Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Vegan Egusi Recipe | How to Make Nigerian Egusi Soup


Whether you're eating it with pounded yam (classic!) or with rice, there's no denying the sheer deliciousness of egusi. It's efo riro's blinged out cousin with more texture, more nutrition and arguably more flavour.

Egusi seeds are often sold whole or ground. I usually like to buy it whole and grind it myself, but if you want to save on time then go ahead and buy it ground. The seeds are derived from a gourd plant that is indigenous to West Africa. Other countries that grow and use egusi include Ghana (where it is called agushi), Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. It is made up of about 70% fat and 30% protein, and is packed with tons of nutrients and vitamins such as A, B1, B2, C and E - making it excellent for skin, hair and bone health. 

Notably, egusi soup is the most popular dish amongst the Ijesha people of Osun state (where my family is from!), where it is eaten alongside pounded yam. Egusi is eaten all the way across Nigeria though, amongst not only the Yoruba but Igbo, Hausa, Edo, Itsekiri, Ibibio and Efik people.

The ground seeds are added to soups as a thickening agent. Egusi soup or stew in particular is composed of leafy greens, palm oil, ground egusi and seasonings. The traditional recipe calls for meat to be added, but as this is a vegan version I have of course left this out. For anyone interested in having that meaty texture though, I recommend adding roasted mushrooms or diced aubergine (garden egg/eggplant). 

Now let's get to the recipe! As always, if you do try it, please share your food pics and tag me on Instagram :)


Ingredients
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 red onion
- 2 tbsp palm oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup ground egusi
- 5-6 cups chopped spinach
- Chopped mixed vegetables or mushrooms (optional)


Start by blending the peppers, tomatoes and onion with a little water. Heat some palm oil in a large pot and add the blended mixture. Season with salt and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.

Stir in the vegetable stock and sprinkle the ground egusi over the top. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes. The egusi should cake and form little air pockets.

Add the chopped spinach, give it a good mix and cook uncovered for a further 5 minutes. At this point you can add in some extra chopped vegetables or meat alternatives (such as mushrooms, aubergine etc).

Serve hot with some pounded yam, boiled yam, rice, boiled plantain or fried plantain. All winning combinations!

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Know Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes



Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin or the insulin produced is resistant. The long-term health problems that can arise from diabetes include loss of vision, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, and a greater risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. It goes without saying that it is extremely important to get clued up on how to prevent it or reduce the risk of developing complications.

I was very young when I lost a family member to complications from Type 2 diabetes. It left a deep impression on me, but still I assumed that it was something you only had to worry about later in life. I figured that as long as you didn't overdo it on sweets and sugary drinks, you were mostly in the clear. 

While it is true that you are at greater risk of developing the condition as you get older, it has been found that black people are two to four times more likely to develop it even at a younger age. Other risk factors include your family history, your weight and your blood pressure. Of course, some of these risk factors (such as age and ethnicity) cannot be changed, but other factors are most certainly within our control. Taking active steps to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and eating healthy foods can all assist in reducing risk.

When I went vegan in 2013, my interest in health (particularly nutrition) grew exponentially and I began to see the clear links between lifestyle and well-being. In fact, one of the factors that kept me committed to the lifestyle was knowing that it could help me improve my eating habits and therefore help reduce my chances of developing certain health conditions. A healthy plant-based diet is naturally low in saturated fats and higher in antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetable and fibres. A healthy diet is one piece of the puzzle in diabetes prevention, but by no means the only one. If you do find that you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes then you may be eligible to join your free local Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Program.


So at this point you may be wondering where to even begin in finding out your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, the NHS has developed a simple and accessible online tool to assess your risk. In a few simple steps, you'll be able to determine whether you are at a low, medium or high risk. All you need is a measuring tape and a few health stats such as your weight and height. To get started, click here to access the online Diabetes UK tool.

diabetes know your risk

You'll see from the screenshot below that the tool is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Once you've input all your information, you'll be shown your results instantly, along with a detailed explanation of your risk category. On the same page, there's an opportunity to explore further and access healthy tips, recipes and diabetes resources.


Once you've figured out your risk, you can also spread the word by email or on social media by sharing across your platforms and encouraging your friends and family to find out their own risk. Have loved ones who are not active on social media? Be sure to pass on this vital message to them by word-of-mouth. Knowing our risk can make all the difference in preventing or delaying Type 2 diabetes.

