I am ashamed to say that the pictures above document my first attempt at cooking with a stock~fish head.  Instead of getting Chidebere to cut the head up with a saw in the market, I took the head home and fought with it.

It was a very undignified battle.

I would not recommend this as the most intelligent way to get inside a stockfish head.
As with many delicacies, I came to appreciate the dried head of cod very late.  I had made a habit of  buying five belly pieces of stockfish for N1000 until one day I was convinced to buy “a cod head with ears” for N1500.  





















It turned out I was cheated that day.  The head in reality costs nothing more than N700~N800.

“A cod head with ears” stands for a sizeable stockfish head that has two flaps of flesh attached on either sides of the head.  These flaps give the stockfish more weight, more meat, more value.

The stockfish head air dries very cleanly and with less fish~aroma than the belly.  In the market, the head of the stockfish is sold by weight; hand weighing not scale weighing.
Mumsie’s stockfish arrive in Jute bags from Abba with her initials N.G.A. printed in green ink on them.    She and her children then sit for hours hand weighing the heads and label1ing them with 1s 2s or 3s.  1 is for the heaviest head.
The smell of the stockfish head is dense, powerfully fishy, yet with strong hints of sand and sometimes even the smell of sea water.  My soup stock pot is typically a combination of a quarter of a head of cod and half a head of smoked catfish.  The smoked catfish head holds it own with an exaggerated oiliness, its own fishiness distinct and mouthwatering...sometimes even with suggestions of burning shortcrust pastry.
Mumsie’s wall is filled with tabulations of stockfish sales entering hundreds of thousands of Naira; shows that stockfish is very serious business.  On the top of the wall are hooks that Norwegian fishermen leave in the mouths of the cod because rescuing them might destroy the head of the stockfish.  They also are for sale.  The interesting thing is that Ijaw fishermen treasure these hooks.  They won’t be leaving them in the mouth of fish.

It took cooking with just one head of stock-fish to be converted and addicted to having stock fish heads in my stock pot.  At the same time, I could never include a stockfish belly in my stock.  The smell in comparison to the head is so overwhelmingly strong... that strong that when the boiling of the belly is done, the water is immediately discarded and the sink washed thoroughly at our house.  

Yet I hear that some people like and want that very smell and use stockfish belly water for peppersoup.

It seems an uncomfortable contradiction that the head and body of one fish should smell so very different.

I’ve heard people say that stockfish has no bones.   I think it is probably a poetic way of saying that stockfish boils down to soft bones that swell up with soup and can be chewed; gelatinous flesh, layers of fish that slide tantalisingly between the teeth.  This is however not the highest recommendation for stockfish.  It is the depth of flavour that it releases:  The powerful punch of Umami: The confident partnership with palm oil, dawadawa,  good salt, a little ginger, lemongrass that gives a fragrance beautiful enough to tear the seams of ones stomach apart.
Chidebere cuts the head up with a great deal of sweating.  One head equals at least four pots of soup.

The bones, gills, lemongrass, are fished out to leave a smooth golden stock perfect for cooking any soup that one desires.
Long-w-throat