Tuesday 20 February 2024

Ose Oji - Igbo Spiced Peanut Butter (Okwa Ose)

One of the great things about being married to someone from a different part of Nigeria is learning about new food combos and meals that I didn’t grow up eating. My latest discovery is this spiced peanut butter and garden egg situation, an Igbo delicacy that is often served to guests at parties. 

This hearty Igbo dish of spiced peanut butter paired with crunchy garden eggs is a staple at big family gatherings, weddings, and any occasion where good vibes are a must. In this post, we'll delve into the origins, significance, preparation, and serving traditions of Ose Oji, inviting you to appreciate why it's more than just food for the Igbo people of Nigeria. 


Origins and Cultural Significance

Peanuts (groundnuts), introduced to West Africa by Portuguese explorers during the 16th century, quickly became a staple crop. The Igbo, located in the eastern region of Nigeria, crafted this dish, blending the rich, creamy texture of peanuts with the spicy zest of local spices and the unique taste of garden eggs (African eggplants).

Ose oji is traditionally served to guests at significant events such as weddings, funerals, and title-taking ceremonies, a cultural symbol of hospitality and goodwill.

Ingredients and Preparation

The preparation of Ose Oji is an art form, requiring precision and patience. The primary ingredient is peanuts, roasted to perfection, which forms the base of this savoury spread. The peanuts are then blended with a mix of traditional spices, including ehuru (African nutmeg).

The spiciness comes from the addition of fresh or dried pepper, which can be adjusted to your desired heat level. The blend is ground into a smooth paste, sometimes with the addition of a little oil to achieve the perfect consistency. Although the paste is traditionally made by pounding the peanuts in a large mortar and pestle, modern chefs can make use of food processors to achieve the smooth peanut butter.

Ingredients

450g roasted peanuts
1 tbsp ground chilli pepper
2 tsp ground ehuru (African calabash nutmeg)
1 vegetable stock cube

Method

1. Combine the roasted peanuts, chilli pepper, ground ehuru and vegetable stock cube in a food processor and blend until the mixture becomes smooth and the peanut has released its oil.

2. Serve with a handful of fresh garden eggs (or Thai eggplant).

The peanut butter can be stored in an airtight jar or container and keep refrigerated. 


Serving Traditions

Ose Oji is traditionally served with garden eggs, which offer a fresh, crisp, slightly bitter counterpoint to the creamy richness of the peanut butter. The garden eggs are either raw or slightly blanched, sliced or left whole.

Beyond garden eggs, Ose Oji can also be served alongside kola nut, boiled yams, or even bread, making it a versatile dip.

Nutritional Value

Aside from its cultural significance, Ose Oji is nutritionally rich. Peanuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats, and vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin E. Garden eggs are low in calories but high in fiber, making them an excellent addition to a balanced diet. This dish is a healthful blend of nutrients, offering a delicious way to enjoy traditional Nigerian flavors while maintaining a nutritious diet.


Ose Oji is more than just a dish; it's a celebration of Igbo culture, tradition, and hospitality. Whether served at a grand occasion or enjoyed as a simple snack, it offers a window into the rich culinary heritage of the Igbo people.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Cabin Biscuit Cheesecake | Dairy Free and Refined Sugar Free

Cabin Biscuits - a staple snack that filled the pantries of many Nigerian households, including mine when I was growing up. Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a packet of these iconic biscuits in my local African grocery store here in the UK. Eagerly, I brought them home, anticipation building  as I opened it. Yet, as I took my first bite, that sweet anticipation gave way to a pang of disappointment. The biscuits, perhaps over baked, were drier than I remembered, lacking the gentle crunch and subtle sweetness that I remembered.

In an effort to turn things around, I decided to repurpose the biscuits into a dessert. A vegan baked tofu cheesecake was just the answer. A crunchy base made with the biscuits, a creamy baked tofu filling, sweetened naturally to ensure it’s both dairy-free and refined sugar-free. I topped my cheesecake with some frozen berries (warmed up in the microwave for 30 seconds so that they became saucy). Feel free to get experimental with your toppings. The cheesecake filling is intentionally neutral (well, vanilla flavoured) so that it's a great canvas for any bright, flavourful topping. Why not drizzle over some melted chocolate or salted caramel sauce?

