Recipes

Nigerian Peanut (Groundnut) Based Beef Suya Skewers

Suya plays a huge part in the Nigerian food culture. Suya joints – a street kiosk where an array of deliciously grilled suya meats are cooked and sold over a handmade firewood barbeque. From states to cities, local areas and villages, every area have a local favourite suya joint. The spot night-party goers get their munchies from because the beef suya is a perfect accompaniment to a happy hour. Where young ones ignite their coming of age love stories or where old lovers grab a quick bite before a night out. Where parents grab the only savoury treat that will rin down cheers from their kids. Basically, suya is a popular street food that plays many roles, from nightlife buzz, love stories and family dinner tables. Suya is also served at grand ceremonial events. Such as traditional wedding parties or grand birthday celebrations. so what exactly is suya? The word “suya” refers to both the spice mix and the meat it’s been grilled with, i.e beef suya. The Suya spice mix is a peanut-based spice mix that incorporates a combination of traditional Nigerian spices with some very simply spices we all know of. The suya spice mix can also be referred to as “yaji”. You can find details of the suya spice mix with the traditional recipe by clicking here. However, in this beef suya skewer recipe, I created a spice mix that emulates the flavour and aroma of the traditional mix. I meticulously choose spices that are easily accessible worldwide and when combined create the same suya taste. For the Suya spice mix: Roasted peanuts garlic powder ginger powder chilli powder black pepper salt Freshly grated nutmeg Beef suya and the origin of Suya When you say you want to get suya in Nigeria, it is automatically assumed that you want some grilled beef suya. That is beef that has been grilled and seasoned with the suya spice mix. Beef is the original meat used in making suya. The origin of suya comes from the northern region of Nigeria, where cows are mostly reared. The northerners are known for their herdsmanship and even when cows are reared in other parts of the country, northern herdsmen do so because they have mastered the craft. However, there are so many versions of suya these days. From beef suya, chicken suya, pork suya, suya seafood mix, suya tilapia, etc. You can also the suya spice mix being used on other dishes. Such as on salads, baked potatoes or grilled plantains, etc. In addition, beef suya makes a great accompaniment to smoky party style jollof rice. On beef suya, jerky and kebabs The world has heard of kebabs, beef jerky and jerk spice mix. Suya is the Nigerian treat that has always had its own table. The world’s table just needs to know what it’s missing out on. All these styles of cooking meat and unique spice blends are a huge part of the African culture at large. Kebabs are a part of the food culture in east African countries. Beef jerky is renowned in South Africa and they also have a different type of beef jerky called the “Biltong” which I’ve heard is more delicious. Jerk spice mixes are popular in the Caribbean, whose culture is founded upon several African cultures. Suya however similar it seems to kebabs and jerky, has its distinct flavour that is unmatched.

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Plantain Pancakes with Honey caramelised walnuts

Luscious stack of Plantain Pancakes with Honey caramelised walnuts

Calling all plantain lovers and as one myself I must say I truly appreciate the versatility of plantains. From simply fried sweet plantains, plantain chips, plantain porridge, plantain mofongo, tostones and so on. There are various traditional recipes using plantains stemming from African, Caribbean, Asian and Latin cultures. However today I am bringing you a more contemporary way to cook plantain. This plantain pancake is similar to making banana pancakes but better. Plantains are not just larger in size than bananas but also richer in flavour and just ad nutritious. Plantain is the renowned go-to side dish for jollof rice. This recipe perfectly fuses plantain with the internationally loved western breakfast that is pancakes. I mean who doesn’t love pancakes. For those that have no clue what plantain is, here is what you need to know. Firstly, plantain is not banana, although it can be cooked like a banana however it is not a fruit. Rather it is a vegetable that is eaten cooked and not raw. However eating raw plantain is not harmful, trust me my childhood self tested this theory several times. Plantains can also be used in the same way potatoes are cooked. It can be boiled, fried, roasted, grilled etc. and the list goes on. This plantain pancake is light, fluffy and hassle-free. Additionally, it is also dairy-free, no butter or cow’s milk was used in this plantain pancake recipe. Finally, the plantain pancake is topped with simple honey caramelised walnuts. See it really is a no-fuss breakfast. If you loved this recipe for plantain pancakes, you might also like these other pancake recipes:

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Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice, the Nigerian way

Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice, the Nigerian way

Nigerian smoky party-style Jollof rice Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice is the “crème de la crème” of all jollof rice dishes. There are various recipes for Nigerian jollof rice, but the fundamentals of a party jollof rice are one that has stood through the test of time. Parties such as weddings, grand birthday celebrations, baby naming ceremonies and the celebration of life (burial of someone who has lived a long and full life) are a huge part of the Nigerian culture. Thus, as with many cultures, food plays an important role. A great occasion starts from the kitchen. Such as on the morning of a wedding celebration day, when either caterer, chefs, and/or renowned family cooks gather to prepare the dishes. Everyone has a role to play in preparing the varieties of dishes, such as soups, stews, meat dishes, yam dishes and rice dishes. The two main rice dishes for most wedding parties are Jollof rice and Fried rice. The jollof rice made for a celebration is richer, vibrant and more flavourful with a smokey aroma. The smoky aroma usually emanates from the dishes cooking over burning wood (a.k.a. firewood). However, there are various steps in the cooking process that creates this smokey aroma achievable in an indoor kitchen on a stovetop resulting in a perfect Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice. The tomato base Jollof rice starts with a tomato base and there are various ways to make this. Unlike other styles of jollof rice, the tomato base for a Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice has to be of a high concentrate. You can achieve this by pre-cooking the tomatoes with all other fresh vegetables. This process dries up the liquid and eliminates the possibility of a raw tomato taste. It also intensifies the flavour and results in vibrant red colour. Maggi cubes Growing up Nigerian Maggi cubes was the go-to seasoning for most dishes. I have never witnessed a Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice being made without Maggi cubes or something similar. Although, in my adult years I have stayed away from it and other commercial seasonings. I generally prefer using fresh self-made seasonings. However, to stay true to this recipe which is a huge part of the Nigerian culture, I have included Maggi cubes. Parboiled rice As I mentioned in my Jollof 101 article, the type of rice used in cooking Jollof is important. Smoky Party-style Jollof rice is typically made with rice that has been parboiled. Originally the women cooking the rice would soak the rice in hot water. This helps to remove excess starch and also you add the rice into the stew base it doesn’t bring the temperature down. A consistent temperature prevents the rice from cooking unevenly. The rice that was typically used then were raw unprocessed rice, but these days you can find the already parboiled rice in shops. Hence, there is no need to soak and parboil, rather a quick rinse with warm water is enough. Fresh meat stock Accompaniments for Jollof rice are usually beef, chicken or fish. The twice-cooked method is the classic Nigerian way of cooking most meats. Beef, chicken or any other type of meat are boiled with seasonings and then fried, grilled or smoked. The leftover liquid from cooking the meat is then used as stock for cooking the main dish. Such as soups, stews and various rice dishes. Well-seasoned meat stock is not optional for a flavourful Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice. Double the onions Onions are rich in flavour. Red onions are especially richer in flavour with more vibrant colour and aroma than white or yellow onions. Onions are used two ways in the Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice. Firstly cooked with the tomato base, layering it into the core flavour of the dish. Then additional onion is fried to a nice brown crisp, almost burnt, which kicks off the charred smokey flavour. Aside from their flavour, red onions are the most cultivated type of onion in Nigeria. Hence why you will find it in every Nigerian market and kitchen. Triple layer of seasoning Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice seasoning game is strong. Starting from the inclusion of fresh garlic and ginger in the tomato base. The browning of sliced onions together with the tomato paste and equal amounts of thyme, curry powder, ginger powder and paprika. Then the final seasoning mix of Maggi, dried thyme, curry and salt goes in with the rice. All of these layers make up the richness and vibrancy of the dish. Tomato paste Concentrated tomato paste re-enforces the tomatoey flavour of the Smoky Party-Style Jollof Rice. It helps to elevate the smokey flavour when added to the fried onions and letting it brown together with some herbs spices. Finishing touches Once the rice is cooked there are a few finishing touches that most Nigerian cooks, caterers or chefs would do. Such as melting a few cubes of butter into the rice to enhance the moisture. This is an optional step that adds a little oomph but however, it is not necessary especially if you’re just not keen on the additional calories. Furthermore, some slices of raw tomatoes and onions can be tossed into the rice as a garnish. Also, an optional step and not everyone likes the taste of raw onions or tomatoes in a cooked meal. Serving Options There are a variety of food items that pair really well with jollof rice. Everyone has their preference, here are some options: Plantain: Fried sweet plantain a.k.a. dodo or roasted sweet plantains a.k.a boli Moi-moi: Savoury and spicy bean pudding traditionally made with black-eyed beans, wrapped in leafs (i.e. plantain leafs) and cooked in a boiling water bath. Beef: A typical Nigerian way of cooking beef is the twice cooked method. Beef is boiled with various spices then deep fried, also often stewed in a red sauce. Another staple is beef suya (as pictured in this recipe “Nigerian Peanut Based Beef Suya Skewers“) Chicken: Also typically cooked and served in similar twice cooked or/and stewed method.

