Sunday, 13 April 2014

VEGAN SNICKERS

Who says you have to give everything up once you go vegan? This post is inspired by This Rawsome Vegan Life's all-natural raw snickers candy bars. I've changed it up to create my own version, with fewer ingredients and with peanuts instead of almonds and pine nuts. Dates are naturally sweet and have a caramel-like taste so they mimic the caramel and nougat layer in the regular snickers bar perfectly without the need of added processed sugar or syrup. 

These turned out fantastic - gooey, crunchy and chocolaty all at once - but they are sooo rich that I think I'll only make them once in a blue moon. Snickers bars happen to be a family favourite, so perhaps I'll be able to convince my family to switch to this vegan version.

*Also, check out this interview I did for Vegivoirienne's blog recently :)


Ingredients
(makes about 10)
- 2 bars dark chocolate (about 100 g each)
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/4 cup fresh pineapple
- 1/2 cup salted peanuts

Start by lining a rectangular plastic container or small tin with some greaseproof paper.

Melt the first bar of chocolate. Simply break the bar up into small pieces in glass bowl, place the bowl over a saucepan of steaming hot water and stir until the chocolate has melted completely. Pour the melted chocolate into the greaseproof-lined container/tin, making sure it spreads out to form an even layer and covers the base of the container/tin completely.

Evenly distribute the salted peanuts onto the melted chocolate. Place in the freezer for a few minutes until the chocolate hardens.


To create the caramelly-date filling, place the dates and fresh pineapple into a food processor/blender and whiz to form a gooey paste. (The pineapple is added to provide a bit of moisture, but you'll hardly taste it in the finished product)

Take the container out of the freezer and spread the date mixture evenly over the first layer of chocolate. Place in the freezer for another few minutes.

In the meantime, melt the second bar of chocolate in a clean glass bowl (repeat the process outlined above).

Take the container out of the freezer again and drizzle the second layer of melted chocolate over the top, making sure to cover the date filling completely. Don't worry if it looks a little bumpy or whatever, it's all part of the home-made charm ;)

Place the container in the freezer one last time for about 20-30 minutes so that all the layers harden sufficiently. 

Lift the chocolate out of the container/tin and peel back the greaseproof paper. Use a large knife to cut the chocolate into 10 little bars of roughly equal size. You can trim the outer edges if you want it to look all neat and extra fancy. Share and enjoy!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

VEGETABLE "SPAGHETTI" AND BOILED PLANTAIN

I'm in love. With a kitchen utensil. Not even kidding. Here's how it all began... 

As I alluded to in a recent post, it is currently exam season and I've got my French listening exam coming up soon. As a result, I have been binging on a bunch of French YouTube videos - on topics ranging from French culture to politics to literature. All that good stuff. Once in a while, however, I end up watching videos on le végétalisme (veganism) and looking up recipe videos. Not exactly exam material, but at least I'm still absorbing some vocab, right? Culinary vocab, at least... 

Anyway, I was browsing through all these French vegan recipe videos when I came across this one! The food vlogger makes spaghetti from cucumbers. I thought I'd seen it all, but this was something else. Using an appliance known as a spiral vegetable cutter, she was able to turn long vegetables such as carrots and courgettes and cucumbers into what look like spaghetti/noodle strands. I was enamoured with the idea. But because I can be a bit of a cheapskate sometimes, I wasn't ready to invest in a spiral cutter just yet. Thankfully, I came across an alternative way of creating vegetable spaghetti, using what is known as a julienne peeler. I ordered one almost immediately and have been using it almost every day since. It's like being able to indulge in pasta as much as you want without the consequences of overdoing the heavy starch. This little utensil has revolutionised my kitchen. In this recipe, I've used one whole courgette, but it works just as well with a couple of carrots or cucumbers too.

A real tour de force of nutritious vegetables, bright colours and most importantly, taste. If I had to make one little modification, it would be to throw the veg "spaghetti" into the pan towards the end of the cooking time, rather than at the beginning as I did, just so it doesn't wilt as much. I've reflected this adjustment in the instructions below.



