In life, as we all know, people will influence you and your choices; enter on stage my dear friend, sister, and partner in quacking, Soty. Soty is an amazing woman from an amazing family and as a consequence she’s also filled with amazing ideas.
One of such ideas was to start a virtual women’s group dedicated to studying the book of Ruth. Now we have a wonderful group we fondly refer to as The Ruthies. The Ruthies are real, we’re honest and we’re committed to following God’s given purpose for all aspect of our lives. The name β€˜Ruth” derives from a Hebrew word meaning β€œfriendship” and it is just so apt because we have formed strong friendship bonds in our little Ruthie community.
As if her first idea wasn’t good enough, Soty just had to make it even better by assigning each Ruthie a practical task all geared at:

A. Bringing to life some of the culture and experiences that the biblical Ruth must have experienced, and 

B. Taking each Ruthie outside of our comfort zone so much so that she begins to question her sanity (I might exaggerate a tinsy weensy bit but I am in thespian mode right now); basically she wanted us to dig deep and find an unusual expression of something innate in each of us. And this is how I got assigned the interesting task of recreating a Moabite Mezze. 

   

 The first time she suggested it I was hopping around in excitement like a goat high on hemp leaves. I mentioned rather hastily how I happened to have some of the key ingredients in my pantry and how it would be an easy breezy exercise. 

Well, after the hemp wore off and reality was in acute focus, I stopped hopping and started shaking in trepidation. What on earth was Shrak? Tabbouleh? Thank God at least I knew what hummus and falafels were; this is not to say I had ever considered making the latter from scratch. 

Ever the helpful ducky she deluged my inbox which links to various Middle Eastern Mezze meals/recipes whereupon I feigned dyslexia. Yep! If I can’t read it, I certainly won’t be able to follow the recipes, right? The ploy didn’t last long and I had to get down to business. 
I knew immediately that I wasn’t making Shrak; a flat bread, from scratch. Hadn’t I spied all manners of flat breads in the shops? One of those would have to do thank you very much! I also knew I wasn’t going to soak fava beans and chick peas over night in order to make falafels; with two toddlers, a company and home to run, school runs, Lagos traffic and everything in between, I wasn’t about to attempt culinary suicide. 

Was the biblical Ruth suicidal? NO!! So why should a Ruthie of 2015 be? Anyway so this is how the idea of a modern Mezze took form. It may seem sacrilegious to the good people whose diet I was inspired by but I didn’t skimp on flavour and wholesomeness which MUST count for something, right?πŸ˜€

Here’s how I navigated my way through my mezze.

I invited two unsuspecting friends and cute little angel over to mine and laid the spread before them. It was well received given the fact that they had never ventured near such food before; they preferred some of my offerings over others which I thought was very fair.

   
 
So on the menu we had; Falafels, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, “shrak” hummus and loads of freshly sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots and plum tomatoes. For dessert we had a nice classic white cake which had absolutely nothing to do with a traditional mezze but seemed like a nice way to cap off the whole affair.

  

Falafels

Ingredients

200 g Fava beans rinsed and drained
200 g Chickpeas rinsed and drained

3 Chopped shallots/spring onions

2 tbs Chopped basil

2 tbs chopped parsley 

2 tsp Chilli (you can add more or less but I wanted mine to have a bit of a kick)

1 tsp Salt

1 egg beaten

3 tbs vegetable oil 

As I researched the recipe, I realised that it was really a vegetarian version of a meatball! Both in preparation and sort of final outcome. You could flatten it to a patty or leave it as little orbs; I preferred the latter.
  

The “How To”

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan and sautΓ©e the onion and garlic over a low heat for 5 mins until translucent and softened. 

Add the sautΓ©ed vegetable and all other ingredients into a food processor until you have homogenous mixture. Take out the blade and carefully form the mixture it balls. I would suggest balls about the size of golf balls. I let mine rest in the fridge overnight before prepping them for my guests when they arrived but you could leave them for half an her and them fry.
You might be tempted to fry them in more oil but please don’t! I attempted it and I watched in complete horror as my felafel disintegrated. Shallow frying is the only way!
Add the remaining oil to the pan, then fry the falafels on a medium heat for 3 mins on each side, until golden brown and firm. Place on paper towels to drain and serve.
  


