There’s a predictability that comes at meal times that can make such periods tedious. Meals become a chore and there’s really no spark at the table. You can turn this around by taking bold chances in the kitchen.
I have been puttering in my Flab (Food lab) over he past couple of months since my last post and I have developed some truly amazing recipes using Nigerian staple foods.
A good example is the ube fruit. Ube is also known as bush butter or African pear. It is native to West Africa between Eastern Nigeria and Angola. Ube can be cooked by steeping it in hot water or roasting it. Traditionally it is paired with corn for a popular Eastern Nigerian snack but my interesting take on it converts it to a delicious nutritious spread or dip; a cross between a guacamole and a tapanade.
Ingredients for Ube spread/dip
½ lime (just the juice)
2 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbs olive oil
½ cup of fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt (optional)
½ cup Flaked cooked fish (preferably a mild tasting one) (optional)
3 spring onions
Steep ubes in boiling hot water for 5 minutes, drain and carefully scrape the cooked flesh into the a blender or food processor. Juice half a lime and add it in with black pepper, chopped spring onions, parsley, peeled garlic, flaked fish (optional).
Blend all ingredients in the blender/food processor until it forms a paste and then carefully add in the olive oil pulsing the blender/food processor until the paste loosens and becomes smooth. Taste for salt and serve.
This spread works well on a tortilla (or any flat bread) with a salad piled on: pictured below or as a delicious dip for your favourite snacks.
You could also try stuffing tomatoes with the dip for an instant delicious snack or canape.
Stuffed Tomatoes Ingredients
6 firm ripe tomatoes
4 tbs of soft any soft mild cheese (like brie)
2 spring onions
4 tbs of sweet corn
4 tbs Ube spread (see recipe above)
Ground Black pepper
Halve the tomatoes vertically and scoop out the pulp. Chop the spring onions and set aside. Then scatter some sweet corn at the bottom of each tomato reserving some for the topping. Scoop even portions of the ube spread into each tomato shell. Then add even bit of cheese, sprinkle with the reserved sweet corn.
Garnish each stuffed tomato with the chopped spring onions. To finish off, sprinkle each tomato with freshly ground black pepper. Now enjoy!
This spread really makes for a guilt free indulgence!
Another great Nigerian food is plantain. The plantain is a staple meal in every Nigerian home and is so versatile that you can eat it ripe or unripe, boil, roast, and fry it. Boiled plantain serves as a great base for the Nigerian pottage, which could include any combination of yams and beans.
When fried plantain is known as dodo; a beloved meal by almost anyone who has eaaten it. Roasted plantain is a snack commonly enjoyed with a side of peanuts; roasting it intensifies its flavour.
But have you considered using it in a curry? The results might surprise you.
Ingredients for Nigerian Flair to a curry
3 tbs hot curry powder
3 cloves of garlic
4 cups chicken stock
2 blades of lemon grass
2 ripe plantains
2 tbs vegetable oil
4 hard-boiled eggs.
Chop onions and garlic finely. Peel and cube plantains and potatoes (keep the sizes even). Heat a pan with the oil; add finely chopped onions and garlic. After 2 minutes, add plantains and potatoes and give it a good stir.
Make a thick paste of the curry and add to the pan, coating the contents evenly. Then pour in the chicken stock and add the lemon grass. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve over boiled eggs with cooked rice of your choice.
Please note: the Curry powder used in this recipe was quite spicy and the chicken stock was well seasoned so no salt was required. Adjust your recipe according to the salt required.
In the serving suggestion below, the curry is served with jasmine rice and a side of cucumber which helps to cool and cleanse the palette.
Another amazing experiment was the one I made with pap. Also known as ogi or akamu. A fellow foodie friend (Dooney) and I loathe the stuff so we challenged each other to come up with recipes that we could abide. She made a creme brûlée inspired dessert and I made a pudding type dessert that was surprisingly good.
Substitute yams for potatoes as I did in the recipe below; or use both potatoes and yams.
Crispy Rosemary Chicken and Fries
8 chicken thighs
4 potatoes, quartered
3 slices of yam cut lengthways into chips
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Place chicken yams and potatoes into a large bowl. Pour olive oil over them, and stir to coat. Scatter the chicken and potato pieces in a large baking dish, or cookie sheet with sides. Sprinkle with rosemary, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, uncovered. Baste during the last 15 minutes for extra crispness.
Please note that the original recipe I followed called for chicken thighs but I used boneless chicken breasts which cooks a lot faster. So my cooking time was reduced.
Serve accompanied by a salad and dip of your choice.
These recipes are so easy to follow that it should be a crime not to attempt them. So go on and add a surprising twist to your meal times.