It goes without saying that you can make this recipe using any other type of biscuit for the base - Digestives work particularly well. 

You can also choose to use a different sweetener such as agave syrup, dates or coconut sugar.

I made a small cheesecake in a 4 inch spring form tin, so if you want a larger cheesecake, you'll need to double or triple the quantities.

I hope you give this recipe a try. You can watch the full recipe video (Reel) and share your creations with me over on Instagram!
 




Ingredients 
(Serves 4)

For the crust:
45g cabin biscuits 
40g vegan butter, melted
dash of maple syrup

For the filling:
100g tofu
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp corn flour
3 tbsp soy milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp plain protein powder (optional)

For the topping:
50g mixed frozen berries
1 tbsp maple syrup


Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 

2. Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin or in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. In a bowl, mix the crumbs, melted vegan butter and a dash of maple syrup. Line a round 4 inch spring form tin with baking paper and pour the mixture into the base of the tin. Use the bottom of a small glass cup to press the crumbs down until even and compact. Set aside.

3. To make the filling, add all the ingredients to a small blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour the mixture onto the biscuit base and tap/shake the tin against the countertop to remove any large air bubbles.

4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes until the outer edges of the cheesecake are firm to the touch. Leave to cool completely before taking out of the tin and removing the baking paper.

5. For the topping, place the frozen berries and maple syrup in a bowl and microwave for 30-45 seconds. This should keep the berries mostly whole but also create a delicious pool of juice. Spoon this over the cheesecake and serve. Enjoy!

Monday 5 February 2024

Vegan Nigerian Food and Health Benefits

In recent years, we've seen a significant surge in interest and adoption of veganism across the globe. While the concept of a plant-based diet isn't exactly new, its popularity has soared, even in regions with deep-rooted culinary traditions like Nigeria. Vegan Nigerian food offers a distinctive blend of flavours, textures, and aromas that can tempt even the most sceptical taste buds. But there's more to it than just good food. A growing body of evidence suggests that a vegan diet can have profound health benefits. Let's explore how vegan Nigerian cuisine can positively impact health, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases to aiding in weight management and enhancing overall well-being.

Examples of Plant-Based Foods:

  • Fruits: Mangoes, papayas, pineapples, guavas, bananas, etc.
  • Vegetables: Okra, bitter leaf, ugu (pumpkin leaves), waterleaf, ewedu (jute leaves), etc.
  • Legumes: Black-eyed peas, cowpeas, groundnuts (peanuts), Bambara nuts, etc.
  • Whole grains: Millet, rice, sorghum, fonio, teff, whole maize, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds: Tigernuts, melon seeds (egusi), locust beans, sesame seeds, etc.
  • Plant-based proteins: Soybeans, beans, tofu (from soybeans), tempeh, etc.
  • Plant-based dairy alternatives: Tigernut milk, coconut milk, soy milk, etc.
  • Plant-based fats: avocado, palm oil, coconut oil, etc.
  • Plant-based sweeteners: Date syrup, whole dates, coconut sugar, etc.

Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet:

1. Nutrient-rich: Nigerian vegan diets are abundant in essential nutrients, with dishes like vegetable soup using tomatoes, onions and peppers, and incorporating leafy greens such as ugu and waterleaf - all rich in vitamins and minerals.


2. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Traditional dishes like vegetable stews with okra and bitter leaf, or bean-based dishes like Ewa, can help lower the risk of chronic diseases due to their low saturated fat and high nutrient content.


3. Heart Health: Foods like fonio and millet in porridges or as side dishes, and legumes in stews, contribute to lower levels of bad cholesterol and a healthier heart.


4. Weight Management: High-fibre dishes like beans and vegetable soups, and whole grains like teff and sorghum, are filling yet lower in calories, aiding in weight management.


5. Digestive Health: The high fibre in legumes, whole grains, and vegetables like ewedu and waterleaf supports a healthy digestive system and can help prevent digestive disorders.


