Saturday 30 August 2014

Rum Punch

Soccer season is back. Or football as we call it here in Nigeria.
We are a football loving house - even though we support different teams and it is not uncommon to have a few people come over to watch games. Sometimes they get lucky and I can throw something together, at other times, I just make sure there are interesting drinks to be had.
Enter this easy and yummy but lethal rum punch. The guys and girls love it. Plus, you can make a pitcher and stick it in the fridge earlier in the day and you get to adjust how much rum you want in it.
To make a pitcher full of this rum punch, you will need:
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 3 cups pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Pour all the ingredients into a pitcher/jug and stir well. Stick in the fridge till ready to serve
That's all there is to it. 

This punch is the perfect accompaniment to salty nibbles like pretzels, mixed nuts and potato crisps.


Thursday 28 August 2014

Kitchen Lingo Part 1 - Cooking Methods

A few weeks ago, I had a friend come over to discuss business matters and I just happened to be cooking. I served her up a taste and she asked me how I made the chicken. I started to tell her and she stopped me and said - '"Uzo. What is all this saute business? Isn't it just putting the chicken in the pan?" That got me thinking.

I take it for granted that everyone  knows their way around the kitchen simply because I have been a kitchenista since I was 10.

The Kitchen Lingo series on the blog will be dedicated to breaking down terms and techniques frequently used in cookbooks and recipes. I hope this encourages people who are put off from trying recipes because they don't understand some of the terms and even help get better results by following the correct steps.

Cooking methods are so very important because different foods work better using different methods - especially meats. Here are  few of the most common cooking methods that you will see in cookbooks and recipes:
  • Roast: This refers to a method of cooking food with dry heat - usually in an oven and usually uncovered. Some recipes will direct you to start roasting with parts of the meat (usually poultry) covered with foil and then removed at some point in the cooking process. There are also specific roasting pans sold that allow multiple items to be roasted at the same time and allow fat to drip away
  • Braise: This method uses a combination of dry and moist heat. Food is usually placed in a very hot pan to sear it (give color and seal in juices) and then liquid added and pan covered to finish off the cooking process. If you see a recipe with the words pot roast in it - this is usually the cooking method used. Slow cookers and pressure cookers are tools used in this method. This method is usually used to cook foods that are tough or need long cooking times like - oxtails, beans etc
  • Saute: Usually involves cooking food in a shallow open pan using a small amount of oil/fat over high heat.
  • Grill: This involves cooking food with direct dry heat (from above or below) using any number of tools including wire mesh grills, barbeque grills, grill pans or even your oven. The term broil falls under this cooking method and there are broiler pans sold for this purpose
  • Steam: This method of cooking  involves placing the food in a basket or receptacle on top and water below and covered. The boiling water releases steam that cooks food gently without loss of color and nutrients. Perfect for cooking vegetables. Also good for warming up foods like moin-moin, suya etc.
  • Stir-Fry: Usually seen in Asian recipes. A wok is essential for this cooking method and it is a super fast way of cooking. Very little oil is used and very high temperatures are required as well as constant stirring so the food does not burn. Food to be cooked using this method should be cut in uniform pieces to ensure even cooking.
  • Pan-Fry: Food is cooked in a pan with a very small amount of oil/fat in tis method and is good for thin pieces of food. Recipes for breaded or coated foods usually require cooking with this method
  • Deep-Frying: Is a cooking method that requires food to be submerged in very hot oil. Contrary to what most people think, this process does not automatically mean greasy food if done properly. If the oil is very hot, the moisture content in the food repels the oil. The food should also not sit in the oil for longer than necessary. Deep fryers and deep frying pans are tools for this cooking method.
Please feel free to send an email to if you have any food or home entertaining questions. I will be more than happy to answer them and feature them on the blog as well.


