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Mmbufari (Traditional Efik Covers) Mmbufari are a key part of Efik hospitality: they are used to cover tables and trays of food, drinks and gifts, particularly at traditional ceremonies and special occasions. For certain classes, such as The Obong and The Etuboms, any such presentations must be done using brass trays known as Iko Okpoho The name, ‘mbufari,’ is derived from the production method: “joining bits and pieces for a larger outcome”

Mmbufari are essentially patchwork covers made from scrap material cut into various sizes and shapes (typically square, oblong, hexagonal or triangular). These pieces are arranged in pleasing patterns which could be symmetrical or asymmetrical, and then sewn together to form the required overall size. Generally, the scraps tend to be plain colours although patterns are sometimes used. Whatever the case, the material is always brightly coloured.

The covers are finished off with a plain backing which give them an almost quilted effect. Mmbufari came about as a result of the Efik’s early interaction with Europeans - missionaries to the Efik kingdom brought with them sewing skills which they taught to the women. These skills were appreciated and embraced by the women and became part of Efik culture.


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Special Thanks

With the blessing of His Royal Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, The Obong of Calabar and Paramount Ruler of The Efik Kingdom, I give special thanks to: Her Eminence, Ansa Ekpo Okon, Obongawan ke Efik for her generous and unflinching support for this project; and to Usem Edi Idut, Chief (Mrs) Grace Davies (Ekaka Nsidun, Henshaw Town) & Deaconess Chief (Mrs) Peggy Nakanda (JP) - Custodians of Efik Language, Culture and Traditions.

In addition, many friends and family have been supportive in helping me put together this cookbook. I am especially grateful to the following people for their input: Mimie Oshodin Okuta Andrew A. Adelusi Bunmi Mustapha Emeka ‘Ed’ Keazor Michael Lawanson Mimi Ekpe Rita Nko Edet Ruona Godwin Agbroko-Meyer Samuel Homer-Williams and last but not least, my mother, Obi Asika. Dedicated to my late father, Dada Iweka, and to my children, Ishbel & Tegan.


About the Author

Nky Iweka lives in London where she is fortunate enough to be exposed to food from many countries. Over the last few years, she has concentrated on new ways of presenting Nigerian food with a view to bringing it to the attention of a wider audience. She is fast gaining a reputation for her unique take on Nigerian food. In this, the first in a planned series of several regional cookbooks, she hopes to show the diversity and variety of Nigerian food to both Nigerians and non-Nigerians. Her two young daughters are her biggest fans AND her fiercest critics. To Ishbel and Tegan, my ever-obliging sous chefs and tasters, thank you. Mummy loves you. This is for you.


The Efik Larder Set out over the next few pages are ingredients typically found in an Efik kitchen. Most of these are available in African food stores abroad. Traditionally, food was flavoured with ground crayfish, salt and fresh and dried chillies. Nowadays, many people also use commercially available stock cubes. Although none of the recipes in this book use stock cubes, they may be added according to one’s taste.

Crayfish. Actually dried shrimp, it is used for flavouring and thickening and may be bought whole or ground. Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in a cool dry place or in the freezer. Before using, spread crayfish out to dry under the sun (or in an oven with low heat) and pick over to remove any debris. Grind whole crayfish using a coffee mill or blender; or more traditionally using a mortar and pestle or grinding stone.

Waterleaf - a fast-growing and widely available vegetable across Nigeria, it is a key ingredient in the ubiquitous afang and edikang ikong soups and may also be used in other soups and pottages. As the name implies, the leaves are full of water. Therefore, no additional water is necessary when cooking it. Simply place in a pot on a low heat, cover and allow it to steam in its own juices. The leaves are picked off the stems (any flowers or seeds are discarded), washed and finely chopped. Add the chopped leaves as directed in the recipe. Spinach may be used as a substitute.

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Atama. A slightly bitter herb which is used to flavour Abak-Atama Soup - available fresh or dry (the latter is not as bitter). Use sparingly, particularly if using fresh leaves.

Ibaba. Grenade-shaped pods which contain creamy round seeds used for thickening the eponymous soup, ‘Efere Ibaba’. Place the pods in a pot with some water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 10-15 minutes until the water turns black and the shell softens. Peel the ibaba and grind the seed to a fine powder which is then used to thicken soups to the desired consistency. Alternatively roast the pods, peel and grind. Ready-ground Ibaba powder is also available.

Smoked Fish. A key ingredient which adds flavour, texture and colour. Any type of fish may be used although catfish is probably the most popular amongst the Efiks. Clean by scrubbing the skin with a thick paste of salt mixed with cold water. Rinse thoroughly and break into large pieces, removing the bones and skin. These can either be discarded or boiled with other fish bones to make a fish stock. Store in a cool dry place away from sunlight or in the freezer.

Palm Oil. Extracted from the fruits of the oil palm, it is liberally used in Efik cuisine, providing colour and a distinctive taste. Full of vitamins and other phytonutrients, it also contains high density lipoprotein (HDL) which is said to lower cholesterol. Store in a cool place to avoid your palm oil going rancid.


Scotch Bonnet Chillies (Fresh Pepper). Very hot and aromatic, these are either blended or finely chopped. They also make an eye-catching garnish.

Ntong (Scent Leaf). A highly aromatic herb which is added towards the end of cooking. Wash thoroughly and pick the leaves off the stems. Rinse and either chiffonade (by cutting into long fine strips) or chop finely just before it is needed to avoid blackening. Holy basil or common basil may be used as a substitute in combination with common mint (two parts to one).

M’fi (Periwinkles). Efiks love seafood and justifiably so, given its abundance in the region. M’fi with its distinctive conical shells shows up in many dishes and is used either whole or shelled. Whatever the case, they must be thoroughly cleaned first. Clean them by placing in a container or pot which has a tight-fitting lid. Add plenty of cold water and shake vigorously to dislodge sand and debris. Rinse using a colander and repeat the process until the water runs clean. Shell the m’fi by chopping the tails off and using a hook to pull the mollusc out (they may also be bought ready-shelled). Trim off the bile sac. Whole m’fi is simply prepared by topping and tailing them with a meat clever. Smooth off the rough edges with the blunt edge of a smaller knife.

Dried Chillies (Dried Pepper). Sun-dried hot red chillies ground to a fine powder and used to add flavour, colour and heat.

Iko (‘Curry Leaf’, Partminger). Similar in appearance and taste to tarragon (which may be used as a substitute). Use your fingers to roughly tear the washed leaves straight into the pot just before serving. It is particularly delicious in fish and seafood dishes.

Shaki, (Saki, Tripe). Generally beef tripe, it is used to add texture. Although it is regarded as “poor man’s meat”, it is shows up in many dishes along with other cuts of meat.

Fresh prawns. These are the most commonly used crustaceans, although crabs and shrimps also feature in some dishes. All tend to be used already dressed. The shells may be discarded or used in preparation of fish stocks.

Fresh Fish caught from the sea and many creeks fresh fish is prevalent in Efik cookery. Catfish (obun) is bountiful and often used - the pale skin of the wild fish shown here differentiates it from its pond-bred counterparts. Wild catfish is also less fatty than farmed catfish.

To dress the tripe, wash thoroughly with cold water to remove any foreign matter. Place in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water for a minute or so. Remove and scrape off the dark layer with the blunt edge of a knife. Rinse and cut into pieces.

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Quintessentially Efik Recipes  

Introducing a SNEAK PREVIEW of 'Quintessentially Efik Recipes'; the first in our Foods of Nigeria Series. Pre-order on https://www.faceboo...

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