One Monday last month, by some miracle I finished work at four o’clock. I was so excited I shot out of the building and was home by quarter past five. The earliest for me for sometime. I was therefore a little more inspired to cook something different for dinner. Cooking dinner on weekday evenings are always a challenge because normally I get home after seven and I am rarely in the mood to cook something innovative outside of the usual pasta and salad staples. On this evening I decided to look again to my Nigerian roots for inspiration. I settled on jollof rice, another staple but this time of my childhood, and in adulthood had now become a delicious treat because I make and eat it so rarely.
Jollof rice is a West African dish with the basic ingredients being rice (of course), tomato sauce and spices. Variations will include the addition of meats (beef or chicken), it can be eaten alone or with fish or chicken, plantain, or beans. Then there are the Western versions. My sister makes a mean jollof rice with bacon, pancetta, with baby sweetcorn and parsnips. Delicious.
I decided that I would add a Spanish twist to my version. I chopped up some chorizo we had sitting in the fridge into slices and adding it to the mixture.
And what did I do?
I sliced one onion, chopped up two garlic cloves and added these ingredients to a saucepan with some butter. I let the onion sauté for a while then added two potatoes that had been chopped up into very small pieces. I then added two beef stock cubes, some ground nutmeg and a pinch of salt. I stirred this for a while (no fixed time frame – mostly until I was in aromatic heaven from the smell). I then added a can of chopped tomatoes, the slices of chorizo and then four small cups of rice. I then added enough water to cover the rice completely. In retrospect, four cups was perhaps too much for two people, but now there is plenty stored in the freezer for later. I then turned the heat up a little until the whole thing was bubbling and then turned the heat down. I let it cook until all the water was absorbed into the rice. It took about one hour and I did have to add a little more water when I could see that the rice was not cooking. However it all turned out nice in the end. The only thing missing was fried chicken and plantain!
From time to time I will remember and embrace my Nigerian roots. This always happens when food is concerned! About a two months ago my mother made puff puff. A delicious fried dough recipe which adorns the table of many Nigerian parties and events that I have attended . The ones my mother made where the best I had tasted in a long time and inspired me to cook some of my own one Sunday evening last month.
250g of Plain Flour
2 teaspoons of yeast
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
2 handfuls granulated sugar
3 pinches of salt
Lukewarm water (for mixing)
Vegetable Oil (for frying)
1. Put the floor in a bowl, add the ground nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, yeast, sugar and salt and mix
2. Add water in small quantities and mix everything by hand till you have a good blend of all the ingredients. Add the yeast you mixed with lukewarn water if applicable. Use warm water to mix the puff puff ingredients if you want it to rise faster.
3. Keep mixing till the batter is smooth but not too watery to flow from a spoon.
4. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and make sure it is airtight by pressing the edges of the bowl. Leave to rise for about 45 minutes. When ready to fry, the Puff Puff batter should have risen in quantity and will have some air bubbles.
5. Pour some oil in a deep pot and allow to heat up. The oil should be at least 3 inches deep. This is so that the puff puff will become spherical when scooped into the oil. Test that the oil is hot enough by putting a drop of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and comes up to the surface of the oil, then the oil is hot enough. If the oil is not hot enough, the batter will go down to the bottom of the oil and stay there.
6. When the oil is hot enough, scoop some batter into the oil with your hand by pressing the batter to come out from between your thumb and index finger – this is what will make the Puff Puff have a near-perfect spherical shape.
7. Put in more scoops of the batter, as much as the space in the frying pot will allow without overcrowding.
8. Once the underside of the puff puff has turned golden brown, flip the ball so that the topside will be fried as well.
9. When both sides are golden brown, take out the puff puff balls and place in a paper towel lined sieve.
On Thursday morning I got up at twenty past four to bake ginger chocolate brownies. Yes, utter madness, but in my busy schedule, this was literally the only time I had to bake. My colleagues had planned a retirement party for one our Looked After Children’s nurse, leaving the NHS after 42 years of service. The theme, a tea party , because appearenly she has a sweet tooth.
I found this recipe on line earlier this year and have made variations of it – all of which have been successful. They are fairly easy to make and so by five firty I had boxed them up ready to go into work and make their debut.
113g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
75g dark chocolate, broken into squares
200g caster sugar
95 g plain flour
1 tsp fresh root ginger, grated
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease and line a 20cm square baking tin
2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Add all the other ingredients and stir until smooth.
4. Pour the batter into the lined pan and bake until set – about 30 minutes.
5. Cool in the pan, and then cut into 16 squares.
“Grapes and cheese taste like kiss”
I am finally taking a well deserved break in Spain with my husband and my in-laws. I am so happy right now, mostly because it is Saturday morning and I have just woken up from a delicious 11 hour sleep. I cannot remember the last time that I slept that long uninterupted. I feel rested, whole and complete. For the next three days I will not be cooking but eating Spanish delicacies made by my husbands parents. They cook lovely food and spoil us rotten!
I am looking forward to taking a few walks to the beach, even though it is raining here and experiencing some of the Spanish christmas traditions. I am looking forward to sleeping as much as I can and catching up on all the reading I have been unable to do for weeks.
Let’s see what the next few days bring.