Monday 25 August 2014

Unpretty But Delicious Bacon, Tomato and Egg Sandwich

Sometimes when I am in a hurry, running late or really not in the mood to be fussy, I turn to sandwiches that are fast and easy to throw together. A lot of the time, the bottom line is getting my boys fed so I can put my feet up and when I am in that zone, I really just whizz around and while the results are tasty, the plates are not very pretty. This is one of my go-tos.
This sandwich also handles the issues I have with boiled eggs - dislike them. Have despised them since I was a child but better boiled than fried. Plus as a mom, I want my son to like everything and not pass on my little idiosyncrasies onto him. This sandwich disguises the boiled eggs pretty well.
You will need some mayonnaise (regular or low fat version. Sour cream and greek yogurt are good substitutes as well). Some good old fashioned yellow mustard adds some zing to the sandwich. You can use Dijon mustard if you prefer.
In a bowl, mash your hard boiled eggs and add the mayonnaise, mustard and some black pepper and mix well.
Bread rolls are my choice for sandwiches. Compact and cute. Please note that I just split the rolls with my hands - just because I did 'not want to and I thought it would waste time. Which makes no sense really. But makes sense in my world. Sooooo. You can toast the rolls if you like.
Grill or fry some bacon slices - turkey in this case and slice some tomatoes. Add some lettuce as well for a fresh bite. My boys will just pluck it out and toss far far away from their plates..
Now get down to putting this together. Tomato and bacon slices go first on one side of the roll. Spoon egg and condiment mix on top.

Close bun. Squish and serve to the hungry mob - members of the family who will not notice how unpretty this sandwich as long as there is enough to go round.


Saturday 23 August 2014

Dining Out at Otres Restaurant. And a 5% discount

Dining Out at Otres Restaurant
A few weeks ago, I was driving around Lekki 1 running errands when I saw a sign on a building on Wole Olateju Street, off Admiralty Way that said Otres. I was curious as to what kind of business it was until my husband told me it was a restaurant that specialized in Nigerian cuisine.
After seeing a lot of pictures on Instagram from the restaurant’s official account and from people who had dined there, I decided to go in and take a look at the menu. I was greeted by a very friendly young lady who answered a few questions I had including this huge one: Do you have a high chair? A simple question but one that usually has no as the answer at a lot of the restaurants in Lagos. Sure date nights and ladies lunches are great but I love family days out as well and with a hyper active toddler, a high chair or a booster chair is essential. The answer to the question was yes so I knew the next family dining out location was in the bag.
We headed to Otres for lunch on a Sunday afternoon and we were met at the entrance by a friendly young man who seated us and returned in 5 minutes with a wooden booster chair.

After reviewing the menu, we ordered our drinks to start. My husband got a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and based on the recommendation from our waiter, I ordered the Otres Special – a chocolate fruit concoction with a cherry on top. We also ordered a small glass of orange juice for the little man to be diluted in his straw cup. The drinks arrived within 10 minutes of order being placed. Orange juice for the hubby was nice and tart. The Otres Special was interesting. It tasted like a piece of chocolate with orange filling that one gets in those mixed chocolate boxes. I loved it. Unusual and not too sweet. It would be an excellent after meal drink if you want something sweet but don’t want traditional dessert. The waiter also convinced us to try a mocktail called Kiss Me – iced tea with strawberry and mint syrups. We shared a glass of that and it tasted like a mint julep and I think definitely a girl’s mocktail.

To start our meal, we ordered a bowl of the fish pepper-soup and an order of the spicy chicken wings. The pepper soup came in a pretty large bowl with a huge piece of croaker fish which I thought was very generous for a starter. The soup was very much home styled soup. Authentic spices, not too peppery and thinner than what you would get at a lot of the places that offer ‘point and kill’ pepper soup. The chicken wing pieces were very big and included the drumettes and the wing with the tip attached. I think wing tips are just for making stock so I didn’t want that on my plate but the wings were very tender and the spicy sauce was full of flavor but not too peppery.

We were almost full at this point as the portions were so generous but I insisted we get mains as well (I was thinking strategically – doggy bags to sort out dinner freeing me from kitchen duties J). Hubby had pounded yam and ogbonno soup with fish while I had banga rice and fish. I also ordered a portion of sweet potato fries for my son. Hubby’s ogbonno soup came served in a little cast iron skillet with the soup bubbling furiously when it got to the table. He had to wait a few minutes for it to cool down and not risk tongue scalding. The banga rice is a novel concept to me. I have never had it. Its rice cooked in banga soup broth with dried fish and crayfish. It tastes very similar to the traditional jollof rice made with palm oil that I have had in the North and at my late grandma’s house who was from Ijesha. I loved it and loved the pepper sauce that covered the huge piece of fish that this order came with. My son had a lot more fun squishing the sweet potato fries than eating them but we had peace. J We barely managed a few bites each and we had to call it a day and ask for the meals to be packed to be taken away.

