Tuesday 30 September 2014

A meal that came about by accident - Boozy Pork Chops, Fried Plantain & Egg Cups

The story of this accidental' meal started with an inventory of my home store.
I have been taking inventory of my store which is really a converted room with shelving and different storage solutions that holds everything from supplies for the bakery, to household stuff to dry foods to make room for new stuff coming in. I found a box full of wines and spirits. See, we get bottles of liquor as gifts from people. I don't like to drink wine and hubby is more of a social drinker which means he doesn't drink at home. Every time we get a gift of alcohol, I put it in this box. So this box contained 57 bottles of wines and spirits. I kid you not. I was in shock.
The first thing I did was sort through the bottles. I got all the non-alcoholic stuff and set that aside to be given to the security guards. That still left me with 50 bottles to deal with. Fast. The holidays are in 3 months and of course we will get more bottles of assorted alcohol as gifts. So I have challenged myself to use up this mish mash or red and white wines, whiskey, cognac, champagne et al before then.
The white wine used in my previous post for the Wilson's Pink Lemonade Sangria took care of 1 bottle. 49 to go.
Enter my idea for a red wine marinade for the pork chops in my freezer. I make variations of wine marinades a lot but I figured it was time to create a new version. My plan was to make the boozy pork chops and serve with a sexy rice pilaf and honey glazed carrots. I made the marinade the night before and got the pork chops in there to take on all the flavor overnight.
The problems began when it rained over night and into the morning. That Lagos rain that makes every where dark and keeps you firmly under the covers. By the time I got myself together and came downstairs, it was 1pm. Lunch time and too tired to make my fancy planned meal. It had to be something quick and require no effort.
Fried plantain (dodo) and eggs are a favorite but I wanted to make the meal look special.
That's the back story to this meal and it was a huge hit.
To make a cup and a half of red wine marinade which can be used for pork, beef and goat meat, you will need:
  • 1 cup good quality red wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry mixed herbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • I stock cube
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
  • Add the meat and cover bowl and marinade in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Overnight is best
  • Preheat oven to Gas mark 4
  • Transfer the meat to an oven proof pan and bake till meat is done to your taste
  • During the baking process, baste the meat with the left over marinade every 15 minutes turning over as you do so
Egg Cups:
  • To make the egg cups, you will need to have a muffin/cupcake baking tray. Each cavity will hold approximately 1 egg.
  • Chop into fine pieces, a selection of vegetables. I used red onions and tomatoes.
  • Crack the eggs over the vegetables and whisk to combine. Add salt to taste
  • Fill each cavity with the egg mix and bake in an oven at gas mark 4 for 10 minutes or until eggs are cooked through
  • The eggs will puff up in the oven like a soufflĂ© but will deflate to some degree once you take them out of the oven
  • These egg cups can be made with any combination of ingredients. Try adding ham and cheese, or spring onions or even a dash of garam masala for a more interesting taste hit.
Sometimes, everyday foods just need a new twist to make them seem more interesting.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Uzo's Food Labs and Wilson's Lemonade Presents......

"When life gives you Wilson's Lemonade make...."
This series will be all about using Nigeria's first and only all natural lemonade in different ways with surprising yet totally delicious results. 
To kick off the series: When life gives you Wilson's Lemonade make Pink Lemonade Sangria.
Sangrias are great drinks to make that use extra bottles of wine you have lying around. Perfect to go with all kinds of meals and you can make pitchers in advance and keep in your fridge and relax with your guests rather than mixing cocktails to order. The addition of different kinds of fruits in whatever quantities and combinations that you like creates a different taste every time. What's not to love?
This sangria is made using Wilson's Pink Lemonade which has hibiscus flowers added to the original version. What you get is a pretty pink lemonade that is not as tart as the original.
To make enough sangria for 2 tall glasses, you will need:
  • 2 cups Chardonnay
  • 1 300ml bottle of Wilson's Pink Lemonade
  • 1 large apple - cored and sliced
  • 6 large strawberries - sliced
  • In a jug or pitcher, add all the ingredients. Stir well and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  • Serve in tall glasses.
  • I like to make sure some of the fruit gets into each glass so there is a bonus at the bottom of the glass.

Double or triple this recipe to make more Sangria.
If you would like to get your hands on some Wilson's Lemonade, send an email to seun@wilsonsjuiceco.com and tell him Uzo sent you :-)

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Newsletter Recipe - Akara (Black Eyed Pea Fritters)

Our newsletter just went out with a delicious easy recipe for one of Nigeria's quintessential comfort foods.

