Nigerian Women in Food: #1 – Iyabo Lawani,

Maggi Family Menu and Maggi Good Food Moments were the first cooking shows I ever watched and Iyabo Lawani was the host, from 1999 to 2008! A pioneer, a forerunner, a Nigerian woman who pushed and continues to push the food industry forward. Her resume covers the gamut – food consultant, nutritionist/home economist, food stylist, photographer .

For International Women’s Day 2019, I wanted to feature at least one Nigerian woman in food, part of a tribe of women who have set the bar, carved the path and made space for us at the table, in ways I see as beyond home economics and home management. They are the ones who have encouraged us to keep our history and heritage alive.

I had two questions for Madam Iyabo:

  • what you’d like people to ask you about food or one question you’ve never been asked
  • a dish she knows that many people don’t

Thank you for your response and kindness. We have a lot to learn.


One question I had always hoped people would ask me but never did. When you go out to eat in restaurants, what do you look out for?

Amazingly when and if  I go out to eat, I pay very little attention to the service, decor or food presentation at a restaurant though it all adds up but firstly, I emphasize on the food quality above everything else.

I  can appreciate good food even at  a road side bukka or in a small restaurant. You come to find out that most of these insignificant bukkas and restaurants we sometimes look down on tend to give you the originality in their food. Unlike most of those high-class restaurants where foods have been tweaked so much that originality in taste is lost.

Taking my learnings from a training I conducted with some chefs at one of the top hotels in Lagos, I was so surprised to see that short cuts were use to achieve results that were unrealistic to the originality of the food.

For example, I noticed that flour was used as a thickener in the famous Nsala (White soup). Before the training, the Food & Beverage Manager had invited me to join in their buffet one afternoon and there I took notes of my observations where flour was used and also how garlic and turmeric came to play in my own native soup … Banga Soup. I screamed and shook my head. And all this happened because the Executive Chef of that hotel was a foreigner so the Nigerian chefs took advantage of that, forgetting that the paying costumers know and understand the food. So the hotel was loosing out.

When I took over the training, the difference was clear. I had to do a total overhaul of the purchasing department and the African kitchen. The first day of the training, the Executive Chef and the Food & Beverage Manager saw the impact when paying costumers asked if they had changed their Chefs and asked to see the chef who cooked what was served because it was the real deal.

With food there is no compromise with quality and originality. For you to cook, you must first understand the food, its origin, the ingredients, spices  and best method used.

What’s a dish you know that many people don’t?
Now a dish I know that many people don’t would be my signature “Garlicky Shrimp Coconut Rice”.

I do a lot of catering and training so Garlicky Shrimp Coconut Rice is one dish my clients never say no to any day, any time. Loaded with loads of shrimps and chunks of crispy bacon tossed in at the end.

Here is the recipe

Garlicky Coconut shrimps Rice

This is an easy, one-pot recipe that can be ready in less than 30 minutes and tastes better than any takeout. It’s healthier, not too greasy, and you’re sure going to love it. It is as quick can be, an easy-fix and so so yummy.

Here is wishing all ladies a happy International Women’s Day and do have a beautiful one.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp of veg oil
  • 1 tspn butter
  • 4 rashers of bacon (chopped and fried crispy)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small root ginger grated
  • 1 large bulb onion, chopped
  • 4 cups peeled shrimp
  • 1 tbsp fresh red Scotch Bonnet Pepper,  chopped
  • 1 tbsp of green fresh Scotch Bonnet peppers, chopped
  • Seasoning cube/ salt to taste
  • 4 cups raw basmati rice
  • 6 cups of coconut milk
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped spring onions

Method

  1. In a large sauce pan add oil and butter melt over medium-heat. Add bacon fry till very crisp, remove and set aside
  2. Add garlic, ginger and onions, cook for 2 minutes then stir in the shrimp, peppers, seasoning and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Add rice and mix until well fried, about 10 minutes
  4. Add the coconut milk and coconut oil, stir well and taste. Adjust the seasoning and allow cook till it just begins to dry up, about 10-15 minutes
  5. Reduce the heat, add parsley/ spring onions, cover with foil paper, tucking in properly and then with pot lid. Cook till the liquid dries up
  6. Remove from heat, allow to rest for 5 minutes before opening. Add the crispy bacon and toss well
  7. Serve hot and well garnished with spring onions


Thank you so much, Ma for being gracious and sharing this great recipe with us. I can’t wait to make it!

Happy International Women’s Day. Thank you for being a beacon of light for us. God bless

You can check out some of her work on Instagram.