First things first, A very Happy New year to you! 2017 was trying, and all I ask is God’s help through the year 2018. I started off 2017 with resolutions and life kind of took over. You look at people and you think they have it going smoothly until you get close to them and experience their daily lives. I’m not good at a lot of things. I stick my foot in my mouth, I’m a worrier and over thinker, and things don’t always seem to go in my favor. I’m just tired of being tired. I want to do well. That is my uttermost desire. Well, let me not be a Debbie Downer. As the year 2018 has begun, I entered with no resolutions really. Because I realized I really cannot do this life by myself. Life gets to you and you get winded and you realize that you have to count on only God for the help you need. This year, I have no resolutions. I just want God to help me push through in this very lonely world. I pray for beauty for ashes, a compensation for all my sad days and with this, I hope your year is merry and bright 🙂
It’s a few days to Christmas and I have been down with a cold and I have bombarded myself with spicy soups; ranging from vegetable pepper soup to fish pepper soup and just warm water with pepper soup spice.
One thing I love about pepper soup is that, the pepper and spices help you kind of sweat out the cold.
I have had some recipes in line for the Christmas celebration, but with coughing, sniffing and all the fatigue I feel, I think I’ll do the easy ones. I cannot just leave you guys like that.
Growing up in Nigeria, I lived in Warri which is in Delta state. In warri, we have several rivers and we lived quite close to the NNPC refinery port where my dad worked. So, if there is one food Warfarians enjoy the most of, it’s fish pepper soup. I remember going to Pesu Market with my mother, just because she had to buy fish. The good thing about Pesu market was the fact that it was close to the water, so every fish caught was instantly sold to eager customers.
In Warri, there are several restaurants who offer a variety of fish or seafood for their pepper soup, but the people’s favorite is either Tilapia or Catfish. Personally, I do not fancy Tilapia, but it’s one fish that is affordable and soaks up the flavor of whatever dish you’re cooking. So, making a decision to use Tilapia for this recipe was very easy. (and I digress).
When you meet a Yoruba person and they talk about the wonder that is Gbegiri, stew and Ewedu, you will be utterly mind blown at the way with which they describe the dish and how they eat it. The description can only be successfully made with the Yoruba language which leaves your mouth watering even if you don’t speak or understand the language.
Gbegiri is a soup made with African Honey beans or brown beans. The beans is soaked to soften it; then it is peeled or not and cooked until very soft and blended into a very smooth and velvety soup.
When you go to Nigerian restaurants in the Winter, you get to order different types of soups and there is no reason why we cannot add Gbegiri to the mix. After all some people make lentil soup and potato soup.
I remember when I made Ikorore , i.e water yam pottage. A lot of my Yoruba readers kept describing how to eat it with cold Eba. I was so astonished. First you people are eating bean soup with Eba; then you’re eating yam pottage with cold Eba.(side eye) Then I asked my friend Dami and she confirmed it. The look on my face was too much for Dami to behold that she started laughing. And since I do not eat Gbegiri and it’s sisters which are Ewedu, stew and Eba, I decided to make it into a lone soup. A velvety creamy soup that is so filling, you may not even want anything else to eat afterwards.
Every Christmas, according to tradition we make pepper soup as a starter, but this year we will be swapping pepper soup for some Gbegiri and Nigerian stew and a slice of toasty, garlicky baguette
Who makes fish during the Christmas season? Anyone!
Let me start by telling you why I’m thankful for this Christmas and how I got a fish bone stuck in my throat. I made a pot of delicious Ogbono soup with dry fish and some Shaki (tripe) and chicken for my Ajebutters and I. Usually, I debone any kind of dry fish before using; except I’m dumping them whole into my soup. Anyway, I deboned my fish, or I thought I did and threw them into the bubbling pot of soup. While eating, a little bone got stuck in my throat. I made more Eba and swallowed it, the bone refused to come out. I ate some bread, peanut butter, drank diluted Vinegar and ate some rough corn bread and the bone refused to shift. I then realized the bone was lodged in the left side of my throat. What type of bone goes and lodges at the left side of your throat if it’s not the ones sent by your enemies :P(I kid). When I started coughing out blood, I knew I had to stop praying fall down and die(Nigerians would understand 🙂 ) and run to the nearest Emergency room. On getting to the ER, they quickly took a photo of my throat and had me sit and wait on the results. At this point, I couldn’t really swallow and my life began to flash before my eyes. I was beginning to wonder, if I would die from swallowing a fish bone. This life!