Ingredients
(serves 1)
- 1 ripe plantain 
- 1 courgette (or two large carrots)
- 1 tomato (diced)
- 1/2 red bell pepper (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 4 button mushrooms (optional) (chopped)
- 1/2 tbsp palm oil / olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste

Cut the ends off the plantain and discard. Chop the plantain into three large pieces (skin left on) and boil in some water for about 10-15 mins or until the plantain is soft all the way through (check by sticking a fork through it). Drain the water and leave to cool before peeling off the skin and cutting the plantain into chunky rounds.

Peel the courgette or carrots into long strands using a julienne peeler. If using a courgette, stop peeling once you reach the seeds at the centre (the centre is too soft and mushy for 'spaghetti' strands - just cut it up into small pieces and throw it in with the rest of the meal so you don't waste it).


Heat the oil in a large pan and add all the chopped vegetables. Stir for a minute or so until they are cooked through. Add the vegetable "spaghetti" strands and keep stirring until they soften. Season with season salt and pepper. Add the chunky rounds of boiled plantain and combine with the veg and "spaghetti". 

Serve hot with more freshly ground pepper over the top. Enjoy!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

BANANA BREAD (GLUTEN FREE)

I've already shown that garri (cassava flour) can be used in unusual ways (check out these garri cookies) and this is entirely the case with this recipe. I had an overload of ripe bananas just sitting in the kitchen and so decided to create my own version of banana bread. I am so pleased with the results and cannot tell you just how amazing it tastes! Seriously. It's naturally sweet from the ripe bananas, but there's also a bit of a tang from the garri. Not only is it gluten free (not a drop of flour in there), but it's also sugar free. All natural, wholesome ingredients. Smells and tastes delicious with the addition of cinnamon too.

You can have a slice for breakfast or as a tea time snack. Just spread on some [sugar-free?] jam or peanut butter to jazz things up.


























Ingredients
- 5 ripe bananas
- 1 3/4 cups garri
- 3-4 tbsp mixed seeds and nuts (optional)
- pinch or two or three of cinnamon 

Place the bananas in a large mixing bowl and mash until mushy and gooey.

Add the garri, optional nuts & seeds, and cinnamon. Give it a good mix and leave to stand for about 5-10 minutes.

Give it another good mix, preferably with clean hands to make sure the mixture is well combined.

Transfer mixture to a lightly-greased bread tin or pyrex dish (as I have done). Bake in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 6, for 35 minutes. Take out and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes before attempting to take it out of the tin. It may be a little sticky when you first cut into it, but the longer you let it stand, the more it hardens and holds a better shape. 

Serve with peanut butter or your favourite jam. Enjoy!



Saturday, 29 March 2014

HEALTH BENEFITS OF LEMON WATER



                                

I drink lemonade almost every day.

Okay, so maybe not lemonade as we know it - the wondrously fizzy stuff packed with sugar/sweeteners that make it so darn addictive! 

No, I'm talking about taking a humble glass of still or sparkling water and squeezing some fresh lemon juice into it. I have to admit that it wasn't to my taste to begin with, but now that my taste buds have adjusted, I can't get enough. Even the smell of freshly cut lemon puts me in an instant good mood. In my head, it has turned into a kick-ass healthier version of regular lemonade. It's great first thing in the morning before breakfast, and is a refreshing drink to sip on throughout the day.

I first heard about lemon water a few years ago and half-heartedly tried it out for a bit before losing interest. It wasn't until I watched one of my favourite guilty-pleasure reality TV shows Tia and Tamera that my interest was reignited. Anyone who has seen the show will have noticed that health-conscious Tia always orders lemon water whenever she's out at a restaurant. Intrigued by her consistency, I went back to seek out those web articles on lemon water and decided I wanted to experience the benefits for myself!

Lemons: these sour fruits are packed full of nutrients, including vitamin C and B, calcium, iron, potassium, pectin fibre and magnesium. Not only are they great for rejuvenating the skin, but they also help with weight loss and detoxification.

Here are my top 6 benefits:

1. Aids digestion: lemon juice encourages healthy digestion by flushing out toxins, cleansing the system and relieving symptoms such as bloating and heartburn.

2. Clears skin: the antioxidants and vitamin C in lemon juice help decrease wrinkles and blemishes. The key to healthy, radiant skin!

