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Food: There’s more to life than jollof rice

By Ozoz Sokoh in Lagos and on
Posted on Friday, 20 May 2016 10:22

For Nigerian cuisine, Lagos is the centre of the world. Be it purple coco yam from the East or tiger nuts from the North, ingredients from all over the country at at your fingertips. “Most Nigerians tend to shop for food as they need it,” says Affiong Osuchukwu, a food photographer, blogger and recipe developer. “So the concept of fresh is something we do naturally.”

Poached pawpaw in spiced syrup

Peel and dice just-ripe pawpaw, roughly 2 cups. Make a sweet syrup by combining 2 cups water, 5-10 fresh scent leaves, 2 small knobs of bashed ginger and 4 crushed cardamom pods in a pot. Bring to the boil and let cook for about 5 minutes, adjusting syrup to taste. Discard the wilted leaves and aromatics. Add the diced pawpaw and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve in a bowl with ice cream and grated lime zest.

If the ingredients are there, however, inspiration can come from all over the globe. Bloggers from home and abroad are changing perceptions of Nigerian food with new, refreshing takes on familiar flavours. “[It’s] amazing being surrounded by food enthusiasts who can create on international levels and who grew up around the same kind of meals that I had,” says Chef Imoteda of Heels in the Kitchen. “We can turn the meals of our youth to exportable cuisine to be enjoyed in any part of the world.”

Nigerian cuisine often relies heavily on meat, but Tomi Makanjuola of The Vegan Nigerian shows you can cook vegan without losing the richness and vibrancy of Nigerian foods.

In Canada, ChiO, who blogs her recipes at Oya Come Chop, was originally motivated by weight loss to start devising lighter, delicious variations on Nigerian food. Desserts are another way to be creative, using, for instance, scent leaves, a traditional soup herb (see box for recipe).

Osuchukwu thinks Nigerian food has the potential to become global just as Indian and Thai food has: “We just need to help the world understand it better,” she says. I couldn’t agree more. ●

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