Sunday, August 29, 2010

The land is green...

Our Country is rich! We are really blessed and each day, I am proud to be a Nigerian. I have learnt not to dwell on the bad and to focus on the good. I will make the best out of the opportunities available and not whine about 'this' and 'that' not working.

It was with that mindset that i entered the Ketu and Mile 12 Market during the week. Part of my job is to do a market survey, every now and then to verify prices, and also to see whats available and in season then make adjustments as items in season are always cheap.

Our first stop was Ketu Market. It had rained the day before and so the market was really muddy and messy, it would have been even worse if it had rained that day. As i went into the market, walking from section to section, i kept thinking that i would fall and then it wouldn't just be my feet that would be covered in mud and a stench...!

I slipped a number of times and overall, i didn't quite enjoy the Ketu market experience that day and was in a hurry to leave even though there was much to see; endless mounds of orange, guava, pineapple, pawpaw, watermelon, banana e.t.c and at unbelievably cheap prices.

We usually buy more things at Mile 12 and so we left for Mile 12. On arrival, i realised that Mile 12 was even messier! What to do? There was no turning back for me as i really wanted to see what was available and the prices. I immediately got myself a pair of boots and entered the market! I enjoyed every minute of my being there, exploring every part of the market.

Its amazing the quantity of food that is brought into that market on a daily basis, with different parts of the market dedicated to different food items, from tomatoes to onions, pepper, cabbage, lettuce, pumpkin, garlic, ginger, carrot, cucumber, green pepper, parsley, spinach, celery, the list is endless! Its amazing the different items grown on our soil! This made me stop and think out loud 'the land is green, it really is'! There is so much that remains untapped and so much yet to be explored in our country!

I had been miserable at Ketu market and because i did not focus on what to do to manage the situation, all i could see was the bad which made me think i would fall and in effect caused me to slip often. When i got to Mile 12, the situation was worse and i did not want the Ketu market experience to repeat itself and so had to think up something to remedy the situation.

When life gives me lemons, I will remember to make lemonade...!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tinned Sardines and a Salad...

I love tinned sardines and have loved them for as long as I can remember which is when they sold at 3naira or was it 5naira per tin? Then, when you opened a tin of sardines (popularly called Titus; the brand name) , the quantity was often enough to go round. If we were lucky, we’ll open it and there’ll be 7 or 8, enough to go round everyone at home, one each! … oh the good old days…! Then came the brand of sardines named ‘queen of the coast’, they penetrated the market, offering a lower price but even though it still tasted nice, as children, we ate it with fear and scepticism for its name... I can’t help laughing when I remember! Now its about 120naira and you’ll be lucky if you got 3!

After work yesterday, I got home yearning for a refreshing, quick and easy salad, no stress and no cooking required… The sardine, tomato and onion salad has never failed me and didn’t yesterday. The tin I opened had 2 large sardines so I made 2 portions of salad, one for dinner and one packed and refrigerated for breakfast at work. So refreshing…

I opened up a tin of sardines and poured into a small bowl

Took a few bunches of lettuce leaves, soaked them in a mild Milton solution for a few minutes after cutting off the root and rinsing out the sand, rinsed out drained and cut them into large slices

Cut a generous amount of tomatoes into wedges

Halved and sliced a medium yellow onion

Pitted some black olives

Mixed the lettuce with tomato, onion and pitted black olives and some ground black pepper, placed the mix on a plate

Topped with a sardine, drizzled with the oil from the sardines and garnished with lemon slices!

P.S. The very fresh lettuce you see is from one of my customers I call Alfa. He is situate at the small market under the bridge at Ozumba Mbadiwe, very close to the Lagos Law school. He also sells a selection of fresh vegetable and herbs, from spinach to rocket, mint, dill, basil, parsley, spring onions etc.

There, you can also get a selection of fresh seafood from prawns to shrimps, lobsters, calamari and a wide variety of fishes….

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Traditional Sunday Lunch; The Native's Rice

I made this on sunday but only got round to posting breakfast . 'Move over, i stand tall!' is what i imagine this rice meal would say to jollof rice in an animation! I actually think this meal is more indigenous to us Nigerians because it is full of our traditional flavours and ingredients and is 'delish'!

