Thursday, 24 July 2014

Making Egusi soup a little more interesting.....

I come from an inter-tribal family. My daddy is Igbo from Abia state and my mom is Yoruba from Ondo state. What this means is that I have been exposed to different cuisines and variations of common dishes all my life.
Egusi soup is common to both tribes and there are several variations of this soup even in each tribe. Got that? LOL.
Anyway, this variation of Egusi soup will fall within the Igbo tribe because of the choice of vegetables used but regardless of where you are from, this is Nigerian comfort food that demands a nap afterwards.
As with most dishes, feel free to adjust ingredient quantities to taste and of course depending on how much you are cooking. This pot can feed 4 comfortably.
In a pot, add 200g of stock fish. We don't really like stock fish so I use these pieces. Stock fish imparts an amazing flavor and texture to anything you add it to.
Cover stock fish with water and add some salt to taste. Add enough water to be the liquid part of your soup. This is the beginning of building the flavor of your soup. You need to start boiling the stock fish well ahead of time since it takes quite a while to soften. An advantage of using pieces like this is it takes less time than the steaks.


 After boiling for 30 minutes,  add the protein of your choice (If using fresh fish, that has to be added at the very end of the cooking process). I used  300 goat meat. Add the goat meat and season very well. Bland stock is bland soup. I added 1 chopped red onion, 2 stock cubes, some Cameroonian powder, a little garlic (which helps the softening process of the goat meat) and a little more salt.

Boil until tender. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning if you need to. Add palm-oil. I advocate measuring palm oil. In as much as it is part of our local repertoire, its cholesterol heavy and really should be eaten sparingly. I used half a cooking spoon of palm oil.

Add ground crayfish, cleaned, deboned dried fish, locust beans and ground egusi and cook for about 10 minutes. I don't mind using locust beans that are whole but feel free to use any version you prefer. 

This is where it gets interesting. The vegetables I used in this version of Egusi soup were Uziza and Bitter-leaf. Yes indeed. Both vegetables have unique but delicious fragrant and taste profiles that add something special to the soup.

Add the washed and drained vegetables to the soup once you are happy with the thickness of the soup. Once the vegetables are added, cooking time is done.

Add vegetables. Stir well and turn the heat off immediately. Let the steam cook the vegetables just enough to ensure they are not raw but still álive'' and with a bit of crunch.

Serve with any starch of your choice. I also love plantain and egusi soup.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Infamous Pork Belly...

Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with all kinds of cooking shows: reality cooking shows like Come Dine with Me and competition shows like MasterChef and Chopped to food documentaries and travelogues like Bizarre Foods America. I love them all. In fact, on my bucket list, I would love to host, be a judge and compete on a number of proper food shows.

Anyway, all this preamble is related to this post. I promise.

Ever since I started watching these shows, I have come across variations of crispy succulent pork belly. The quest to achieve that super crispy skin with the juicy layer of meat under the skin has rued many a contestant. I have watched competitors get eliminated for serving less than crispy skin and have seen renowned food critics and Michelin star chefs come to tears and wax lyrical when they are served the 'perfect' pork belly.

I have never had it anywhere but I have been curious. I mean the way pork belly is described, it appears to be food for the gods. So imagine my delight when I went grocery shopping and found a decent piece of pork belly - about 200g for N320. I am sure its been sold in the stores for ages and I never paid attention but this time I had a light bulb moment. I would attempt this much talked about dish.

I remember that it has been said on almost all the shows, that the key to achieving success with pork belly, is time in the oven and simple seasoning. I used a sharp knife and made slits in criss cross lines across the skin and used salt and black pepper generously all over the piece of meat and placed in an oven dish skin side down into a pretty hot oven - about Gas Mark 4 and left it to do its thing for the first 20 minutes.

When I went back to check on it, it was already crisping up. I turned it over for another 20 minutes and then flipped it back skin side down for the last 20 minutes. When it was done, I let it rest for 5 minutes before using a very sharp knife to cut it into pieces.

So verdict: Its crispy that's for sure. The mix of crispy crunchy skin with the melt in your mouth meat is interesting but I found it way too fatty and while it can be addictive, I felt my heart's arteries clogging up. I am disappointed since I simply cannot see the appeal. Now and again sure, but I would not serve this at a dinner party or in a competition for money.

So there - Off my long list of recipes to try. I have an idea I would love to try with pork belly though - stuffed and rolled and sliced - like a roulade. One day.

So crispy crunchy pork belly - its been real.....

