Keep Calm and Eat Jollof Rice(Tips for making the perfect jollof rice)

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“What if I told you that Jollof is a state  of mind?” As a Nigerian, “Jollof” is a state of mind. To a Nigerian, it means sweetness, happiness, joy:)

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Jollof rice is said to have originated from the Wolof tribe in Senegal, it was a great empire which was divided into parts of the Gambia.
Now in the whole of Africa, different countries celebrate this dish in their own way. Each country has their different technique with which they cook the perfect Jollof rice. I have seen the Ghanaian style and the Nigerian style (which I have spent the year perfecting). There is this untold battle between Nigerians and Ghanaians on whose jollof rice is better. The Ghanians tend to have a softer and mushier rice; while the Nigerians enjoy their version steamed, a little dry and in single grains. I did taste some Ethiopian style jollof rice made with broken rice. It had the color and looked delicious, but it was mushy and had no maggi 😦  No way! And they used perfumed rice for it…All I could taste was the smell…Don’t ask abeg *eye roll…I keep reading about the untold battle between Nigerians and Ghanaians on who makes the best Jollof rice. Oh puhlease! There is no battle…it’s quite unnecessary when we already know that there’s no doubt that Nigerians make the best Jollof rice (go and argue with your emotions please:) )

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Will Travel For Food(My Trip To Chicago)

I have a dream and it’s to work for CNN as a food correspondent in Africa. I would love to travel like Anthony Bourdain and show the world what Africa has to offer when it comes to food. Not only that, being a food writer for the food companies is something of great interest to me. From my mouth to God’s ears.

During the first lap of the summer I planned a vacation, but it didn’t work out. I had wanted to do some restaurant reviews during that vacation, but I really feel within me that it was for the best that I didn’t make it. After that, my friend and I were having a conversation and we talked the whole vacation thingamajig. She asked if I wanted to go to Chicago for the Umu Igbo Unite(UIU) conference. See, we had talked about it last year, but we couldn’t make it. Well, we got prepared and went for the conference. See I wasn’t too keen on attending the conference, I just wanted to “Eat in Chicago!” 🙂 As in, no body goes to Chicgo and leaves without trying their hot dogs, pizza and tacos (well the tacos were an addition by me)

See, Chicago is a beautiful place, I had visited twice with my family and this was the third time. First we had to navigate through the crazily built airport and we made our way to our hotel. First of all, NEVER get a hotel room in a building being renovated. See, we knew the place was being renovated, but we never knew how disturbing it would be. Embassy Suites man! As in, even on the day of our departure, all I heard was drilling. I felt it was their way of telling us “it’s check out time! And I digress 🙂

My first evening in Chicago met me going to visit my friend Boomie. I met Boomie on Facebook and we hit it off from there. I told her I would be visiting Chicago and she estatically invited us over! Well, I invited myself and she agreed lol! I simply said to her “I’m visiting Chicago soon and I’m coming to eat ayamase; and I want some to go oh! I even told her that “fried rice must dey too o!” Anyway, my friend and I rode 1 hour to go see Boomie and eat ayamase! She not only cooked for us, she had ayamase for us to go. As in eh see lem!(food in vanacular). The girl can cook! chei! This is beyond instagram o. She also caters in the Chicago area. You should check her out on instagram @twopeascooks

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my dinner plate at Boomie’s house

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This is what I did with my bowl of Ayamase

The next day found us just exploring the little city and the neighborhood of our hotel. We were going for the UIU event in the evening, so we had plenty time to kill. I even got treated to Pf Changs for the first time. Yes in all the decades I have lived, I had never had Pf Changs, so here is to popping my cherry ehn!

