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November 2012: ‘Made in Nigeria’ – In My Kitchen

by on November 5, 2012
 

This post is inspired by Celia (of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial) who does a monthly feature called ‘In My Kitchen’.

Join the fun! Click on the link to visit Celia’s blog: Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

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Proudly ‘Made in Nigeria’. Like my 5-year old son who was ‘Made in Nigeria, Born in Holland’!

You might have heard that ‘Made in Nigeria’ stuff is no good.

I am guilty of thinking it many a time myself.

You might have heard that ‘Made in Nigeria’ speaks to questionable quality. You might not be wrong on some levels, in describing certain things.

Will Nigerian cars beat those from Japan? Maybe someday but not just yet.

Will Nigerian fruit, and vegetables, meat and poultry reign supreme. Oh yes they will. They will be tastier and fresher, less ‘modified’ and more wholesome than most of the produce from worlds afar.

Made in Nigeria is a phrase recognizable to Nigerians. Ask any Nigerian you know what ‘Made in Nigeria’ means to them. It is a statement, an expression of some standard, some level of quality. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and many, many times….middle of the road.

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A delicious ‘Made in Nigeria’ Thin Mint Cookie Cake, for a friend’s daughter’s 7th birthday!

A statement with many meanings. One I’m determined to mean good.

My Kitchen Clock

A gift from my husband, many years ago. It isn’t ‘Made in Nigeria’ but it is ‘In my kitchen’!

It’s a good thing when one’s talking about some food produce, take poultry for instance – chickens, turkeys, eggs, gizzards. When I go to a meat shop and they say, these chickens are from Ibadan (a city in the west of Nigeria) or Lagos, or Port-Harcourt, my heart eases. I know I will get fresh looking, tasty chickens. Not from a carton, imported from who knows where, frozen for one knows how many months and years, sickly looking and tasting the same. Here ‘Made in Nigeria’ is a good thing.

When I go to buy pasta, ‘Made in Nigeria’ is something mixed for me. I see brands, Italian brands that I know and trust….for they are the inventors of the pasta that fill our bellies. It isn’t often I reach for Golden Penny, or Dangote, Nigerian brands. More often than not, my nanny, B is the one who buys them. I’m too ashamed to say to her ‘Don’t buy the made-in-Nigeria brands’. It is a conscious thought. I am conscious of thinking it. But I can’t mouth it. I can’t, don’t want to label the produce on the shelves that sport ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ as bad.

But there are many, many more things that I delight in. Some great, great produce and products that are 100% ‘Made in Nigeria’. Chocolate. Yogurt. Pitanga Cherries. The most gorgeous lemons ever. And herbs from my garden.

Chocolate

I was envious of Ghanaians in December because they have great-tasting, locally produced chocolate. Till I discovered Imit’s milk chocolate. Many decades ago, Nigeria had a strong agricultural sector where cocoa, peanuts (groundnuts, as they are called in Nigeria) and rubber were strong export commodities. All that changed with the growth of the oil & gas sector.

So it is with great joy that I discovered Imit’s ‘Carnival ‘ milk chocolate. My son proclaims it ‘the best chocolate in the whole world, ever’. This is real chocolate. Yes, it is milk chocolate but you taste the essence of the cocoa bean. It is smooth and choc full of flavor. The product I buy comes in 500g slabs, about a centimeter thick, with a small diamond pattern on the top. Wrapped in foil and bagged in plastic, there are two 500g packs in a brown and white box, with the words ‘Carnival’ emblazoned in red.
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This is the chocolate that features in our Sunday Brunch fondue. With pancakes. Fruit. That features in my chocolate dump it all cakes, and I taste the difference when I use Imit and when I use other brands, foreign ones included!

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Contact details

Imit Nigeria Limited
Block BB2
Small Scale Industrial Estate
Fatai Atere Way, Matori
Lagos State
Email: info@imitng.com; imitcarnical@yahoo.com
website: www.imitng.com
Farm Fresh Yogurt

Farm Fresh yogurt from Jos, (where our strawberries come from) is the best yogurt ever. Its what makes my pineapple fruit bowls. Its what fills my son’s thermos. It’s the stuff I make my own yogurt from. It goes into my breads, pancakes, waffles. I’ve hung it to make a thickened yogurt for Louisa’s cake.

They are various flavours – plain (sweetened and unsweetened), strawberry, pineapple and of course vanilla. The yogurt comes in bottles of various sizes and also in cups. My favourite is a natural, stirred yogurt produced by  Integrated Dairy Farm.

Swiss-style or stirred yogurt is often slightly thinner than Balkan-style or set yogurt and can be eaten as-is, in cold beverages or incorporated into desserts. The warm cultured milk mixture is incubated in a large vat, cooled and then stirred for a creamy texture, often with fruit or other flavourings added.

Contact details

Integrated Dairies Limited
No 1 Friesland Road
P. O. Box 97
Vom – Jos, Plateau State
Email: info@integrateddairies.com

Farm Fresh

Fragrant Lemons

In my kitchen are the most fragrant lemons ever. I stopped to buy them on a Friday evening, when all I wanted to do was go home and rest. I picked up 3, but had the good sense to give one a sniff. When I did, I was transported to citrus heaven. From which I descended back to earth and bought up the lady’s entire stash. At only 100 naira (60 US cents) for 3 lemons, it was a steal!