Shrak

I was in complete cheat mode for this. I simply went to my neighborhood store and bought some flat bread! Easy peasy lemon squeezy! It acted as a great vehicle for all the yumminess spread out on the table.

  
If you want a great recipe for making shrak from scratch then check here. Good luck! πŸ˜„

Babaganoush

Ingredients

1 medium sized eggplant

1 lemon (juice)

3 cloves garlic minced 

2 tbs tahini (paste made from sesame seeds)

1 tsp salt 

Fresh parsley (2 tbs chopped)

Fresh basil (1 tbs chopped)

Olive oil for roasting

The “How To” 

Turn on the broiler of your oven and position a rack at the top of the oven. Then slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds, sprinkle with salt and place in a colander in the sink to drain any excess liquid. After 10 – 15 minutes, rinse slightly and then pat dry between two towels.

Arrange them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt. Roast for 5-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the eggplant is softened and golden brown. Remove from pan, stack the slices and wrap the rounds in foil to lock in moisture for 5 minutes.

Now peel away the skin of the eggplant and add flesh to a food processor.

Also add half the lemon juice, garlic, tahini, a pinch of salt and mix until creamy. Taste the resulting paste and adjust with more lemon juice or salt if necessary. Finally add in the herbs and pulse to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I added a bit of cayenne but this is purely optional.

Could this have been any easier? And it’s a great make ahead dish too!!!

  

Hummus

Ingredients
425 g chickpeas rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlice minced

2 tbs olive oil

4 tbs fresh lemon juice

3 tbs tahini

2 tbs water

1 tsp paprika

The “How To” 

Hummus is another simple dip akin to babaganoush; although there are flavour and textural differences, they both share the same yum factor.
Add the tahini and lemon juice to a food processor and whiz it around for a minute. Stop the machine, scrape down the sides and who it for an extra half minute. Now add the olive oil, salt and garlic and give it another go for a minute; again scrape down the sides and give it a 30 second burst. Now add half the chickpeas a d mix it for a minute. Scrape down sides, add the remaining and mix for a further two minutes. Add the water last and mix again and there!!!

When serving you can top with olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika. This dip could also be made ahead and stored  refrigerated in an airtight bowl.

At this point, I think it is only proper to whisper a quick prayer for the person who invented the fridge!!!

For the next dish, I had good fun making it. I threw out all recipe books and just basically recreated my own. Why, you ask? Well, I could not find the main ingredient (bulgur wheat) and I was determined to make this dish. And remember, that Ruth would not go into a tail spin over bulgurπŸ˜€,  so here goes.

Tabbouleh

Ingredients

Fresh, soft flat-leaf parsley (a good fistful – chopped)

mint leaves (chopped; about 2 tbs)

2 limes (juiced) (you could use lemons but I didn’t have lemons)

2 cups couscous

8 cherry tomatoes; halved

4 spring onions, finely chopped 

salt and pepper

1 tsp chilli powder 

olive oil

Boiling water or hot vegetable or chicken stock

The “How To”

Pour boiling water or stock over the couscous, enough to cover it and let it sit for a few minutes until liquid is fully absorbed. Once absorbed fluff with a fork and pour lime juice over it.

Combine the parsley and mint, couscous, tomato and spring onion in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon. And we’re done!! 

  
Slice up a variety of your favourite vegetables to dip into the hummus and baba ganoush and your mezze is ready!

For the unorthodox mezze dessert a.k.a. the white c. Here’s the recipe:


Ingredients

1/2 cup milk (room temperature)

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

3 egg whites (room temperature)
The “How To”

Preheat oven to 175Β°C. Grease 1 (10 inch) round cake pan and the line bottom with parchment paper, and grease and flour paper.

