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

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.[wpurp-searchable-recipe]November 2012: ‘Made in Nigeria’ – In My Kitchen – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]

59 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post…I’m starting an edible garden and I thought of you.. I’ve read a lot but I just needed things particularly peculiar to Nigeria. And I’m happy with your success with basil especially and mint too. Looking foward to mine soon. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

  2. Hi, great post here. I love your musings on foo.. Nice to hear about it from a fellow foodie. I always loved food though ironically I eat only very little and I have always loved medicine. So I studied a course that combined my 2 great loves. I have a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, got to do my internship and got licensed as a dietitian. I am not practicing at the moment. I bake and cook sub-organic foods( Since I didn’t plant the foods myself, I can’t vouch for the use of fertilizers but I add no chemical softener or preservatives to my food). I believe sustainable organic agriculture is the way to healthy nutrition so I will like to plant my own garden but I don’t know where to get the seeds in lagos. Can you be of help please? I want to plant asparagus, mint, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, sage, cilantro, celery, leeks, yellow and red bell peppers. Please direct me to where I can find the seeds. Thank you.

    • Hi Helen – thank you very much. A lot of the seeds I bought, I got when I travelled. I’m not sure where else but I can ask via twitter and Instagram. I also know a lady who has a thriving garden.

      And your background is very interesting – very useful I dare say for understanding Nigerian cuisine. Have you considered starting a blog? It would be great I think

      • I have thought of the blog and everyone keeps telling me to do that but for some reason I just can’t find the time. I am concentrating more on trying to get organic food out there. I did find a woman yesterday who told me that she has celery, parsley and mustard and she assured me that she will let me know when to get the remaining seeds. I am waiting for the address because the line went off mid-conversation. I would be interested in getting the contact details of the woman who has a thriving garden. Thanks for your help and for all the delicious meals. Have a great day!

  3. This is lovely, thank you so much for this post.
    It’s the best of the best result i have ever got, please where can i get mint leaves or plant/root and cilantro in Lagos.
    (I Mean particular place to get it).

    Thank you in advance

    • Thank you.

      You’ll find mint, cilantro and other herbs at Shoprite (Mainland & Island), Spar and other supermarkets. On the Island, opposite Law school on Ozumba, there’s a market under the bridge where you’ll find a variety of herbs. As well as a veg shop on Idowu Martins in VI, down the road on the opposite side of Mega Plaza (in the direction of Adeola Odeku)

  4. This is all wonderful. I can’t just wait to start my own garden! Yours have been so insightful and inspiring. I do hope when I start mine it’ll do as well as yours.
    Now to my question. Please where can I find wild yam? Does it have a local name here in Nigeria? Would love to grow it. Thank you so much 😊

  5. Thanks so much for this post, it’s the best results I have gotten all day. Please what is the local name for coriander cilantro and mint leaves supposed I want to buy them in the local Nigeria market. Do you know if we have Bay leaves in Nigeria

    • You’re very welcome.

      In our markets, the herbs have no local names, as they aren’t indigenous. Coriander is called coriander, and mint is called mint. I’ve only seen dried bay leaves – not fresh. Stay well.

  6. Hello,
    I stumbled on your site today for the first time and i must confess that i am completely so AMAZEED!!! I have always loved to cook but never had the time to fully explore. Now I have the time (and money).
    I think you are doing a great job.
    Thanks

  7. Hello Kitchen butterfly its amazing i stumble on your blog, its really helpful. Please what is Cilantro plant or leaf called in any of the Nigeria language. You can email it or post it on here thank you.

  8. Amaaaazing article!
    I do not like planting…
    I do not love food and…
    I most definitely do not post comments anywhere, ever!

    But your write-up has made me reconsider all three. That’s how beautiful, inspiring and interesting I found your article. My husband is a foodie and I’m sure when he settles down to read this, we are going to start a garden (yes, because my husband believes in execution of everything you learn- lol). Anyhow I was doing a search for Farm Fresh yoghurt (which I absolutely love) and that’s what brought me here- I can’t believe I finished reading the entire article. Please add me to your mailing list for recipes (I used to love baking and cooking- I loved creating food so much that I compiled my own recipe book with 400 recipes when I was just 8 years old! I actually loved baking so much that when I was a teenager and my mum couldn’t afford gas, I used to bake in a make-shift oven i.e. a large pot filled with sand, covered with newspaper, on top of a fire made with coal! (That’s our “made-in-Nigeria” oven right there ;)). I even ran a business baking and icing cakes while in the university. SADLY I have not baked one single thing since I moved to Lagos 15 years ago and now I cook only what I already know how to cook without thinking! Shocking- I know. I blame it on the hustle & bustle of Lagos life and the ease of getting ready-made things anytime :)) but I’m inspired now to go back to my foodie roots and whip something up. I have only one question for you. What city do you live in? I’m curious about the climate of the area in which you’ve done all of your planting. Like I mentioned, I live in Lagos. Thanks for your beautiful and very well-written article. I love the picture of nurturing hands with the cherry tomatoes.

    • Hi Omotewa – Thank you for your wonderful comment.

      I am glad I could inspire you…..

      I currently live in Port Harcourt….no change in climate from Lagos. Enough rain. Shine and Wind to do its work.

