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CHAPTER FIVE 208 Contents




Private & Corporate Clients




Stews, Sauces & More


Small Chop

Soups & Swallows



Nigerian Street Food


...the finale.



Snacks & Light Meals



..the main attractions..


the openers...





Popular Non-Nigerian Food

A tribute to Food, friends & Foodies

Food, Drinks & More


Acknowledgements The trouble with naming people when saying thank you is the danger of missing out some people. Many friends and family have been instrumental in making this book happen and I thank you all. I am forever in your debt for your ideas, support, belief and encouragement; and just as importantly, for acting as my guinea pigs! To my children, best critics, food tasters and sous chefs, Ishbel and Tegan, mummy is very grateful for all your help and support. I love you both very much.

ŠSHW Photography

Market Day, Abuja

About the Author Nky has worked in her professional career as a Consultant with blue-chip organisations across the UK and Europe for over 20 years. Presentation has always been an integral part of her professional and personal life which extends to and includes food and catering. Skills developed in the provision of management consultancy services resulted in her pursuance of the best and most appropriate way to offer Nigerian food to a larger audience in restaurants, at home and within corporate environments. In Social Network circles, Nky has championed groups focused on cooking, healthy eating and food presentation to great success and participation of group members spread around the world. One of the most active of such groups is called ‘A Daily Obsession – What to Eat and Drink’ on Facebook. Her latest project is the publication of a unique cookbook showing the many ways that Nigerian food can be offered to a global audience. ‘Modern Nigerian Cookbook vol. 1’ – Nigerian Food with a Twist, as her older daughter calls it, is the result of months of research, trials and tasting by willing and discerning friends and family. Nky is considered an excellent provider of soft skills training in both professional and personal public view of an institution, country or a people. Her two young daughters provide a very astute team of critiques of Nky’s culinary offerings borne out of their growing interest and unadulterated view of her work and propositions. Someone once remarked “Ogbono and Pounded Yam has never looked so good and appealing until Nky offered it at lunch in London”. Nky plans to bring to the fore, years of experience as a corporate executive combined with her culinary and presentation skills in promoting excellent offerings of Nigerian food, at home and abroad.



Nky Iweka

The Way We Are With an estimated population of 160 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous in the world. Comprising an estimated 250 ethnic groups, each with its own language, customs and cuisine, a

popular and common dishes such as the ubiquitous jollof rice; some less well-known delicacies from various tribes and also draws on our British colonial past to rekindle long-forgotten dishes. In addition, my Anglo-Nigerian upbringing, my love of all things culinary and years of eating in various restaurants in London (where I live) and other cities around the world have enabled me to create some unique dishes of my own which are also featured in the book. audience and introducing Nigerians to new ways of eating and using readily available ingredients. Most Nigerian meals feature a carbohydrate (such as yam, rice and cassava) as the main focus accompanied by a stew Beef, chicken, turkey, guinea fowl and game (aka “bush meat”) are commonly eaten; pork to a lesser extent. Amongst dishes. Chillies features heavily, although this can be adjusted to one’s personal preference or indeed left out altogether. Palm oil adds colour and a distinct taste to many dishes; however, groundnut, coconut, corn and other vegetable oils the development of uniquely Nigerian snacks such as puff-puff (similar to doughnuts) and chin-chin (deep-fried bits of crunchy dough). Dairy products such as fresh milk, yogurt and cheese are not part of the traditional diet apart from amongst the Fulani cattle herders in the North of the country. These days, though, ice creams, cream cakes and other dairy-based foods are widely enjoyed across the country. Traditionally, food is eaten by hand: fufu such as pounded yam or cassava is expertly moulded with one hand into small balls and used to scoop up the accompanying soup or stew. Eating rice by hand requires a tad more dexterity and remotest villages. However, many people (myself included) believe that fufu and soup is best enjoyed without cutlery. Some traditions persist, nevertheless, and it is considered rude to eat with one’s left hand whether eating by hand or using cutlery. Food plays an important role in the social rituals of all ethnic groups and no ceremony (such as weddings, funerals or naming ceremonies) is complete without offering copious amounts of food and drink to the guests. At home, it is considered rude not to offer food to welcome visitors, unexpected or not. Indeed, when eating in front of anyone, it is customary to invite him or her to join you even if that person is a complete stranger! 9