I’ve made lemonade. That’s what the lemons reminded me off. I’ve saved all the used up skins and piths in a ziploc – I’m going to make some sugar, that I’ll freeze and add to sorbets and ice-creams, cakes and bakes. I am going to preserve pleasure of these lemons for months to come.

I am also going to plant the seeds. And nurture them. And hopefully give myself the pleasure of these lemons, for years to come! Thanks to Deepa, I know how!
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Pitanga Cherries

There is a whole post coming on this cherries, which my friends and I would ‘pluck’ off trees as children. I can now share the same tradition of foraging with my children. They are delicious, somewhat sweet, somewhat peppery and a treat to enjoy on a hot November day!

They are a tropical delight, also known as Surinam or Brazilian cherries. Aren’t they gorgeous???

Pitanga cherries on a plate

 Gifts from my garden

In my kitchen is a testament to just how green the grass is in Nigeria – a myriad collection of herbs.  And this is no metaphor, or wisecrack. The physical greenery is stunning in the depth of colour and the freshness of leaves. Plant a seed, plant any seed….and watch it grow into bushes, with thick lush leaves.

Homegrown herbs

Front, left: Waterleaf – green plants with purple flowers; Front, right: Thai Basil. Back, left: Lemon grass stalks; Back, right: Savoury

The grass grows in thick clumps, not the fine, cropped short ‘carpet’ grass of perfectly mown lawns which human feet shy away from, for their perfectly manicure corners. No this is unfettered growth, out of the goodness of the earth, of the soil, with the abundant rainfall.

In my kitchen I have  lemon grass which is no surprise, in Nigeria it grows in bushes! Most places in the world sell lemon grass stalks. While the leaves don’t feature chopped up in recipes, they are wonderfully fragrant, full of flavor and lend fresh, citrus flavours to soups and broths. I snip off a few leaves, wash them, bruise them and make a parcel by folding the leaves, reserving one to knot the bunch. This is thrown into my pot of pepper soup and left to simmer till its ready. Once done, I fish out and discard it. And I’m never afraid that I’ll run out.

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Potted Lemongrass, with tall blades and thick stalks

Savoury? Now there’s a surprise. I have Summer  Savoury, (not Winter Savoury) and I love it! A popular Acadian (Canadian) and French herb, often used in beans and pork dishes, rabbit and chicken, it has blossomed in my garden, from seed. I didn’t know I had a streak of green in thumb or finger. And now wherever fresh thyme is called for, I use savoury!

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Blossoming Summer Savoury

When I started planting the seeds, people asked ‘Are you sure the seeds will grow?’ I heard doubt and disbelief in their words. ‘They might grow and they might not, but till I sow that seed…..I will have NO way of telling’.  And that’s how it is with good deeds too isn’t it?

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Basil buds

Basil is the absolute triumph in my garden.  Thai basil, Italian Basil, Lemon basil. The plants are prolific and tower over everything.

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Italian Basil

My cilantro plant produced great leaves, flowered and now the seeded (buds) have been cut off and are drying in my kitchen, ready for next year’s planting.  This is by far the most wondrous thing about all the planting for Cilantro is a herb that I cant live without, one that I haven’t so much as purchased a leaf of in the last four months!

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Seeds of my ‘annual’ cilantro plant: cut, dried and saved for planting next year

My radishes grew. I planted them late. I didn’t read the instructions right. Didn’t thin the plants once there were 3/4 leaves. I ended up with radish leaves and no bulbs. Well 2 bulbs to be exact. One which I washed and dipped in butter.

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One of two radish bulbs! Delicious dipped in butter and sprinkled with salt!

My asparagus is budding too. I planted it at the same time as I did the radishes. I didn’t read the instructions to plant them indoors and transplant later. I’ll try again next year.

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Spiny Asparagus

Our cherry tomatoes grew so well. The first time I spotted fruit, I ran in to the house to get all the kids and my 5-year old son plucked the two green tomatoes on the spot! Needless to say, we spent time together later….having a chat! A few weeks later, my neighbour’s son, did the same – he plucked the first tomato to finally ripen! He too got a wonderful discussion. Sure I could have moved the pot away, but I think its important that children learn why they shouldn’t do some things….at certain points. Thankfully they listened so that when my son had a sandwich party at school, and tomatoes were on his list, he plucked them and took 4 gorgeous cherry tomatoes to school.

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Nurturing hands!

I am waiting on my lavender but my Nasturtiums are growing.

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The only things that didn’t so much as sprout a leaf were my lemon melisse seeds and my mint.

Anyhow, I have one up on the mint because we buy it regularly from the market for tea and my nanny has been so smart to plant some. Often when we buy bags of fresh mint, there are many plants that still have their roots on! So what she’s been doing is planting some and as we speak…….the plants are doing what they do best – flourishing and spreading. Boy am I thrilled, as this is a home of mint tea addicts!

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Mint plants, from ‘rooted’ mint plants!

In my kitchen this month are ‘Made in Nigeria’ things. When I speak of ‘Made in Nigeria’, I speak with pride, and confidence.

In my kitchen this month is a testament to life. A testament to how ‘green’ Nigeria is, how perfect its climate is to support a myriad of plants. How it’s made me green-thumbed and hopefully inspired a lifetime of gardening with my children!

In my kitchen this month is a testament to success. That these herbs have grown gives me the courage I need to give new things a try, a go. They may fail but boy……they have an equal chance of succeeding that some how tips the scales and results in something that far outweighs the small possibility of failure!

In my kitchen this month are lessons of life, for adults and children. Lessons of hope. Lessons of encouragement.