Like Curry and Thyme…

Hey guys!

How have you been? 

So I had an epiphany in the kitchen this evening, like I always do… I come from a large family, so we do a lot of cooking every weekend; my mum is in charge of the soups and I’m in charge of the stew. I’d been sick on and off this past few weeks and so while I was cooking today, I was quite tired and a bit distracted.

I honestly cannot count the pots of stew I have made in my life time, I can make stew in my sleep. So here I was this evening, drowsy, nursing a swollen eye and a throbbing head, standing over the cooker, making stew. 

I made a mental note of all the ingredients I would need and I thought I had it all, but as I turned off the heat, I realized that I had skipped curry and thyme. I was slightly alarmed because those ingredients are crucial to the way I like to make my stew. I had concluded in my head that I had botched the stew for this week, but boy! Was I wrong.

After a unanimous taste test by my brothers, the consensus was that the stew turned out to be amazing! Better than the last few they said. And here I was stressing out that I didn’t add curry and thyme.

Curry and thyme proved to be dispensable in my stew this week, and just like that, I figured that we can do without a lot of things that we think we need. It also reminded me of the time I went off social media for a while and I realized that I didn’t die! You see I used to be very attached to my phone and my social media accounts; but when I signed off for a while, my life went on! I actually had very deep, very meaningful conversations with my family and a few of my friends. I went out more often, and I took notice of the world I had been missing by burying my nose in my phone.

A lot of things we think we cannot function without, we often find ourselves doing just well without them. Toxic relationships, situationships, gadgets, you name it! When you try to do without them, you’ll be amazed how easy it will turn out to be, because just as my stew did just fine without curry and thyme, when you let go of some stuff, you will be just fine!…

Hungry Girl Pasta…

 

“…And some of them just might be recipes.” That line from the contact section of my blog has been haunting me of late. I started this blog in 2014 and I did intend to share my recipes with you but I never got around to it. To think that I completely forgot, and I cook quite a lot! So anyway I would very much like to start now and what better way to start than to share with you my fool proof hungry girl pasta, well also because I just made it and it was yum!

This is my go to recipe when I am really hungry or sick or homesick or in a rush because you can basically make it with ingredients that you have lying around the house and in the fridge. I have several pasta recipes that I will share but for now, let’s cook some hungry girl pasta shall we?

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Forgive my unprofessional photo

prep time 25 minutes

  • For this recipe you’ll need:
  • Any kind of pasta you have
  • Fresh tomatoes and pepper
  • Onions, carrots, and green peppers
  • Fresh garlic and ginger
  • sausages
  • A table spoon of butter
  • Chicken or any protein you have at hand
  • Seasoning cubes, salt, curry and thyme
  • Milk and cheese (optional)

How to…

This is a one pot meal and there is no serious method or strict preparation to it so this is my version of it.

  • Step 1: prep all your ingredients. Dice the garlic, sausages, ginger, onions, tomatoes, green pepper and red peppers into tiny pieces.
  • Step 2: cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, remove the skin and debone it if you can but if you can’t its fine. When you’re done, wash your hands thoroughly before you touch anything else because you’ve just handled raw meat.
  • Step 3: put the chicken in the pot along with all your diced ingredients, add some water, salt, seasoning cubes, curry and thyme and leave to boil. Allow it to boil a while because you want the chicken to absorb some of the stock before you add the milk.
  • Step 4: add the pasta right into the pot with the chicken and then add the milk until it slightly covers the pasta and the chicken. (You can use any kind of milk you have, even powdered milk dissolved in water) and if you don’t want to use milk you can just add water, I like milk because it makes it really creamy. Add the sausages and stir evenly and taste for seasoning, if it’s not seasoned to your taste, add whatever you think is missing.
  • Step 5: stir every five minutes, add a little milk or water if the pasta is still tough and if you have any cheese lying around, and toss it in as well. When it’s almost dry, add the carrots and don’t stir, allow the steam to cook it through so it still has a little crunch and voila! Hungry girl pasta is ready. I used smoked turkey for the recipe in this picture but it is still the same procedure for any kind of protein.

Try it out guys and let me know if you want me to share more recipes.

 

 

 

The Wasabi Chronicles…

 

It was a long week. Coupled with the health scare I had and all the stress that came with it, I was so ready for the weekend. So here I was heading home when my friends texted me to find out if I wanted to have dinner, happy to catch up with them, I rerouted my journey and proceeded to go meet them.

Fast forward about one hour later, we arrived the restaurant and ordered our dinner. I was going to quietly order the house fried rice that my Nigerian self was familiar with; I really was but then my girl Miss K said to try sushi. Soon chants of “try something new!” were ringing in my ears and I decided to give it a try. I’ve had sushi before but it was always a stolen bite here and there from my friends, I had never ordered a whole platter before. There’s always a first time, I thought to myself. So the food arrived and it looked beautiful, very well plated and I was excited to dive in.