3. Aids weight loss: the pectin fibre in lemons help fight hunger cravings.

4. Boosts the immune system: lemons are high in vitamin C, which is essential for fighting colds. There is a  good reason why it is recommended that you snuggle up with a mug of hot lemon tea when a cold hits.

5. Source of potassium: lemons are naturally high in potassium, which is great news for your heart. It also helps nourish brain and nerve cells. And it helps control blood pressure.

6. Balances pH levels and reduces inflammation: Lemons are acidic on their own but turn alkaline once inside the body. Disease states thrive when our body pH is acidic so by drinking lemon water on a regular basis, you decrease the acidity in your body and maintain good health. It also helps eliminate uric acid in the joints, one of the main causes of inflammation.

You'll find tons of articles online that discuss the health benefits of lemon water, so do use this as a springboard to go find out even more! 

Friday, 21 March 2014

MANGO CREAM DESSERT

Cold desserts don't really feature in typical Nigerian cuisine. In fact, I have always thought that there is plenty of room for innovation as far as Nigerian dessert in general is concerned. With the wide variety of fresh fruit out there, surely there are a million ways to turn them into super creative sweet treats. 

I ran a quick Google search for 'Nigerian desserts' the other day and came across suggestions such as meat pie (what?!) and coconut candy (getting warmer). A few might disagree but I don't think that snacky food like puff puff or chin chin should count as dessert. It'll be interesting to hear your take on that.

This recipe is pretty straightforward and only requires a bit of patience as you wait for it to set in the freezer. I've saved extra time by using shop-bought ginger biscuits for the base and topping. If you've got some extra time on your hands, then it'll be even better to use home-made ginger cookies or any other vegan-friendly biscuit type you wish to use. You'll need a standard-sized baking tin.

Ingredients
(serves about 8)
- 2 large ripe mangoes 
- 3/4 cup ground almonds or ground peanuts
- 1 tin coconut milk (refrigerated overnight to form coconut cream)
- 4 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 1 packet ginger biscuits (finely crushed)

To make the base/topping, crush the ginger biscuits into fine crumbs and mix with the 4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil. Place about 3/4 of the mixture into a baking tin and flatten out evenly to cover the bottom of the tin. Save the remaining 1/4 of the crushed ginger biscuits for the topping.

To make the mango cream filling, peel and dice one of the mangoes and place in a food blender along with the ground almonds/peanuts and coconut cream (by chilling a tin of coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, you'll be left with a substantial layer of creamy coconut fat that separates from the water and solidifies - this is the part you want to scoop out and use). Blend for a couple of minutes to get a smooth mixture. Pour this mixture over the biscuit layer and pop it into the freezer for two hours or until the mango cream has set.

Peel and cut the second mango into shapes and use to create a design. I've gone for this flower-looking-thing, but go ahead and create whatever design you want. The aim is to have some fresh mango sitting on the top to emphasise the general mango-ness of the dessert (ha! points for how inarticulate this paragraph is...)

Sprinkle the rest of the ginger biscuit crumbs over the top, then pop the whole thing back in the freezer for an extra hour or so to let it set properly.

Bring it out a few minutes before you're ready to serve so that it melts slightly and is easier to cut through. Enjoy!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

WARM OKRA AND SWEET POTATO SALAD

An official congratulations to Kuks (Kuukuwa) on winning the last giveaway - the book should be on its way to you now :) Thanks to everyone who took part. I definitely hope to do more like it in the future, so loads more opportunities to win something.

It is officially exam season and so if I disappear from the blog for long stretches then it's probably because I'm in some library poring over a mountain of books. Today is a rest day though and the sunshine has got me in a great mood. It also inspired this colourful warm salad. I've recently been thinking of ways to use okra differently and I think it looks really pretty chopped into rings in this salad. It's also got a slight crunch which compliments the soft sweet potatoes. Give it a try and let me know what you think of the combination!

Ingredients
(serves 2)
- 1 large sweet potato (peeled and diced into cubes)
- 1 handful okra, about 15 (cut into small rounds)
- 2 large tomatoes (finely chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (finely chopped)
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2 tbsp olive oil

Boil the sweet potatoes in a little water for 10 minutes. Avoid overcooking so that it doesn't fall apart. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the chopped peppers, tomatoes and vegetable stock cube. Stir constantly on a high heat for about 5 minutes until you have a thick sauce. Add the chopped okra, turn the heat down completely and cook covered for a further 5 minutes. 