Abacha ©SHW Photography


Staples & Essentials

must-haves & common ingredients Staples, Abuja

Despite the myriad of ethnic groups in Nigeria, staples such as beans, cassava, corn, rice, plantains and yams are common to most of the groups, albeit sometimes prepared and eaten in different ways. Most of these staples are widely available outside Nigeria, and indeed it is perfectly possible to make Nigerian food with ingredients from your local supermarket or grocery store. However, there are some essential ingredients (in particular, herbs, spices and vegetables) that are peculiar to Nigerian cuisine, most of which can only be found in Nigerian or African grocery stores. The most commonly used are listed here - where there are acceptable non-Nigerian substitutes, these are indicated. Other ingredients are described in the chapters where they are more relevant - for instance, the leafy vegetables that form the basis of most Nigerian soups are described in chapter 4. Bread is also very popular for breakfast or as a snack. One of my favourite things as a teenager in Nigeria, was to buy hot akara (bean fritters) from a roadside vendor and squash it in between slices of soft white Nigerian bread. If there was some spicy tomato sauce ready, even better. Nigerian bread is denser and sweeter than Western bread, a cross between the Jewish cholla and the West Indian hard-dough bread.

Traditional Pestle and Mortar used for blending vegetables and grinding spices


Staples & Essentials


Peeling (Skinning) Beans

The ‘Nigerian brown bean’ (also known as ‘Honey Beans’ or ‘Brown Beans’, Vigna unguiculate) is a brown variety of black-eyed peas. Its distinctive sweet taste forms the basis of many dishes: akara, moi-moi, adalu and gbegiri. Simply known as ‘beans’, black-eyed peas are an acceptable substitute.

Some recipes such as those for moi-moi and akara call for the use of peeled beans to help make a lighter dish, although at the expense

Soaking dry beans for at least 6 hours or overnight reduces the cooking time AND helps

If you are unable to buy them, soak the beans for 10 - 15 minutes in cold water. Test a couple of beans by rubbing between your

associated with legumes. The Chinese add ginger to legumes to reduce this unfortunate side-effect.

Please note that the longer you leave the beans to soak, the harder it is to skin them.

It is possible to buy ready-peeled beans and them by soaking in cold water for several in several changes of cold water, discarding

To skin the beans, rub handfuls of beans between your hands. Drain using a colander

Salt slows down the cooking process and so should be added when the beans are ready. Some people use kaun to speed up the cooking process. Interestingly, an Indian friend told me that they add bicarbonate of soda to legumes such as chick peas to

water and repeat the process until the beans are peeled. It is not necessary to remove every single skin, but the more of the skins are removed, the lighter your dishes will be. Alternatively, commercially available bean powder may be used. To get the best results add the powder to the rest of the ingredients and blitz using a liquidiser to incorporate as by soaking the batter for at least 2 hours. Whip it for at least 5 minutes just before cooking. This ensures a lighter batter.


Staples & Essentials

Honey Beans and Black-eyed Peas

15 Staples & Essentials Ready-peeled beans Before and after soaking for several hours

Cassava Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava (Manihot esculenta). Known as ege (Yoruba), akpu (Igbo), rogo (Hausa), it is a cheap source of carbohydrates, but low in other nutrients and as such it tends to be eaten with protein and vitamin-rich foods. Many varieties (so-called ‘bitter cassava’) contain cyanide and must therefore be properly prepared before consumption. The most popular form of processing in Nigeria is fermentation which produces garri peeling and boiling.


Garri varies in colour (white or yellow), taste and texture according to where it is processed. The various types are suitable for different purposes - the most common being as fufu, when it is referred to as eba (see Chapter 4).