6. Improved Blood Sugar Control: Whole grains and legumes common in Nigerian cuisine, like black-eyed peas, help regulate blood sugar levels and are beneficial for diabetes management.


7. Lower Inflammation: The natural anti-inflammatory properties found in many fruits, vegetables, and spices used in Nigerian vegan cooking, like turmeric and ginger, can help reduce inflammation.


8. Improved Cholesterol Levels: Plant-based Nigerian diets are often low in harmful fats, with ingredients like nuts and seeds helping maintain healthier cholesterol levels.


9. Weight Management: The naturally lower calorie content of many Nigerian plant-based dishes, combined with their high fibre content, assists in maintaining a healthy weight.


10. Promotes Digestive Health: The fibre-rich nature of Nigerian plant-based meals, including dishes like vegetable soups and bean stews, supports a robust digestive system.


Exploring vegan Nigerian cuisine doesn't just open up a world of delicious plant-based dishes; it also offers numerous health benefits. Adopting a plant-based diet can lead to positive changes in overall well-being. Rich in essential nutrients, fibre, and antioxidants, vegan Nigerian food promotes heart health, weight management, and improved digestion. Moreover, it's associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers. Embracing this cuisine could be your gateway to a healthier lifestyle.


Friday 26 January 2024

10 Vegan Nigerian Party Food Ideas

Hey there :) In today's blog post we're spicing things up with some incredible vegan Nigerian party food ideas!

If you're on the hunt for vegan party recipes, you've landed in the perfect spot. Nigerian cuisine offers a treasure trove of options. This post is dedicated to those looking to diversify their vegan menu with dishes that are not only delicious but also steeped in tradition. Whether you're planning a vegan wedding, birthday party, or just a casual get-together, these vegan Nigerian recipes are sure to impress your guests and excite their taste buds.

From the classics like Jollof Rice to innovative twists on traditional dishes, I have curated a list of vegan-friendly party foods that celebrate the essence of Nigerian flavours. Let's make your next party a hit with these options:

1. Jollof Rice: A staple in West African cuisine, Jollof Rice can be easily veganised. By substituting beef or chicken stock with a vegetable stock and spices, this dish becomes an ideal vegan treat for any Nigerian event. It's a one pot dish that can easily be made in large quantities. Always a crowd pleaser.



2. Plantain Skewers: Thinly sliced plantains, either ripe or unripe, are deep-fried or baked until they achieve a crispy texture. These chips are a healthier alternative to traditional snacks and can be seasoned with salt, pepper, or other spices. They are an excellent vegan finger food option for guests to nibble on throughout the event.

3. Puff Puff: Similar to a doughnut, Puff Puff is a sweet, fluffy, deep-fried snack. It is a favourite among children and adults at Nigerian celebrations.

4. Vegan Abacha (African Salad): Abacha, also known as African salad, typically includes dried fish, crayfish, and stockfish. Creating a vegan version involves substituting these with plant-based proteins, transforming it into a delicious vegan dish ideal for social gatherings.

5. Akara (Bean Fritters): Akara is a popular Nigerian snack made from blended black-eyed peas, onions, and spices, deep-fried until crispy and golden. This protein-rich delicacy is naturally vegan and makes for a perfect appetiser or side dish at parties. Serve it with a spicy dipping sauce or alongside a fresh salad for added flavour.

6. Moin Moin: This steamed bean cake, traditionally made with ground beans, onions, peppers, and spices, is a party essential in Nigeria. A vegan version of Moin Moin excludes animal-based items like eggs, fish, crayfish, or meat, making it a savoury plant-based delight.


7. Vegan Suya: Suya, a popular Nigerian street food and party food, typically features skewered and grilled meat coated in a spicy peanut mixture. The vegan version uses chunks of marinated vegetables, tofu, seitan or tempeh, threaded onto skewers and grilled or roasted. The key to its flavour lies in the suya spice mix, made from ground peanuts, paprika, ginger, and other spices, offering a truly unique taste.

8. Chin Chin: This is a crunchy, sweet snack made from flour, sugar, and margarine. For a vegan version, ensure the margarine is plant-based and leave out the eggs. Chin chin can be flavoured with nutmeg or vanilla and is a delightful treat that guests can munch on at any time during the party.