Add the cooked sweet potatoes and combine all the ingredients.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

ROASTED TOMATO AND LETTUCE SOUP

The humble and effortlessly healthy tomato soup is given a kick with the rich flavour of roasted fresh tomatoes, lettuce and garlic. I haven't added any chilli / scotch bonnet to this recipe because I wanted to keep things light and make the fresh tomatoes the star of the dish, but feel free to add some if you want a bit more heat.

Aside from the long cooking time, it's incredibly easy to make and freezes well too. Tomato soup isn't something I make very often but I have it in mind to rustle up a big batch and store in the freezer for days when I want something quick and simple, or when I don't feel like cooking from scratch.

Serves one if you're having it as a meal all to yourself; serves two if you're dishing it up in starter portion sizes.

[Also - thanks to everyone who entered the last giveaway. It has now officially closed and I will be in touch with the winner soon.]


















Ingredients
(serves 1-2)
- 3 large tomatoes (halved)
- 2 whole cloves garlic (peeled)
- 1 cup shredded lettuce
- Olive oil
- Dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste

Line a baking tray with some foil and place your garlic and tomato halves (facing upwards) in it.

Drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil, sprinkle on some dried thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Roast in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 7, for 45 mins. Add the shredded lettuce to the baking tray 15 mins before the end of the cooking time (you want them to have a nice roasted flavour, not a burnt one).

By the end of 45 mins, the tomatoes should be succulent on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.

Place the roasted lettuce, tomatoes and garlic in a food blender and whiz until smooth. You can take the skins of the tomatoes before blending to get an even smoother consistency, but I kept them on for the extra fibre. Check the soup for seasoning and add some extra salt or pepper if needed.

Serve hot with a garnish of your choice.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

ONE YEAR BLOG ANNIVERSARY + GIVEAWAY #2

I can't believe it's been a year since I started this blog! What a fun, crazy, amazing journey it's been so far. 
Highlights would definitely have to be meeting all kinds of fascinating people, experiencing new things that I otherwise never would have experienced, and hearing from readers who enjoy the recipes. When I put up that first post, I never even considered that anything remotely cool could come from it - how wrong I was!

To celebrate, I'm hosting another giveaway. This time I'll be giving away a fabulous guide called 'By Any Greens Necessary' by Tracye Lynn McQuirter. It was one of the first books I read when I was considering going vegan and I cannot tell you enough how helpful it is. It contains lots of practical advice, recipe ideas and in-depth nutrition analysis. If you're interested in seriously probing the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, then you'll want to read this. I'll be sending out one copy to any reader, in any country. Simply leave a comment down below, on Facebook or on Twitter letting me know why you would like the book. I'll pick a winner by the end of the month, get in touch and send the copy off.

Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to join me on this journey :)

P.S. The blog now has a domain name: www.vegannigerian.com 
Yay!


Friday, 14 February 2014

HEART-HEALTHY AVOCADO SALAD

Slightly different take on the whole Valentine's Day theme. No chocolate-covered strawberries or heart-shaped cakes (maybe next year...) Just this super delicious and super easy salad that's kind to your heart.

Avocado, olive oil, nuts - all packed with healthy fats that help lower bad LDL cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Doesn't get any more loving than that :p

















Ingredients
- 2 ripe avocados (diced)
- 1 large tomato (chopped)
- 1/2 small onion (finely chopped)
- handful of basil leaves (chopped)
- mixed nuts (chopped)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. I saved the avocado skins and used them to serve up the salad. Garnish with some more chopped basil and a twist of black pepper for an extra kick.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

EATING OUT #6 - PIZZA HUT

Last November, I found myself in Pizza Hut for my dear sis's birthday party. I've been meaning to write this little review for a while now, but better late than never, eh?

Ok, so first of all, I think Pizza Hut deserve a round of applause for their unlimited salad bar...every restaurant needs one of those. I am particularly impressed by the variety of vegetables and pulses on offer. I would even go so far as to say that it is actually possible to construct a filling, wholesome lunch based solely on that salad bar.

