The other day, my author friend Tara Woods Turner asked me about my favourite yam recipes and it got me craving pounded yam. Pounded yam is yam that’s been boiled and pounded into a dough using a mortar and pestle. It is a very noisy, energy-consuming and time-consuming process but so very worth it when you have each morsel with your favourite soup slide down your throat. Whilst I was salivating about eating hand-pounded yam, I looked at my smoothie maker and had this idea that I could actually make pounded yam in it.
It had been a good few years since I last had pounded yam after discovering that the pounded yam flour available in the UK did not contain 100% yam flour but had other additives including potatoes.
I don’t normally buy yam in the UK because the ones I see here are not Nigerian yams. Nigerian yams can be really massive, even a small Nigerian yam is bigger than what we get in the UK and I find the yams in the UK to not be as delicious as those in Nigeria. Once in a really long while, I would buy one yam to make yam porridge, also know as asaro.
Anyhoos, I recently bought some yam to make asaro but as I was totally craving pounded yam, here’s how I made pounded yam using my smoothie maker.
1) Prepare the yam
I cut the bark off the yam and diced it into small pieces. The cut yam gets a bit sticky and it is important to not let it touch any part of your body other than your palm. As a child, when my mother was teaching me how to cook, I learned the hard way. The sticky bits causes a lot of itchiness.
2) Boil the yam
Wash your diced yam in clean water to make sure that there are no traces of soil or bark on it. This is not so relevant as the UK yams have little or no soil left on them. After washing the diced yam, put them in a pot and fill the pot with water till it covers the yam completely. Unless you intend to eat the cooked yam, there’s no need to add salt. Boil till the diced yam is really soft.
3) Smoothie maker
Half fill your smoothie maker with the piping hot diced yam. If there’s any water left in the pot from when you boiled the yam, add some of it into the smoothie maker. Under no condition should you use cold water. If you do not have any water left in your pot, boil some water and add it to your yam to about half-way up the height of the yam.
Blitz the yam slowly and regularly. When needed, take out your smoothie bowl and give it a shake. You need only as much hot water as is necessary to be able to blitz the yam without spoiling your smoothie maker but not enough to make it runny.
4) Make into a dough
Transfer your blitzed yam into a pot and add a tiny bit of hot water to the pot beforehand, so the yam doesn’t stick to the pot. When I did this the first time, it reminded me that all yam are equal but some yams are more equal than others. When my mother (may she rest in peace) wanted to make pounded yam, she had a specific type of yam that she bought. I knew what it looked like by eye but I cannot describe it fully to anyone else. When my mother wanted yam that’s just for boiling, then she would consider other types of yam. I used to imagine this was known by everyone but alas, I realise that it isn’t the case.
This reminds me of the Yoruba saying that it is the mother who trains the child Iya lo n to’mo. All these little snippets of information that we learned from our own mothers seem like they would be lost forever. Just like how I know the local spices for Nigerian peppersoup and how they look like but cannot tell you their names.
Anyhoos, using our wonderful UK yam, I realised that it didn’t have a lot of starch in it. No matter how much I stirred and left it on the fire, it just didn’t harden, so I had to improvise. I had some fine semoline at home and used just enough of it to help the pounded yam form into a hard dough.
I had some yam left over and I tried to flake it to add to the blitzed yam and it didn’t work. Instead it gave the blitzed yam seeds, also known as ko ko.
5) Scoop, mould and serve
How you present your dish is just as important as how you cook it. I didn’t do anything fancy with mine as I was already so hungry.
Whilst I didn’t end up with 100% pounded yam, I still enjoyed the authentic pounded yam taste and so did my little human. My little human’s favourite soup is Okro (also known as okra, lady fingers, ila) because it makes each morsel slide down her throat without any friction.
Do note though that the art of pounding yam is completely different to mashing yam and are NOT interchangeable. Pounding yam involves a complete change of state of the starch/carbohydrate in the yam. The more starch the yam has, the better than pounded yam.
Voila! Pounded yam 😀
I’ve summarised the process of how to make pounded yam using a smoothie maker in an infographic that you can easily share with your friends and family.
Now, I have to be honest and say that my smoothie maker has served over and above what a smoothie maker would do. I’m just so grateful that is has not yet packed up considering all the things I put it through.
That said, I imagine that if I had a food processor, it would be a whole lot more straightforward to make the pounded yam and I may not even need to add the semolina to thicken it. What do you think? Now I’ll be praying that someone would gift me a smoothie maker to put my theory to the test. If it did work, mehn, I would ask everyone I know coming from Nigeria to bring me yam. If you have not tasted hand pounded yam using Nigerian yam, you would not understand why it is one of the country’s favourite dishes.
Anyhoos, in the meantime, what do you think about my process on how to make pounded yam using a smoothie maker? Please leave a comment below.