Yes, I’ve been missing in action. Unless absolutely necessary, apologies are rare on this food blog. In this situation, my excuse is because of news that went from crazy good to fortunate and grateful. It’s the kind of news to jump up and down to yell, “Hallelujah,” with tears of joy. My life is changing for the better—the best. It’s long coming and deserved. Every moment is savored.
In the midst of joy, is incorporating less cooking time in a new schedule. Life is crazy busy, which explains my absence from MyLifeRunsOnFood.com. In anticipation of this week being the finale of crazy joy, I invited a guest who graciously agreed to write a post and share her recipes.
Funke Koleosho is an award winning cookbook author and has a mobile recipe app, Cook! Nigerian. In her guest post, Ms. Koleosho is sharing her Nigerian cuisine and ingredients. Enjoy her story. If you know or would like to learn about Nigerian cuisine, leave a comment below and download her smart phone app.
I’ll return soon to share happy details of what’s going on in my life. And, yes… there’s going to be changes here soon, because My Life Runs On Food.
Guest Post by Funke Koleosho of Contemporary Nigerian Cuisine Cookbook
About me: I am passionate about food and cooking. I had an early start in cooking. As a very young girl, I would watch my mother prepare traditional Nigerian dishes. Ever since, my interest in the art of food preparation and cooking has developed more and more.
Growing up, I enjoyed exploring and experimenting with different food ingredients, and the sheer variety of ingredients across the world, and how these are interpreted and prepared across regions by different peoples, fascinates me. It goes to show the limitless possibilities we can achieve with food!
I get inspiration from a variety of places such as nature, beauty, and travels. Quite oddly, I also get inspired by nutritional benefits of a food ingredient. Knowing that a food item has exceptionally high nutritional values will inspire me to use in my recipes.
I am so keen to help people discover my style of cooking which is basically West African but also influenced by European and Asian cooking techniques. The outcome is different, fresh, exotic, dishes full of spices and bold tastes and flavours.
As the world is becoming one big global village, I believe there is a lot to discover about the culinary practices of our global neighbours. So, I am really excited about demonstrating and helping people discover the simplicity, versatility and nutritious nature of food of West African origin.
An overview of West African Cuisine: West African cuisine remains universally untapped and undiscovered internationally even though continuous increases in intercontinental exchanges and migration of peoples across the world have caused general growing interests in other international cuisines.
The world is becoming a global village and the number of people keen to travel and explore tribes, traditions, and of course, culinary is forever increasing. A fact we can attribute to the discovery of a small fraction of some popular West African dishes (such as Egusi soup with pounded yam, Jollof rice, groundnut soup, fried plantains and the barbeque beef known as Suya ) by some. It is true to say that due to the high population of West Africans in the diaspora, these dishes have become known in major cities in Europe, Asia and North and South America. The more people try out these dishes the more they find out there is much to discover.
West African cuisine, including Nigerian food, remains the most authentic and unadulterated in the African continent. In comparison, Northern African cuisine has Middle Eastern influences, so are foods from Eastern Africa with Indian (Asian) and Southern Africa, European influences.
As a result of our forefathers taken into slavery, their culinary preferences which they took with them has impacted or influenced culinary in other parts of the world. So cuisines from the Caribbean and West Indian islands, North and South America, show similarities to West African cooking, particularly those referred to today as Creole, Soul and Cajun. Interestingly, some have even retained the exact ingredients, methods and name! For instance a Nigerian snack called akara is called acaraje in Brazil and made with the same ingredients with very little variation.
Perceptions: Internationally, the perception of West African foods, does not lend justice to their actual varieties, tastes and goodness. Unless these exciting and equally nutritious dishes have been tried and tasted, their true ratings in comparison with cooking from around the world will not be rightfully established.
The most distinguishing factor of West African cuisine is the carbohydrate rich ingredients used to prepare a main dish, served with a sauce, soup or stew containing a combination of fish, meat and an abundance of vegetables.
Too much Starch?: While some may have concerns for diets with high levels of carbohydrates, it must be emphasized that carbohydrates are still an essential part of a balanced diet and eating them cannot be ruled out. West African staple food crops such as yams, cocoyam, and plantains are all highly nutritious and compare favourably with other European or Asian counterparts like potatoes, wheat, rice etc.
The notion of too much carbs, this becomes a non-issue with the in-depth information available on the chemical compositions of food, which empowers us to choose wisely and apply moderation based on our life styles.
Methods: West African cooking methods are dictated by culture and available local farm produce, fruits & vegetables, exotic meats and fish. Traditional methods tend to involve cooking in an open space, over firewood stoves which is believed to contribute to flavour development. As more West Africans migrate to different parts of the world, foreign methods of cooking are being explored and applied. For instance, some traditional cooking techniques require extensive preparation and processing, but the application of technology and use of modern equipment greatly reduce time and effort required. These new methods and innovations are welcomed by many, particularly those who live urban lifestyles. This has over the years, caused an evolution of West African cuisine, particularly in methods and ingredients variation/substitution. The growing awareness for healthy eating is also causing people to adjust ingredients and methods to make healthier versions of their favourite dishes.