9. Vegan Asun: Asun is typically a spicy, grilled goat meat dish, but the vegan version uses large chunks of mushrooms, marinated in a spicy pepper sauce and grilled to perfection. This dish provides the smoky, spicy flavour of traditional Asun while being completely plant-based.

10. Coconut Fried Rice: This is a fragrant dish made by cooking rice with coconut milk and spices like thyme and bay leaves. Adding diced vegetables like carrots, peas, and sweet corn not only enhances its nutritional value but also adds colour and texture to the dish, making it a visually appealing and delicious vegan party food option.



By offering these vegan alternatives at Nigerian parties, hosts can ensure inclusivity and a memorable culinary experience for all guests, regardless of their dietary preferences. Enjoy celebrating with these delicious party food choices!


For more traditional Nigerian recipes with a vegan twist, check out my cookbook Vegan Nigerian Kitchen.

Thursday 18 January 2024

Nigerian Buns - Easy Egg Free Recipe

Nigerian Buns are the go-to snack for anyone craving something sweet, simple, and satisfying. These little fried dough balls are like puff puff’s crunchier cousins. They have this amazing crispy outside and a soft, dense middle that’s just right for a quick snack fix. 

Made with everyday ingredients like flour, sugar and a bit of baking powder, Nigerian Buns are then fried until they turn a lovely golden brown. They’re a common sight at parties and street food stalls, often with a sprinkle of nutmeg or a dash of vanilla to give them that extra bit of flavour. 

Whether you’re hanging out with friends or need something to munch on the go, these buns are a taste of Nigerian comfort food that's hard to resist. Give them a try, and you’ll see why they're a snack-time favourite for so many!

Discover more delicious recipes in my cookbook Vegan Nigerian Kitchen


Ingredients

(Makes 15)


2 cups self-raising flour (or mix 2 cups plain flour with 2 level teaspoons baking powder)

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons caster sugar

1 and 1/4 cups plant-based milk (such as soya milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

2 cups sunflower oil for deep-frying


Method


1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and milk until you have a thick, sticky batter.

 

2. Heat the sunflower oil in a small, deep frying pan or saucepan until it starts to sizzle. Use one tablespoon to scoop the batter and another tablespoon to push/drop the batter into the oil. You can fry multiple buns at a time but be careful not to overcrowd the pan. 

 

3. Fry the buns for a few minutes on medium-high heat until they are golden brown all over. They will float to the top of the oil and you may need to move them around to brown evenly. 

 

4. Use a slotted spoon to take them out of the oil and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper or napkins. Serve warm or cold. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. 


Friday 12 January 2024

Top 5 Vegan Egg Replacements for Nigerian Cuisine

One common ingredient that often needs replacing in vegan cooking is the egg. Whether it's in baking or in savoury dishes, eggs play a vital role in Nigerian cuisine, but fear not! There are several vegan alternatives that can mimic the properties of eggs in cooking. Let's explore the top five vegan egg replacements, particularly within the context of vegan Nigerian food.


1. Banana or Plantain Puree: In baking, eggs are often used for their binding properties, and bananas or plantains can be a perfect substitute. Mashed bananas or plantains work exceptionally well in recipes like pancakes or muffins. They add moisture, act as a great binder, and impart a subtle sweetness. For each egg, use half a ripe, mashed banana or a quarter ripe plantain. Keep in mind, though, that bananas can add a distinct flavour, which works well in certain recipes but may not be suitable for all. Plantains tend to have a much subtler flavour.


2. Flaxseed or Chia Seed Gel: To replace one egg, simply mix one tablespoon of ground flaxseed or chia seeds with three tablespoons of water and let it sit for a few minutes to form a gel-like consistency. This mixture is a fantastic binding agent in baking and works well in recipes like pancakes or cookies. Flaxseed and chia seeds are also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, adding a nutritional boost to your dishes.


3. Aquafaba: This is the liquid left over from cooked beans, and it's a magical ingredient in vegan cooking. The most commonly used aquafaba is from chickpeas or butter beans. It can be whipped up like egg whites and is perfect for making vegan meringues, mousses, and even mayonnaise. In Nigerian cooking, it can be used as a binder in dishes like akara, to make them fluffy.