Feeling very brave, I decided to put the thought that I was about to eat a bunch of raw fish out of my mind and just enjoy the feeling of being adventurous and trying something new. Then came the chopsticks. I politely asked for a fork because I didn’t know what to do with the chopsticks (I’m sure the fact that I’m a village girl is glaring to you by now lol!) “No, use the chopsticks; you shouldn’t use a fork to eat sushi” they said. So I picked up the sticks.

First attempt; awkward laughter. Second attempt; mild annoyance that two flimsy chopsticks were defeating me. Third attempt; one of the sticks snapped in two! At this point, I retired the sticks and reverted to my default setting aka my hands. Now, next to the sushi and the eel sauce was some weird looking stuff. I tasted the first one and my semi refined taste buds could tell that it was some sort of pickled ginger. I love ginger so I really liked it. Feeling brave, I decided to taste the other stuff next to the ginger…pause. As the 9ja girl that I am, having lived in Lagos all my life I thought I knew pepper, I honestly thought no spicy food could faze me, boy was I wrong! Unpause; so I scooped the green stuff which I now know as wasabi into my mouth.

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Nothing, I repeat nothing could have prepared me for the explosion of heat that happened in my mouth! Frankly, it left me temporarily deaf and dumb. I think I went a little blind too. I saw stars, I gulped my sweet tea as fast I could and it didn’t help, my friends were hollering in laughter and somehow I managed to laugh with them too. #embarrassed. Eventually I regained feeling in my mouth and I solemnly ate my sushi sans wasabi.

I finally settled down and enjoyed my meal, but it is safe to say that wasabi and I have become sworn enemies henceforth. It won’t stop me from exploring though, because at the end of the day I am just a Nigerian girl, trying to learn new things and experience new cultures.

Ps: I had been looking for the hash key on my keyboard for the longest time and I just couldn’t find it, only for me to just randomly stumble upon it just now! This goes to show that you find good things when you aren’t too busy searching for them, so I’m just going to type a bunch of hash signs for no good reason…################ Ok, it’s out of my system now.

“I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I’m always excited about learning new things about food.” –Paul Prudhomme

Home Sweet Home…

 

It must be love. The fact that you bothered to stop by today, despite my not so frequent postings, it must be love and I love you too!

Having said that, I just got back from my sister’s wedding in Nigeria and it was an adventure. The day before my trip, I literally couldn’t sleep. I don’t remember a time when I was that excited. I was actually sleepy but I remember getting up and making a cup of coffee because I wanted to be out the door to catch my flight to New York at dawn.

Eventually I made it to New York and then I got on my flight to Lagos, for someone who is always traumatized by flying, I could care less about the turbulence and the long dreary flight, only one thing mattered: I WAS GOING HOME! Finally we got to Lagos and I was actually quite impressed by the reception I got at the airport. For starters the ACs were up and running and the custom officers were brisk and quite professional. After a not so brief wait, my mum came to get me and the joy in my heart knew no bounds.  Words cannot describe the joy on my father’s face when I walked through the door, he literally couldn’t finish his breakfast afterwards because he had no clue I was coming home. Seeing my siblings that morning was one of the happiest moments I have ever had and to top off an already amazing morning, I ate the most luscious, delicious agege bread and akara and all was right with the world. Let me try as much as possible to summarize my three weeks at home in this one post.

NO LIGHT! Let me just be really honest and say I never thought I would be one of those people who complain so much when they come back home after spending a couple of years abroad. I love my country dearly but my poor body had a hard time adjusting to the stifling heat. I had just left intense cold and so I was genuinely distressed. This is a heartfelt shout out to my mother, for letting me run the generator even in the face of the fuel scarcity, you’re the real MVP mum!, and my friend Odogwu for giving me all that fuel as my birthday gift, (btw best birthday gift ever!)

FOOD! Ah!!! The food was awesome; I ate every single thing I had craved while I was away: sheri mango, udara, amala and efo, gala and lacasera, dry fish stew, roasted yam and plantains, I could go on and on. Sitting here writing this post, I am hungry all over again, the food just doesn’t taste the same over here.

FUEL SCARCITY! Throughout my stay, fuel was nowhere to be found and we had to resort to buying from the black market dealers. Safe to say it was a nightmare. Suddenly, every hike in price was linked to the fuel situation, transport fares went up, water, and even food. I went to buy dried fish from my customer and the following conversation ensued: “Me: madam, how much be your fish? Her: ah na 1,000 Naira oh, you know say dollar don go up and fuel no dey so fish don add money” I laughed but I had to buy the fish because she was my only option and I really wanted that fish.

The funniest thing that happened to me though, was when a guy tried to steal my phone and my wallet. I had gone to the mall with my friend to buy stuff for my sister’s bridal shower and this guy was just walking real close to me. At first it seemed like nothing and I kept on walking and talking until he started to literally bump into me.  In that instant, all the years of practice I have had protecting my handbag when I stop at Oshodi bus stop late at night  kicked in, and I clenched my wallet with my arm as hard I could, yelled at him and he quickly scurried away.