Combine the milk and extracts and set aside. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy then gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. 
Sift together flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.
Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form and gently fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes the remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack; 

To prepare the frosting simply whip one cup of chilled whipping cream adding 1/2 cup of icing sugar and vanilla halfway through whipping. Ensure that you don’t over whip, once the cream starts to thicken STOP!! It helps to whip in bursts of about 20 – 30 seconds checking the consistency as you progress. Over whipping in this case would yield butter…..which is not such a bad thing if you were after making butter…….πŸ˜€

  
Links to recipes that inspired the mezze
Tabbouleh 

White cake

Falafels

Baba ganoush 

Hummus 
FFF Tip of the Day

When whipping egg whites, be sure that the beaters of the electric mixer is devoid from ANY batter/impurities and is clean and dry. The eggs should also be free of ANY impurities or yolk. Failing this the eggs will not whip to stiff peaks and you will be left with a runny mess.

It was exciting to embark on trip to New York sans lil’uns in tow. The prospects were endless, first of all I didn’t have to worry about inconvenient, unexpected bathroom breaks, nor did I have to schedule my activities around nap times, melt downs and everything else in between. More importantly my meal selections will be devoid of worries about allergies; real & perceived and disdain for anything green.

Summer was in full swing, my brother was graduating from university, everyone was happy; it was the perfect time to eat and be merry! And we did just that!

   

      

Rochester is not a bustling city but I felt that it would yield surprising delights. Our first meal there was not memorable at all. We went to a steak house called “Sticky Lips”…..I imagined that It would be like those hidden diners that Guy Fieri uncovers on his show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. I even imagined that we might meet his crew there filming or something. Well no such luck. No crew and no Guy Fieri. But I still had hopes for the food. I mean the place was ok. It ticked all the right boxes for quaint furnishing, classic American bar type set up etc., but the food fell flat. I am sorry, everything on my plate felt dry and under seasoned……..not unlike cardboard……..from my previous post, by now you know how I feel about such meals……

   
 I felt a bit anxious and hoped that there would be some redemption for this city and boy was there ever!

So after the grad ceremony in the morning, the girls (Aile, Osi, Uzzie) and I decided to hangout and have a good “natter”. Our hangout of choice was Carrabas. An awesome little Italian restaurant and grill. I had the Mahi Wulfe which was beyond delicious. The fish was cooked to perfection, the basil lemon butter was sublime and the artichoke hearts and seared tomatoes were to die! I was replete and very happy! Things were really beginning to look up!
  

There was deliciousness all around, the steak, the focaccia, the pizza, the soup, everything was lovely and we all enjoyed our choices.

   
         

Stuffed, pleased and expectant, I returned to my hotel to prepare for the dinner my dad was hosting in honor of my fresh faced, bright eyed, bushy tailed, brand new graduate brother (Lawrence if you read this, you know I love you πŸ˜€).

Dressed, and a few selfies after, I was ready to meet my dinner and fellow diners of course πŸ˜„. 

  

Dinner was grand; I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was laughter, there were tears as moving speeches were rendered by family and friends. The food lived up to its billing. We had diner at Black and Blue Steak and Crab. This restaurant had just the right ambience, it is modern and urban chic but not in an OTT way. And the food? So fresh and so delicious! 

 

  

The waiting staff were courteous and attentive so I was never tempted even for a moment to rotten fish slap any of them. Having said that, I would have been hard pressed to find rotten fish in that location….

For starters, I had the crab cake. Let me tell you, the avocado lime aioli made this dish! The touch of watercress just added the right amount of freshness and pepperiness without overwhelming the crab.

  
For my main course, I had a beautifully cooked ahi tuna. It was light, fresh and filling all at once. I didn’t want the meal, to end……but you know what they say about every good thing…….
  
We all had very good meals. Everything was beautifully presented and there was not a complaint around the table.

   
         

I assure you that I left in a state of food coma. Complete stupor! But I have NO regrets! None!

After the excitement of all the activities, we decided that Rochester had yielded all it had to offer us and so we packed up and embarked on a road trip to NYC! I was humming with excitement! Although after 6.5 hours I wasn’t  feeling much like humming. We did have one pit stop to be fair…which gave ample opportunities for more selfies πŸ˜€ And to fill up on the road trip food of choice – junk food.