Garri, Grated Coconut, Peanuts & Ice Cubes

Another variation is to soak the garri in coconut water, sprinkle on some freshly shaved coconut and substitute the groundnuts with cashew nuts. Wet Cassava Chips (Abacha Mmili/Mmiri). Known as abacha mmili or mmiri by the Igbos and iwa by the , it is also nicknamed ‘air conditioning’ for the effect it is said to have on the body when eaten on hot days. Farofa

For each person, allow: 50g bacon lardons (optional) 50g yellow garri

Staples & Essentials

evaporated milk.


Farofa (Brazilian Garri). Dry garri sprinkled over bean casserole (ewa) was a good way of bulking out boarding school portions so I was very excited to read about farofa (which the Brazilians sprinkle over much of their food). At its most basic, it is simply garri fried in butter and palm oil. I use yellow garri which negates the need for the latter.


At its most basic, simply reconstitute the garri with ice-cold water, add a scattering of roasted groundnuts and eat.

Chocolate milk is also another popular addition. Other accompaniments include smoked or fried

Some researchers suggest that the high consumption of cassava and yam (including the peel) explains why the Yorubas have the highest incidence of twins in the world (41 per 1,000 births in contrast to between 10 and 11 amongst Caucasians in the US and UK, and 20-30 amongst other Nigerian ethnic groups). Yoruba twins born to a family, male or female, are named Taiwo Kehinde (“he who lags behind”). Interestingly, Kehinde despite being born last is seen as the elder of the twins because it is believed that he or she forces Taiwo is safe.

Soaked Garri (‘Drinking’ Garri). Finely textured white ‘Ijebu garri’ is widely regarded as the best for this quick and simple snack. Once regarded as the poor man’s meal, a big debate can ensue as to what the best way to eat it is. One thing everyone agrees on is that ice cubes are an essential part of the dish.

A popular snack in the South of the country, it may be bought or easily prepared at home: Peel, and slice cassava tubers lengthways into 3 or 4 pieces. Place in saucepan and cover with cold water. Boil until the cassava is easily pierced with a fork yet still has some give. Leave to cool down completely and then slice into thin lengths, about 3-4mm thick. Soak it overnight plenty of cold water.


½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced 10g parsley, coarsely chopped 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

remove all traces of slime and bitterness, using several changes of water.

Heat the oil and fry the lardons if using until crispy. Add the onions, fry until translucent and then garri. Cook for another minute or so and stir in the red peppers. Turn off the heat and garnish with the parsley. Serve with ewa.

Drain and serve with roasted peanuts, palm kernels or fresh coconut pieces for a quick snack.


Staples & Essentials

Abacha Mmili

Corn (Maize, Zea mays subsp. mays L) Widely grown in Nigeria, both commercially and domestically, there are principally two varieties: making porridges such as ogi (akamu) or ‘swallows’ such as tuwo masara, nni oka and eko. Yellow corn is boiled, roasted or popped (guguru) and often sold by roadside vendors. Other snacks and dishes include: elekute mixed with sugar); gwate (a couscous-like pottage made from coarsely ground corn cooked with meat, leafy greens and scent leaf); and akple onion, chillies and palm oil formed into balls and deep-fried in palm oil). Traditional medicinal uses include the treatment of gonorrhoea, urinary infections, fever and malaria and in love charms - burying dried corn together with dried yam and some charms is said to ensure that a husband and wife remain together forever. Corn Porridge (Pap, Ogi, Akamu) is similar in consistency to custard but with a tart taste. It is generally made from commercially available cornmeal paste, although it is possible to make it from scratch at home using corn kernels. It is either eaten on its own; or with akara (bean fritters); moi-moi (steamed bean pudding; or kuli-kuli (groundnut cake). Serve with evaporated milk and sugar to taste for breakfast. It may also be mixed with baby milk and fed to weaning babies without any sugar (my mother used to add some mashed boiled egg to increase the nutrient content). Have a kettle of boiling water ready, and then add some of the ogi paste to a large bowl. If necessary, use a spoon to squash the paste into smaller pieces. Add a little cold water and mix to a thick smooth consistency. Slowly add the boiling water around the bowl, stirring continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Continue to stir until the mixture sets (the colour will change from opaque to translucent) and the desired thickness is achieved. It should be fairly thick if served with milk as this will thin it down. To make ogi paste from scratch, soak dried yellow or white corn kernels in a large bowl of cold water for 3-4 days until softened, rinsing the kernels and changing the water every 12 hours. Drain and rinse thoroughly. Liquidise with cold water until very smooth. Using a muslin cloth and adding plenty of cold water, strain the liquidised corn into a large bowl and discard the resulting chaff. Leave to rest for several hours until the solids settle to the bottom of the bowl, leaving a clear liquid above. Carefully pour off the liquid. Place the muslin over a bowl and tie it tautly around the rim of the bowl. Pour the solids into the muslin and tie it up, squeezing out as much water as you can. Hang it over a bowl to drain. Repeat the process several times until there is no more liquid left (weights may be used to expedite the process). Leave it overnight in a cool place (not in the refrigerator) to allow it to ferment slightly and develop its characteristic tartness. Remove from the muslin and cut into portion-sized chunks. Store in the freezer until needed.