Moments later, a Physician’s assistant called me into one of the rooms and said to me “So you said you have a bone in your throat.” I was astonished at the statement and managed to reply her with the pain in my throat, ‘I’m not saying I do. There is one in my throat and I cannot swallow.” She decided to get a light and a tongue depressor to check my throat manually and viola! She saw the bone. She went ahead to locally anaesthetize my throat and went in with a pair of tiny forceps and viola! One wicked looking tiny bone came out with the forceps. Abeg follow me thank God.
If there are any recipes that I will forever love, it is my recipes for Palm oil jollof and Jollof spaghetti. I have one recipe here for Jollof spaghetti, but I want to share a very easy recipe without the coconut milk. There are some recipes that I can tweak as much as I want, but this pasta recipe remains the same with improvements.
Growing up, Jollof spaghetti was one of the first dishes I cooked. I used to cook it with all kinds of protein; from dry fish to liver to shaki. Yes Shaki 🙂 And for this recipe, I kind of recreated my recipe with a little improvement on the sauce and technique. I used to make my Jollof pasta differently. I fried my sauce with little or no seasoning and I literally cooked it like Jollof rice. As I got older, I realized I was doing the whole recipe wrong. while keeping my originality intact, I began to experiment with spices and seasonings and I’m glad to say, this recipe is my baby.
The dry fish added to this recipe is totally optional, but to get the smoky pasta taste, you have got to roast your tomato mix. Hay god! The smokiness of the roasted veggies and the hint of basil. Fada! I cannot explain it. Then if you want to be like me with the dry fish, Eureka!
With the roasting of my tomato, peppers, garlic and onions, it was a delicious mistake that happened. I was making some stew and I wanted to roast my peppers and tomatoes. I have a smoky Jollof rice recipe where I roasted my ingredients and it was fabulous! Anyway, I washed and cut my tomatoes and peppers and onions, I crushed my garlic and tossed in the habanero. I seasoned them with a little oil and salt; then I roasted them in a pan in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. I blended everything and just cooked the blend in some oil and made some stew. I had some of the blended ingredients left over, so I made some pasta and viola!
There’s always the holidays to make certain dishes that we don’t always get to have during the rest of the year. But these days, it’s not always so.
During the holidays, my father(God rest his soul) always had a goat and chickens butchered for us and the rest of his extended family. Apart from the goat meat and offal pepper soup, there was always the goat meat stew. This stew was always prepared by my mother and my father’s sister (may God rest her soul).
It was made with fresh tomatoes and red rot pepper. During those times, the kitchen was at the back of my father’s house and all I did was watch from the window of my mother’s bedroom until I was old enough to help in the kitchen. Helping in the kitchen was never my strongest point. I was made to crush the tomatoes and peppers with the mortar and a pestle. Tedious? Absolutely! And it made the cooking process take a whole day.
If there’s one invention I’m utter mostly grateful for, it’s the blender. Imagine just whipping the tomatoes and pepper into a puree and pouring them straight into your oil.
Growing up Nigerian was adventurous. We had to be creative in the kitchen when we had no appliances or power to get the appliances to work. We used the grinding stone to crush peppers, beans, tomatoes, onions…everything. And if you were lucky, your parents helped with an easier way out by paying the local mill to help puree or grind these ingredients. I remember paying 10Naira to blend tomatoes for stew while in the city. But in my father’s country home, the market place was very far, so we had no other option than the mortar and the pestle.
I’m not a fan of beans, but when it comes to red red I am head on!