8:30pm same day:

My friend and I had to get ready to go to the UIU gathering that evening. Honestly, I just wanted to sleep. We even woke up late and got there a little late. By the time we got there at 9, the place was filled with Igbo youths. I had goose bumps walking in, because I had never seen so many of us in one place at the same time. There’s something about being Igbo that just make me warm inside. We made our way to find seats and ended up at the back of the hall(where the pretty girls were seated hehehe)…There was a plate of something that looked like a warm, but stale salad sitting on the table in a salad plate. It looked too scary to touch really. When time came for dinner, we got served some rice, chicken and something that looked like fried bananas or plantains. Being Nigerian, I thought the contents of the plate was fried Nigerian stew and chicken with white rice, but being the foodie that I am, I had to ask the server what it was that we got served in our dinner plates and the lady replied “chicken, sauce and rice pilaf…” I scratched my head and said silently “ewo!”…and with one scoop of the rice into my mouth, I called it a day with the food. The rice was not cooked and it was a little soupy…I didn’t know if they were shooting for some kind of rice and stew risotto. I even had to knock my friend’s hands down from eating the stale salad and bananas. Although the cheese cake had been sitting on the table all evening, it was pretty much the only thing I ate, In fact we left the venue early and found ourselves at McDonalds. I didn’t even care for Flavour that was coming to perform. I’m a foodie and once a gathering has bad food, it’s usually over for me. I don’t know, but this was supposed to be a gathering of Igbo youths and I was expecting little plates of abacha, nkwobi or even Utara and Ofe Achi or even Egusi Igbo…Some South east based tapas would have made the evening memorable…but mba! Una no try for that side oh! Some people come to parties for the food! And if the food is awful, how do you improve? Hire Nma to direct food affairs next year…hehehe…seriously though…

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Dinner plate at UIU

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Basmati Jollof Rice(A Jollof State of Mind)

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Oh Chim! I wasn’t going to post another recipe for Jollof rice, but I get questions asking me if I have a recipe for Basmati jollof rice and instead of typing recipes all the time, I’d rather just have it ready on here for your Jollof needs 🙂

“So what if I told you that Jollof rice is a state  of mind?” As a Nigerian, “Jollof” is our state of mind. To a Nigerian, it means sweetness, happiness, joy:) And what if I told you that you havent’t lived until you have had Jollof rice?

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When I posted this recipe on Motherlandsfinest.com, my girl Freeds from My burnt orange said “it is the same as Ghanaian Jollof,” but I doubt that Ghanaian Jollof can taste this good…teehee!

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I prefer to use Basmati rice for my jollof needs because of the smell and the nutty taste of the rice. The makers of this rice knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to go into Basmati production. It’s like my ultimate favorite!

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Suya Pasta Stir Fry

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This is a very lazy recipe; which I created last year. I was craving Jollof spaghetti and I ended up making this and I haven’t made any Jollof spaghetti since then :)…This is not me saying that Jollof  spaghetti is not the biz-knees, but this one is just epic…the epicness of the recipe cannot be forgotten.

If you remember, I made chicken suya and Thai stir fry. You could just toss some pasta in the mix or make your pasta using this method.

I believe that suya seasoning is the most used spice amongst African Chefs. I have dabbled into using uziza and other little spices too, but I love the suya spice sha 🙂

Creating this dish wasn’t too tough. As a matter of fact, I was happy doing it and now; apart from jollof spaghetti, we now have suya pasta. Nigerian food can always be much more 🙂 And guess what? It’s one pot, No mess!

Now to the dish…

Suya Pasta Stir Fry
 
Prep time

Cook time

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Author:
Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • Chicken breasts
  • Suya spice powder
  • 1 packet pasta(cooked and drained)(you could whole wheat pasta)
  • 1 small onion(minced)
  • 3 garlic cloves(minced)
  • 1/2 inch of ginger(grated)
  • chill flakes
  • (any vegetable mix of your choice)(I didn’t use any)
  • Thai chili(chopped)
  • black pepper
  • cooking oil
  • bouillon
  • salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Wash and pat chicken dry. season with salt, oil, black pepper, and suya powder. Set it aside for about 10minutes to an hour. 12-24 hours is ideal…(do not over power the chicken or the pasta with the suya spice)
  2. Heat a wok or sauce pan. Pour in the oil. Once the oil heats up a little, add the chicken and cook until brown on both sides. (do not over crowd the pot).Pour in the onions, garlic and ginger and mix in with the chicken until fragrant.(Add vegetables at this point if using) Pour in the cooked pasta along with the chili flakes; then mix in with the chili pepper if using(according to your heat tolerance)…Season with some black pepper, salt and bouillon if using…add some suya spice powder if you want to add anymore; then serve. I served mine with pickled thai peppers 🙂