Staples & Essentials

Corn Plants, Abuja


Millet (Pennisetum americanum, Gero) A whole grain, rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc, millet is cultivated and eaten mainly in the North of the country. It is used to make fura (a thick dough often added to fresh cow’s milk to make a drink called fura da nunnu); millet juice (kunnun zaki); breakfast porridge (kwoko) and tuwo gero to accompany soups.

Boiled Millet (Brabusko). Rinse thoroughly under running water to remove any debris. Add one part millet to two and a half parts boiling water or stock. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the millet is cooked.

boiling water or stock as above. Millet Porridge (Kwoko). Roughly grind some millet and sieve to remove the chaff. Soak overnight in cold water and rinse thoroughly

For each person, mix 20g millet powder, 150ml water, 100ml milk and a pinch of salt together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer if necessary. Serve with some honey and raisins or chopped fruit. Millet grains may also be used to make porridge in the same way. Millet Fufu (Tuwo Gero). Allow 100g - 150g of ground millet per person and have 200 - 300ml of boiling water ready. Pour half of the water into a saucepan on a medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring all the time until the millet starts to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Serve with any soup. Millet Pancake (Funkaso). To make 8-10 pancakes, sift lukewarm water to form a smooth, runny batter (use additional water if necessary). Add sugar to taste for a sweet pancake or ommit Heat a mixture of butter and vegetable oil in a frying pan or griddle. Beat the batter for a few minutes, adding sugar to taste and a pinch of salt. When the oil is hot, spoon in some of the batter and cook until crisp. Tun over and cook the other side. Remove and keep warm while you fry the rest of the pancakes. Serve as an accompaniment to a main dish; or with a preserve or honey for a snack.


Staples & Essentials

Plantain From the same family as bananas, plantains (Musa sapientum var. Paradisiaca) are their starchier larger cousins. They may be eaten green or ripened: in either case, they are cooked beforehand (fried, boiled, mashed or roasted). Store at room temperature. Fried Plantain (Dodo). Use ripe or over-ripe plantains, the latter produces sweeter dodo. Allow half a plantain to a whole one per person. Wash and remove the skin, and cut into the desired shapes and thickness. Generally, rounds and small cubes are used for garnishes and side dishes; and lengthwise or diagonally for a light main meal. Season with salt and deep fry in vegetable or palm oil. Drain and serve hot. It may be served as a side dish to rice, beans or yam or on its own with some tomato stew. Dodo with Nigerian scrambled eggs is also a popular combination for breakfast or a light supper.

Roast Plantain. Use ripe or almost ripe plantains, allowing one or two per person. Wash and peel the plantains and place in hot coals or on a griddle, occasionally turning to ensure all sides are evenly cooked. When they are ready (check if they are easily pierce with fork), scrape off the charred coating with a blunt knife (if cooked in coals), and serve with tomato or vegetable stew; or with high-grade palm oil. They may also be served with groundnuts for a nutritious snack.


