One of the things I dreaded the most about being a married woman in my culture was how on earth I was going to handle the stress of 'sallah meat' alone.
'Don't be ridiculous, of course I'll help you,' says the then fiancé. But like the wise woman I pretend to be, I knew all promises made before 'I do' should be taken with a grain of salt.
See I come from a relatively populous family, so aikin naman sallah was quite the task! When we return from eid prayer, everyone changes into their 'work clothes' (old t shirts, torn pyjama pants etc. anything you wont mind getting bloodied).
Then the work begins! Axe wielding, meat slicing, manning the fire etc. And before you know it, everyone is in a shitty mood because isn't this supposed to be a day of celebration?
If this aikin nama was so difficult when we were plenty, imagine how hard it'll be when its just me in my home!
For the first few years I got a cheat pass; we'd slaughter our Ram in Kano and take it to the professionals who in turn will do all the dirty work for us and deliver our Dambu. Fried meat and kayan ciki (offals).
While that is the most convenient option, we often felt like we were missing out on all the Sallah memories; the smell of fried meat filling the house etc.
So like the idiot that I am, I decided in 2014, just 5 months after giving birth to Baby R that this year, I'll do it myself.
'Are you sure?' he asks, partly worried about my stress levels and partly about the quality of his sallah meat.
And so I did. With no nanny. Just a local butcher and my cousin (the husband was glued on discovery channel).
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
- Why are you doing this? Have you gone nuts! Abeg just pay someone and chill on Sallah day......... ......... .........(I'm kidding! I'm just trying to chase away the faint hearted ones. If you've survived my lame scare tactic then carry on, you trooper!)
- Clear out your freezer. You need space. Lots of it.
- Prepare your mind that this is going to be a Physically and Mentally tasking activity that may leave you tired and exhausted halfway through. If this is the case, you can always split your work into two and continue the day after.
NOW THE FUN BEGINS
Say hello to your Ram
We start by mapping out what I'm going to do with the lamb.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
I usually have 4 stations
THE BUTCHERY STATION: Outside
THE PREP STATION: Sink
THE COOKING STATION: Stove
THE STORAGE STATION: Counter Tops and Freezer
THE MESSY BUSINESS (OUTDOORS)
The husband slaughters the Ram as per tradition.
The Ram is allowed to bleed out for a while as the butcher and his assistant (usually my gateman) sharpen their knives and prepare the area for butchering.
We have a drain in the back yard so we spread some zinc roofing sheets on the floor and cover them with empty rice sacks. That's the "chopping board."
The water hose from the garden is moved to the back. I make sure the tanks are full because we need lots and lots of water.
Most of the cutting takes place downstairs in the backyard.
As soon as meat is ready, its brought upstairs in batches to the Prep station.
BATCH A. The Offals. (Kayan ciki, soye)
This is usually the first body part to be cleaned and washed (minus intestines).
We wash them again thoroughly with salt and water.
I separate my offals into three. I give away anything icky (heart, genitalia, intestines etc), I keep these:
I split them into two. We fry one batch and freeze the other half in serving sized bags for making pepper soup or assorted meat stew later.
Then transfer into a kasko (local frying pan thats like a giant wok)
Maggi stock cubes. Because, Nigerian.
Herbage is important. Hello Rosemary (optional)
Thyme, compulsory! Removes the gamey odour from offals
Add a cup of water to start up the cooking process. The offals themselves will start to release water from within.
When the water is dry, the offals will start releasing their own oils. This, together with the fat you added earlier will fry the offals.
If your offals are sticking to your pan, add some vegetable oil (a ladle at a time)
You have to stir fry at this point until the oil is fully released and you can let it fry.
Be careful because offals burn easily.After you've strained the offals from the oil, place the offals on a paper towel or newspaper to absorb all the excess fat.
Thats it! The Offals are the first meat served on Sallah day. BATCH B: FRIED MEAT Things get easier from here.
Then your meat on the bone goes into the oil, along with the other spices (thyme, rosemary, maggi, cloves, curry powder etc).
The meat will cook and then fry and get strained first with a colander, then paper towels and newspapers. It'll absorb all the fat out leaving you with delicious sallah meat.
PRO TIP. You can always boil your meat with all its spices in a separate stockpot before proceeding to fry it in the kasko. This will make the meat fry quicker, but requires more work. That's the method I'm using this year. So you'll fry the meat with all the spices first then transfer to your frying oil. This gives a crispier meat that doesn't need to be stored in the fridge.
I also make a salad and I package food for my family and neighbours in baskets for delivery.
I also make dessert on day two. Maybe Apple pie or a nice tart.
WATCH OUT FOR
PART II: DAMBUN NAMA
PART III: LAMB CHOPSThis post is way too long and I still haven't spoken about dambu
Book your helpers in advance. If you have a suya man in your neighbourhood ask him to send you one of his boys. Labour is quite cheap with them. 2k to 5k naira for a days work plus any extras (head, legs, intestines etc).
Have lots of basins and plastic tubs on hand for washing and transporting from station to station.