While Tebo was in the freezing state of Massachusetts, I lived in New Jersey with a Nigerian family – from the Yoruba tribe – who were then residing in the US.
Nigerians tend to stay true to their culture wherever they are in the world and that’s especially true of their food. That’s how I got introduced to the taste of palm oil, peppers, dried fish and cassava – the works. Then there was yam, a staple to almost all Nigerian dishes. Pound it or boil it, have it with your eggs in the morning or with your stew in the evening. It just works.
Plantains … glorious plantains, a side dish for any meal! When deep-fried, it’s called ‘dodo’; or you can have it as plantain chips when it’s dried.
Whenever Tebo came to Jersey, my host mom cooked for us. She’d be in the kitchen frying puréed tomatoes and chilis as the base for her rice. You couldn’t be in the kitchen if you couldn’t handle the heat; all those spices would send you into a sneezing frenzy clearing your flu as soon as you walked in. It all looked so complicated and intimidating to make, so I only learnt how to make these delicious flavours later on.
A personal favourite had to be tomato stew with chicken, and jollof rice served with a side of dodo. Yum! I can taste it right now.
We also used to snack on a lot of chin-chin: yummy, crunchy, cake-like biscuits that moonwalk like angels on your tongue. Serve these at the end of your meal with some good coffee; or, better yet, serve your guests some delicious puff-puff, a fried dessert popular in the winter.
We have to mention the street food. Among the most popular is suya, a spice rub for chicken, turkey, beef or whatever meat you feel like.
We had a very funny chat with our friends one day. It was a heated argument: which country made the best jollof rice? Nigeria or Ghana? LOL, it’s a real dilemma …
So, we reckoned we should try our own take on it. Who knows? Maybe South African jollof could be up for the prize.
Baked Jollof Rice with Chicken
Serves: 6–8 Prep time: 1 hour
At first we thought jollof rice was overrated. After we had it, we understood what the hype was all about. We reckon the best way to serve jollof rice is with chicken and dodo (deep-fried plantains). Let’s try the South African jollof. You never know, it might be in the running for the best jollof rice!
4 tbs palm oil
6–8 chicken thighs
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 tbs crushed garlic
2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
2 bay leaves
6 habanero peppers, crushed
1 scotch bonnet jalapeño pepper, deseeded and diced
1/2. tsp ground ginger
1/2. tsp ground nutmeg
1/2. tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili flakes
1/2. tsp salt
1/2. tsp dried thyme
1/2. tsp pepper
1/2. tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried ground prawn
1 tbs tomato purée
1 can (400 g) tomatoes
100 ml chicken stock
300 g Basmati rice, uncooked
Chopped coriander, to serve
01 Preheat the oven to 180°C.
02 In a heavy-base saucepan, add a little oil.
03 Brown the chicken thighs on each side and set aside.
04 In the same pan, add the rest of the oil and the onions. Sauté until soft.
05 Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, habanero and scotch bonnet peppers. Gently fry for 2 min. Add the spice mix and stir well.
06 Add in the tomato purée and canned tomatoes. Mix well. Cook for 10 min.
07 Add the stock and blend until smooth.
08 Add in the rice and chicken.
09 Bake covered in the oven for 30-40 min until the rice and chicken are cooked.
10 Scatter with fresh coriander and serve.
Spicy Garlic Turkey Suya
Suya is a spice mix created by the Hausa people from the north of Nigeria. Good luck finding the original recipe … all we know is it can be very, very spicy. It’s normally served with raw, sliced onions or cabbage to help with the heat (that didn’t help us at all the first time we tried it, but – hey – each to their own). With this recipe, feel free to adjust the heat to your preference.
Serves: 4–6 Prep time: 2 hours 15 min
For the Suya Spice Rub:
1 tsp chili flakes
2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp smoked paprika
1½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked
For the turkey:
500 g turkey, cubed
2 tbs palm oil
3–4 tbs dry spice rub (suya)
01 Mix all the suya spice ingredients together in
02 Mix the suya spice rub with the oil.
03 Rub the paste on the turkey to tenderise the
04 Leave in the fridge for 1–2 hours, or overnight.
05 Grill the turkey over medium coals for
7–10 min on each side, until well cooked.