Send an email to uzosfoodlabs@gmail.com to get on the mailing list.


Kitchen Tip: Make Your Own Self Raising Flour

It annoyed me so much to go to stores to get self raising flour for recipes and have to pay more than regular flour for these little bags. After paying more for the umpteenth time, I knew there had to be a more cost effective way. Off to the internet I went. I felt so silly after reading how easy it is to make self raising flour at home.

All you need is to add 2 teaspoons of baking powder to every cup of flour. That's it.

To make life easier for me, I make huge batches of this each time. I would rather measure out flour and baking powder than waste money.


Monday 22 September 2014

A Mango Daiquiri with some oomph.....

One of my favorite things to do is to mix drinks. Non-alcoholic versions or adult only versions. I think there are so many wonderful things that can come out of a blender or a pitcher if you just let your imagination run wild.
I especially love frozen/slushy type fruity cocktails. They just make me so happy especially when served in interesting glasses. They make me think of vacations, with no cares in the world, not having to drive home....
I will admit that sometimes, cocktails can be over the top sweet for me and I end up diluting with water at restaurants. This mango daiquiri is not that type of cocktail. Its sweet but not cloying and the sweetness is cut by the addition of ginger which also gives the daiquiri a more exotic twist.
To make enough for 2 tall glasses, you will need:
  • 3 ripe mangos
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

  • A few hours before you want to serve this, peel mangoes, cut into chunks and place in the freezer
  • In a blender, add all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Mixture should have a slushy like consistency. You can add ice cubes if you would like it thinnner

Tuesday 16 September 2014

A Dessert Station With A Touch of Nigeria

I have never met anyone that does not like ice cream. Well love. I know a lot of people that try to avoid ice cream for many reasons.
Let me come clean: I keep my home free of ice cream just because once I descend on a tub, the aftermath is not pretty. However, I love setting up ice cream stations for movie days or girl's nights at mine.
All I have to do is keep the ice cream in the freezer and have the accompaniments on the dining table and let people help themselves.
I have droned on and on about my issues with texture. I love crunch and ice cream is a good way for me to satisfy my 'inner crunch desiring monster'. Rather than spending tons of money in stores on imported cookies or chips and things, I would rather spend the money on a premium tub of plain vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Or both. Why not? If you are going to have ice cream, you might as well go all out. No half measures here.

My crunchy toppings of choice are pocket friendly and local.
Chin-Chin - those crunchy fried balls of deliciousness. Good chin-chin can be addictive and seeing as these goodies are fried - they really should be enjoyed sparingly. Theoretically. Put some chin-chin in a Ziploc bag. Get a rolling pin and bash away. Take all your stress away. Bash awayyyyyyyy. Okay, clearly I have some anger management issues. But you get the point. I like to leave some chunks and not make the chin-chin too fine. Pour crumbs into a bowl
Coconut flakes: local, nutty, natural and pocket friendly. A good source of fiber too. So that adds a healthy component to your ice cream station. Although, that might get lost in all the calories here. Who cares? I certainly don't. I am sticking to the fact that I am including fiber to the ice cream station
Cereal: any kind of cereal you like.
Sprinkles: well. sprinkles make everything better in my world

Scoop ice cream into a cup or bowl and add the toppings in any mix and as much as you want. And settle down in front of the TV and watch Big Bang Theory or Under The Dome or TLC....


Friday 12 September 2014

Not Your Average Fruit Salad

I have major issues with mushy food and squishy textures.
The thought of all that weirdness in my mouth just grosses me out. Which is why I loathe fruit salad. All that moisture and softness. *shudder*
Since I started my weight loss journey a few years ago, I know all too well that fruits are vital to my success. It gets so boring crunching apples or grapes all the time and while I love blending all the mushy fruits I don't like, sometimes I just want to chew. You know that feeling right?
I decided to play around with ways to make fruit salad different, yummy and not squishy so I can have more fruit in my diet, let the hubby have fruit salad which he loves and let my little man expand his food repertoire.
The addition of crunchy elements makes a world of difference and playing around with plain and flavored yogurt takes fruit salad from blah to give me more'' territory.
To make this interesting fruit salad, you will need
  • A mix of fruits of your choice. Seeing as budgets must be considered in my book, I use the common, pocket friendly ones: seeded and chopped watermelon and pawpaw (papaya) and peeled pineapple.
  • Cashew nuts - I love cashew nuts and they don't break the bank. I have used almonds and some expensive macadamia nuts (that I got as a gift) but cashew nuts are still my favorite to use
  • Toasted coconut flakes - the local type that costs about N200 for a small tub
  • Plain /greek style yogurt. I use vanilla low fat yogurt sometimes as well