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Banga “Palm fruit” Risotto: a Southern Nigerian fusion

Banga Risotto: a Southern Nigerian palm-fruit and Italian seafood fusion

Rice dishes are a staple across the world. From Italian Risotto, Spanish Paella, Chinese Fried, Nigerian Jollof Rice; it is rare to meet a group of people that don’t have their own native rice dish. As a Nigerian who loves Jollof amongst other rice dishes, I am here to introduce you to Banga rice. A dish that I am tempted to call the southern Nigerian cousin to Jollof rice. However, that will be like comparing apples to oranges. Banga a.k.a palm fruit is a staple in southern Nigeria also known as the Niger Delta region. Produce of Banga includes palm oil, palm kernel nut (and its oil) and medicinal charcoal (from the dried palm shell). Additionally, dishes made from pure unrefined extract (palm fruit extract) include Banga soup, Banga rice and “Kwahkah” (a sweet/savoury pudding made with plantains and corn, similar to cornbread). Banga “Palm fruit” Risotto is my addition to this list of delicious dishes. Aside from Banga, the Niger Delta region is also known for its rich source of seafood. The region hosts some of the largest seafood markets in Nigeria, with several rivers and lakes running through states that make up the region. This region also sits on the Atlantic Ocean. For this recipe, I decided to use locally sourced fresh seafood in Italy. Such as mussels, calamari and shrimp. In summary, this Banga “Palm fruit” Risotto is a fusion of a traditional Nigerian flavour with the classic Italian seafood risotto using Carnaroli rice. How to clean and cook mussels: If you want to learn more about Nigerian food, check out my list of 10 Essential Ingredients in a Nigerian Kitchen.

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Eggs, Parmesan cheese & asparagus

Easy Egg Penne Pasta Bake with Asparagus

Pasta bake is a comfort food that everyone loves. It’s easy, delicious and hearty. This is exactly what I had in mind when created this egg penne pasta bake with asparagus. Pasta like Penne, Conchiglie (shells), macaroni and fusilli are great for one-pan oven dishes. These kinds of pasta are dense enough to not get easily overcooked (or mushy) but still small enough to soak in the flavour and richness of the sauce. Their shapes also help to hold within them the sauce. So upon each bite, there is a burst of flavourful sauce within the pasta. For this egg penne pasta bake with asparagus, I opted for some classic ingredients. Such as tomato sauce, cheese (grana Padano) and basil. Plus everyday ingredients that we all have in the kitchen, eggs. A usual addition to pasta bakes, especially with the way I’ve used it in this dish. Instead of the typical egg sauce (that is mixed with cheese etc.), I wanted the eggs to shine as a whole. Not just as a binder in the dish but for its own unique flavour and beauty that balances the dish out. Then my final addition was finger-snapping asparagus. A perfect addition to any dish made during springtime. Perfect to eat when in season, bringing more freshness and vibrancy to this dish. From cooking the pasta in a pot, to mixing it in with the cheese and sauce. Then layered in a baking dish topped with eggs and asparagus. All that was needed was some light seasoning, a few minutes in the oven and a delicious dinner (or lunch) is served!

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Basmati Jollof Rice with Grilled Seabream & Plantain

Perfect Basmati Jollof Rice with Grilled Seabream and Plantain

Jollof as you may know is the acclaimed National dish of several West African countries. As a Nigerian, I am proudly biased in my love for the Nigerian Jollof. That is not to say the Jollof rice from other countries are not great. In all honestly, there are only two countries from which I have had Jollof, even in their diverse variations. That is the Nigerian Jollof (including the classic Jollof rice, basmati Jollof rice and smoky Jollof rice); and the Ghanian Jollof. The classic Nigerian Jollof is typically made with long grain rice. However, with the influence of Ghana and other neighbouring countries, younger generations of Nigerians have adapted the recipe using Basmati rice. I first came across Basmati jollof rice when I initially moved to London. Basmati is the preferred rice of most younger generations of Nigerians. Reasons for this are that basmati rice is apparently healthier than long-grain rice, that it also tastes better and is fluffier. In my opinion, both rice has their pros and cons. Basmati Rice Pros – Fluffier, lighter texture and quicker to cook. The theory of it being healthier is one I am yet to confirm. Cons – Does not hold to flavour as much as long grain rice does and it can also be a bit drier because of the grains being really thin. Thus not being able to retain moisture. Long grain Rice Pros – Can withstand heat, thus not easily overcooked. Thick grains allows the rice to soak up the moisture and flavours from the sauce. Perfect for making large batches of smoky party jollof rice Cons – More starchy grains resulting in sticky rice. High starch content could also mean high calories, thus the theory of it being less healthy than basmati rice. However, I have heard of other Jollof from Liberia, Senegal and other countries. The Senegalese Jollof (or Wollof) is the legitimate origin of the now popular rice dish. Not to be mistaken for thieboudienne, as I’ve been told by a few of my Senegalese friends is a special dish on its own. I will be trying it and other African recipes in the future. For now, let me share how to make this easy basmati Jollof rice. This was my go-to Jollof recipe during my university days. I would typically use canned tomatoes and mostly dried spices because as a student I always stocked up on pantry items. Rather than fresh produce that would easily go bad if I didn’t use them in a few days. This way was also cheaper and the theory of basmati rice being healthier was an added bonus. Speaking of eating healthier, I also paired this Jollof with some grilled whole sea bream and grilled plantains (the Nigerian name of which is “Boli”). As opposed to the fried plantains (commonly known as “dodo”). If you like recipes with whole fish, you might also like Simple Kale Stew and Sea Bream (Efo-riro)

