Cloud computing is not that novel a concept; I have been using cloud computing for over 2 decades! Yep you read right 🙂 You know how, you have tonnes of ideas, info and just stuff that you “plan” to put in writing ONE day? Well I have a gazillion bits of such data floating around in my head, stored away in different folders……….so that makes me the ultimate geek right? speaking of geeks…..this post is about a super geek I met a couple of months ago; this post is at least 5 months over due……..ok, before your eyes glaze over this post IS about food but hear me out.

The web is an amazing environment if you know how to navigate it; I belong to a foodie group on FB called “So You Think Yo for u Can Cook” or SYTYCC. It’s awesome! You meet the weird and the wonderful there. It didn’t take long before a young lady stood out for the simple reason that her meal concepts and recipes stood out. I was intrigued and you know me, when I am intrigued, what do I do? All together now, “I cyber stalk!” Her blog is just filled all sorts of amazing info and she take a time to break things down; even the most intricate recipes. And get this, she has managed to make meal preparations, especially Nigerian food a cinch. All sorts of nifty tricks for making laborious processes easier. And talk about modernizing the Nigerian cuisine, she has that down too. Don’t take my word for it, just take a look at Dooney’s Kitchen

In no time, we established a rapport of sorts and even started calling each other. She lives in the United Kingdom and I live in Nigeria but the expensive international call costs didn’t stop us from nattering on like old friends. She seemed nice, open and very very friendly so when she announced that she would be visiting Lagos, Nigeria it only made sense that we meet up!

After having met her, I can tell you authoritatively, that she is not nice, calling her friendly is just a lie!

Let me explain, she had a busy schedule so we decided that it would be better for her to come visit me at home. After navigating impossible traffic and dealing with a less than intelligent taxi driver, she arrived at about 5.30 pm. I rushed out to receive her and was met with a petite elegant lady who’s pictures belie her true beauty! The first words out of my mouth were “Welcome but I don’t like you much, how come you’re so small”? …..I know, I need to work on my social graces! But seriously! Who cooks all that food and remain svelte and elegant!?? WHO????? Is there no justice in this world?? 😀

Anyway, she totters into the house lugging shopping bags filled with gifts for me and the choc boys! I couldn’t believe it! I am thinking “but we only just met”! Calling her “nice” or “friendly” is a disservice. She’s truly a special person; warm, giving and DOWN – TO – EARTH!!!

In no time, we are talking about all and sundry including her grueling ordeal at the airport. On her arrival it took the better part of four hours before she could depart the airport or reach her parents for that matter. All this drama because the airport was undergoing renovations……go figure….

So, it was early evening and it was only proper to offer this lady something to eat. Problem was, I didn’t make anything social for her because A. I didn’t know what to offer her B. I didn’t know what to offer her C. I didn’t know what to offer her and D. I didn’t know what to offer her. Now, I know you’re probably wondering if I am off my rocker but please before you judge me, go to this site and then tell me what you would offer a person who can throw down like that?!

I offered her sautéed potatoes and meatballs and guess what she liked it! She actually ate it and asked for more meatballs! I swear the hallelujah chorus was playing! Over her meal, she revealed her picky eating habits which almost drove her mum nuts, the long list of foods that will not pass her lips and her key strategies for avoiding eating foods she hates. By the time she was done I whispered a prayer of gratitude for dodging all those bullets!!

The evening ended with us taking a gazillion selfies! It was mad fun! I was sorry to see her go because we got on like a house on fire.

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Dunni Obata runs Dooney’s Kitchen as well as working full time as an IT expert; her role is so complicated that I don’t even quite fully grasp what she does…..lol. But I a know that she is multitalented and real; that’s the truth.

Today is the International day of the woman and if you are women reading this post, please take a moment to ensure that you’re life has meaning. Ensure that you aren’t just existing; Dare to Dream!

Hosting family and friends in our home is something that my husband and enjoy and from time to time we will have “feasts” most times without the expected association with a major holiday like Christmas or Easter (although we typically host friends and family during those periods too).

So when Gbemi and her family flew in from Houston for a short 4 day visit to Lagos it went without saying that we would have them over. Not only is Gbemi and her husband, Debola a very dear friend but she single handedly saved me from a wedding dress fiasco by miraculously making a dress for me in one day! Read all about that drama here.

We also had our fab friends, Bolaji and Okiki Marinho as well as the Ajuluchukwus over. It was a splendid gathering.