Monday, 14 July 2014


What a nightmare 2 weeks it has been. Studying and exams have whooped my behind and 2 laptops crashed. Goodness!!

All is slowly returning to normal so blogging continues....yaaayyyy

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Amped Up Mayonnaise

Burgers, sandwiches, wraps - All very easy to throw together when time is not on your side. They can get boring though because lets face it - when you have a combination that the family loves, its hard to tweak. A very easy but tasty way to make things exciting is by making what I call amped up mayonnaise. 
Amped up mayonnaise is really mayonnaise with add-ins. The wonderful thing about amped up mayonnaise is there are so many variations that you can make to your taste. My 2 favorite versions are - garlic mayonnaise (crushed garlic stirred into mayonnaise) and this version here - curry chili mayonnaise.
You will need:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise. You can use low fat versions. You can also swap half of the mayonnaise with natural yogurt for some zing
  • 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 birds eye chili or any type you prefer. You can deseed the chili for less heat

  • In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well.
  • This can keep in the fridge for a week
Use this mayonnaise on burgers, sandwiches (this is a ham and cheese sandwich pictured), wraps or even as a dip for chips or potato wedges.


Kitchen Tip - Ripening Fruit

If you have unripe fruit that you would like to use and would like to speed up nature, try wrapping the fruit in newspaper and store in a warm place for 2-3 days


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Adventures from Calabar 2 - Boiled Plantain and Smoked fish with Vegetable Sauce. And an Amstel Malta Milkshake

I had another opportunity to cook on air and be a guest on The Spot on EbonyLifeTv (Channel 165 on DSTV) and as usual it was a fabulous experience. 
If you have never caught The Spot, I urge you to. Its a largely unscripted show hosted by Lamide Akintobi, Zainab Balogun and Ebuka Uchendu and while it is different from the regular tv fare, its pretty smart and addictive. 
This time, my brief from the producer was a healthy, nutritious, filling meal that was pocket friendly but yummy as well.

(Just before we started shooting)
I decided to prepare boiled ripe plantain with a smoked fish and vegetable sauce.
To feed 4 people, you will need:
  • 4 ripe plantains - assuming one per person
  • 1 cooking spoon of flavourless oil - I prefer canola oil
  • 1 large red onion - finely chopped
  • 4 large tomatoes - finely chopped
  • 1 yellow scotch bonnet pepper
  • 1 stock cube
  • 3 large smoked fish (I used mackerel) - skinned, deboned and flaked
  • 2 cups red whole crayfish - heads and tails removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground crayfish
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 bunches of ugwu (pumpkin leaves) - washed and rough chopped
  • Salt to taste

  • Cut each plantain into 3 pieces and place in a pot with salted water
  • Boil until cooked through
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan
  • Add onions, tomatoes and scotch bonnet pepper
  • Saute until translucent
  • Add stock cube, ground crayfish and cayenne pepper and cook for another 5 minutes stirring constantly
  • Add the smoked fish and red crayfish with a cooking spoon of water
  • Add salt to taste
  • Once the sauce is quite dry, add the ugwu, stir very well to incorporate all ingredients and turn the heat off
  • The steam will cook the vegetables just enough to be cooked through but still have crunch
This sauce can be served with potatoes, yam and rice. Or even eaten on its own since its so filling.

I also made an Amstel Malta milkshake which is so easy to make and so delicious as well.

To fill 4 glasses, you will need:
  • 3 cans of chilled Amstel Malta
  • 1/2 cup of dried skimmed milk
  • 12 strawberries
  • Add all the ingredients into a blender. Blitz till smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Spicy Mimosa

The World Cup fever has overtaken us all on this end. As a result of the time difference between Nigeria and Brazil, we are watching the matches into the early hours of the morning. This means little sleep, grogginess and messed up schedules. Who needs sleep anyway? Its manic I tell you.
Sexy drinks are perfect to mix for match watching and seeing as Brazil is all about sun and fun and evokes feelings of forbidden pleasures, this spicy mimosa is perfect for this season and its unexpected too.
To mix up a good pitcher full which will fill at least 4 tall glasses, you will need:
  • 1 bottle of good quality champagne. Rose works even better
  • 2 cups of orange juice. Not freshly squeezed. Good quality juice from a pack/bottle will work just fine
  • Chilli/hot sauce - to taste
  • Empty the bottle of chilled champagne into a jug/pitcher
  • Add the chilled cups of orange juice and stir
  • Place in the fridge until ready to serve

  • Once ready to serve, add a few drops of the chilli/hot sauce into a glass and fill with the mimosa

So simple and different but gets the taste buds popping.