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!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

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! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...