Every time there’s a holiday like Saint Patrick’s day, Mardi gras or a national Independence celebration, I am inspired to make a meal to commemorate the occasion. I am neither Irish nor French but that hasn’t stopped me from making such meals as I did in my “Full Steam Ahead” post.

October 1 is Nigeria’s Independence Day and the opportunity presented itself for another fun food lab activity.

I made Dafaduka, a Nigerian Rice dish, which was well received at my son’s school on their Independence/national day party. This one pot wonder is no fuss but packs maximum flavour.

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Recipe for Dafaduka

4 tbs Palm oil
4 cups of Rice
1 tinned plum tomatoes or 5 fresh tomatoes – chopped
1 tbs Cameroun peppers (dry)
2 Scotch bonnet peppers
1 medium Dry fish
1 onion
1 tbs dry ginger (fresh gingermaybe used if available)
1 Dawada (dry locust bean patty)
Chicken stock or water
Salt to taste

Method

Wash rice thoroughly, drain and put in a pot. Chop tomatoes, scotch bonnet peppers and onions.

Add oil, chopped ingredients and dry spices to the pot except the salt and dry fish. Break up fish and steep in hot water for about 10 minutes. Drain, then carefully take out all visible bones and set aside. Add stock or water (quantity of liquid will depend on the type if rice.

I used jasmine rice which cooks quickly. Add some salt and taste for salt at the end of cooking. Put the pot on and bring to a boil the reduce to simmer until rice is tender.

Add boned dry fish half way through cooking. Serve accompanied by dodo or simply enjoy on its own.

There you have it, a veritable Nigerian dish and a throw back to my childhood.

I saw an interesting recipe for Marsala chicken that I knew I had to try andย the end result at the dinner table was happy smiles all around ๐Ÿ™‚

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Marsala Chicken Recipe

Ingredients
4 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless,
1/2 cup flour,
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Dried oregano to taste
4 Tbsp oil
4 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 clove of garlic (chopped)
2 tsps dry chili flakes (optional)
1 cup Marsala wine

Method
Pound chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap until about 1/4″ thickness.
COMBINE flour, salt, pepper and oregano in a mixing bowl. Dredge chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off any excess.
HEAT oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken breasts on medium heat for about 2 minutes on the first side, until lightly browned. Turn breasts over to cook other side, then add mushrooms, garlic and chili to the skillet. Cook breasts about 2 more minutes, until both sides are lightly browned. Continue to stir mushrooms.

Add Marsala wine around chicken pieces. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Transfer to serving plate.

Serve with side of your choice, I chose boiled potatoes, grilled aubergines and blanched mange touts.

Please note, I could not find Marsala wine so used a combination of a dry white wine and white grape juice. You could also use Madeira wine if you find it.

All in all it was an enjoyable holiday.

On to the next conquest!

The versatility of ingredients is one of the things that fascinates me about cooking. One ingredient can be transformed to make so many delicious meals that the possibilities are almost endless.
In this food lab exercise, I applied the everyday tomato in 3 different dishes and the results yielded truly gastronomic delights but don’t take my word for it, ask my hubby :)…..
Here we have fresh chicken (broiler), mince beef, eggs, bread crumbs, spring onions, tomatoes, red onions, green peppers, scotch bonnet peppers, eggs, mild cheddar cheese, cucumbers, herbs (chives, rosemary, basil, bay leaf) and spices (chilli flakes, black pepper and suya pepper)
Ingredients set out With these ingredients, I prepared meatballs in tomato sauce, lasagna and herbed chicken (which was incorporated into a stew (Nigerian tomato sauce).
Prepping for italian menu
In a blender, add the tomatoes, red onions and scotch bonnet peppers. Reserve some tomatoes for garnish. Blend until completely liquified. Cook mixture for 30 minutes; bring the mixture to boil then let it simmer. I don’t usually add a great deal of water when I am blending tomatoes so 30 minutes is enough time to get the consistency I am looking for; you may need to adjust your cooking time to suit your preference.
Then using about 1.5kg of mince beef, in a bowl, add 3 eggs, 4 finely chopped green peppers, 1 teaspoon of chives, 1 teaspoon of basil, 1 teaspoon of sage, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of black pepper and one cup f bread crumbs. Mix with your hand until all ingredients are fully integrated then form even sized balls and set aside.
Pasta and meatballs Meatballs ready fro cookingIn skillet heat, 4 table spoons of vegetable oil (I used corn oil) and add meat balls, brown and take out of the pan without cooking the meatballs through.
Cooking meatballs
Using the same pan that was used to brown the meatballs, add, 3 table spoons of vegetable oil, some chopped onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Ladle in about 3 – 4ย  cups of the cooked blended tomato. Let simmer for 8 minutes, add 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of dry sage, 1 teaspoon of black pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt then re-introduce the browned meatballs to the pan.
To boost the flavour profile of the sauce, I char grilled some local green peppers. Blitzed them in a blender with olive oil and added the paste to the sauce in the last stages of cooking. You may use red, yellow or orange bell peppers, which are usually imported in Nigeria. I chose to use locally grown peppers because I try support the use of home-grown produce when possible.
Cover the pan with a lid and let simmer for a further 12 minutes. Serve with pasta!
NOTE: After char grilling the peppers, put in a bowl and cover with cling film for a few minutes or wrap in a clean tea towel to facilitate peeling before blending.
IMG_8710Pureed green peppers
For the herbed chicken, I simply cut up two whole broilers and used a dry rub composed of chives, rosemary, dry ginger, salt, black pepper, chilli flakes, sage and some suya pepper.
IMG_8718Spread the chicken parts on a baking tray and drizzle with oil and put in a 250 degree pre-heated oven for about 35 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear.
Lasagna and herbed chicken in the ovenNow for the lasagna. I used oven lasagna sheets so there was no need to pre-cook them. These are readily available in most major grocery stores and super market. I bought mine at Spar (Park N Shop).
Grate 250 grams of mild cheddar cheese and set aside. You may also use some parmesan cheese but I used a mild soft cheese instead to counter balance the cheddar. In pan add 3 table spoons of oil, some chopped onions and saute for a couple of minutes. Add 3 cups of cooked tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 200 grams of mince beef; stir for about 8 minutes on a medium heat. Set aside and prepare to assemble the lasagna. Get an oven dish, spread some of the tomato/mince sauce at the bottom and layer on some lasagna sheets, sprinkle with both the cheddar and parmesan, ladle tomato sauce over it and cover with lasagna sheets. Repeat process and be sure to end with lasagna sheets covered in cheese and tomato/mince sauce. Put in 250 degree heated oven and cooked for about 30 minutes (Read the guide on the packet of the lasagna).
I opted to serve the lasagna with fried plantains and a simple tomato and cucumber salad.
Lasagna plated
I hope I have helped bring some italiano inspired cuisine to the Naija table.
Bon appetito!