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Squid and Fregola - A warm spring(ish) salad

Squid and Fregola – A warm spring(ish) salad

In continuation of my pasta series, I decided to take a throwback to the first dish I made and presented during my culinary school days. The Squid and Fregola salad was the first dish on my three-course menu. It was my first experience with the tiny Sardinian pasta, made from rolled toasted semolina. Cooked in boiling salted water and tossed with oven-baked squid. Together with tomatoes, basil and olive oil resulted in the perfect spring(ish) salad. Squids can seem intimidating to most people, especially with all those tentacles and their slippery skin. However, it’s actually quite easy to prepare. How to clean and prepare the Squid

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French toast with strawberries and chocolate using Italian Easter Cake

How to use Colomba di Pasqua (Italian Easter Cake) to make French toast with strawberries and chocolate

Similar to many parts of the world, Easter holds a unique tradition in the Italian culture. Just like many holidays food plays a key part in the various cultures and festivities. Here in Italy, there are two traditional centrepiece food items that are used to celebrate the Easter holiday. Firstly, the Italian Easter bread (Pane di Pasqua) is baked in the shape of a wreath with colourful eggs placed on it. Then there is the Italian Easter bread (‘Colomba di Pasqua or ‘Colomba Pasquale) which is a culinary symbol in the shape of a dove. The latter is my favourite, hence this recipe for French toast made with Colomba di Pasqua. The Colomba This dove-shaped treat is a soft doughy cake that is rich with a bread-like chewy texture. My initial encounter with the Colomba had me wondering “is it a cake or is it bread”. Upon further studies, it draws techniques from both cake making and bread making. However, the conclusion is that it is indeed a cake. It looks like a cake, smells like a cake and although the texture can be a bit deceiving, it also tastes like a cake but is not too sweet. Additionally, the Italians say it is a cake so that’s what I’m sticking with. French toast made with Colomba di Pasqua As with many holidays, we humans tend to take the Easter holiday as an excuse to overindulge. This sometimes leads to us having in excess several food items or one in particular. You guessed it! For the Easter holiday, there are always leftover Colomba. We usually start buying these festive treats days and weeks as we approach the holiday. I bought my Colomba a week before Easter, the cake can last for several days but if you are anything like me you’ll get bored. Hence why I whipped up this delicious French toast made with Colomba di Pasqua. I kept it simple, with no added sugar and topped it with fresh strawberries and melted chocolate. If you like this recipe, you might also like Easy Valentines Day Dessert Spread – Sweet grazing boards.

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Bucatini all’amatriciana – an Italian classic

When in Rome, if there is any dish you should try, it should be the bucatini all’amatriciana. This classic Italian dish is popular in the central Italian region of Lazio. All it takes are about 6 simple ingredients. Resulting in a vibrant and flavourful meal. Ingredients: Pasta – Typically spaghetti or bucatini, but any other pasta can be used especially long-stranded pasta. Guanciale – It is like a rule of thumb with many Italian pasta dishes to use guanciale over pancetta or regular bacon Peeled tomatoes – Peeled fresh tomatoes or a tin of already peeled tomatoes work just fine. Pecorino Romano – This is a Roman recipe after all and this sheep derived Roman cheese is the go-to. Chilli – Usually the whole chilli would be cooked in the sauce, after which it would be removed from the sauce before adding the pasta. However I really love spice and don’t like waste, so I chopped the chilis and left them in for this recipe. Tweak according to your preference. Wine – Not just for cooking the Bucatini all’amatriciana but to also serve with it. The Romans pride themselves on making the best Amatriciana sauce. If I can say so myself, I’d say this recipe holds up to the Roman standard. It’s vibrant, creamy, flavourful and does more than just check all the boxes. It’s like a delicious union on a plate! Even if the Romans should not approve, I bet your tastebuds would. Like I’ve said, the sauce can be used with any other pasta. I choose the Bucatini all’amatriciana because it is the classic method. Also, the bucatini pasta is from Lazio that is on my list of ‘10 different kinds of pasta from various regions in Italy‘.

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