Introduction: Dambu Kazaa

Many years ago, I ‘met’ Dambu Nama and was fascinated. A cross between looking like steel wool shreds and candy floss, this ‘meat snack’ looked wispy but gained ground and flesh as you chewed.

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After wondering for ages, I learnt the mystery behind its texture. Typically, the meat is cooked in a mixture of spices – onions, ginger, garlic, Maggi cubes (bouillion), sweet pepper, hot pepper and tatashe). It is then pounded till shredded and deep-fried. An additional step is drying – the aim being to reduce moisture content and lengthen preservation times.

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Zobo & Gingerbeer Fruit Cake (Alcohol-Free)

I have my ‘voice of reason’, Maryam to thank for being the inspiration behind this fruit cake recipe, two ways – the first without alcohol and then, without alcohol and eggs.

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For a while, I’d been thinking about doing more with Zobo (Hibiscus drink), malt drinks and ginger beer so when I decided to make a fruit cake for Maryam who is Muslim and doesn’t take alcohol, I knew I’d found the perfect opportunity.

I use a combination of drinks for Zobo for depth of flavour and ‘spice’ – both of which alcohol does. Read more…

Part 5: Oven-Baked Jollof Rice

Two years ago, I discovered Oven-baked Jollof rice.

I’d made rice a few times in a clay pot in the oven but it never occured to me that Jollof could be made in the same way.

It was at my sister-in-laws in Mount Vernon, New York where I saw her cook up the most amazing rice in the oven, with little effort.

I dug about and it turns out that this is very much practice for Nigerians and Africans in diaspora – something about the ease maybe?

I like this method for a few reasons:

  1. It frees up the stovetop – I can cook and do more.
  2. It doesn’t require ‘mothering’ of the pot – you mix the ingredients in, set it in the oven and let bake away.

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Step 2 is easy because the rice cooks at an even temperature so there aren’t any issues (except of course your oven has hot spots). Read more…

Part 4: Around the World in Twelve (12) ‘Jollofs’

…or Twelve (12) Shades of Jollof Rice.

Jollof rice in the  simplest terms is a beacon for West African cuisine. Texturally, it’s half way between the separate, not mushy grains of a pilaf and the ‘sauced’ creaminess of a risotto.

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Here are twelve (12) takes from classic to not.

1. Classic: Nigeria & Along the coast of West Africa

This recipe features par-boiled long-grain rice, cooked on the stove top – comfort food at its best and the standard for all Jollofs.

2. Party Rice: Nigeria

Chock full of smoky flavours, commonly cooked over open fire. However, this can also be achieved on the stove top by ‘controlled’ burning of the rice. Key here is to cook the rice in a vessel that allows burning, preferably stainless steel, aluminium or cast iron as opposed to non-stick.

My home version features flecks of burnt rice – proof of ‘authenticity’.

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Part 3: The Fundamentals of Jollof Rice

Jollof rice: rice perfection that’s half way between the dryness of pilaf and the creaminess of risotto.

‘Traditionally’, Jollof rice is made with specific ingredients which define the perfect pot – from long-grain rice to scotch bonnet peppers and Maggi cubes for seasoning.

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I present – the Jollof essentials.

Truth too is, essentials are no guarantee to success so one must understand a bit about the ‘perfect’ combinations.

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Video: My TEDx Talk/ Journey By Plate

Three (3) months ago, I got a call from Donald, the organiser of TEDxPortHarcourt.

He invited me to speak at the upcoming TEDx event.

Half way between moving away from Port Harcourt and calling Lagos home, I accepted. Terrified. Excited. Not even sure of how my ‘story’ would go with the ‘Where We Are’ theme.

But I wanted to do it and with the excellent support of the TEDx team, we did.

There were a number of amazing talks – from Education to Information Security, Public Health, Leadership, Loving Nigeria and taking a stand on Politics. I’m still mulling over the lessons I learned and going over the videos, one by one.

So here it is, everything I want to do and be with food…in words and actions :)…here for you.

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Part 2: #Jollofgate – In Defense Of Our Traditions

Now the dust has settled :), we can explore more about Jollof Rice – both a short history and the recent #Jollofgate incident.

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In the winter of 2010, I made whole wheat Argentine Empanadas. I served them with a fresh herb sauce, Chimichurri and got many pats on the back on one tap. One comment…from an Argentine no less which gave me an education. For life.

It is fascinating to see how everything we feel about life is (reflected) on the plate.

Take Jollof Rice for instance– its popularity is assured offline and online as these twitter hashtags suggest – #JollofGang ,  #JollofIsLife,  #Jollofies,  #Jollofnation,  #Teamjollof and the most recent, most controversial  #Jollofgate.

Jollof Rice. Essential to our ‘culture’. So important that West Africans at home and in diaspora will take up arms to defend anything and everything about  it – its origin, preparation and by God, how it is served.

Nigerian Jollof StickRice Recipe

Last Christmas: Smoky Stick Jollof Rice

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Part 1: A Short History of Jollof Rice

Jollof, definitions
Noun. Verb.

  1. of a red, spiced rice dish loved in every city and town ‘South of the Sahara’ and along the coast of West Africa. Synonyms: Djolof, Benachim (Gambia); Thiéboudienne (Senegal)
  1. to cook in a red, tomato-based sauce: ‘Jollof beans’ – a one pot dish of beans cooked in a rich tomato sauce. West African-speak.
  2. denoting a state of enjoyment: ‘see her, she’s jollofing’ (she’s enjoying herself and I’m not!). Nigerian-speak. Synonyms: enjoyment, pleasure

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Garden Egg Bake with Cheese & Sugo

And on and on and on – Part 2 of the Baked Garri-crusted Garden Eggs.

It involves a bake.

Ideally, I would have like this to feature the baked garden eggs, a spicy sauce and Wara, locally produced cheese.

Well, though I didn’t meet the ultimate test in my head, the end result was pretty awesome. So, I couldn’t find Wara but the Mozzarella I used created a luscious dish.

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This is the Nigerian version of the Italian Eggplant Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan), using Nigerian Garden Eggs to create a three-component layered dish with Baked garden eggs, Sugo (tomato sauce) and Mozzarella Cheese.

Eggplant parmesan is one of those great Italian comfort foods—a layered casserole much like lasagna but with slices of globe eggplant taking the place of pasta; Elise, Simply Recipes

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Nigerian Small Chops: Baked Garri-crusted Garden Eggs

I am fascinated by how ideas come, how they’re created – so many elements, some seemingly random, yet they come together to test concepts, fuse thoughts and generally do something ‘new’. Like with garden eggs.

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Baked Garri-crusted Garden Eggs

I think I like the whole exploration, the journey, the process of building, of constructing, of putting together. I like that as much as I like seeing the end result.

This creation of garri-crusted garden eggs began months ago. And quite by accident. For my own learning, I’m going to chart the course.

Garri (also known as gari, garry, or tapioca) is a popular West African food made from cassava tubers.

The spelling ‘garri’ is mainly used in Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Benin, Togo and ‘gari’ in Ghana. 

Either spelling may be used in Nigeria.

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