Alas, you go to a pizza restaurant to eat an actual pizza and so I ended up ordering the 'Veggie Hot One' topped with olives, cherry tomatoes, red onion, peppers and green chillies - without the cheese. I half-expected a look of surprise on the waiter's face, but nope, my request seemed to pass as perfectly normal. Thumbs up for customer service.

The pizza: While I think the sauce could have done with a bit more seasoning (I guess the bulk of the taste would normally come from the cheese), overall I was happy with my meal. I did miss having something to hold all the veg together though - more than a couple of those sneaky olives slid onto my lap as I tried to take a bite.

More than anything, I was also secretly relieved that I could effortlessly get on with enjoying the day with everyone, munching away on my cheese-less pizza (which is not as sad as it sounds :p).

Even though this post is specific to Pizza Hut, I think it can apply to just about any pizza restaurant out there. Any restaurant that cares enough about its customers will be willing to meet all sorts of dietary requests. It's just a matter of the customer being vocal (and polite) about it.

What's your take on the cheese-less pizza?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

EWA

I never liked beans as a kid. In fact, that's putting it mildly. I detested beans. In an attempt to get me to eat it, I was told that it'd make me grow taller (who else was fed this line?). I wasn't so convinced - if growing tall meant suffering through mouthfuls of mushy beans then I was more than happy to remain a little shrimp. Still, I had no choice in the matter and over time developed strategies to make it more palatable to my young taste buds e.g. loading up on plantain or a good chunk of bread (both usually served alongside beans, thankfully).

Not really selling this to you, am I? Well, all I can say is that it's a good thing our taste buds change over time. I honestly cannot imagine life without a scrummy bowl of beans thrown in there from time to time (slight exaggeration but...). It's up there with yam pottage as my go-to comfort food. Plus there's the whole highly nutritious thing that isn't so bad either...

'Ewa' is the Yoruba name for this meal, but utter the word 'beans' (the 's' pronounced instead of the 'z' you have in 'baked beans') and the image conjured up in a Nigerian's mind would most likely be the porridge-like dish made with honey beans (a.k.a. oloyin) and palm oil.

This is a leaner version of that. The palm oil has been taken out and replaced with a dash of olive oil and some red pepper mix to give it some colour and added flavour. Still tastes great (there's no hiding the unique taste of honey beans). But if you want to go down the traditional route, go ahead and add some palm oil to yours.

Tip: soak the beans overnight and rinse thoroughly before cooking.

















Ingredients
- 2 cups honey beans (oloyin)
- 1 small onion (diced)
- water
- 2 cups red pepper mix
- olive oil
- salt to taste


Start by placing the beans in a large pot and covering completely with water. Boil for 5 minutes and discard the water. Give the beans another rinse.

Cover the beans with water again and cook with the diced onion  for about 45 minutes (low heat), making sure that the water doesn't dry up completely before the beans turn soft (you may need to add more water as you go along). At the end of the cooking process, you want to be left with very soft beans and a mushy consistency.

Add the red pepper mix, a spoonful or two of olive oil and salt to taste. Stir to combine all the ingredients and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot with some plantain, bread or a generous sprinkling of garri over the top.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

VEGETABLE STOCK

I've had a couple of messages asking how to make vegetable stock and so it's back to basics with this fool-proof stock recipe. Homemade vegetable stock is infinitely better than any kind you could find at the shop - you get to control the flavours, salt content etc.

While I would encourage you to try out a combination of different vegetables, there are a few that don't work particularly well, such as leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli and sprouts - these can add an unsavoury bitter taste. Opt for fresh herbs like basil/partminger instead. The recipe I'm sharing below is my favourite combination - it smells absolutely amazing while cooking and the flavour is delicate and fragrant.

Vegetable stock is a great thing to have sitting in your fridge because it can be used for so many things. It can be used as a base for soups and sauces. (I used it in the yam pottage and egusi recipes). Here's another neat idea: it can also be used to sauté onions and other chopped vegetables - if you're trying to reduce the amount of oil in your cooking, then there's your solution!