I had a very memorable trip and though it was short and I didn’t get to do so many things, I relished every single moment and leaving again was super hard. There really is no place like home, the camaraderie, the friendships and the sense of oneness is such that cannot be found in many places.

“There’s no place like home. And I do miss my home”- Malala Yousafzai

The “Oyinbo” Man and His Egusi Soup…

My people, what can I say? I know I have been away for a long time and I am sorry. I shall explain myself soon and allow you all to decide what do with me, but until then I think you really want to know what went down with this egusi soup.

So on this day, I was minding my business at work, willing time to move faster so I could get home and watch Empire, when a couple of people walked into the restaurant, a Nigerian and an American. I greeted them both and sat them at their respective tables. I handed the Nigerian a menu and as I was about to hand one to the American he smiled and said “no, I know what I want.” I was intrigued and I raised my pen prepared to write down an order of maybe curried chicken with some sautéed collard greens and all those things they like to eat, but to my utmost surprise, the man said he would like pounded yam, egusi soup and goat meat. I did not do a good job of hiding my expression of shock because he noticed and explained to me that he liked okra and ogbono as well, but he was in the mood for some spicy  egusi. Now, it is important to note that this guy, even with his accent pronounced egusi and ogbono to the best of his ability. I turned his order in and proceeded to the Nigerian.

When I got to the Nigerian, she was on the phone so I took a couple of steps backwards to give her some privacy but I could hear her conversation. “nnaa forget that man, oche na mu na ya bu ogbo?” were some of the key phrases I could catch. Eventually she finished with her call and I walked back over. She kept flipping the menu and asking me what was good on the it. It became a struggle for me not to laugh because her accent was a like a big bowl of soup. It had some Igbo in there, smithereens of old Britain and an American accent as well. She got to the list of soups and almost bit her tongue trying to not to pronounce the soups properly. Her: ogbo, ogb…, me: oh!, you mean ogbono soup? Yes we have it. I helped her stumble through the soups until she finally decided on jollof rice. It was with sheer self control that I made it to the kitchen before bursting out in to laughter. Why do Nigerians in the diaspora like to form? Anyway the egusi was ready and it was with joy that I watched this Oyinbo man wash his hands, and consume his food without leaving a scrap behind.

He commended the chef on the lovely meal, tipped generously and told me that he would be back. My Nigerian sister on the other hand, eventually gave up the struggle to use her fork and knife to eat her rice, and switched back to the spoon with which she was raised. She barely finished her meal, didn’t tip and sauntered away in her six inches.

What struck me and keeps striking me since I have been here is this. some of the Nigerians I meet,work so hard to leave their culture behind, to shed anything that associates them with home and act as though they have been Americans all their lives. I have even met a couple of them that have sworn never to return to the mother land again, even in death. Meanwhile some of these Americans are sincerely intrigued by our culture and want to know about us. When they come to eat, it’s almost lecture time because they want to know what tribe certain foods originated from, how we plant etc.

Nigeria will always be my home, its the root from where I sprouted, I don’t know why some of us are so eager to forget. Then again to each man his own.

“You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A village means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you when you are not there.” –Casare Pavese

Now That We Have Gone Back To “Suya” And Infrequent Hand Washings.

Few Months ago, there was panic and terror in Nigeria, Lagos to be precise. The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) had struck and no one was safe. Hand sanitizers that were hitherto abandoned on supermarket shelves, sold out faster than anyone could imagine, Suya stands were deserted because we were told to stay away from certain kinds of meat, suya included, and people made conscious efforts to wash and sanitize their hands often. On the other hand, those that believed in bitter kola, salt and water therapy, and ewedu, indulged to their hearts content.

Handshakes and hugs reduced to a minimum, even in churches! Lagosians became civilized, frighteningly so that even at Oshodi and other rowdy bus stops, people formed queues to get into buses, and all the rushing, pushing and shoving became history.

Thanks to God and to the valiant effort of the Lagos state government, the disease was contained and mercifully the death toll wasn’t alarming. Gradually, things have returned to their status quo. The hand sanitizers that were suddenly so scarce and expensive have slowly returned to their places on the shelf. The Mai Suyas are smiling to the bank because their booths have been restored to their former glory and slowly but surely, people have gone back to washing their hands less and less.

Though it took the scourge of Ebola to remind humanity of basic hygiene, we should know that Ebola or not, washing our hands is key. Especially before and after meals, after using the restroom and whenever necessary. Keep your surroundings clean as can be, wash fruits thoroughly before consumption and avoid unnecessary body contact.

Nigeria is free from fresh cases of EVD, but other African countries are not and people are dying by the numbers. Husbands have lost wives, children have lost parents, and families have been decimated.  Let us remember them in our prayers.

Cleanliness is not next to godliness, It is part of it!