The food was quite tasty I have to say. The restaurant’s ambience is very classy yet comfortable and it is quite a big space with the opportunity to have events there offered as well.  A lot of attention is paid to the details of plating and serving which I like and it is very pocket friendly. Otres also has some of the best service staff I have met in Lagos that go over and beyond just serving. The waiter that served our table answered all my questions in a smart, eloquent manner and was also quick to make recommendations (excellent up-selling skills from a business perspective) when we were unsure of what to order. In addition, when my son started getting restless, the hostess offered to come and take him and walk around with him even sacrificing her phone for him to play with. Now that is the definition of going over and beyond. The menu is diverse enough to satisfy most people and from the feedback I have gotten from people that have also eaten here, their local meals – banga soup, owo and starch are worth trying as well. Otres does not serve alcohol in spite of the nice wine glasses you see on the tables so that’s a big point to note if you expect to have alcohol as you eat.

I like to share positive experiences so I encourage you to try Otres out and the first 5 people that swing by and tell them that Uzo sent you can enjoy a 5% discount off your tab J

 Otres Restaurant

Block A9 Plot 7 Wole Olateju Street

Off Admiralty Road

Lekki 1, Lagos

09095323063, 01-2121934

Monday 18 August 2014

Cucumber Dip

There is nothing like a nice dip that can be made in a jiffy to serve when guests come over. Or as movie watching food at home. Or just to have in the fridge to make snack time more interesting. Or if you open the fridge wondering what to eat with a teaspoon in hand, you can scoop some into your mouth just because.....
This cucumber dip has only 4 ingredients and is summer yummy and healthy too.
To make 1 cup of dip, you will need:
  • 1 cup of Greek style yogurt: Greek yogurt is quite pricey at the stores that stock them in Lagos and I use a lot of yogurt for dips, smoothies and for snack time. I use the locally produced yogurt in the white tubs that cost less than N400 per tub which works just as well as the pricier alternative
  • 1/2 cucumber: seeded and chopped into fine pieces. I do not mind the skin of cucumber - more fiber but peel the cucumber if you prefer
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet chili sauce
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

How to:
  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine
  • Serve with potato chips, pretzels, breadsticks or even rice cakes
  • This can also be a nice spread for sandwiches and burgers

Friday 15 August 2014

Quick Dinner Idea - Smoked Chicken Sauce and Mixed Potato Fries

Sometimes at the end of a very long day, the thought of making dinner makes me want to cry. There are times that I do not have any leftovers to be reinvented, and its too late to order anything and you have hungry eyes following your every move.
Smoked chicken to the rescue.
I will do a post on pantry and freezer essentials very soon  - Smoked chicken is a MUST in my freezer at all times. Its already cooked through so very little cooking time is needed and its flavor can be the base of so many things from rice to soups to sauces.
Another staple in my house - potatoes. I like to have 2 types of potatoes at all times - sweet potatoes and another type - can be the local small Irish potatoes or the imported larger Idaho spuds. This means I have options to bake or fry or mash to accompany any sides that I come up with. Plus with a toddler that decides if he is going to eat whatever you put in front of him, chicken and potatoes always go down very little fights.
I love crispy fries and I usually mix sweet and regular potatoes to make things more interesting. My top tip for making potatoes crispy is to cut, rinse and place in bowls of ice cold water and very very hot oil. There will be a lot of splatter when you drop them in the hot oil, so step way back. 
To make the smoked chicken sauce, you need as many chopped vegetables as you have at home.
For this night, I used chopped red onions, yellow, red and green bell peppers and a yellow scotch bonnet pepper. You can use frozen vegetables as well if that is all you have at home.

Look at this lovely plump smoked chicken. So sexy. 
Rough chop the chicken into pieces.  