This campaign is also supported by the Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain, Nigerian Nurses Charity Association UK, Somali Nursing & Midwifery Group, Ghana Nurses Association and the British Islamic Medical Association.






Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The Best Pizza Crust Recipe | Vegan Pizza


I've made my fair share of pizzas over the years, but it wasn't until this attempt that I felt really proud of my attempt. I wanted the crust to come as close to the crust I remember from Domino's Pizza, with that slightly gritty feel from coarse cornmeal and a thick base. Now I'm sure their recipe and method are probably a closely guarded secret, but I'm pretty confident when I say you won't be disappointed with the version I'm about to share with you.

Before we get to the main recipe, I have a few notes on each element.

The crust: you can leave the dough to rise for one hour and still get good results. But if time allows, leave your dough to rise slowly in the fridge for 24-36 hours as this allows the yeast flavour to intensify.

The garlic butter: this is a hack I encountered when researching the Domino's pizza crust. Brushing the warm crust with garlicky melted vegan butter is an indulgent extra step to up the overall taste of the pizza. 

The toppings: this is where you can go wild and create interesting combinations. You may have some veg at home that need using up. Don't hold back. In this pizza, I used some home-grown green peppers, red onions, vegan sausages and vegan cheese. 


Makes:
1 extra large or  2 medium pizzas

Ingredients
For the pizza crust
- 2 cups plain flour or bread flour
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup cornmeal

For the topping
- 3/4 cup tomato sauce (from a tin of tomatoes blended until smooth)
- mixed herbs
- salt to taste
- vegan cheese
- vegetables of your choice
- 2 vegan sausages (optional)

For the garlic butter 
- 2 tbsp vegan margarine
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- pinch of salt

Method
- To make the pizza crust, combine all the ingredients except the cornmeal in a large mixing bowl. Use your hand to mix/knead in the bowl until you have a smooth, soft, slightly sticky dough. You may need to add a touch more flour or a touch more water until you achieve the right consistency (different flours absorb moisture differently, which is why quantities can vary slightly). Cover the bowl and leave to rise for at least one hour until the dough has doubled in size. If you can leave it to slow-rise in the fridge for 24-36 hours, even better, as a more intense flavour will develop.

- Preheat your oven to 200C.

- Punch down the risen dough to get rid of excess air bubbles. You may wish to divide the dough into two equal parts if you are making 2 medium pizzas, or you can make one large pizza if you have a large pizza pan or baking tray. Sprinkle a generous amount of cornmeal on a clean surface, roll the dough in it and use your hands/fingers to stretch out the pizza dough into a circle. Transfer to a pizza pan or baking tray. 

- Spoon a small quantity of tomato sauce over the top and add your selection of toppings.

- Bake for 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

- Brush the crust with a blend of melted vegan butter, garlic powder and salt. Sprinkle a bit more cornflour over the crust.


Friday, 16 October 2020

Vegan Nigerian Fish Stew | Quorn Vegan Fishless Fingers Recipe

 


Making the impossible possible? Something like that!

You've seen me attempt vegan scrambled eggs with yam, and vegan efo riro. I've even successfully conquered vegan peppered 'snails' and egg fried rice. And now, with a little help from Quorn, I reckon I've created a worthy version of Nigerian fish stew. Cue squeals of excitement!

The reason I'm extra thrilled about this recipe is that since going vegan nearly eight years ago, I've wracked my brain as to how to tackle such a dish. Achieving that authentic seafood flavour with the right textured fish substitute to match seemed an unfeasible task.

The traditional recipe (also known as Obe Eja Dindin by the Yorubas) is often made by cooking raw, fried or grilled fish in a tasty blend of peppers and tomatoes. The stew is then served with either a side of boiled rice, yam, potatoes, plantain, and more. My mum has declared several times that it is her favourite type of stew. Let's hope she approves!

One thing I love about our Nigerian soups and stews is that they are often zero-waste. The one pot meals use fresh ingredients that we always have at home. If there are any red peppers or onions that need using up, you can bet that they're making their way into a stew. This recipe is no different, and that's why I'm excited that it gets to be included in Quorn's Zero Waste campaign.