Ingredients
(makes 10-12 cups)
- 12 cups water
- 5 large carrots (roughly chopped)
- 1 medium red onion (quartered)
- 1 large tomato (roughly chopped)
- 2 spring onions (chopped)
- 4 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
- 1-2 tbsp ginger (chopped)
- 1 corn on the cob
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp salt

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, turn the heat down and simmer for 1 hour.

Strain the vegetables from the broth, using the back of a spoon to press out any excess liquid from the vegetables. If there are little bits floating in your vegetable stock, go ahead and strain it a couple more times. The leftover veg can be used later for a rice/spaghetti sauce, or puréed to make a soup.

Keeps in the fridge for about a week. Or better yet, freeze in small containers and bring it out as you need it.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

YAM POTTAGE

A classic meal with a bit of a twist. I've added grated carrot to give it a slightly different texture and kept it oil-free. When it comes to comfort food, it doesn't get any better than this. 

Ingredients
(serves 6)
 - half of a medium-sized yam (peeled and cut into cubes)
- 6 carrots (grated)
- 6 cups red pepper mix (blend of tomatoes and peppers)
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- Salt to taste
- Spring onions (chopped, to garnish)

Place the yam, grated carrot, red pepper mix and vegetable stock in a large pot and stir to combine well. 

Cook for 40 mins on low-medium heat, making sure to give it a good stir half-way through the cooking time (to stop it sticking to the bottom)

Serve hot with a garnish of chopped spring onions.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

BOOK + GINGER SPICE COOKIES

Shameless plug time! Although technically it's not really shameless seeing as this is my blog and I am allowed to take liberties hehe :p 
Ok, so today I'm coming at you with two things I hope you'll enjoy. One is my recently published novel called Dear Junia and the other is a stellar recipe for ginger spice cookies that you can make and then enjoy while reading the book. See, not at all tenuous...

I'm sure I've mentioned it somewhere else on this blog, but I'll say it again: I love to write. I was that kid who filled every notebook with outlandish stories about spy sisters and gangster dads and everything in between. These days, I don't always get the time to dive into fiction writing as much as I would like and so when NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) rolled up last November, it provided me with a cheeky and totally legitimate excuse to write on a regular basis. With an average word count of 1,667 words per day to reach the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words in one month, self-discipline was the name of the game. Miss a couple of days and I'd frantically have to catch up, often spinning my story in weird and fearless directions (thank goodness for the editing process!).

What makes NaNoWriMo so unique is the instant support and community that comes with the process. Those weekly pep talks and words of encouragement from fellow writers striving for the same goal were priceless. There was also the adrenaline rush that came with wanting to show that seemingly impossible word count who's boss.

To cut a long story short, I reached the target and the sense of relief was overwhelming. So overwhelming that I couldn't turn my back on the experience and forget about the draft sitting in my laptop. Fast forward to now and I've decided to put it out there on Amazon, not knowing what will come of it, but incredibly excited that it is done!

If you'd like to support, take a sneaky peek or share, then here is the link:
It is available in all Amazon stores - UK, US, Canada, France, Australia, etc.

Synopsis: Wura is a young woman in her early twenties. Fed up with wallowing in apathy, she embarks on an epistolary journey that will change her life forever. Through her candid letters to the unborn Junia, she begins to confront the murky depths of her past. Why did her mother leave? What really caused her father to give up their home and life in Africa for the too-neat streets of England? The closer she gets to finding the answers to her questions, the more she is forced to face the dark reality of family secrets that have been suppressed for years.

--------------------------------

Now on to the cookies! 

Ingredients
(makes about 20)
- 2 1/2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup vegan margarine
- 1-2 tbsp ground ginger or 4 tbsp ginger juice*
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
*pop a good chunk of ginger into a juicer to extract the juice (great if you want a more intense flavour)

Place all the ingredients in  large bowl and combine to form a cookie dough. It shouldn't be too sticky or too dry.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Pinch little bits of the dough and flatten onto the baking tray to form roughly round shapes.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 4, for 15 minutes or until nice and golden brown. (Go order the book while you're waiting ^_^). 

Leave on a wire rack to cool before eating. Yum!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

HEALTHY NEW YEAR

There is something empowering about making a commitment to good health, don't you think? And not just the sort of commitment you make on the first of January and forget about two weeks later. I'm not opposed to New Year resolutions, in fact when you're really serious about making that big life change (such as taking better care of your health), positioning that commitment at the start of the year gives that initial boost and burst of motivation. But how many times do we start off with good intentions before giving up or getting frustrated? That question comes up so often that it has become a cliché in itself. It's still worth asking though, especially when it actually leads to a remotely useful exchange...