   

  
 Refilled and refreshed, we entered New York City (NYC) just before sunset. It was quite beautiful to observe the city bathed in golden glow with Crimson and amber streaks in the sky.

My hotel was right on Times Square; The Westin. You know what that means right? πŸ˜€ Let’s just say we trawled the length and breath of the vicinity as much as our tired legs would allow us.

   

   

The absolute highlight of the evening was our shameless stint at Juniour’s. Please, if you love decadent desserts, more specifically cheesecakes, then you absolutely must go to a Juniour’s. I will let the pictures do the talking. 

   
   

  

  

  

  

  I justified my slice of cheesecake by telling myself that I would walk it off…..yeah right! πŸ˜‚ I fell into bed at 1 am feeling extremely happy and mischievous. I just broke all my mealtime rules and I didn’t care! Liberating!

In the morning, I had breakfast with my dad at the Gourmet New York Marketplace. It’s a tiny little deli, buzzing with activity and filled all sorts of wholesome yummies. I settled fora a chicken Swiss cheese wrap, with a yoghurt and granola parfait (Topped with fresh fruit) and pepper mint tea. 

  
I couldn’t down it all at once. So I saved half the wrap and munched on it later in my room, between, you guessed it! Taking more selfies! πŸ˜€

   
   

That was my last meal in NYC as I was scheduled to fly out a few hours after; of course not before a quick traispe around. From the garment district to 48th street (and beyond if I remember correctly). 

I enjoyed drinking in the sites and sounds of the city.  I hasten to add that I could have done without the assault to my olfactory lobes but I guess you can’t have it all.

   
    And then it was all over, I packed up, said my farewells, got in a cab, took my last selfie and prepared for the long journey back home to my hubby and munchkins. But the best part of it all, was that I left feeling like I got a good taste of New York especially since I spent only 72 hours there.

 

Generally speaking, I can be quite nit – picky about where I eat and what I eat. From issues with mismatched cutlery, to horribly prepared food to less than courteous waiters; all these factors make me a very reluctant diner. I remember once, I went to a 4 star hotel in Abuja for dinner and as I sat down, I instantly noticed that the cutlery on the table was mismatched; I was baffled! Couldn’t a hotel of this “caliber” get place setting right? Don’t even get me started on a popular hotel in VIctoria Island, who’s meals I can barely put in my mouth.

Airline food? That’s a whole other set of problems! The rep is ……well…..lets just say……it’s legendary for being generally unpalatable and underseasoned.

So on a recent trip to the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” I decided to chronicle some of the meals I had while airborne.

 In no particular order, on the first leg of my trip, there was a nice fresh salad with seasonal vegetables and a good mix of dressings and vinaigrettes. My favorite though was the ensuing mezze. You will find out, in subsequent posts (and in a new book πŸ˜‰) all about my entanglements with mezzes.

This one didn’t disappoint; it was so fresh! The tabbouleh was on the money. The stuffed grape leaves were amazing. I loved it all.

Lovely salad and an even lovelier mezze

 I then decided that I wanted a light main course and opted for the seared tiger prawn in parsley & garlic butter and Mediterranean vegetables. The prawns were moist and chunky. Everything was perfectly seasoned and all around delicious and fresh. So far I was a happy camper.

King prawns are KING!


 On another leg of the trip. I opted for another salad as a starter and a main of veal and potatoes. To be frank this meal was not memorable. The salad was fine but the main! What a train wreck! It look like pig’s slop and tasted like seasoned card board which is not saying a lot because it was just awful. I didn’t bother to eat the meal.

But the service was somewhat redeemed by the dessert…….  

Blech!

  
The dessert was a dark chocolate fondant in caramel sauce. Give me dark chocolate any day and I will be happy. So that was nice to have after eating cardboard.

Dark Chocolate!

