Nigeria: Tasting the joys of Jollof

As we climbed the hill to Tunde and Gunilla’s lovely abode, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. As the 7th most populous country in the world, Nigeria is certainly not lacking in diverse cultures, languages, and flavours (to say the least). Tonight, we would be making something from the Lagos area, with Lagos-native Tunde at the wheels… actually that’s not quite true, it was very much his Swedish girlfriend Gunilla at the wheels (sorry Tunde, we have to give credit where credit is due). So with supervision from our local Nigeria correspondent, the Swedes got to work on making what would be one of the most colourful and richest meals we’d ever had the pleasure of eating. It. Was. Amazing. Read below to find out more about the flavours this great country has to offer!

Note: Much of nigerian cooking is made with oil. Lots of oil. For this occasion we were blessed to have “The Best African Palm Oil” on hand. If you are not so #blessed, mediocre Swedish canola oil will do the trick.

 

“For the record, the one thing I love about Sweden are all the bullar… I love that you have a bulle for every season!”

Recipe for Nigerian joy

Serve with: Supermalt – Nigerian sweet drink. Imagine that Guinness and Root beer had a love child. Now put that in a fancy packaging and remove all traces of alcohol. This, friends, is supermalt. Not only did it bring back happy childhood memories for Tunde, it was also oh-so-delicious.

Listen to: One of the biggest things Tunde misses from Nigeria is the music and we can definitely see why. Great rhythms and melodies kept us energized throughout the whole cooking process: You can start by listening to “If” by DaVido, and see where Spotify takes you next!

Jollof Rice

Most popular “base” dish. Apparently a source of a massive rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana. As an innocent bystander you might want to appease both sides by being flexible on the matter depending on your company, even though everyone knows the Nigerian version is the original (right Tunde??)

  • Rice (pre boil this before mixing with the sauce)

Sauce:

  • 1 package crushed tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 chilli (habanero or similar)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 fairly large garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp or a bouillon cube
  • About 1 dl canola oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 dl frozen green peas
  1. Blend all the sauce ingredients in a blender
  2. Pour the oil into a pot, so that it is covering the whole bottom (or even more) and add in the sauce blend
  3. Add in bay leaves, thyme, jollof spice (if available), salt, pepper, and chillipowder (if needed – you can also use paprika)
  4. Let simmer for about one hour
  5. Pour sauce over rice and start stirring on medium heat. You want it to start burning a little to get that crispy feel, but not so much that your pot obtains a new bottom layer. Capice? Gunilla says that hearing the rice “crackling” is a good sign
  6. After about 10 minutes, stir in frozen peas and keep stirring until they are cooked

Chicken in Pepper sauce

Similar to jerk, Nigeria has a mix of cultures and food traditions

  • Thighs of chicken (one per person) – roast until golden/black before putting on sauce

Marinade:

Use all the spice from the sauce (below) recipe and some oil and let the chicken sit in this for a few hours

Sauce:

  • 2 small red onions
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ½ red pepper
  • ½ yellow pepper
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 packages of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp all-round spice
  • ½ rep pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp grated ginger*
  • 1 tbsp stock (for the real Nigerian experience, the name of the game is Maggi Aroma, but other stock will also do)
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • A dash of curry spice

*tip: keep the ginger in the freezer! This makes it a lot easier to grate and helps you avoid the situation with very “stringy” ginger

  1. Chop up vegetables and put in blender and blend until smooth
  2. Add in the crushed tomatoes
  3. Put the mixture into a pan or large pot and let simmer while stirring
  4. Add in salt and all-round spice
  5. Add in pepper, garlic, ginger, stock, thyme, and curry. Keep stirring
  6. Add in oil and stir together – you want the sauce to start simmering and keep stirring
  7. After a few minutes add in the cooked chicken and cover in sauce – let it simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes

Moin Moin (bean cake)

A fantastic side dish based on lentils (vegans look over here!)

  • Half a package of lentils (soak for the day before using)
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • A pinch of red chilli (adjust to your tolerance for fire-breathing)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp ground dried prawns (to be found in your local African store) – vegans can ignore this one we guess
  • 1 splash of broth (again, Maggi Aroma is the ish)
  • 3 tbsp of water
  1. Put oven to 200 degrees
  2. Roughly chop the vegetables and put all ingredients into a blender
  3. Properly blend and make sure the mixture is smooth (we don’t want no chunks here)
  4. Add in about 3 tbsp of water and mix together
  5. Pour the mixture into a baking pan (we used a round one about 20×20)
  6. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the cake has a golden-ish surface

In Nigeria, this is supposed to be steamed inside a banana-leaf, but when you live closer to the arctic circle than the equator you are excused from this step in the recipe