  • Add all the fruit and nuts in a bowl and stir to combine. Use as little or as much of each ingredient as you prefer
  • Add the yogurt a little at a time. The yogurt should just coat the fruit and nuts and not become a pool of white stuff at the bottom of the bowl

  •  Serve chilled

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Braised Garlic Chicken - With a Touch of Cream

Vampires beware! You will be incinerated just by reading this post :-)
Anyone that doesn't love garlic will not like this dish. Which is a shame.. Cos the whole world needs to love garlic.
Garlic adds flavor, makes proteins get tender quick and it has health benefits. What's not to love? The smell on the knife and cutting board? Use lemon wedges and some salt afterwards on the utensils used to kill the smell. The smell on your breath? Brush your teeth, chew some minty gum, suck on some breath mints after. My lover won't kiss me after a garlicky meal? There is love in sharing including garlicky breath.
Now that all excuses are handled, on to this meal.
I stumbled on a recipe for 40 clove of garlic chicken a few years ago and I have seen variations of it since then. This is 20 clove version to ease people in gently. Here is something a lot of people don't know. When garlic is cooked in a particular way, the flavor becomes mild and it becomes sweet. One of these methods is to get whole bulbs of garlic, cut the tops off, smear with some oil and put in the oven in a dish and bake it till the garlic gets soft, gooey and brown. Squeeze out the garlic mush and use in marinades or tomato sauces. Amazing stuff happens. I will do a post on that some time.
Another way to get garlic mild and sweet is by using it whole like in this recipe.
I added a dash of cream at the end of cooking this sauce and I love how it ended up. Feel free to do without the cream. This sauce can be served with potatoes, plain rice or plain pasta.
To make enough for 4, you will need:
  • 8 pieces of chicken
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 20 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

I like to use bone-in chicken pieces for most of my recipes because the results are almost always moist. Feel free to use the breast but watch cooking times because they can dry out very quickly

You can find Shaoxing cooking wine and light soy sauce at most well stocked stores


  • Place the dry chicken pieces in a bowl. Sprinkle with the pepper, salt and flour and toss. Make sure all the chicken pieces are evenly coated.
  • Get a large pan very hot over high heat and add the oil.
  • When the oil gets very very hot, turn the heat down to low and add the chicken pieces. Brown both sides - about 15 minutes total cooking time
  • Remove the chicken pieces and drain the pan completely of all the oil
  • Return chicken to the pan and add the garlic

  • Stir fry for about 3 minutes. Stir constantly so nothing burns
  • Add the cooking wine, soy sauce and stock/water
  • Cover and braise the chicken till it is tender. 20-30 minutes should do it depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Remember that the heat should be turned as low as possible

  • Once the chicken is tender, turn the heat up and add the frozen vegetables. Stir and cover and cook for another 5 minutes
  • Add the cream and stir and cook for another 5 minutes - just enough for the vegetables to be cooked through


Sunday 7 September 2014

Lemon Herb Dressing

I know a lot of people that loathe salads. And then there are those that love salads drenched in creamy dressings. I honestly am not a food Nazi that believes that all food should be stripped of all oil and fat. I believe moderation is the key and we can all do with healthy food choices now and again. Salads can go from 0-100 on the health scale depending on the ingredients and dressings used.
This lemon herb dressing is a fresh, delicious and healthy alternative to creamy dressings for salads and also doubles as a dip for warm bread. Like most dressings, it is also very easy to put together and can be refrigerated till ready to be eaten.
To make half a cup of dressing, you will need:
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper 

  • In a mixing bowl or pitcher, add all the ingredients and stir well
  • Chill till ready to use


Friday 5 September 2014

Newsletter Recipe

Have you signed up to receive our newsletters yet?

Another edition just went out with a recipe for this totally moreish 'monkey' bread.

Send an email to uzosfoodlabs@gmail.com to sign up..


Wednesday 3 September 2014

Kitchen Tip - Buttermilk Substitutions

A lot of recipes for cakes or salad dressings call for buttermilk and rather than flipping the pages over after discounting them seeing as buttermilk is not readily available here in Lagos, simply substitute with:
  • Plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice with enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid*
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar with enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid*
*Let mixture stand for about 5 minutes before using in recipe.