One of the breakfast meals consisted of a grilled egg and bacon panini, cinnamon roll and Greek yoghurt. Everything was fine save that I found the cinnamon roll to be a tad dry.

  

The next series of meals came up with top marks; I enjoyed them thoroughly!

  

 The seasonal salad was great but the real star was the asparagus with Burford brown egg and truffle dressing. It was earthy, fresh and delish.

simple ingredients +. complex flavours = gastronimic heaven

 
The main was surprisingly delicious. I say surprising because it was a chilled meal and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy cold cooked salmon. Also, I hadn’t ever eaten two of the ingredients described in menu. Well I was amazingly surprised. What a delicious plate of happiness. It was a dish of roasted salmon with Turkish spices, fregola, pomegranate seeds, parsley, mint and sumac.

Fregola is a type of pasta found in Sardinia and sumac is a wonderful tart spice used mostly in Middle Eastern  cooking.

The marriage of flavours was nothing short of magical! Can you tell from my empty plates? πŸ˜€

A delicious meal choice!

  

Evidence of a well enjoyed meal

  

The magic flowed seamlessly into dessert of Somerset Camembert and Barber’s cheese served with fig relish and biscuits.

Dessert of biscuits, cheese and relish

 At the end of the meal, I was well and truly stuffed, so much so that when the next meal was offered before we landed, I waved it off contentedly for there was no room. But more importantly, I didn’t want to ruin, what in my opinion, was a perfect gastronomic encounter.

I cannot wait to tell you all about the highs and lows of my food adventures in New York.

Being pear shaped can be good or bad depending on your “situation”; if you had Oprah Winfrey’s pear shaped body and corresponding access to a super amazing wardrobe & a personal trained AND private chef then it is a wonderful thing to be pear shaped. If on the other hand you’re pear shaped, stand at 6 foot 9 inches and are permanently domiciled in Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland then well, you’re not in such great shape (pun intended). 

I bid thee glad tidings as today’s post has nothing to do with the persistent, pesky body shape matter or remote towns with no retail therapy prospects. 

Let’s take a good look at the fruit; juicy, sometimes crunchy, some times mushy but always delicious – the pear. It is not a fruit that is indigenous to West Africa but it is widely available regardless, in most shops and even open markets. As a child I marveled at its mildly sweet grainy texture and wondered if the fruit was some sort of sibling to the apple which I equally loved (please don’t try to rationalize this πŸ˜€)

I have rarely incorporated pears in my meal preparations; seeing as I am usually too preoccupied with eating the, I am sure you appreciate why this is. But recently I have applied them to two dishes; a starter and a dessert and let me tell you! It’s a winner! A surprise winner at that!!

I present to you a vertical pear salad and pear tartlet; a perfect way to start and end a meal if you ask me.πŸ˜€

I can not take the glory for the idea of this salad; I was inspired by a recipe on Pinterest from this blog  and essentially, this is my version.

Ingredients (To serve 4)

4 medium – large not-so-ripe pears ( I prefer my pears with a slight crunch to them)

200 g creme fraiche

4 tablespoons runny honey

1 pack of fresh rocket aka arugula (rinsed and patted dry)

1 teaspoon Olive oil

1/2 cup pecans

1 Lemon (juice)

I made this starter last December on Christmas Day and our friends were delighted by it. It’s a must try especially if you’re trying to impress πŸ˜‰

The ‘How To’

Fear not! Be still and know that I will guide you through this. No, we are not building the tower of Pisa and yes, it is likey to topple over, as my first attempt did. Please study the picture below, it crashed shortly after the picture was taken. There are no words to express the frustartion I felt; I mean it was still delicious in a messy non-gourmet kinda way……….So basically, you want a squat, sturdy pear, not a long lean one. Also you don’t want too many sections in each pear. Ok, so moving swiftly along.