The cake can also be filled with eggs or dried fish

Fried plantains

  • 3 large ripe (cannot put too much emphasis on that. In Sweden it is hard to find plantains that are ripe and sweet, so look in your local African food store. You want them to be more ripe and soft so that they will have that sweet sweet flavour)
  • Cooking oil for frying
  1. Cut off ends and peel the plantains
  2. Slice plantains slightly diagonally to make long “coins”
  3. In a pot, heat the oil until ready for deep frying
  4. Toss in the plantain coins and remove when turn into a darker colour
  5. Put on a plate with a paper towel that absorbs some of the excess oil (unless you’re really into that of course, this is a judgement-free zone)

Interview time

Over a real children’s party classic we sat down over some not-so-Nigerian marängswiss (vanilla ice cream, meringues, bananas, chocolate sauce and all things that are good in this world) to talk about Tunde and Gunilla’s experience of the Swedish cuisine and which Lagos area has the most spoiled residents.

KH: So what is your favourite food from home, and why?

Tunde: Huh, ok… that’s a difficult one. I guess like every Nigerian, growing up on jollof rice is a staple favourite, you have that at least once a week, and it just tastes so good. Everywhere you go it’s different, so you always get to try a new jollof rice, which is nice. But, personally I think I would go with pounded yam.

KH: Mmm

Tunde: Pounded yam with a soup called ogbono soup

KH: Ah ok, what is in the soup?

Tunde: Ogbono is made of a very.. Ah it’s hard to describe and you might have to look this up, but when you make it it’s very stringy. It’s still a soup but very sticky. People make it in different ways but it just tastes so good, and with the pounded yam. So I need to explain exactly what pounded yam is.. I guess it’s similar to like what you have in Ethiopia: for example we have the dishes that you eat with the bread, and we call them swallows and they usually come in mounds so they are usually carbohydrate based, so starch-based. And then you have to decide on the soup and you take bread and you dip it in the soup. So one of these is the pounded yam, and it’s actually yam that’s pounded, and you pound it so hard and long that it becomes kind of, almost, rubbery, and it tastes so good!

KH: These textures are so different!

Tunde: Yes, and that’s the thing you get all these soups that have different colours, different textures, different consistencies, and to me it’s just mind-blowing and tastes so good. All tastes so good!

KH: I feel like we are mostly used to having soups in different colours, but not different textures. That’s so cool! Do you make it at home?

Tunde: Not at the moment we don’t make that. That’s something that we need to get into.

KH: Have you had it Gunilla?

Gunilla: I might have tasted it like once or twice, but it’s not like I can remember it. Some of the soups I have had, but not the ogbono. But we were in London and we met one of (Tunde’s) relatives and she actually showed us what I think are called ogbono seeds. So it’s from some sort of seeds that they grind and make it from. So we got that, and we have it in the freezer, so we can just cook it. So we are going to make it!

KH: Not available in Sweden i guess?

Gunilla: No I don’t think so, or hard to get at least.

KH: Ok, so the next question is: what brought you to Sweden?

Tunde: Hmm.. the first or the second time? (laughs). No, but so the first time I came for work. I was based in Nigeria at the time and was working for the indigenous oil companies. It was during my national youth service, which is sort of like a military service.

KH: Does everyone have to do that?

Tunde: Well, everyone who wants to work or live in Nigeria has to do that.

KH: Really?

Tunde: If you are.. I think the rules are that if you are born in Nigeria or if you went to high school in Nigeria, one of those two, then you have to do it. So I went back, I did that for two years. Well, it’s one year but I was there for two years. I extended my stay after at this company and then I felt like I wanted to do something different. So I applied for a bunch of graduate development programs and found one in Astra Zeneca: it’s development program, and applied. So I came for work, and then I had one of my placements in the UK. So originally when I got the job I thought I was going to be based in the UK since I studied there. But then one day I got a call and they said “we are thinking of giving you a new position, so what do you think about Sweden?”. And I was like “Well I don’t know since I have never been there, so why not, it will be an adventure:” So that is how I ended up in Sweden. Then in my second year I was posted in Manchester for a year, and before I was going I was thinking that I would try to find a permanent role in Manchester. But before I left I met somebody (glances over at Gunilla). Who (smiling) for many reasons convinced me.. Well I mean not convinced or forced me, there were no arguments (laughs) but yea convinced me to stay to come back to Sweden after my placement.

KH: It was a peaceful agreement!

Tunde: And so yea that is how we met and how I decided to stay!

KH: Wait so how did you meet though?

Tunde: Mmmm…

KH: Maybe there are two versions?