Stewed beans is a traditional West African recipe, but I’m introducing the Ghanaian style with a twist. The reason I like this recipe is because of it’s character. The mix of onion, tomatoes and peppers in organic African palm oil orgasmic. I could not explain the mix of flavors. It was so good that it put me to sleep.
Growing up, I didn’t like beans. It was one of those meals I chose to sleep and forget. My mother made my siblings and I eat beans under the guise that it would make us tall. As mommy I believed everything she said. When people tell me that they love beans, my reaction is always “and so?” Like “why?” why would anyone eat or even have beans as their favorite food? Is the world that sad? Until I had red red.
While growing up, I never really understood why it took so long for beans to cook; until I started cooking it on my own. There were times I would cook honey beans and for more than an hour I would sit and watch the beans cook. Only for half to be soft and the other half not even close to well done. I asked my mother and she said it had something to do with seasoning the beans before cooking. She said, adding salt or any type of seasoning during the preparation of beans makes it harder to get soft. Superstitious? I have no idea! But I’m going with no seasonings. At least my beans is always well done now 🙂
I cannot explain how it feels to prepare and eat this dish. Apart from the Nigerian beans pottage, this is the only way I really like beans. and with plantains, this recipe is every every everything!
My friend and blogger colleague 9jafoodie asked a question to her Instagram followers and the question was “what has your vote as the ultimate Nigerian dish?” And my answer was Palm oil rice.
Palm oil rice is even more delicious than Jollof rice. I know, I know; to you it may sound crazy to say that. But with Palm oil rice, the time frame for cooking is way easier than the regular Jollof rice.
This recipe, though Palm oil worthy, is a little different from the everyday Palm oil rice. It is a little similar to the Nigerian fried rice and it just fascinates me how similar but different our recipes are.
This recipe is worth sharing because it’s wikidly spicy and delicious!
The first time I tried this recipe, I was tired from a long day. I had my Ajebutter1 make me sautéed shrimp. She peeled and deveined the shrimp while I gave her an ingredient/spice list to prepare the shrimp. After she was done mixing the spices, I had her add smoked paprika and eureka! We ate every piece of shrimp; including the tails 🙂
The next day I had the same Paprika shrimp tossed in some noodles and I found food ecstasy. I simply ate and fell asleep from satisfaction. It was just like having a good cookie 🙂
The size of shrimp also matters. For this recipe, the larger the shrimp the better. I had to use the small ones this time as that’s what I had available at home.
For my readers in Nigeria, the large prawns should work well. I still mix up the differences between the shrimp and prawns. I know shrimps have claws on two of their legs and prawns have claws on three. But who goes looking for these things? I just see whatever looks like a shrimp or a prawn and get excited! 🙂
The ever smiling Victor Ehikamenor, a native of Edo State Nigeria is one artist that makes the Federal republic of Nigeria proud.
I first met Victor on Facebook through my friend Ruona and one thing that drew me to Victor was his writing; then I later got to know that he was an artist too. Victor describes his art as a figurative abstraction; using iconography. See big grammar on top o 🙂
There are days I would see a picture of his art work and though I may not understand it, for some reason it always feels so refreshing. They say the secret to a successful career is in genuinely enjoying what you do. Watching Victor as he relishes and enjoys his art is one that gives me joy. and as he draws, he stays smiling and stays drawing.
Victor can make a squeezed piece of paper have so many diverse meanings. His pencil on his paper seems to always make another sweet dream come true.
Apart from the fact that he is an excellent artist, he is also a foodie and a fantastic food photographer. Knowing him as an artist helps me understand the story behind each photo. It’s like knowing how a person thinks and being able to kind of know their moods at a given time without them explaining.
A regular person would see a pretty plate of Ayamase sauce with rice and fried plantain above. But knowing Victor, this Ayamase came served from the gods for eternal satisfaction from hunger; just like Manna from the heavens. And these little things are just what fascinates me about him. Victor cannot just be ordinary.