Coconut rice

Safe to say, there was always rice in our house growing up. I learnt how to cook rice well and learnt how to cook it badly! All over my blog you might have had the impression that I’m obsessed with making the ‘perfect’ jollof rice. While that might be true (😉) I am aware that other rice dishes are available. It was therefore a real joy and pleasure to make this coconut rice, yet another recipe from the Afro Vegan cookbook. Again easy to make and put together, it’s a winner for me. If I had made a nice spicy stew, this would have gone perfectly with it. I didn’t but I did end up mixing it with my asaro (yam pottage) which added the kick that complemented the rice.

Ingredients

400 g/14oz jasmine rice

1 red onion, finely diced

2 1/2 tbsp coconut oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 cm/ 1/2 in ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 red peppers, deseeded and diced

1 Scotch bonnet, deseeded and diced

1 bay leaf

1 tsp curry powder

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp fine salt

260g/9 1/4 oz can full-fat coconut milk

260ml/8 3/4 fl oz vegetable stock

1 tbsp sugar (optional)

1/2 small red cabbage

Method

Gently stir the rice in water to remove the starch, then drain and repeat until the water stays clear.

Sauté the onion in the coconut oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, red peppers and Scotch bonnet and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the bay leaf, curry powder, thyme, nutmeg and salt.

Pour in the coconut milk and stock (and add the sugar if you want to sweeten the rice). Bring to the boil, then tip in the rice. Cover and turn down to a rapid simmer, leaving to cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely shred the red cabbage; a mandolin helps. Reduce the heat again and place the red cabbage on top of the rice. Don’t store it in. Cook, covered, for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let it sit (don’t stir) for up to 10 minutes, the fluff, scraping any delicious crispy rice from the bottom of the pan (the best part!).

You could garnish, if you like, with some toasted coconut flakes, chilli flakes, lime zest, lime wedges for squeezing or chilli sauce.

REFERENCE: Afro Vegan Family recipes from a British-Nigerian kitchen. Page 73.

Plantain Salad Imoyo

Growing up, salad was not something I immediately connected to Nigerian cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, we did eat them, plenty of them in fact. I just don’t remember them as a ‘Nigerian thing’, more of a European thing, although interestingly the first salad I remember us making was called Chinese salad (chicken, vegetables and salad cream!). It was a very very simple salad but so so tasty. As life has moved on, I have of course realised that Nigerians eat salad and enjoy them. My newly purchased recipe book (Afro Vegan) has at least three salads that I want to try to make.

I started with the first one last weekend – Plantain Salad Imoyo. ‘Imoyo’ refers to a fusion of Nigerian and Brazilian cuisine. The Portuguese slave trade took West Africans to Brazil in the 15th century and when the descendents returned as free people in the 19th century they brought back green bell peppers, garlic and olive oil which were then incoporated into Nigerian cuisine. Imoyo dishes will often contain raw uncooked vegetables marinated in vinegar, lime or lemon juice. I was drawn to this recipe because I do not recall eating plantain any other way than fried, boiled or baked but never roasted and tossed into a salad…

This salad was delicious…

So tasty, so tasty – sweet, spicy, hot and refreshing all at the same time. So simple to make, it will definately be someting that I come back too.

Ingredients

2 ripe yellow plantains (with black splotches)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 tsp fine salt

1 cucumber, finely diced

1 green pepper, finely diced

30g/1oz fresh parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped

1 avocado, peeled, destoned and diced (optional)

The dressing

3 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp agave syrup

1 Scotch bonnet (to taste), very finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp fine salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

Heat the oven to 180oC/350oF (160oC/325oF fan). Top and tail the plantains, then score the skin down the length of each, trying not to cut through the flesh. Repeat down the opposite length and remove the skin, then cut the flesh into 1 1/2 cm/ 1/2 in dice.

Tip them onto a large non-stick baking tray, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with the salt and toss to coat. Spread acorss the tray so the pieces don’t overlap, and roast for 30 – 35 minutes, or until golden and caramelised around the edges, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jug and give them a good stir.

Toss the cucumber, green pepper, parsley and cooled roasted plantain together in a large bowl. (Add the avocado, if using, too). Pour the dressing over everything and give it a good mix. Put the salad in the fridge for 30 minutes, so the falvours have a chance to infuse, then serve.