In a hot pot, add some olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables, a stock cube and some salt to taste. Sautee till vegetables are translucent. Add the chopped chicken and cover the pot. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Smoked chicken is so moist and tends to release its juices as it cooks. That is the base of this easy sauce. Taste and adjust salt if necessary and turn heat off .
When serving simple meals like this, it helps to make plating a little interesting. I also realize that everyone does not have the fancy crockery seen in food pictures. Try using a mug lined with a sheet of sturdy kitchen towel to serve your fries. It looks nice and the kitchen towel absorbs any excess oil from the frying process. It also keeps the fries crispy and away from the saucy chicken. Try mixing ketchup and mayonnaise for a speedy 'thousand island' style dip and place in a little bowl on the side of the plate.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Smart Entertaining - Antipasti Platters

It is so easy to spend all the time in the kitchen or shuffling between your guests and the kitchen if you are having company over. An easy way to get around this is to assemble antipasti platters especially if it is a casual get together or a movie night or a girl's day in.
All you need is a nice platter that is big enough to hold all the various things you want to serve and you can get as creative as you can. You can use a extra large wooden chopping board or even a big square of unused tile.
These platters allow your guests to graze, make their own combinations and gives you time to play the hostess role and truly enjoy your event.
I suggest a nice mix for your platter - some vegetables, different kinds of deli meats, a carbohydrate component like bread or chips, some cheese and some kind of dip or sauce. You can even have 2 platters and designate one to fruits - different kinds of fruit and a sweet dipping sauce or syrup.
My platter below has: bread rolls, cheddar cheese cubes, smoked gouda cheese cubes, salami
 slices, smoked ham slices, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, mixed bell pepper strips, olives and a dip made out with olive oil, black pepper, salt and paprika.

These platters also look pretty and photograph so well.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Dessert Spring Rolls

I love creating in my food lab. However, I am not a food Nazi and I do not look down on convenience foods - within reason of course.

Spring roll wrappers. I do not know how to make them from scratch. I have a few recipes in my binder of recipes to try but honestly, the time quotient - Not too hyped about that. I make spring rolls when I am entertaining. I hardly wake up and say - self, let me make spring rolls just because. With that in mind, anything that can save me time on days when I am usually over ambitious with my menus when I have people over is fab. In addition, ready made spring roll wrappers are such great value.

I get my stock from a supermarket chain with branches in VI, Agungi area and Maryland. Each pack has 26 spring roll wrappers. By the time I get rid of 2 or 3 that are crumbly, I still have 23 wrappers. Each pack costs N270. So if I have 4 people to cater for: assuming each person has 3 spring rolls each, I still have 14 sheets left. You really cant beat that. They packs usually come frozen solid. All you need to do is leave them out for 20-30 minutes and you are good to go. They come out nice and thin and crunchy - way better than the spring rolls that small chops vendors make here. What more can I ask for?

So these spring rolls. I thought of making dessert spring rolls because I love desserts with texture contrasts. I had spring roll wrappers left over from an experiment gone wrong and I had some apple pie filling left over from my other life in Cupcake Couture.

I ended up making 2 types of dessert spring rolls:

For the apple pie dessert spring rolls, you will need: (use the ingredients in quantities that your palate loves)
  • Spring roll wrappers - use as many as you need
  • Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and diced
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Nutmeg - freshly grated or powdered
  • Ground cloves
  • Brown sugar
How to:
  1. Combine the apples, cinnamon powder, nutmeg, cloves and brown sugar in a bowl and stir well ensuring that the apples are evenly coated
  2. On a dry flat tray or board, place a spring roll wrapper. Add filling in center. Do not fill end to end. Remember you are going to tuck and roll
  3. Take each end of the wrapper and fold inwards. You should have some parts covering the filling. Then roll carefully till you get to the end of the wrapper. Wet the tip of your finger with water and seal to close.
  4. Place seal side down until you are ready to fry
  5. In a pan, pour some vegetable or canola oil. I prefer to shallow fry my spring rolls. The key to crispy rolls that are not oily - the right temperature of oil. Heat the oil until it is very hot. Just short of smoking
  6. Place each roll seal side down in a single layer in pan and fry till golden brown. Turn over carefully and brown both sides evenly.
  7. Drain on kitchen towels and serve while warm with a dusting of confectionary sugar over the rolls
For the banana and chocolate dessert spring rolls, you will need (use the ingredients in quantities that your palate loves)
  • Spring roll wrappers
  • Ripe bananas - sliced
  • Chocolate squares - Use any dark, milk or white. I like Dairy Milk or Lindt bars. Just break off the squares at marked points
How to:
  1. On a dry flat tray or board, place a spring roll wrapper. Add banana slices and chocolate squares at the center of wrapper. Do not fill end to to end
  2. Follow steps 3 - 7 above
My guests had this look of surprise on their faces when the spring rolls appeared at the table after entrees. A huge, huge hit. I will definitely be making these over and over again with different sweet fillings


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Friday 8 August 2014

Food Porn - Efo Riro and Fish Stew

My husband and 1 have some differences in opinion about some food. He likes efo riro with rice. I can't abide that combination. I like efo riro and dodo (fried plantain). He gags at the thought of that combination. However, I don't always have the time to make several things to satisfy us both at the same time. Enter making efo riro and fish stew and serving at the same meal. He gets to have his efo riro and rice and I get to have rice and fish stew. Or I get to have dodo and efo riro and he has dodo and stew. You get the idea.