So let's talk the vegan fish element of this dish. I will be using Quorn's Vegan Fishless Fingers. I know what the traditionalists are thinking. I can almost see the eye rolls and hear the mtchewing from a mile away. Please, aunties and uncles, stay with me for a second. Quorn, in my mind, has done the wonderful job of nailing that authentic fish flavour and texture - just vegan! For this recipe, I’ve prepared the fishless fingers differently to create the perfect ingredient for this plant-based fish stew. I’m pretty confident that it’s sure to wow your friends and family.

Let's get into the recipe!

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

- 8 Quorn Vegan Fishless Fingers, defrosted

- 8 tablespoons kombu seaweed flakes (or other seaweed variety)

- 1 400g tin plum tomatoes

- 1 scotch bonnet chilli 

- 1 red bell pepper

- 1 thumb fresh ginger

- 200ml water

- 4 tablespoons sunflower oil

- 1 red onion, thinly sliced

- 1 vegetable stock cube

- salt to taste

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 200C.

2. Split each defrosted fishless finger partway through (don't cut all the way down) and gently fan out to make a flat fillet, breaded side facing down. Sprinkle the top of each fillet with kombu seaweed flakes and gently press down with your fingers. Place each fillet on a baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until crispy.

3. Place the tomatoes, scotch bonnet chilli, red bell pepper and fresh ginger in a blender or food processor with 200ml of water and blend until very smooth.

4. Heat the sunflower oil in a large cooking pot and sauté 3/4 of the sliced red onions for 2 minutes or until they start to soften. 

5. Add the stew blend to the pot and season with a tablespoon of kombu seaweed, vegetable stock cube and salt to taste. Cover and cook on medium-high heat for 6 minutes.

6. Carefully submerge the crispy fishless fillets in the stew and switch off the heat. Garnish with the rest of the sliced red onions.

7. Serve hot with a side or two of your choice, such as boiled rice and peas.


Note: this is a sponsored post, in partnership with Quorn.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Sweet Potato Steamed Buns | Vegan Bao Buns


Chinese steamed buns. Bao buns. Let's discuss.

Baozi or Bao originates from China but is eaten across the different South Asian countries. It is best described as a yeast-leavened filled bun which is then steamed. The variations in fillings are endless.

The first time my Singaporean friend introduced me to bao, I was instantly entranced. Surely this pillow-soft, fluffy lump of goodness was actual manna from heaven. And then when I visited Singapore and Thailand for the first time, I consumed obscene amounts, each one filled with something different - from red bean paste to purple sweet potato to savoury shredded mushroom. Back at home, the desire to make it from scratch consumed me, but I found the idea of it rather intimidating. I imagined you needed years of practice, a blessing from the Chinese ancestors and the skills of a top pastry chef to pull it off.

I'm still no bun making expert by any means, even after a few attempts, and I have a heck of a long way to go before I can make them to the standard that I know they can be. So this is very much an introductory recipe for anyone who wants to dabble and try their hands at a no-fuss version that still satisfies. 

I had white sweet potatoes at home, but of course you can use orange or purple flesh sweet potatoes (imagine the pop of colour!) You can even use homemade or store-bought red bean paste. How about filling it with mashed plantain as I have actually done in the past? Let me tell you, it was the sort of divine fusion you can only dream of!

These buns are perfect for snacking, but also make for a light breakfast or dessert. This particular recipe is not super sweet - you get the natural sweetness from the sweet potatoes and a touch of sweetness in the buns, that's it - so you can adjust as desired.

For this recipe, you'll need a steamer (bonus points if it's a bamboo steamer). Here's a hack: you can also use a rice cooker to steam by filling with a little water and covering the base with a large sheet of baking paper that come up around the sides.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see your attempt. Take a pic and tag me on Instagram - @vegannigerian for a repost!

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Ingredients
(makes 8)

- 2 heap tbsp vegan margarine, melted

- 2 tbsp caster sugar

- 3/4 cup warm dairy-free milk

- 2 tsp instant yeast

- 2 cups plain flour

- pinch of salt

- 2 white flesh sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly diced

Method

Whisk the melted vegan margarine, caster sugar, warm milk and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add the plain flour and salt. Mix to form a soft dough and knead until it is smooth and no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl. Cover with a damp dish cloth and leave to rise for an hour.


Meanwhile, boil the sweet potatoes in plain water until very soft. Drain and mash to a smooth consistency. Leave to cool. 