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I wanted to keep the menu simple but with a mix of complementary flavours so I settled on Teriyaki Chicken, Spicy Meatballs, Sauteed Potato wedges, Hasselback potatoes, Pilau rice, Sun dried tomato focaccia and Rosemary focaccia (both accompanied by herb butter), Lemon Blueberry Bars, Orange Syrup Cake and Banana Raspberry Swirl ice cream; I basically pulled from my arsenal of favourite recipes.

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It sounds like a lot but the great thing about this menu is that a lot of the dishes can be made a day ahead! So on Saturday I made everything save the potatoes, rice and chicken (which I marinated overnight).

For the Pilau rice recipe check out the “Flavour Infusion; Taste Explosion” post. My recent post titled “Special Cakes and Bakes; This is all it takes” has the decadent Orange Syrup Cake recipe and the banana raspberry swirl ice cream which is completely dairy and sugar free therefore completely guilt free can be found here. Follow the basic recipe and customize it to suit you, in this case I threw in a few raspberries. For a step-by-step guide to making hasselback potatoes please read the Tra-la-la-la-laa-laa-laa post. Spicy meatballs which is an FFF favourite can be found here. The easy focaccia recipe comes with a detailed step-by-step too. Herb butter is easy to make and you can take it anywhere. This version was inspired by a version I saw on We Call him Yes Chef! and I incorporated chopped basil, parsley, red onions, garlic, black pepper and chilli powder.

The teriyaki chicken and lemon blueberry bars were such a hit that I know they will become fixtures in future feasts. Here are the recipes.

The Lemon Bluberry treat was adapted from a recipe I found on Two peas and their Pod

Ingredients:

For the crust:
1 250 gram packet of plain digestives (blitzed to fine crumbs in a food processor; alternatively, you could use graham cracker crumbs and you will need about 2 ½ cups and 1/3 cup sugar)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Zest of one lemon

For the filling:
4 large egg yolks
2 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries

The “How To”

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius and spray an 8”x8” baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper; ensure that there is an overhang on two sides as this will help with lifting it out.

In a medium bowl, combine the digestive crumbs or graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar (if using), and lemon zest. Stir until the crumbs are moist. Using the back of a flat implement like a wooden mallet, press crumbs firmly into prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes in the oven. Remove from and allow to cool to room temperature. I will advise that you leave the oven on.

While the crust is cooling, make the filling; combine the egg yolks and condensed milk in a medium bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue mixing until it is smooth and begins to slightly thicken then fold in the blueberries.

Pour the lemon blueberry filling evenly over the cooled crust. Bake for 15 minutes, or until it is just set. Remove it from the oven and cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. If you can chill it over night that is even better, just be sure to carefully cover the pan with cling film (don’t let the cling film touch the surface of the dessert). When you are ready to serve, simply lift the parchment paper using the overhang, place on flat surface and slice with a sharp knife.

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The recipe will keep in the ridge for 3-4 days but it so good that I seriously doubt that it will last that long! I mean just look at it!

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For the Teriyaki chicken you will need

Ingredients

1 ½ kg chicken drum sticks
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 tbs honey
2 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs chilli powder
1 tbs chopped fresh ginger (or ¾ tbs powdered ginger)
4 cloves finely minced garlic
1 tbs black pepper
2 tbs dark soy sauce
1 tsp salt

The “How To”

Place all the ingredients except the chicken in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Place chicken in a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it ensuring that all pieces are coated. Leave to marinate for at least two hours but if you can leave it overnight that would be better.

Preheat oven to 185 degrees Celcius. Heat a large thick bottomed skillet with 2 tbs of vegetable oil and sear chicken pieces, about 1 minute on each side and carefully arrange chicken in a deep roasting pan. Then pour the left over marinade over the chicken. Half way through the cooking time cover the chicken with a piece of foil if it looks like it is drying out. The chicken should be ready after about 30-35 minutes but please check for doneness before turning the oven off.

You should have quite a bit of juice at the bottom of the pan which is superb because this is the base for your glaze.

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Carefully drain the juice into a saucepan and set over medium heat until the juice reduces to a dark slightly thick glaze. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Glaze all chicken pieces and garnish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds if desired.

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I thoroughly enjoyed having my friends round and for once I was not harried and sweating like an unfit hippo in the final stages of labour!! (Apologies hippos; you are gorgeous pleasantly plump creatures. I was only making an analogy) Making some of the meals ahead took A LOT of pressure off me!

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Everyone enjoyed the meal and most people left with take away packs which gladdened my heart.

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And there you have it; the anatomy of a feast. Read all about another “Anatomy of A feast” which I wrote about a few years ago here.

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 – 4  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.
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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!