It has taken me a while to understand that the key to health is not to view it as some goal you can reach and then tick off a checklist and forget about. The decision to be healthy needs to be a weekly, daily, hourly thing for the rest of our lives (dun dun DUN!...only kidding :p It's not that daunting...kinda...)
As it's an established fact that we're all imperfect human beings, isn't it about time we stopped acting so darn emotional each time we 'fail' or encounter an obstacle? (And by emotional, I'm talking frustration and self-loathing and throwing shrivelled carrots across the kitchen). The fact of the matter is that 'failing' is inevitable - the cheeky fried snack or two (or five, or ten) will find its way onto our plate; we will go a couple of days without eating fresh fruit and veg. It will happen. We should expect it.
It's what we do with the next mealtime that's the important thing. It's about the process of making better choices until it becomes second nature. It's about holding on tight to the conviction that our health does matter and should be the best that it can be. Once that is the primary motivation, then we can be quick to forgive our little slip-ups and commit to making the next time better. Over and over again. Until the year comes to an end and we can look back and say: "Hmm, this and this has changed for the better. Still a few more things to keep working on, but I do this and that now without really thinking too much about it". Whether it is significantly reducing the number of fizzy drinks we have every week or upping our fresh food intake by always having a salad with dinner, it's all good stuff. Little changes add up over time, leading to significant health benefits.

Let's take the pressure off this new year and appreciate the 'bigger picture' aspect of health. Let's recommit as often as is necessary, especially in those moments after we've wiped the sugar off our lips or let the leafy greens wilt at the back of the fridge.

I am looking forward to what 2014 has in store, both on and off this blog. Thank you to everyone who reads, tries a recipe, leaves a comment or sends an e-mail. This still blows my mind.

God bless + Happy New Year! :)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

NIGERIAN ROAST VEG MEDLEY + RED ONION GRAVY

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you're making the most of this festive season by indulging in some healthy, tasty food...oh and you know, by spending time with your loved ones and all that good stuff. 

If you're looking for some last minute inspiration for the dinner table tomorrow then how about this medley of bright roasted veg. Nigerian-style no less, with yam and plantain and sweet potatoes thrown in for good measure. There's also a recipe for a rich red onion gravy to pull the whole dish together. Enjoy!

Ingredients
(serves 6)
- 2 cups diced yam 
- 4 medium potatoes (diced) 
- 1 large sweet potato (diced) 
- 1 green bell pepper (diced)
- 1 red bell pepper (diced)
- 2 large carrots (cut into thick batons)
- 1 medium red onion (cut into chunks)
- 1 plantain (cut into thick batons)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves 
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil 
- salt and pepper to taste

For the gravy:

- 1 large red onion
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1/4 tsp curry powder
- squeeze of lemon
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp corn flour mixed with 1 tbsp warm water 

Place the diced yam, potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots in a large pot and cover with water. Parboil the vegetables for 10 mins on a high heat. Drain well.

Place the parboiled vegetables, diced peppers, red onions, plantain, garlic cloves and bay leaves in a large baking dish. Drizzle with sunflower oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss together until all the vegetables are well coated.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 2, for 20-25 mins.

To make the gravy, blend the red onion with a little water. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and add the stock cube, curry powder, squeeze of lemon and 1/4 cup of water. Stir continuously on low-medium heat for 5 minutes to cook off the onions. Add the corn flour mixture and keep stirring for a few more minutes until the gravy thickens slightly.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

MALTINA ICE CREAM

Hands up if you think we could do with a few more Nigerian desserts. 

I paid a visit to my local African food store yesterday and spied a row of malt drinks - Maltina, Malta, Amstel Malta etc (so many brands for such a popular beverage). I must have looked a bit dim as I stood staring at the row for longer than could be considered normal. In actual fact, the wheels were turning as I wondered how these carbonated malt drinks could be used in cooking. I imagined using it in a stew or a kind of rich vegetable soup. Then I remembered the tin of coconut cream I had at home and thought it'd be cool to blend the two to make some kind of ice cream. Fast forward to now and I'm glad I grabbed that bottle of maltina.
Few ingredients go into this but the process is long if you haven't got an ice cream maker. 
A labour of love, but well worth it!