As i ate, i was filled with nostalgia for my childhood when Mama Silver (as we fondly called our nanny, Mama Gold being the one before her who was truly a gold nanny and only left us due to old age), loved making and eating this meal with her hand! She called it 'Osikapa Nwa Nwogbe' and made it so many times! I was a child then and was never there when she cooked it so i only remember the flavours but luckily was able to figure it out... It is so easy to make and is completely fail proof! Here goes;

Serve 8 -10 (you can halve the recipe, i'm just so used to cooking in large quantities as i like to freeze in small bowls so its easy to pick up and warm up when needed)

1 kg long grain rice
75 grams okporo (big crayfish; topped and tailed then rinsed)
50 grams ground crayfish
400 mls palm Oil
6 Stock cubes (Knorr or Maggi etc.)
4 medium sized pieces of dryfish, panla or smoked fished (deboned and rinsed throughly with warm water)
Salt and Pepper
25 grams scent leave (a.k.a. alulu/effirin/mint; thinly sliced)

Cook rice in a large amount of boiling water until almost done (but still having a little bite to it to accommodate a few more minutes cooking time).

Drain and run the rice over cold water then return drained rice to the pot. Over medium/low heat add all the ingredients except the scent leave, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, stir and cover the pot.

Once the rice heats through (this should only take a few minutes so watch it closely), stir in scent leave, turn off heat and serve.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Waking up to homemade yoghurt....

I woke up to homemade yogurt this morning. I have been looking forward to making my own yogurt for a while now and finally did, it was a success! Didn't think i'll get it right at my first try but i did, it was so easy to make and it tasted fresh and oh so yummy, way way better than store bought! Goodbye to store bought, artificially flavoured, preservative loaded and heaven knows what else, yogurt!

I love yogurt and the benefits of eating/drinking yogurt cannot be overemphasised. However, that love was almost killed by a certain 'popular yogurt' and thats probably why I am so excited at being able to make mine.

One lovely saturday evening, a few years ago at law school and about 3 weeks to my bar finals, i took a stroll to a nearby supermarket and picked up a few things including this 'popular yogurt'. I got to my room, opened the pack/bottle and drank. Immediately it went down, i started feeling uncomfortable and bloated, so bloated that i could not eat anything else and went straight to bed. When i woke up the next morning, i felt feverish, nauseated and a loss of appetite.

I struggled with it the whole day and by monday morning, there was no hiding the fact that i was very ill! I packed my things and went home, i was later taken to the hospital and my doctor confirmed that i had food poisoning and was subsequently loaded with drugs and injection. It took one full week before i was myself again but was thankful because I know that it could have been worse....

Since then, i thread with caution when it comes to buying yogurt and have never tasted that 'popular yogurt' again to this day. There was great satisfaction when i sat down to eat this yogurt, relishing every spoon, without hesitating to think whether or not it could poison me, which is the ordeal i have been through since that incident which i can now laugh about!

To make my homemade yogurt, all you need is 75 grams bacteria culture (very good fresh yogurt)*, 125 grams powdered milk and 750 mls boiling water;

In a medium bowl, weigh in the powdered milk, then pour in the boiling water and allow to cool until your little finger (the pinky) deeped inside can stand the heat for 10 seconds, about 45 °C (but what else can one do in the absence of a food thermometer!). At this point, add the bacteria culture to the bowl of milk, cover and tranfer gently to a cooler without shaking. Leave in the cooler (do not open so you dont loose the heat) overnight or for 6-8 hours. You can then open the cooler, bring out the bowl, stir the yogurt and refrigerate until ready to use.

This recipe makes close to a litre of yogurt.

* Remember to leave a small quantity from the yogurt you make for your next batch.

I had mine with a quick orange sauce i made but you can have yours on its own or with nuts, granola, muesli, a variety of fruit sauces etc.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Edika-Ikong; My Soup!

Been trying to think up a sophisticated name for this soup but none seems to come to mind so I’ll just leave it as is, in all its ‘virtue’! I love Edika Ikong because it is so versatile…. I personally enjoy it with various accompaniments or on its own, I never tire of it! It is easy to make and as I usually cook for the week on Saturday’s, it’s the soup I resort to on a Saturday when I’m not in the ‘cooking zone’ and all I really want to do is to relax and chill but can’t afford to otherwise, my household will be hungry during the week!