Staples & Essentials

Ripe Plantains


Staples & Essentials

Rice A friend once said to me: “rice to a Nigerian is the same as potatoes to an Englishman”. A cliché, perhaps, but Nigerians DO love rice, being the highest importer of rice in Africa and annually! Many eat it at least once a day in various forms, the most famous of all being Jollof rice (a one-pot dish of rice, tomatoes, onions and chilli and other spices). Ironically, it originated from the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia, a fact lost on (or more likely, ignored) by many Nigerians who believe that it is in fact “Nigerian food”. Other one-pot rice dishes are popular such as rice and beans; coconut rice; and fried rice (inspired by Chinese food). Even simpler is plain boiled rice accompanied by a tomato sauce (with

In recent years, locally grown rice varieties have made a comeback as sold unpolished). The most popular, Ofada, is a short-grained variety with distinct brown stripes and a lovely nutty taste. It is most popularly served with ayamáshe stew, but may be used in place of other types of rice. See Chapter 6 for rice recipes. 25

Roast Yam & Roast Plantain for sale, Abuja

Staples & Essentials

Ofada Rice

Sweet Potato Ipomea batatas) ranges in colour from white through to orange and red

They are more nutritious than other sources of carbohydrates eaten in Nigerian being rich in complex Best cooked in their skins to preserve their minerals, vitamins and proteins - boil, bake, roast or mash them as with ordinary potatoes. Sweet Potato Crisps. These make an excellent (and healthy) snack or ‘party nibbles’. Peel, wash and slice the sweet potatoes as thinly as you can (a mandoline or speed/U-shaped peeler makes things easier). Soak in cold water for about 30 minutes to eliminate excess starch and drain. Deep fry in some vegetable oil for a minute or two until crispy and drain excess oil on paper towels. Alternatively place some baking paper on an oven tray, arrange the sweet potato slices on the tray. Drizzle over some olive oil and bake in the oven at 160OC (325OF, Gas Mark 3) for 15 minutes or until golden brown (they will crisp up as they cool down). Drain on paper towels and serve hot or cold. Variation: Sprinkle on some chopped chilli, herbs and/ garlic before cooking.

Baked Sweet Potatoes. They may be either baked whole in their skins (wash well) or peeled and cut into chip-like slices. Alternatively, mash them after baking (removing the peel). Season well with salt (sprinkle on some fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme, if you like) and bake in the oven at 200OC (400OF, Gas Mark 6) for 1520 minutes or until a knife pierces them easily.

Boiled Sweet Potatoes. Wash and boil in the skin for about 25 minutes until easily pierced with a knife. Serve whole or mashed. I sometimes combine them with ordinary potatoes to create a slightly sweet mash (adjust the proportions to your preference). 26

Staples & Essentials

Yam Native to Africa, yam (Dioscorea spp.), the king of crops, is probably the most widely eaten staple in Nigeria. Amongst the Igbos, the ‘New Yam Festival’ is held annually in various towns and villages to celebrate the harvest of the new yam. There many varieties of yam in Nigeria - white yam, yellow yam, water yam - each suitable for various purposes. It is generally treated in the same way as potatoes: boiled; chipped and fried; pounded into a stiff dough to be eaten with Nigerian soups (see Chapter 4); or roasted in its skin in hot coals. when peeling raw yams or just try not to let your arms get in contact with the yam. Fried Yam. White yam is best for deep-fried yam. Peel the yam and cut into fairly

Boiled Yam. Peel and cut the yam into serving-sized pieces and wash thoroughly with cold water. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Add some salt, and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat slightly, cover the saucepan and cook until the yam is easily pierced with fork. Serve hot with tomato or vegetable stews, eggs; or highgrade palm oil and salt to taste. For a simple and quick meal, fry some sliced onions, chopped Scotch Bonnet chilli and ground Roast Yam. Wash the yam well, removing any soil. Cut into large chunks leaving the skin on. Place directly on hot coals and roast until it is easily pierced with a knife. Remove the skin and serve with good 175OC (350O 28