Gunilla: Well, we first met through my roomates. At the time they had a classmate who was Tunde’s neighbour, so we actually met at a barbeque party in Stora Essingen at this person’s place. And I had been to Nigeria quite recently, so I think we sort of.. Well.. we had that in common!

Tunde: I was like who is this crazy Swedish girl who has been to Nigeria, what are you looking for a Nigerian? Yea, so I was very fascinated. Then I realized that you (looking at Gunilla) weren’t as crazy as I thought (laughs). Although you thought I was spoiled when we first met!

KH: Oooh..

Tunde: Yea she asked me where I was from in Nigeria and I explained that I am from Lagos, from a specific part of town. And in her mind that is where all the spoiled and rich kids live. And I was like: nope! (laughs)

Gunilla: Let’s say my Lagos knowledge was quite limited.

KH: So you still don’t think he is spoiled now, or still? A little bit?

Gunilla: Ah, just a little bit (laughs). No I am kidding! I think we are past that!

KH: What a beautiful story, you guys really met by chance! So moving on to the next question: since you moved to Sweden, what is your favourite food here?

Tunde: Hmm.. oh wow..

KH: It is the toughest question

Tunde: Yea!

Gunilla: Do you mean a specific dish or type of food..?

KH: Well it could be a dish or type… well, maybe not like sushi (laughs). Which is very good here!

Tunde: It’s a good question and I know there is something I really like.. I can’t put my finger on what it is. I like the meatballs, but I wouldn’t say they are my favourite, no. This is gonna sound weird but I really like Pyttipanna!

KH: Really!?

Tunde: Yea!

KH: Ah it’s one of the few dishes I hate. It looks like cat food.

Gunilla: I was gonna say swedish pancakes otherwise, because you (Tunde) really don’t like the american pancakes. The thin kind.

Tunde: Well that’s the kind of pancake I had growing up in Nigeria, so they are not Swedish pancakes to me! (laughs)

KH: Swedish / Nigerian pancakes!

Tunde: Yea but to your point I do like when you have a pancake but with potato instead..

KH: Like raggmunk?

Tunde: Yea I do like raggmunk!

KH: Oh ok so pyttipanna and raggmunk!

Tunde: I feel like those are terrible answers.

KH: Well you have gone very traditional, which I like!

Gunilla: Yea but what would be like “good” answers to that question?

KH: Yea I don’t know, that’s a good point, but usually people go with like kanelbullar…

Tunde: oh wait wait I wasn’t including desserts. But for the record, the one thing I love about Sweden are all the bullar… I love that you have a bulle for every season! It warms my heart knowing that I can look forward to that pretty much every quarter of the year. You have the lussebullar, you have the semlabullar, you have the kanelbullar..

Gunilla: Well that’s all year!

Tunde: hmm there is one bulle I am missing… I feel like there are at least three proper seasonal bullar.

KH: Can you describe this other bulle? (laughs)

Tunde: No (laughs).. Dammit. Oh well I am sure it will come to me in time.

KH: On the same topic, what do you think is the best and the worst about Swedish food?

Tunde: (contemplates while enjoying a bite of marängswiss) Let me just start with the worst.. Umm..

Gunilla: (laughs) Where to start?!

KH: Everyone starts with the worst..

Tunde: Well I guess for me, and the problem is for me right: I don’t like seafood. And of course, in a country where a lot of the dishes are based on seafood…I mean I only started last year to maybe a few times giving a white fish a try. And it has to be cooked to the point where I can’t even taste the fish anymore.

Gunilla: And the problem is when you say why you don’t like it it’s because it tastes fishy, it tastes like the sea, and you can’t do much about that (laughs)

Tunde: So that is a big problem, I really don’t like seafood! Sill for example. And, and , and, actually above all that. Even worse than seafood, worse than fish. So this is big right? Licorice. Holy shit. I cannot stand licorice. And like that wasn’t bad enough, you then made salty licorice!?! I am like “what!?!” Oh my god! Yea, so those two things I can’t stand about Swedish food.

KH: (to Gunilla) Have you tried to give him Djungelvrål?

Tunde: And this is one of the reasons I also love her..

Gunilla: Actually I don’t like licorice either. I was traumatized as a kid, so I have never ever liked it!

KH: You guys haven’t lived…So any good thing?

Tunde: Hmm let me think.. It’s not to bash other foods, but Nigerian food is very savoury, and I have actually been quite impressed with Swedish dishes because they can be quite savoury as well.

KH: And what exactly do you mean by savoury?

Tunde: Flavour, yea more flavour. I have had some other dishes in other parts of Europe and I think some of them can be quite bland.

