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.