Staples & Essentials

away from bright sunlight. Ripe Plantains


Staples & Essentials


“Yam, the king of crops, was a very extracting king. For three or four moons it demanded hard work and constant attention from cock-crow till the chickens went back to roost.” “Yam stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed.” “The Feast of the New Yam was held every year before the harvest began, to honour the earth goddess and the ancestral spirits of the clan. New yams could not be eaten and women, young and old, looked forward to the New Yam Festival because it began the season of plenty--the new year. On the last night before the festival, yams of the old year were all disposed of by those who still had them. The new year must begin with tasty, fresh yams year. All cooking pots, calabashes and wooden bowls were thoroughly washed, especially the wooden mortar in which yam was pounded. Yam fufu and vegetable soup was the chief food in the celebration. So much of it was cooked that, no matter how heavily the family ate or how many friends and relatives they invited from the neighbouring villages, there was always a large quantity of food left over at the end of the day.”

Excerpts from Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

Obosi, October 2012 30

Staples & Essentials

‘Nigerian Brunch’ (Fried yam, dodo, scrambled eggs, red & green pepper sauce) Ripe Plantains

Fish & Seafood With its miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline and many rivers (including two of the largest in Africa: Niger and Benue cuisine.

In Homage to ‘Point & Kill’: Naija Style Fish & Chips

a symbol of peace. The Argungu Fishing Festival, an internationally attended four-day contest used Sea Bream here). Make 3 slashes diagonally across the skin, and season with salt,

on their canoes. Smoked sea- and riverproduce remain very popular, either as dishes in their own right or used as

the seasoning into the slashes and Drizzle over some olive or other vegetable oil and bake in the oven at 190°C (375°F, Gas Mark 5) for cooked.

herring, whitebait, cod and mackerel are some of the more common species

To Serve: • Yam chips • Sweet potato crisps • Fried plantain • Ginger and chilli dip (salsa verde, mango chilli or red and green pepper sauce are also good alternatives) • Lime quarters • Tomatoes

imported from Norway) is also a key component of many casseroles, stews and pottages, particularly amongst the Igbos. popular across the country. An essential at ‘Point-and-Kill’ joints, customers are grilled on a barbecue.

Selecting Supper, Outdoor Restaurant, Abuja

I was fascinated to learn from one of my students, Adamu, that the Waja word for mussels is the same as his home town: Gelengu (Northern Nigeria). In keeping with the Nigerian ethos of ‘waste not, want not’), once the mussels have been eaten, the shells are apparently used for scrubbing cooking pots. 33 32

Staples & Essentials

Staples & Essentials

Dried (Smoked) Fish

(Panla, Okporoko) by cold air and wind. It is most often cod, although pollock, haddock, ling and tusk can be used.

varying degrees of dryness.

A highly prized delicacy in Nigerian cuisine, it is an introduced, imported food item - all the way from Norway!

Scrub well to remove any sand and ash, and then break into large pieces. Soak in salted boiling water for a few minutes and wash again, discarding any debris.

Soak it overnight or in hot water for at least thirty minutes before use, and then boil until softened to taste. Then break it up into smaller pieces, putting aside the skin and bones (which can be boiled with chilli and onions to make a hearty stock). I like to boil it with the meat I am using for a dish as it adds extra

dishes. bags in the freezer.

It is best to have it cut into pieces with an electric saw at the time of buying - this will speed up the cooking Smoked ‘Ice Fish’

quite a while to soften (and also leaves a lingering smell in the house), it is best to boil up a large quantity quantities for a meal for 4 - 6 people).

Smoked Mackerel


Staples & Essentials


Staples & Essentials

Periwinkles Periwinkles are a much prized delicacy across the riverine areas and indeed in much of Nigeria. Two main types are used: small conical-shelled and the larger round-shelled ekori. They can be bought in their shells or ready-shelled. Oven-dried mussels or If they are unshelled, place in a large lidded plastic container with plenty of cold water and shake vigorously to dislodge any debris. clear. Use a long thin hook to remove them from the shells. Dress shelled by cutting the tails off; ekori is dressed by removing the dark vein that runs along the centre. Both should be thoroughly rinsed before use. Periwinkles (