Future: Based on reliable research work there is a strong conviction that food of West African origin compare favourably well in their share variety and nutritional benefits, with foods from other parts of the world.
More scientific researches are also coming up with astonishing reports about how foods of West African origin are found to contain high levels of much sought after nutrients (in particular antioxidants) and also how some of these foods are very instrumental to support weigh loss programmes (African Bush mango seeds also known as Dika nuts or Ogbonna seeds). Also some foods which were earlier thought to be bad for health, point in case; example Palm oil, have now been confirmed as safe and of high nutritional value. In fact Palm oil has the highest vitamin A content in nature, also very rich in Vitamin E and other mineral. Though high in saturates, clinical tests confirm that these do not have any adverse impact on cholesterol levels in the human body. Little wonder that palm oil is now increasingly being used in the food industry as a replacement for trans-fats!
As West Africans increase in their intellects and many more are venturing into all types of food businesses, more research work will be carried out to uncover the real truths about foods of West African origins and I believe the outcomes will astonish the world. There is so much to discover.
In addition, meal times are so important in West Africa, there is literarily a dish cooked for specific occasion/event. This is a great importance attached to meal times as it brings family and friends together where food is served and eaten by all, sometimes from the same dish!
Just as seen across the world where creativity has played a significant part in the preparation, presentation and serving of food, these same creativities are being applied to West African food to make them more appealing to a wider audience of food lovers. This is giving rise to colourful dishes with bold tastes and exotic flavours rich in exciting spices.
Funke is the author of the Gourmand Award winning Contemporary Nigerian Cuisine Cookbook and also the Developer of Cook! Nigerian; a mobile cooking app at ConteporaryNigerianCuisine.com.
Download Cook! Nigeria on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/funke-koleoshos-cook!-nigerian/id423317864?mt=8.
Green Pepper Stew with Chicken Breast Served with Steamed Rice (Designer Stew)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 2-3 people
2 cups easy cook rice remove
300g chicken breast, dice into small pieces & wash
1 tablespoon locust beans (use of locust beans is optional, but they do define the taste of the dish)
1 onion, finely chop
1 cup of chicken stock
10g of fresh ginger, finely chop
1 large green pepper
1 scotch bonnet, remove stalk and seeds
1 seasoning cube
3 serving spoons vegetable oil; (palm oil is traditionally used)
1. Season chicken pieces with thyme and 1 seasoning cube. Set aside until step 3.
2. Blend scotch bonnet and green peppers with 500ml of water. Heat oil in a sauce pan until it just starts to smoke. Carefully add the chopped onions, the blend and stir for about a minute. Now add the stock and allow to cook for about 3 minutes under high heat then turn heat down, add the locust beans and allow to cook under low heat to reduce sauce. Taste for salt.
3. In a separate pan brown the chicken pieces in 1 serving spoon of oil then add to the sauce. Simmer for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
4. Boil the rice until tender and drain excess water using a colander. Add salt, and toss.
5. Serve rice with the sauce.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 people
3 cups (750g) easy cook basmati rice
4 large plum tomatoes or 1 can of plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 teaspoon freshly milled or ground nutmeg
1 cup chicken stock
1 medium size onion
4 seasoning cubes
1 scotch bonnet (yellow). Remove stalk & seeds, finely chop (optional)
2 medium sweet red peppers. Remove stalk & seeds
3 serving spoons of butter
Freshly chopped chives
1 crayfish seasoning cube or 1 tablespoon of ground crayfish (optional)
10g of fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 serving spoon vegetable oil
1. Blend the tomatoes, sweet pepper and onion together. Pour blend in a large pot, then add the scotch bonnet, thyme, nutmeg, curry powder, crayfish cube and chicken stock. Also add 750ml of water. Bring to the boil. Pound or grate the ginger and add to the boiling mix. Stir slowly, add tomato puree and allow to boil for about 5 minutes under high heat.
2. Turn heat down, slowly introduce rice and stir in. Add some hot water enough to cook the rice, cover pot first with a sheet of foil paper and then with the pot lid. Allow to steam for about 10 minutes.
3. Open pot and check if rice is cooked. Add more hot water if required. When all water/moisture has evaporated, gently stir rice avoiding scraping the bottom of the pot, also avoid overcooking rice. Crush and sprinkle seasoning cubes, stir well to distribute seasoning, then taste for salt, (use more or less seasoning cube depending on preference). Add two serving spoons of butter and mix well. Also add a serving spoon of vegetable oil to give the desirable glister.
4. Serve hot with sautéed carrots, asparagus and diced sweet pepper and grilled chicken breast. Garnish with chives.
Jollof rice can also be served with a range of accompaniments such as fried plantain, assorted fried meat, fish etc. Enjoy!
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