After a lengthy hiatus, I am pleased to finally have a moment to put up a post.
Incredibly the first month of 2013 is racing to an end and I thought it would be great to look back at some of my escapades in my Flab over the Christmas Holidays.
I prepared very simple everyday meals using basic ingredients but gave them a festive twist. My husband loved them and so did my son. It was always so heart warming to watch my little boy lunge at the dishes :); at least now I know that he likes my cooking….
Pictures, they say, speak a thousand words, so feast your eyes and feed your imagination.
I’ll be happy to share any of the recipes with you so please feel free to contact me.
In the words of Alton Brown, “I bid you good eats” ๐Ÿ™‚
 

Christmas Breakfast

Christmas Breakfast


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Prepping the bird


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All ready for the oven


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I made this using a recipe from Ina Garten


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The peppers are stuffed with fried rice. An interesting plating alternative


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Christmas Spread


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All ready to tuck in!!


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Let’s plate up!!


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First helpings…..there were seconds!


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Forget Eaton Mess check out this messy dessert!!


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Now this is an egg sandwich with some serious attitude!!


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Another messy delight!


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Hello 2013! The first meal of the year


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Cheers!!!!


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New Year Lunch


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Carrot Cake with a tangy twist


Burger Mania

Burger Mania

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Ready to dig in

Ready to dig in

When Easter Sunday came round, I knew I had to prepare something nice for lunch not only because it was Easter but it also happened to be my mum’s birthday.
A rice based meal would have been very predictable and not to mention tedious; grilled chicken – been there, done that over and over. So after much deliberation with hubby and with Food Network providing bits of inspiration, I settled for a “meat platter” type meal. Of course this was music to hubby’s carnivorous taste buds.
The menu was partly inspired by Sunny Anderson of the Food Network’s “Cooking For Real” and some of my ideas. It consisted of Caribbean Jerk Chicken, Pan grilled Minute Steak on a bed of Mango Salsa, Spicy Meatballs, Potato Mash and a pallet cleansing cucumber and carrot salad all washed down with Sunny Anderson’s refreshing Mean Green Cucumber Juice.

It was sort of an ode to the Afro-Carribean diet with a twist.

I started by marinating the chicken over night, the only ingredient I left out of Sunny’s recipe was the fennel seed and I alternated dry ginger for fresh ginger (which I thought gave the marinade more of a kick). Following her recipe, I baked the chicken for 20 minutes skin-side down, and then made a glaze with some of the left over marinade and then finished it off for another 25 minutes in he oven at a higher temperature. My friend Uzo has a slightly different take on Jerk chicken. Check it out at Uzo’s Food Lab

Glazed Chicken


To make the cucumber juice, I used two large English Cucumbers; available at my local Spar grocery store. I recommend the English Cucumbers over the locally grown ones because the local ones have seeds. It was very easy to make and the result was simply refreshing and delicious.

Cucumber peel in blender and grated flesh prepped and ready for the simple syrup before blitzing


Blitzing cucumber peel and cooked flesh before sieving and chilling


Making the mango salsa was a breeze and I made it extra spicy so that the chopped fresh peppers would counter balance the sweetness of the chopped mango flesh. I also threw in some chopped red onion, chopped spring onions, chopped parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper and some lime juice. The salsa was accompanied with a simple pan seared minute steak which I drizzled with lime juice and set aside to rest.

The potato mash I made slight chunky to add some texture to the dish. I was fairly liberal with the butter and cream and with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper it was ready in no time. It was the last dish I prepared so that it arrived at the table nice and hot.
The cucumber and carrot salad consisted of cucumber and carrot shavings and halved cherry tomatoes; it doesn’t get easier than that.
The meatballs were made from the classic meatball recipe which you will find in my “Anatomy of Feast” post and my “Back in the Saddle” post.
The dish came together nicely and each part complimented the other well. Not a single plate came back to the kitchen with any food on it. My mum was flattered that I made a special meal on her special day and my husband was pleased with the prominent helping of protein on his plate; all in all a winning menu.

Potato Mash, Caribbean Chicken, Meat balls, Minute Steak and Mango Salsa, Cucumber and Carrot Salad and Mean Green Cucumber Juice.

For me, tucking into the meal transported me to a sunny beach side resort………

TIP OF THE DAY: To make sure that your meals arrive at the table nice and hot or at least warm, put the serving dish/plate in a hot oven minutes before you plate up. NOTE: Ensure that the dishware is oven safe. ๐Ÿ™‚