Prepare 8 small squares of parchment paper and arrange them on a flat surface such as a tray or your countertop. 

Once the dough has risen, knock the air bubbles out and knead for another couple of minutes. Divide into 8 equal parts.

Take the first piece of dough and flatten it slightly in the palm of your hand. Fill the centre with a tablespoon or two of the mashed sweet potato and pinch all the sides up to enclose the bun. Pinch lightly to seal and gently roll the bun in your hands to smoothen out the seams. Place on a square of parchment paper. Repeat this process for the rest of the buns. 

Place the buns in the steamer, leaving a little room between each one. Cover and allow to stand (without heat) for 15 minutes. The buns will grow a little bigger in this time.

Steam for about 15 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the buns to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Hack: place a tea towel over the steamer before covering with the lid. Do this to catch any evaporation and prevent water from dripping back down onto the buns.

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Yam Porridge Recipe | Asaro | How to Make Yam Pottage

 

Today was wet, cold and everything that makes for duvet weather. When it gets like this, I'm all about stodgy comfort food and yam porridge does not disappoint.

Yam porridge is also known as yam pottage or asaro. It's a one-pot dish that consists of African yam and a pepper/tomato blend. Very few ingredients yet the flavour is simply amazing.

The yam used in this recipe is a variety called puna yam. If you live in Europe or the U.S. you can find it at most African or Caribbean food shops.

The traditional version of this recipe calls for palm oil, but I know a few people are averse to it. If you're unable to source sustainable palm oil or if you're following a low-oil diet, then you can leave it out completely. I shared a completely oil-free version of this dish many years ago - click here to check it out.

The non-vegan version of this recipe also includes crayfish, usually added to impart an aromatic seafood flavour to the dish. A wonderful vegan alternative is seaweed - try adding kombu or wakame seaweed flakes. Again, this is totally optional and yam porridge tastes just as good without this hint of the sea!

As with most one-pot dishes, yam porridge is great for meal prep. You can make a humongous batch, divide into food containers and keep in the freezer for up to 2 months.

If you do make this recipe, be sure to share it with me on Instagram or wherever you're social. Tag @vegannigerian :)

Ingredients

(serves 6)

- 1 large yam, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped
- 1 scotch bonnet chilli
- 1 tin plum tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp palm oil or coconut oil (optional)
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2 tbsp kombucha seaweed (optional)

Place the yam pieces in a large pot.

Blend the red bell peppers, onion, scotch bonnet chilli and plum tomatoes to make a smooth sauce. Pour over the yam, along with a cup of water, and mix well. Add the palm oil and season with salt, garlic powder, stock cube and seaweed. 

Simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes. Stir thoroughly and serve hot on its own or with a side salad.

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Friday, 2 October 2020

Thoughts on Nigeria's 60th Independence Day

So Nigeria turned 60 yesterday. Seeing all the celebratory Independence Day posts pop up on my social media feeds had me all reflective. Pondering that small word we call heritage. Feeling grateful to be so in touch with mine and realising that in my own imperfect way, I get to contribute to the ever-evolving fabric of our culture. At least where food is concerned. At least when it comes to encouraging my fellow Nigerians to choose healthier food options or think that bit deeper about the impact of their food choices on their personal health and the world as a whole. (As a reminder, you can download my free guide to going vegan which delves into these topics).


Locked in with our annual celebration of Nigeria's break away from colonial rule is the usual undercurrent of cynicism; of bemoaning everything that is wrong with our country. A lot of our systems could be better; something needs to be done about the mind-numbing traffic on our roads; colonialism sure did do a number on us; what's with all the corrupt politicians, anyway? So on and so forth...

Ever the idealist, I've always thought it more beneficial to focus on solutions. I seek answers to questions like: What is within our control? How can we work on ourselves first so that we can bring about the sort of cultural shift we so wish to see? The answers probably don't lie solely in the way we eat - if only! And yet, the very principles of eating with care (i.e. choosing a more cruelty-free diet, to be blunt!) - compassion, stewardship, thoughtfulness and regard for the other - are the very principles we need to inject into many other areas of our lives and society. 

I'd love to hear from my Nigerian readers - any pressing thoughts as we celebrate our 60th Independence?

Throwback to this Nigerian flag cake recipe!

Popcorn frosting? Yes, please!