Asparagus salad with avocado dressing

Ignacio loves asparagus. It’s not quite a thing for me, I never grew up eating it and simply don’t know what to do with it. Over the past decade Ignacio had taught me how to make the most simple scrambled eggs mixed with asparagus and garlic. Up until now, I think that was the only think I had done with asparagus. The other night, I decided that I needed the change this and I looked up a recipe online so that I could use up the asparagus that was lounging about in the fridge.

This recipe is very easy to make. I even learnt how to make an avocado dressing .

Ingredients for Asparagus Salad

  • 2 bunches asparagus, tender parts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ garlic clove, grated
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Avocado Dressing
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Mint or basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water nearby. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and blanch for about 1 minute, until tender but still bright green. Transfer to the ice water for 1 minute, then drain. Transfer the asparagus to a kitchen towel to dry and wipe out the bowl.
  • At the bottom of the bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the asparagus and peas and toss until coated. Transfer to a platter, drizzle with some of the avocado dressing, top with feta, radishes, pine nuts, and mint or basil.

Ingredients for Avocado Dressing

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • ½ garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Combine the avocado, water, olive oil, lemon juice, dill, garlic, salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper in a blender. Blend until creamy, then transfer to a jar.
  • If the dressing is too thick, stir in a little more water to reach a drizzelable consistency, if desired.

The salad went very well with the jollof rice.

Reference: https://www.loveandlemons.com/asparagus-salad-recipe/

Reference: https://www.loveandlemons.com/avocado-dressing/

Classic jollof rice

I was talking to one my sisters the other day and she mentioned that she had ordered a book with Nigerian vegan recipes. I was intrigued and being the copycat that I am I immediately ordered the same publication.

Afro Vegan

It is is written by British Nigerian Zoe Alakija who is a London based art director and food stylist. It’s a lovely book, she has been able to artfully mix recipes and flavours to reflect her rich and mixed heritage. I’ve really warmed to it! Of course the first recipe that I wanted to explore was the jollof rice one. I have tried many iterations of this recipe with varying degrees of success. This one I will add to that list.

Jollof rice with a Spanish twist December 2016

Jollof rice October 2017

Jollof rice August 2021

I have experiented with a few different Jollof rice recipes over the years…

I followed this recipe exactly as stated in the book, the only omissions were ‘liquid smoke’, I didn’t have and it was optional to the recipe; bay leaves, I thought I had some, turned out I didn’t and finally I used a tin of tomatoes. I would like to think that it did not alter the taste too much. What I did put together, I felt, tasted amazing. Something I would not be ashamed to serve up at a party or any other gathering. It wasn’t that difficult to make when you think about it as various stages i.e. making the tomato based sauce, adding the rice and preparing the garnish.

Ingredients
  • 3 medium plum tomatoes (about 320g/11 1/2 oz)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 Scotch bonnet (to taste)
  • 5 red onions
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 7 1/2 cm/3in fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (preferably Maggi), crumbled
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • 400g/14oz long-grain rice
  • 3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (1 tbsp dried)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small handfull of fresh thyme sprigs
  • 12 baby plum tomatoes on the vine
Methods

Roughly chop the plum tomatoes, red pepper, Scotch bonnet and 1 red onion, then tip into a food blender or food processer an blitz until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium saute pan or casserole dish over a medium heat. Thinly slice 2 red onions and add them to the pan. Cook for 15 minutes until golden. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Add the spices, stock cube, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute more.

sauté the red onions
Ginger and garlic mix
spices – smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, curry powder, ground turmeric, Maggie stock cube; salt and pepper

Squeeze in the tomato puree and add the liquid smoke, if using, then stir well. Add the blended tomato and pepper mixture. Bring to a simmer, then cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook for 20 – 25 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Meanwhil, parboil the rice. First rinse it really well in a sieve until the water runs almost clean, then cover generously with water in a saucepan. Bring to the boils, cover and simmer for no more than 5 minutes, it should be really firm. Drain the rice and set aside.

When the sauce has had its time, add the parboiled rice and the thyme and bay leaves, then stir well. Cover the pot with aluminium foil to seal in the flavour, pop on the lid and cook for 20 minutes until all the sauce has been absorbed. Resist the temptation to stir, as it can make the rice soggy; the bottom of the pot my crisp a little, but that’s to be be welcomed.