Shelled Periwinkles: ekori (left and centre) & 36

Staples & Essentials

(right) Little Periwinkle Man, Saturday Market, Calabar

Meat Nigerians are huge meat eaters - a meal is not deemed complete without the addition of at least one variety of meat or poultry, and preferably several types in the same dish. When Nigerians say (always in an approving voice) that a soup or stew has “plenty orishirishi”, they mean that it contains a variety of different meats and offal. Beef, chicken, guinea fowl, quails, turkey, goat, rams, African Land Snails “Congo Meat” and all manner of offal - liver, kidney, intestines, tripe (shaki), tongue etc. - are widely eaten across Nigeria. True proponents of ‘nose-to-tail’ eating, no part of the animal is wasted, particularly with cows: cowfoot, cow-skin (kpomo) and cow-tail (oxtail) are also highly sought after and often added to stews, soups and casseroles. Amongst the Igbos, Isi-ewu (a spicy casserole made from goat head) is a favourite delicacy. Pork is not eaten in the Muslim North. Where it is enjoyed, generally in the South-South, it is more expensive and rarer than other meats. Game, popularly known as “bush meat” is often sold by the road-side, smoked or dried, and includes wild pig, buffalo and grasscutters.

Kpomo (smoked cowhide) for sale in a Nigerian market


Staples & Essentials

Shaki (Tripe)


Staples & Essentials

Nigeria is the world’s leading producer of cocoyam. Cultivars of two species are generally grown for food: Colocasia esculenta (taro, ede) which can be fried, boiled, roasted, grated and steamed or pounded; and Xanthosoma sagittifolium (tannia, ede ofe) is used in thickening soups.

Given that Nigerian soups are eaten with fufu, they tend to be fairly thick broths - this is usually achieved with the main vegetable or seed which constitutes them such as egusi, ogbono or okro. However, some soups, particularly those made from leafy green vegetables require additional thickening and emulsifying powders such achi and ofor (akpalata and ukpo are less common).

Nutritionally superior to cassava and yam, the corms are rich in carbohydrates; whilst the leaves are a good source of protein and vitamins A and C and may be used in soups and pottages.

Boiled cocoyam pounded into a paste is used by the Igbos such as Onugbu and Oha

and well ventilated place away from bright sunlight. Kaun (akaun) is a form of locally-produced potash, Achi is made from the protein-rich seeds of the Brachystegia eurycoma tree. In addition to its use as a thickener, it is also used

food, has several other uses: • emulsifying palm oil and water • shortening the cooking time of dishes such as beans and ukwa; • increasing the ‘draw’ of mucilaginous soups such as okro; and • tenderising tough cuts of meat.

toothache, scabies, asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis, catarrh, sore Akpalata is prepared from the oil-rich seeds of the Afzelia africana tree. An economically useful tree - the wood is used in many domestic and commercial applications, whilst the roots, bark, leaves and fruits are used in traditional medicine. It is used to treat ailments such as stomach complaints, hernia and rheumatism.

Break off a small piece and dissolve it in cold water making sure there are no lumps. Strain it to ensure that there is no grit and add the liquid to the dish as required.

The fruit of the Detarium microcarpum tree may be eaten fresh, sun-dried or boiled and concentrated to make fruit leathers as in northern Nigeria. Boiling the fragrant seed exposes a kernel rich in essential amino acids and fatty acids, which is pounded into Ofor Medicinal uses include mosquito repellent, wound dressings, and

Some people are sensitive to it, so it is advisable to use it sparingly, if at all.


glucose levels in diabetic patients. Ukpo Mucuna sloanei (horse eye bean), a leguminous climber with a high protein and lysine content. It has gelatine-like properties, imparting a gummy texture to soups. Its medicinal properties are said to include anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant and anti-epileptic. It is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac. add a little at a time, stirring continuously until the desired thickness is achieved and there are no lumps left.


Staples & Essentials

Young Cocoyam Plant


Chillies & Peppers

Red Bell Peppers (Tatase, Tatasai) add a slightly sauces and other dishes. I sometimes use it as a substitute for tomatoes for a richer sauce or stew.