Ingredients
(serves 4)
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1/4 cup maltina (or any other brand of malt drink)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar

Place the coconut cream, maltina and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk (I used an electric hand mixer) for 5 mins until the mixture is well combined and aerated.

Cover and put in the freezer for 30 minutes. Take out and give another whisk. 
Repeat this process several times until the ice cream mixture is firm. The purpose of repeating the process is to make sure you end up with smooth, scoopable ice cream and not rock-solid cream with large ice crystals. 

Serve in bowls or little glass cups and spoon some of the malt drink over the top for an extra kick.

NUTTY CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

These truffles would make a great home-made Christmas present. Just pop them into cellophane bags and tie up with some ribbon. 
Or you can serve them as a post-Christmas dinner treat. 
Or you can keep them all for yourself and devour in one sitting (not recommended). 
The possibilities are endless...

They require zero cooking time, just a short rest in the freezer. Pay special attention not to use salted peanut butter though, no one wants to bite into a salty truffle.


Ingredients
(makes 20)
- 4 tbsp smooth, unsalted peanut butter
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 8 tbsp ground almonds
- 75g dark chocolate (melted)
- 1 cup dessicated coconut

Mix the peanut butter, cocoa powder, ground almonds and melted dark chocolate in a large mixing bowl until all the ingredients are well combined. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Place the dessicated coconut on a large plate (for rolling your truffles in). Spoon out little rounds of the truffle mix, drop into the dessicated coconut and roll them around until evenly coated.

Lay them out on a lined baking sheet. When they're all coated and laid out, place in the freezer for about 10-15 mins until they harden.





BREAKFAST #7 - SWEET POTATO PANCAKES

These pancakes are fantastic if you're trying to reduce your sugar intake. A wholesome way to start the day. The touch of cinnamon also creates a warm Christmassy aroma that fills the entire house.




Ingredients
(serves 2-3)
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 cup self-raising wholegrain flour
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- sunflower oil
- lemon juice (optional)

You'll need to bake the sweet potato first and there are two ways you can do this:
1. Microwave: poke the sweet potato all over with a fork, wrap in a damp sheet of kitchen paper and microwave for 4-5 minutes. Turn over and microwave for another 4-5 minutes. You should be left with a soft and squishy potato afterwards.
2. Oven: poke all over with a fork and place the sweet potato on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, gas mark 6, then turn it over and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

To make the pancakes, cut the baked sweet potato length-wise and scrape out the soft flesh into a large mixing bowl.

Add the flour, milk and cinnamon, and give it a good mix.

Lightly oil the bottom of a frying pan and drop the pancake mix in one tablespoon at a time, using the back of the spoon to spread and flatten the pancake. Cook the pancake for about 5 mins on low-medium heat until brown on one side. Flip over and brown the other side.

Serve warm with a little lemon juice drizzled over the top.

Monday, 16 December 2013

BEANS AND PLANTAIN CANAPES

If you're planning to host a big Christmas party this year, these quick and easy canapés are the way to go. A fancy-looking addition to your spread with minimum effort required. And if you've got some leftover cooked beans in your fridge or freezer then these will take half the time. This recipe makes about 18-20 canapés, but if you've got more guests then go ahead and double the quantities.

Lay them out on pretty trays with festive napkins to give them that special edge.




















Ingredients
(makes about 20)
- 2 plantains
- 1/2 cup brown beans or green lentils
- salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- tomato (diced, to garnish)

If you're using leftover beans, then skip this step. Otherwise, boil the beans/lentils in salted water until it turns soft and mushy. Season with a touch of cinnamon.

Peel and slice the plantains into thick rounds. You should be able to get 18-20 rounds from each plantain. Shallow fry the plantain in a little sunflower oil, browning on both sides. Drain on some kitchen paper.

Using the tip of a teaspoon, spread some of the beans on one slice and place a second slice on top. Hold in place with a cocktail stick and garnish each canapé with a little cube of tomato.