Preheat the over to 200oC/400oF/(180Oc/350oF fan). Heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan, thinly slice the 2 remaining onions and add to the pan. Cook for 5 – 10 minutes, until softened but with a little crunch. Season and stir through a few of the thyme springs, then set aside.

Put the baby plum tomatoes on a small baking tray, drizzle with oil and season, then roast in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until just starting to burst.

When the rice is ready, remove it from the heat and let it sit (without stirring) for at least 10 minutes, fully covered. The fluff lighty with a fork. Serve garnished with the softened onions, roasted tomatoes and some more thyme springs.

This rice was very spicy, hot and very tasty. I also made an asparagus salad with avocado dressing that went very nicely with it. All in all, I was really happy with this recipe. The one criticism I have of my creation is that the rice was a little more sticky than I would have liked. I just remember now the 4th omission was using basmatic rice (all I had in the house) instead of long grain rice. I do not know if that would have made a difference. I will experiment the next time I made this rice.

Reference: Afro Vegan, Zoe Alakija, Classic Jollof, page 48

Dodo (fried plantain)

I feel like plantain – Dodo, to Nigerians – needs no introduction. It’s sweet and delicious, simple, fry it and serve it…

In fact when my mother saw me standing at my kitchen counter, slicing plantain and peering at my cooking book, she seemed incredulous – ‘why do you need a cookbook for dodo?’. Indeed, why would I need it? I’ve been frying plantain since I was safely able to go near a gas flame and hot oil – it’s a really easy process. However I came across this incarnation, had the ingredients (except for fresh parsley) and though – why not?

Ingredients

3 ripe yellow plantains

3 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp sea salt

handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Method

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. Slice the plantain flesh diagonally to create oval slices. Get a plate lined with kitchen paper ready.

Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. (Some people like to deepen the flavour of the coconut oil by frying a sliced onion in it before cooking the plantain. Remove the onion before the plantain goes in.)

When the oil’s hot, spoon in small batches of the plantain and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until golden. Don’t crowd the frying pan. Transfer cooked batches to the kitchen paper and repeat, adding a little more oil to the pan if needed.

Once all the plantain is cooked, put it in a large bowl along with the raw, sliced red onion, crushed chilli, sea salt and the chopped parsley, then gently toss together for serving. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some extra heat or squeeze of lime for tang, if you like.

REFERENCE: Afro Vegan – Family friendly recipes from a British-Nigerian kitchen, Zoe Alakija, page 99

Asaro (Yam Pottage)

So this is the last of my posts on the Nigerian feast that I cooked up, last weekend. The dish on the list is Yam Pottage also known as Asaro. Safe to say, another spicy and delicious dish that comes out of many Nigerian kitchens. I personally haven’t eaten yam for years. I was fearful of what the phytoestrogens would do to my fibroids – at least that’s what my father used to advice me many years ago. So as a result I would just ignore yams. However in the past few years the fibroids came back and took residence regardless, so I’ve relaxed my rules a little.

In preparation for the lunch I went to a local international (well ‘African’ and ‘Asians’ foods at least) food market to buy a yam tuber. I was saved from paying a ridiculously extortionate price and just paid an extortionate price because of my mother’s Yorubabian (is that a word?) outrage at the sellers. So off we went home with a yam tuber in my eager sweaty little paws.

However the next day, I took one look at the recipe I planned to make (spicy yam bites) and decided it was far too complex and I just couldn’t be bothered at that point in time. So I coverted to yam pottage (Asaro). This is essentially yam with a mix of tomatoes, peppers, onions, oil and seasoning. The yam is boiled until it’s tender and it’s cooked in the tomato based sauce. I used the recipe from the classic jollof rice, which worked out really nicely. It was very hot and complemented the coconut rice quite well.

The rest of the asaro has been sitting in the fridge all week and I’ve been slowly consuming it one small bowl at a time. It’s a perfect little snack when I have been feeling peckish doing my admin at home.

I would like to cook more yam based recipes because I do love the taste and texture of yam. Growing up one of the best and simplest of meals was a plate of yam with a little of oil and a sprinkle of salt – delicious. I remember my father used to also make that for a quick breakfast for us when we ran out of our usual weetabix. Another favourite was to eat it with soup (omi obe) after school or with scrambled eggs at the weekend. Yes, I’m definitely going to have to make time for more yam…