 

Banga Soup. Pride of The Niger Delta

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I really wasn’t going to blog much this summer. It has been too hot. In fact the day I made this soup, I asked myself “who send me sha?”  Nothing will make me write again this summer kai!. The heat and humidity is just annoying lol :)…Most of my photos are taken outside, so imagine me in the sun with all the humidity. I ‘omase’d’ for myself lol! You had to see me sweating and eating banga soup at the same time LOL!!!

Anyway, I grew up in Warri in Delta state and one of the staple soups there is Banga soup seasoned with very aromatic spices; then cooked to perfection with meat or fish. My favorite of the banga spices is Ataiko. Although these days, you can find the special blend at the market or at the African shops, below is an image with Banga spices.

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banga soup spices. photo by Matsecooks.com

In Nigeria, Palm oil is a huge staple; even though most of my people see it as “not healthy”, Palm oil is one of the world’s best super food. I think “Whole foods” sell palm oil too(Not sure)…I checked online and I saw that Walmart sells it; even Amazon. But in Africa, not only do we have the farms where the palm fruits are grown and harvested, we have the local and machine owned processing plants for palm oil…And your benefiting any kind of nutrients from the palm oil is determined by how you cook it. i.e bleaching and not bleaching…and how much you use per pot of food during cooking. As with everything, a little here, a little there won’t kill you. It actually helps to keep your skin shiny and moisturized.

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Google image of palm fruit farm

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Google image of harvested palm fruits

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Google image of a man holding a harvested palm fruit

I remember being a young girl and roasting the palm fruit in the open fire; then eating the fruit’s pulp after that. You know what? It was absolutely delicious. The way the juices melted in my mouth while I chewed the pulp is just indescribable. And the nutty smell too; there was something comforting about about it.

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Google image of roasted palm fruit.

Another use of palm fruits is to make fire and even palm kernel oil for the skin. After the palm fruits are washed, cooked and squeezed, the chaf is usually used to make fire; which can be used by locals to cook. I cannot even begin to narrate all the beautiful uses of the palm fruit…but it is quite fascinating how much use one single bunch of palm fruit can give.

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When Long Throat Is real(and there is nothing you can do about it)

It’s been so hot and I haven’t been able to really cook for the blog. Apart from that, I have been busy “adulating.” This adult life is not an easy one, but God doesn’t bring you through things without a purpose. Like my friend Ify always says, “everything happens for a reason.”

Anyway, I was craving Ofada stew and for some reason I wanted someone to make me some.  It’s not that didn’t have any peppers to make mine, but I just wanted someone to cook for me. Sometimes, I don’t crave my cooking. And I just had to get that Ofada stew before I had a long throat induced coronary lol.

So what is long throat? Well its simple when one’s desire fr a particular thing supersedes all other desires…hehehe. And honestly, my long throat for Ofada stew superseded all ridiculousness. As in, nothing else made sense except the sound of “Ofada sauce. in my ears 🙂

what is Ofada sauce? It’s a sauce made with green bell peppers, plenty of ata-rodo(habaneros) and Iru ; i.e locust beans made and eaten mostly by the Yoruba speaking people of Nigeria.

What’s in the joy of trying another person’s cooking? Well, it’s in the surprise and variance. And just being able to put your feet up while another person cooks for you. Anyway, my friend Nkem and I decided to satisfy the “outside” Ofada stew craving. She treated me to a nice bowl at an African restaurant where we had Ofada stew and some Asun(smoked goat meat) to go. Oh! and by the way, I had Orjin for the first time. Oh Chukwu! And do you know that I only remembered to take photos of my meal after I was done eating and home in my bed? Kai, hunger is a bastard 🙂 As for the Asun, I warmed it up the next day and served it with some pasta. Asun is best enjoyed with fried plantains a.k.a dodo, but I had none, so the pasta came in handy 🙂

imageSee, I didn’t have to cook or wash dishes afterwards(whoohoo!)…I don’t like washing dishes. No it’s not therapeutical jare lol! Anyway, I asked my friend Runy how she felt about being cooked for and she said “I don’t just eat any cooking, it has to be better than mine. I’m sort of a food snob.” Haha! who isn’t. I’ve just learnt to keep my criticism to myself especially when visiting a restaurant…