Recipes for my traditional fish stew and oil free efo riro coming soon.


Wednesday 6 August 2014

For Adults Only - Dessert and Romance

This very simple dessert is for adults only. So simple with only 2 ingredients but big taste and looks pretty. And I dare say, an aphrodisiac too. *wink* Seriously. I cannot be held responsible for what happens after 2 consenting adults have this for dessert.
All you need: Irish Cream and vanilla ice cream. That's it. Oh and maraschino cherries to garnish and for that touch of red.
The glasses you serve this in add to the effect and make them even more special. Martini glasses are great to use. Simply place 1 scoop of ice cream in each glass. Pour the chilled Irish Cream over the ice cream. Add a cherry or 2. And that's it.
Indulgent, naughty but oh so nice.

Perfect as an after dinner treat, or just because, or to say I am sorry, or as a bribe, or just to be naughty or as a solo reward for being fabulous.. 


Monday 4 August 2014

Kitchen Tip - Refreshing Frozen Prawns

Most of the prawns sold in Lagos are frozen. Its obvious when you see packs and packs of prawns in the massive freezers at supermarkets. Did you know that even in the open air markets where the prawns are weighed and sold to you looking all limp and fresh from the sea, the  some of the merchants get boxes and boxes of frozen prawns from trawlers and thaw them out with water and sell? Freezing is a preservative method so there isn't anything fundamentally wrong with frozen prawns. Its just that seafood should be as fresh as possible for best results in your recipes and sometimes, one doesn't know how long the packed prawns have been sitting in those freezers. Freezer burn doesn't translate well to food.

To refresh frozen prawns, rinse them in cold water with a tablespoon of salt. This process is like magic. The prawns get that fresh from the sea look and any sign of freezer burn is gone. So easy to do and well worth making this a part of your kitchen repertoire.


Friday 1 August 2014

Zesty Corn Salad

I love salads. The more interesting the better for me. I also like to have some form of vegetables with every hot meal but ever since I got married, I have had to be even more creative with the choice of vegetables since my husband balks at the sight of too much foliage on a plate. I have also had to re-train his palate and get him used to salads that are not smothered in creamy dressing.
This corn salad is inspired by the many variations I have seen at buffets of hotels and restaurants in different countries. Just a lot tastier.
I would love to use fresh corn for this salad every time I make it however, corn is seasonal here in Nigeria and the species here can be hard and will take all the fun out of this salad. Imported sweet corn cobs are available in some stores but they can be pricey, look weird, be frozen or just not available.
Canned corn kernels work wonderfully and it is perfectly acceptable to use. I almost always have several cans of corn in my stash and they are pocket friendly too. The addition of a just a few other vegetables ,makes this salad healthy and colorful. What takes this salad to a whole new flavor level is the dressing. No creamy anything here. Citrus juices, paprika and cilantro keep this salad refreshing.
I have this salad fresh out of the fridge as is. Or with some leftover chicken. You can grill some prawns or fish and serve with this - so delicious. You can also have this as a side with rice or potatoes. Healthy, colorful and delicious.
To make about 4 servings, you will need:
  • 1 can whole corn kernels
  • I ripe avocado. Flesh scooped out and cut into small chunks'
  • 1/2 small red/white onion - diced finely
  • 8 cherry tomatoes - each cut into half. Regular firm tomatoes can be used as well
  • Cilantro leaves to taste. I have used African Basil/scent leaf/efinrin/nchawun which I have growing in my back yard when I don't have cilantro available
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt to taste

In a bowl, add the corn, avocado, onions and tomatoes
In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, lime and lemon juices and paprika. Taste and add salt as needed. Add the cilantro and pour dressing over the vegetables. Stir well and ensure salad is coated with dressing.

Note to self: clean dish before taking pictures...