4. Silken Tofu or Firm Tofu: Silken tofu is smooth and creamy, and when blended, it can replace eggs in recipes that require a dense, moist texture. It's excellent for custards, creamy pies, and some baked goods. In Nigerian vegan cooking, it can be used in puddings. Firm tofu can be scrambled to mimic scrambled eggs i/n dishes such as yam and egg or egg stew


5. Applesauce: Applesauce is another fantastic egg replacement, especially in baking. It adds moisture and works well as a binder. One-quarter cup of unsweetened applesauce can replace one egg in cakes and sweet breads. It's a great choice for vegan versions of Nigerian sweet treats.


Each of these vegan egg replacements brings its unique properties to Nigerian dishes, allowing you to recreate traditional flavors in a plant-based way. Experimenting with these substitutes not only makes your cooking more inclusive but also opens up a world of culinary creativity. Whether you're a long-time vegan or just starting out, these egg alternatives are sure to enrich your Nigerian cooking repertoire.

Monday 8 January 2024

10 Best Meat Substitutes for Vegan Nigerian Dishes

Incorporating vegan options into Nigerian dishes doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the meaty texture and rich flavours you love. When it comes to finding meat substitutes in Nigeria, it's important to look for ingredients that are both accessible and capable of mimicking the texture and flavour of meat. Here's a list of the 10 best (and accessible) meat substitutes that can add a delightful twist to your vegan Nigerian meals:

1. Mushrooms: With their umami flavour and meaty texture, mushrooms like portobello or shiitake are ideal in Nigerian dishes. They're low in calories and high in B vitamins. Grill or sauté them for a flavourful addition to dishes like Egusi soup and Peppersoup.



2. 
Beans: Beans are a staple in Nigerian cuisine and a great meat substitute due to their protein content. Black-eyed peas, honey beans, or pigeon peas can be used in a variety of dishes, from stews to salads.


3. African Breadfruit (Ukwa): Ukwa can be boiled and has a chewy, meat-like texture. It's an excellent source of protein and minerals, making it a nutritious meat substitute in various dishes.


4. Garden Eggs (Eggplants): These small eggplants can be used in stews and sauces. They absorb flavours well and have a meaty texture when cooked. They're also a good source of fibre and antioxidants.



5. 
Cocoyam (Taro): Cocoyam can be boiled, fried, or added to soups. It provides a dense, satisfying texture and is a great source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Dried cocoyam, used often in Eastern Nigerian cuisines, has a surprisingly meaty texture when rehydrated and add to dishes. 


6. Tofu: Tofu (also called wara soya or awara in parts of Nigeria) is a soy-based product that's high in protein and calcium. Its ability to absorb flavours makes it ideal for Nigerian marinades and sauces. Try it smoked or fried for a delicious addition to any dish.



7. Unripe Plantain: A staple in Nigerian cuisine, unripe plantain can create a meaty consistency when boiled or grilled (for a smokier flavour). Rich in carbohydrates and vitamins A, C, and B6, they're perfect for adding substance to stews or serving as a satisfying side dish. They're an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and provide a good amount of dietary fibre.


8. Seitan: Made from vital wheat gluten, seitan has a meaty texture and is high in protein. It's perfect for mimicking beef or chicken in dishes like Nigerian stews. Just be cautious if you're gluten-sensitive. Click here for my recipe for vegan chicken.



9. 
Millet and Sorghum: These grains can be cooked to achieve a chewy, satisfying texture. They are great for adding substance to soups and stews. Both are gluten-free and rich in nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.


10. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): TVP is a dehydrated soy product that resembles minced meat when rehydrated. It's a protein-rich ingredient that can be used in vegan versions of dishes like meat pies or stews.



Each of these substitutes not only adds a meaty texture to vegan Nigerian dishes but also brings its own unique set of health benefits, making them excellent choices for those looking to diversify their vegan diet. Whether used in traditional recipes or innovative new creations, these ingredients can help maintain the heartiness and depth of flavour that Nigerian cuisine is known for.