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Mackerel and Tomato Sauce

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I have been on a little break but I couldn’t stay away for long. I’m just sitting here, writing the story for this recipe and relieving the memories of being a very young child…

In Nigeria we have a league of brownie and Girl guides and I joined them since my father was a scout man 🙂 See,  brownies and girl guides are like girl scouts(in case you wanted to know). Anyway, we used to go for camps and in those camps, we used to dance around a camp fire. We used to sing songs and share horror stories. One time, we had a cooking competition and my group had to make fried rice…if you want to really hurt my feelings, just have me chop the veggies for fried rice and trust me, you’ve made an enemy for a life time…anyway these older girls had me chopping veggies and I couldn’t stand them for one second. The rice turned out tasting like kerosine. I laughed my ass off…I didn’t even care…why would I? When my mother is a trained chef with skills that could murder fried rice…Shior!

Anyway back to the recipe,  This recipe was born not out of laziness but from the need of something new in our bellies 🙂 Ronke has a recipe here. I did try her version once. and great it was. But I wanted something a little different and it really was a hit!

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Because Not Everyday Rice and Stew( Nigerian foods you can make without tomatoes)

In the past weeks in Nigeria, there has been a scarcity of tomatoes. This event has driven a few; well not a few, but a ton of Nigerians crazy. It’s as if someone took their crack pipe, tied an anchor to it and tossed it deep into the Atlantic ocean. I noticed people on social media scrambling for recipes for “tomato-less” stew…In fact when I posted a recipe for carrot stew, I could literally hear people breathing with a sigh of relief.
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In fact, when Nigerians saw the festival of tomatoes in Spain, them vex no be small. Say what? throwing tomatoes as in a food fight…omase o; for wetin na? Una crase?! See how those people were wasting tomatoes sha! Will they make heaven at all? God does not like this type of waste na!
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google image of the festival of tomatoes in Spain

When the tomato scarcity started, a lot of Nigerians complained about not being able to make their Sunday rice and stew. Some people were freaking out and wanted alternatives to the Nigerian tomato stew. Listen, only God knows where we got the habit of making rice and sew every Sundays. Yes, even my mother  made sure we had rice and stew every Sunday for lunch or dinner. Stew was specifically for Sundays. Fast forward to today, my mother keeps reminding me to make my ajebutters rice and stew every Sundays!
The Nigerian kitchen can be more. If you have no tomatoes, you can always improvise. There is really no cause to freak out; and over some tomatoes too? There is no need to blame Buhari or Apc. The tomatoes were attacked by pests and not them Apc brooms haha! Nigerians like conspiracy theories sha!!!
Below are the images of a few types of sauces that can be made without tomatoes:
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Image by Jackie. Vegetable stew

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Bell pepper and ginger stew by 9jafoodie. Recipe is on her instagram page @9jafoodie

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Bell pepper buka stew by Myactive kitchen. Recipe is on www.myactivekitchen.com

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Yassa by 9jafoodie. Recipe is on www.9jafoodie.com

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Ofe Akwu by Ngerian laychef. Recipe is on the blog www.nigerianlazychef.com

I did a poll in order to understand why and how the origin of Sunday rice and stew came to being and below were some answers from my friends on social media:

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Sofrito Based Carrot Stew (When Tomatoes Tries To Show You Who’s Boss, You Improvise)