It IS true that Nigerian food can be very hot and spicy and indeed a huge variety of fresh and dried chillies (with varying degrees of hotness) are available in markets across the nation. NEED A

The green and yellow ones are also used for colour in various dishes such as ‘Nigerian fried rice’ or ‘stick meat’ (kebabs) and in salads. Similar looking but smaller red peppers, also referred to as tatase, are hot and so it is best to check with the vendor before buying.

Chilli peppers are referred to simply as “fresh pepper” or “dried pepper”.

Bell Peppers

Fresh chillies are blended or pounded to a smooth paste and added at the beginning of the cooking process. Store whole in the fridge or freezer. To save time, blend and freeze portion-sized store batches of chilli.

Highly aromatic, and very hot, Cameroon Pepper (also known as “Yellow Pepper” or “Black Pepper”) is made from dried Scotch Bonnet Peppers, and should be used with caution. It adds a distinctive ‘Nigerian taste’ to dishes. The “Cameroon” part of its name refers to the drying process. It is generally bought ground, but is also available whole.

Dried chilli may be added during the cooking process, used as a condiment at the table or used in preparing dry prior to grilling. It should be stored in airtight containers, away from sunlight.

Cameroon Pepper

The three most common chillies are described in this section.

Ata Rodo, Scotch Bonnet, with its distinctive scent

Scotch Bonnet Chillies


Staples & Essentials

Dried Pepper (Cameroon Pepper, Black Pepper)


Staples & Essentials

Seasonings & Flavour Enhancers

Stock cubes have been widely used for decades, with Knorr™ and Maggi™ being the most popular. iru cubes have been added to the more “usual” beef, chicken and vegetable stock cubes. Interestingly, some Nigerians will proudly declare that they never “use salt, only stock cubes”, ignoring the sodium content of stock cubes. Although purists frown at the made stock to hand. Fermented seeds of the locust bean tree (Parkia biglobosa), are widely Iru by the Yorubas and Dawadawa by the Hausas, salty and pungent). Sold as loose seeds (iru (dawadawa). sugar and bad cholesterol; and treatment of stomach and mouth ulcers. The Igbos favour the more pungent Ogili (ogiri) which is made from fermented oil seeds such as sesame, oil bean or egusi seeds and sold as a paste wrapped in leaves. Store in sealed containers in the freezer.


Much like the shrimp paste used in Chinese cookery,


and soups. I have successfully used Chinese shrimp paste as a substitute










Larger ones may be used whole - remove the heads, tails and legs (these can also be ground and used for cooking), and add to soups or casseroles to cook until fairly tender. It may be bought whole or already ground. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Iru; Dawadawa in the Background


Staples & Essentials

Lady selling palm oil, Calabar

Cooking Oils Various oils are used in Nigerian cuisine, depending on the dish being prepared and include easily available groundnut, coconut and vegetable oils. Olive oil is becoming more popular thanks to its publicised health Lesser-known oils such as egusi-seed oil (from the SouthSouth) and chicken oil (extracted from chicken fat) are generally home-made. Extracted from the fruits of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), Palm oil gives Nigerian food its distinctive taste and colour - according to one Portuguese explorer, “It smells of violets, tastes like olives, and has a colour that blends foods together like saffron”. The pulp from the husked fruits is used to make various soups such as banga and ‘native soup’, whilst the kernels are eaten as a snack. It comes in various grades, the most sought after (and uncooked with boiled food such as yam or unripe plantains. In recent years, palm oil has lost its bad reputation of being high in cholesterol. The American Palm Oil It is free from trans fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, increased ‘good HDL’ (high-density lipoprotein, thought to lower to the risk of coronary heart disease); and contains tocotrienols which may reduce the risk of strokes and other heart disease problems. Naturally semi-solid at room temperature, it is best stored away from heat sources to avoid it going rancid.


Staples & Essentials


Staples & Essentials

Various oils for sale in recycled bottles, Calabar

Fishermen on the Calabar River, Calabar.


Staples & Essentials


Staples & Essentials


A snapshot of the upcoming publication from Tupelo & Green. Modern Nigerian Cookbook vol. 1

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