REFERENCE: Afro Vegan Family recipes from a British-Nigerian kitchen, Zoe Alakija. Page 76

Moi moi (steamed bean pudding)

My mother was staying with me this weekend and I thought it would be nice to also invite my best friend and now neighbour round for lunch. Apart from spending time with some of my favourite people, I did have an ulterior motive in mind. As you know, I have recently purchased another new recipe book ‘Afro Vegan’ and I’ve been wanting to make the meals and share them with people that would appreciate the taste.

I have already made the jollof rice and my mother’s verdict was that it was ‘OK’. I might still have a way to go! However, undeterred, I was still determined to tackle the other recipes. Moi moi is another classic Nigerian recipe and another one that I have made with varying degrees of success. Of course my mothers version is the best one but I think I also wanted to explore other flavours and methods.

This version that I made – has coriander mixed into it, something I’ve never seen my mother do. The whole process was made easier by the purchasing of eyeless (peeled) black eye beans. However the final product did not have as much taste and flavour as I expected. I was a little disappointed but I think it just means I’ll think a little more creatively when I make the next batch. I think I’m going to add some vegetable stock instead of water. I wonder if that was the edge that was missing for me. Also I might add more pepper, I’m used to moi moi being slightly hotter, well at least Mummy’s one. I did however really like the coriander taste that did come through.

I really loved the concept of cooking them in cupcake cases. They came out small, cute and perfectly shaped. When I was younger my first recollection of moi moi was that which Mummy placed in old cans. We used wash them out, dry them and keep them for the special occasions that she made moi moi. Then I remember spending Christmas Eves making up little aluminium foil containers to put the moi moi mixture in. When we left home my mother started buying and using banana leaves which are the more traditional moi moi mould.

Since leaving home my mould had been ramekins but I think the cupcake holder method is here to stay.

Ingredients

400g/14oz dried Nigerian honey beans (oloyin)

2 red peppers, 1 roughly and 1 finely chopped

1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled

1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp fine salt

3 tbsp sustainable red palm oil

Small bunch of coriander, finely chopped (optional), plus extra leaves to garnish

Method

If you cannot get Nigerian honey beans, it’s also really good made with black-eyes or drum beans.

Peels the beans. When the skins are off the beans, rinse them off one last time, and soak them for at least 4 hours or overnight

Heat the oven to 180oC/350oF (160oC/325oF fan). Drain the beans, then add them to a blender or food processor with the roughly chopped red pepper, red onion, Scotch bonnet and 350ml/11 3/4fl oz water and blend to a smooth batter. Set aside.

Dissolve the stock cube in 1 1/2 tablespoons of boiling water in a small bowl, with the spices and salt. Then stir in the oil. Whisk the mixture into the batter for 5 minutes, until fluffy. Fold the finely chopped red pepper (and coriander, if using) into the batter.

Line two cupcake trays with 15 – 18 cases. Pour the batter into them and place the trays into roasting tins, so that they fit inside easily. Half-fill the roasting tins with boiling water to create a water bath. Cover tightly with oiled aluminium foil and transfer to the oven.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them rest for 10 – 15 minutes, then remove from their cases and serve with a scattering of coriander leaves.

Reference: Afro Vegan, Zoe Alakija, page 100

Spinach, potato and chickpea curry

Some sad potatoes demanding to be eaten, cans of chickpeas waiting to be opened – voila – a spinach, potato and chickpea curry is born…

Ingredients

  • ▢2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola, corn, sunflower oil
  • ▢1 medium yellow onion diced
  • ▢2 cloves garlic minced
  • ▢1 inch (3 cm) ginger root grated
  • ▢1 green chili deseeded and diced
  • ▢1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ▢½ teaspoon curry powder optional
  • ▢½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ▢1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ▢½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ▢1 pound (450 grams) potatoes peeled and cubed
  • ▢1 cup chickpeas cooked
  • ▢1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • ▢1 x 14 ounce (400g) can diced tomatoes (crushed tomatoes in the UK)
  • ▢½ teaspoon salt
  • ▢2 cups baby spinach leaves packed
  • ▢2 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro (coriander) chopped

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan, heat oil and saute onions with ginger and chili until the onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute or until its fragrant.
  • Add the spices, cook and keep stirring for 1 more minute or until fragrant. 
  • Add diced tomatoes, then refill the same can with water and add the water to the pot.
  • Add the potatoes and the chickpeas. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer until the potatoes become soft. You can add half of a can of coconut at this point if you like (optional).
  • Wilt the spinach leaves by adding them to the curry and cook for a minute. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped parsley or coriander.

Reference: Chickpea and potato curry