What I do is to make one huge pot of Edika Ikong! By the time we have boiled yam on Monday, Rice on Tuesday, boiled plantain Wednesday, ‘swallow’ Thursday and spaghetti Friday (Ok, maybe not, I may do a quick pottage or noodle stir-fry somewhere in-between!) with loads of Edika Ikong packed full with its ‘vegetably’ goodness, my household would have had a wholesome dinner all week with no stress!

I actually think what makes this soup is the water leave at the beginning, which is what gives it that melt-in-the-mouth feel. Oh how I love the look, feel and taste of fresh vegetables! My last supply was from my mum who gave me a ‘bucket load’ as she had found them very cheap at Otta market and had thought of me and got them (aint I lucky)! I just could’t resist taking a picture after plucking them from their stems (I cook them this way without chopping as they just melt away).

Then there is the palm oil in the end which just brings it all together…. Edika-Ikong is a dry soup, one in which little or no water is used. I figured over time that the right proportion of water leave to Ugu (pumpkin leaves) that worked for me came to approximately 3 parts of water leave to 2 parts of ugu in weight. I know we Nigerians aren’t used to weighing out things to cook, it works for us most times but I then found that it’s why my meals taste different most of the time and so I recently made it a habit to weigh my ingredients out even when I’m cooking Nigerian meals (except when I happen to be in a mad rush and don’t mind the outcome but I always seem to care! Maybe overtime, I’ll learn to ‘gauge’ the quantity with my eye!!! ).

Here goes;

Serves 12

750grams Water Leaves (plucked from stems, rinsed thoroughly with water and milton then drained)

200grams Stock fish flakes (or pre-soaked stock fish head)

100mls water

50grams ground crayfish

5 Stock Cubes

3 red or yellow scotch bonnet (quantity and choice depends on one’s personal taste)

550grams Pumpkin Leaves (Ugu) (plucked and sliced)


250mls palm oil

Place water leaves in a large cooking pot over low heat and allow the leaves to whittle. Add the stock fish, water, crayfish, stock cubes and pepper, simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the ugu, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stir in palm oil and immediately turn off heat.

Yep! It’s ready! All the bush meat (game), pomo (cow skins), cow tail, beef etc. na jara (are extra)! So feel free to use whatever meat you like. If using, just add cooked meat into the soup when you add the stock fish.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Traditional Sunday Lunch; Brown Rice Jollof with Prawns

I’ve had a pack of brown rice for a while now. Brown rice isn’t very popular with us so I guess that’s why it stayed that long in my store. A few days ago, I was reading up on the health benefits of whole grains and found that it would do me a whole lot of good to choose brown rice over white rice where possible.

With that in mind, when I decided to make lunch today, I instinctively reached for the brown rice instead of white rice to make our traditional Sunday lunch (which is almost always rice in most Nigerian homes). I made a basic ‘jollof’ using the brown rice, some prawns and tomato sauce I had in the freezer. Wasn’t really in the mood for anything complicated, I was really tired and needed time to rest before the hustle and bustle of the new week starts on Monday morning.

Luckily, the brown rice brand I used required a straight forward cooking time with no parboiling and all…

Here goes;

Serves 6 - 8

450grams whole grain brown rice

1 medium Onion (diced)

45grams Butter or Margarine

90grams Tomato puree

300grams Tomato Sauce (or Stew)

4 stock cubes (Knorr/maggi etc.)

1 Garlic clove (crushed)

1 teaspoon mixed herbs

1¼ Litres (1250mls or 5 cups) Water

400grams medium prawns (peeled and deveined)

250grams Uncooked frozen mixed vegetables

Salt and White Pepper

I took the easy route by getting all my items prepped and weighed out and added all the ingredients except the prawns, frozen mixed veg, salt and white pepper into a cooking pot.

Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil then lower your heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. About 10 minutes to the end of the cooking time, stir in frozen mixed vegetables and then the prawns go in about 3 minutes to the end of the cooking time.

Taste and adjust seasoning with the salt and white pepper.

Once cooked, let stand for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

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