      And thank you for sharing your baking story….thats something I would LOVE to try at home. So when I’m ready – I’ll come knocking at your door.

      Stay well and thank you. Will add you to the mailing list.

  9. i tried growing mint plants too, and succeeded to a reasonable degree. plants grew but they never gave off the expected mint scent i was so looking forward to. got the seeds from a garden store in the UK.

    • But congrats for getting yours to seed.

      I have beautiful plants now, which continue to gift and give! Very fragrant, and very tasty.

      If we happen to be in the same city ever – let me know, I’ll bring you some roots!

      Stay well

  10. I know this comment is coming almost a year after your post but I loved it so much I simply couldn’t resist leaving a comment. We moved from Nigeria to America and its tough finding exact ingredients that tastes as delightful as our homemade Naija meals though we try a lot to substitute and find Nigerian stores, it just isn’t the same. From your writings it seems you love to cook a lot. I will kindly appreciate it if you could share your recipes with me via my email. Thanks in advance and have a great week. Do keep writing for it is such a joy reading posts like this.

    • Thanks Nessa for your kind comment – you are right, I LOVE to cook and write about it. I’ll add you to my email subscription list as well. Stay well and you’ll find your own way with creating your taste of home.

  11. Oz, what a lovely post! How great that you have showcased local produce, and how wonderful does your garden look! And those cherries are amazing! Thanks for playing.. xx

  12. Hi Oz,

    Was thinking about you and the kids today and wondering how you were doing. Lovely post as usual and very happy to see the thin mints were so useful. The cake looks delicious. Hope all is well,

    Ana K

  13. Love the framing and spirit of this post. It made me smile first because it’s beautiful, and then remembering all the “made in” nationalist jokes I’ve come across–for example, this one: a product, to be developed in international collaboration was sent from country to country, with each one making improvements or introducing a signature element. It went to India. And nobody could figure out what the change/modification/addition/improvement was. Then they all realized: it was a tiny “Made in India” mark placed on the bottom. Ha ha ha! You’re inspiring me to do a “Made in India” post, too, you see? All good things come from Kitchen Butterfly!

  14. I loved this post! I actually linked to it from my blog – hope that’s okay. Here’s the link if you want to see it: http://thosewinklers.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/foodie-friday-made-in-nigeria/

    My mother-in-law LOVES the strawberry Farm Fresh yogurt, much more than any of the ones she gets in the States, even. I’ve tried to think if I could freeze it or something and bring it back to the States for her when we go.

    …And Surinam cherries – ah! We used to have a tree in my yard when I lived in Florida. I don’t think I realized it was the same thing I sometimes see around these parts. Kinda cool.

    The lemongrass is a bit bittersweet for me (well, the story of ours) – there was a huge one by our house, but it got mistaken for weeds and was completely hacked. 🙁 It finally grew back – and then it got bulldozed to make a road!!! ACK! I couldn’t rescue it and transplant it in time. Sad days. We used to make tea with it, and it’s a lovely addition to Thai food. So bummed our plant is no more. I’d love to learn more about ways to use it – though I suppose first I’d love to find one for our yard again (though I didn’t know they are as prolific here as you say they are – I thought we had a rare treat. Nice to know otherwise!!!)

    …Oh, but I totally buy the Golden Penny pasta. Because I’m cheap. 😉 Never heard of the chocolate – will have to look and see if they carry it in Jos.

    • Ha Christie, thank you so so much.

      I’ll just have to send you some stalks of lemon grass! And my repat friends (from Houston) say nothing compares with Farm Fresh! Send me that address so I can pop your care package in the post. Lots of love

  15. Oz. Beautiful post. I loved all the herbs you’re growing in your garden, especially the Italian Basil… which has a beautiful word in arabic ‘Rehan” it means beautiful smelling.
    and yes your brazillian cherries are gorgeous. I wish I could taste that chocolate. you must get me some if you decide to visit me.xxxL

  16. What a splendid post! I enjoyed learning more about Nigeria and of course I was really enthralled with the luscious chocolate! Your thoughts on cooking spoke to me. As I often find myself trying new recipes or changing an old favorite; sometimes a success or perhaps a failure. Time in the kitchen is so much like the rest of our lives!

  17. I actually have a Surinam cherry tree but its not doing too well. After I saw your lovely cherries I went outside and had a stern chat and told it it needs to bear soon or it will be no more, lol

  18. Really there is nothing better than local, especially your own garden. It follow’s the old saying “when in Rome”. It’s something that I’ve held true no matter where I lived and the result has been an abundance of pleasure in all that is local (not just the food).

  19. Oh girl, you make me happy. 🙂 I so enjoyed this post. Loved reading about the Made in Nigeria things that make you proud and hungry. 🙂 Since I’ve moved all over the place like you, I treasure the things Made In Canada/USA/Amsterdam/Italy/Russia and now Australia. They mean something, make my heart smile. 🙂

  20. ” Your words at the end, expressed your entire post. In my kitchen this month are lessons of life, for adults and children. Lessons of hope. Lessons of encouragement”

    This is so true when you are in the Kitchen.

    Thank you for sharing your food, culture and yourself.

    Velva

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