out. So be careful with that. Also, the laxative leaf called Nton Okwu has been left out of the ingredient list. Even though it adds an interesting and pleasing taste, the after effects do not make it worth the trouble. But if you insist on adding this ingredient, go to your local African shop and you might find it.
It can take half a day to get everything put together and done, and I find that it is a lot easier to simply go out to an African restaurant and ask for "Isi Ewu" or "Goat Head". I would advice you to do the same, and not bother cooking it yourself, unless you really felt the need to do so.
Be a bit adventurous. Go on, try some goat head.