  

Obviously, you need to rinse and dry your fruits. Then carefully slice them horizontally; I would advocate for no more than 3 to 4 sections for each pear depending on the size and this includes the bottom and top bit. Ensure that your pear will stay balanced on a flat plate and if it seems slightly wobbly then carefully slice a thin sliver off the bottom to create a flat surface at the bottom (we don’t want a delicious messy non-gourmet starter, remember?).  Now brush some lemon juice on the cut surfaces to prevent browning. Next, core the pear slices so that you end up with doughnutty type slices ie pear slices with a hole in the middle. You can achieve this with a paring knife or if you are like Inspector a Gadget and I then you will have one of those apple coring devices that we never really use ; NOW is a fab time to whip it out.

It helps to keep each sliced and cored pear together so that when you assemble it it mainagunas it’s natural shape.

Ok, now place your creme fraiche and olive oil in a bowl and with a fork or hand whisk, whisk it vigorously until well combined. The creme fraiche should still be a bit thick but lose enough to coat the pecans easily. You may opt to toast your pecans before tossing them into your creme fraiche; I couldn’t be bothered because I sweaty anxious mess with 4 hungry people at the table quickly losing their Festive cheer! 

Place aragula (you won’t need the entire pack so measure out maybe two handfuls) in a bowl and empty the creme fraiche mixture on it. Now with your hands carefully toss the salad.

Now comes the fun part, assuming you’re still keen to proceed.😁 Basically place the bottom part of the pear on your serving platter, take some of the arugula mixture and carefully mount it on the middle of the slice. Place the next slice on it, pressing down slightly, top with more salad and repeat till you get to the top. Then drizzle each stacked pear with honey. This will not only and an amazing glazy finish to your salad bit will also counter the tartness of the creme fraiche.

Say a prayer or two as you walk gingerly to the table with your awesome creation. When I appeared at the table, all Christmas grinchiness lifted as everyone whipped out their camera phones to take documentary evidence of what they were about to inhale! 

  

All hubby had to do was step away from the table for a second and our youngest swooped right in to help himself! Lol! πŸ˜„ As you can see, he’s a demolition expert and wasted no time in knocking it over! This time though it was okπŸ˜€

  

You will recall my recent infatuation with apple rose tarts. If you don’t, please get acquainted here.

Well, I have since scaled down these yummy tarts and now make them as tartlets! Evidence below.

   

   

It is the exact same recipe as the one here but this time  they are made in muffin pans so that you end up with the most adorable delectable treat.

Essentially when you follow the recipe, at the point where you roll out the dough, using a circlular cutter that is at least 1/2 wider than the muffin bowl, cut out circles of the dough, place in the muffin tin and follow through as you would if you where making a whole tart. 

This recipe is so easy, I even have my dear friend, Maria, all the way in Denmark making it! She sent this delightful picture to me! It is officially a global movement!!

  

Anyway, getting back on track, it didn’t take long before I wondered if I could sub the apples for pears and there was only one way to find out! Thankfully, I had just made some apple tartlets and had left over dough and lemon curd in the fridge so making these took no time at all.

All I did was bake the crust, filled with lemon curd and made the pear roses or should we call them proses? πŸ˜€I am witty aren’t I?πŸ˜€ and guess what? This time, I kept the pears fresh! Yep! Didn’t cook them or bake them! Just spritz with lemon juice to keep the colour nice and fresh looking.

The down side, is that they will not be sitting around forever (as if something this beautiful and delish should sit around forever!!! Perish the thought!!) but the upside is that it gives you a legitimate reason to polish it off promto!! Which is exactly what the boys and I did! They were back from school, and they were hungry…..can you see where this is going? Needless to say that was their dinner! They loved it! Washed down with some juice and they were happy little campers! 

Please don’t judge meπŸ˜€ I mean who says that dessert cannot be a main course? 

     

And thus ends my tale of two pear recipes. I hope you enjoyed it πŸ˜€

PS: Ittoqqortoormiit is an actual place. But please don’t ask me to pronounce it! πŸ˜… Emmmmm, Maria, some help please! Educate us!

FFF Tip of the Day

If you decide to try the pear tartlets, it would be ideal to use pears that are just ripe enough to have lost their crunch but not so ripe that they are mushy. It’s a fine line I know πŸ˜€ but so worth it if you get it right!