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It’s no news that Nigerians love their tomato stew. What is Sunday rice without stew. I mean as much as we love our Jollof rice, don’t come and ruin our Sunday with no rice and stew. In fact the gods will not be happy with you.  I mean, no rice and stew on a Sunday? Who does that? That’s what almost happened in Nigeria during the past weeks. There’s been the scarcity of tomatoes in Nigeria and I saw people making comments on social media; most were upset. At first, some people from the opposition said it was President Muhammad Buhari’s fault. I had a good laugh at that one. Not much later, we got to find out that it had something to do with pests. But you’ve got to love Nigerians and their conspiracy theories. Imagine, President Buhari preventing the sale of tomatoes. Then there was the tomato festival in Spain. Oh that annoyed many Nigerians…Imagine wetin man dey find to cook with na im these people dey use take do food fight! Abeg make una stop this kind thing haha! And don’t even try to tell Nigerians that they could use canned tomatoes, it’s like buying a wrestling match..sigh!!

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google image of tomato festival

Anyway, I read a lot of posts and comments with a lot of my people complaining about this tomato issue on social media, so I decided to share an old recipe I have had since my days of living in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, I lived in a little town called New Bedford and it was filled with Portuguese and Spanish people. I remember going to the shops and seeing a little bottle looking thing with some sauce looking thing in it. On the bottle were the words “Sofrito”.  After a few trips to the shop, I decided to get jar. I used some of it for some steak and Nigerian stew and I fell in love with it. Then one day, after been bitten by the food bug, I decided to make mine; using my own method of course…My Sofrito base is not the typical or traditional one, but I promise you, it’s just as amazing!

Well, what is Sofrito? Sofrito is a Latin or Spanish sauce base made with peppers, herbs, garlic, onion, tomatoes and sometimes ginger. I have had so many different blends of Sofrito that I decided to always make mine.

With this recipe, I did not use any herb as I didn’t find it necessary. It’s quite simple and makes the use of carrots in place of tomatoes. So my people, if the scarcity of tomatoes tries to show you who’s boss; kindly raise your hand high like Beyoncé and say “bye Felicia!” Let tomato know that there is carrot jare. Try this recipe and be your own boss!

Sofrito Based Carrot Stew (When Tomatoes Tries To Show You Who’s Boss You Improvise)
 
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Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • 3 small or 2 large red pointy peppers i.e tatase
  • 2 habanero peppers(ata rodo or Ose)
  • 3 small carrots(wash by scrubbing with a strong cloth or sponge)
  • 1lb goat meat
  • 1½ small onions
  • 2 medium sized garlic cloves
  • ½ inch ginger
  • A healthy pinch of black pepper
  • A healthy pinch of white pepper
  • A healthy pinch of thyme
  • ½ cup meat stock
  • ½ cup cooking oil(use coconut oil or any healthier oil)
  • Bouillon
  • Salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Place the vegetables(except the half of the onion) into a blender(make sure the carrots are cut into little pieces to ensure adequate blending), pour in the meat stock into the blender and blend until smooth(roughly blend the mix if you choose to). Heat the oil, add the meat and fry in the oil until a little browned. Add the onion and sauté for about a minute or two. Pour in the blended vegetables and cook slightly covered; while stirring often. Stir in the seasonings after about 10 minutes and continue to cook until the oil has floated to the top and until the stew looks a little darker than it was when you first started cooking it. Drain any excess oil and serve as a side with any meal

 

Fried and Baked Beef and Shrimp Suya Egg Rolls

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I thought about love and what it means to different people and I looked at this recipe and saw how different; yet how similar it is with the original. When you think of egg roll wraps, you think about the Chinese or Japanese people. The first thing that comes to your mind is not suya 🙂 Fast forward to today and how I used a similar method, but with a different filling. I used some shrimp and beef suya . (You could use some chicken suya too). When you think about relationships and genuine love, it’s always two people of different back grounds coming together against all odds. Now, see how I married the flavor of the suya into a non traditional Nigerian egg roll.

This recipe came about one day while I was looking for a way to incorporate the Asian style of cooking into my recipes. If there is any way I enjoy food, it’s by doing fusions like this. As my blog is known for a specific kind of food from a specific area, I wouldn’t want to confuse my readers one bit, so I’d rather fuse the flavors. Same with love, it’s about compromise. Love isn’t selfish, love looks for ways to make things go smoother; to keep everyone(both parties) involved happy.

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