KH: Wait so you don’t think Swedish food is bland?

Tunde: Some can be but not all…but I still really like it. I am trying to think of an example… For instance the soups. All the soups are always quite tasty. And soup can easily be very bland, but usually they are very good!

KH: Pea soup is great!

Tunde: Oh yea there’s one more thing I love about swedish food.. You guys have the art of bread making down to a science (editor’s note: sorry all you french bread-snobs, Sweden is coming for you!)

KH: OH even better than the french?

Tunde: Oh yea definitely

KH: Tell that to the french!

Tunde: the bread is so good! Especially the sourdough breads.

KH: We are happy to hear that! We have come far in our breadmaking. It really has exploded the past years. Before it was just like….. Knäckebröd or polarbröd (laughs)

KH: So did you know anything about Swedish food before you came here?

Tunde: (not a second later) Meatballs.

KH: From IKEA or independent sources?

Tunde: Hmm itäs hard to say because nowadays the link is so strong to IKEA, but I don’t think it was… How incorrect can I go?

KH: No no it’s fine, go ahead!

Tunde: Well you know growing up, the things you hear about Sweden… blondes..

KH: Free-spirited!

Tunde: (laughs) not exactly more like bohemian!.. But yea so at the time you knew meatballs and blondes, so it wasn’t because of IKEA

Gunilla: You can tell them what the first thing you had in Sweden was!

Tunde: (thinks for a few seconds… then laughs) Oh yea! I had a…hmm what’s it called…. Tunnbrö…

KH: (with too much excitement) Tunnbrödrulle!!!

Tunde: Yes! So good!!! I knew then that I was happy.. You guys put potatoes, hot dogs and bread in the same combo.. This is a good place!

KH: I know it’s brilliant. Our hot dogs are the best in the world. So if you guys had to pick one food that you could eat for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why? We don’t want people to be practical, so just what you would like to eat!

Gunilla: Ok so for me it’s actually super simple what I would like to eat..

Gunilla and Tunde in unison: Chocolate

Tunde: Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Well for Gunilla that is! I feel like maybe burgers…but I think I might get tired of that quickly…

KH: I think you would get tired of whatever (laughs)

Tunde. That is a very fair point.. Yes.. burgers…

KH: Gunilla what were you gonna say for Tunde?

Gunilla: Well first I thought burger, but then maybe something a bit more traditional, like Nigerian..

Tunde: No.

KH: Mmm yes, bread and meat. Can’t go wrong. Add some mashed potatoes in there too… So the next question is: if there is only one spice that you could use for the rest of your life, what would it be? And why?

Tunde: Salt

Gunilla: Oh, that’s smart (laughs)… well for me it’s not exactly a spice but.. Lemon.. I use it for everything (laughs)

Tunde: We can make any dish.. From whatever part of the world and just before she puts it in her mouth, Gunilla takes a little bit of lemon, and sprinkles it on the food. It doesn’t even make sense sometimes!

KH: Well I guess it makes it fresher! So – what is the best meal you ever had?

Gunilla: (silence).. Ooh, that’s too tough!

KH: Or just a really good one that you remember really well?

Gunilla: (silence) Sorry I am just walking down memory lane here…I am thinking in Nigeria when we were celebrating Christmas with your aunties and uncle, it’s kind of like a Christmas meal, but there were so many things, so it wasn’t really one meal either. But yea I guess I really remember that experience.

Tunde: I am thinking of the first one that really sticks to me.. It wasn’t a great meal or anything, but I just really remember it. I must have been 7 or 8, and my uncle, well it was probably one of those who are really my cousin but everyone calls uncle, he made us an omelette. Just a simple omelette with tomatoes and onions and spices. And I just remember when I tried that, it was just amazing. And I mean it was really his mistake because after that it was like every Sunday like clockwork we would go over there and have the omelette That’s the first memory I have of being like: “WOW” (editor’s note: Not World of Warcraft all you gamers out there)

KH: Great story! So what is your favourite restaurant at the moment?

Gunilla: Ok i am thinking Stockholm first, just to make it easier in my mind…Ok there are many that are good for different reasons but for example our Indian restaurant. By Zinkensdamm. It’s called Ellora. It’s good Indian, and we have been there enough times that they recognize you and… yea it’s a good experience! We feel a little bit like regulars (laughs)

Tunde: You need to get the peshwari bread! It’s the first thing I get. But yea.. Hmm my favourite at the moment.. It’s a tough one… Surfers was really good!

Gunilla: Austin Foodworks I guess you really liked

Tunde: Yea that place I really liked!

KH: Did you have the chicken and waffles?

Tunde: Hell yea the first thing I had was chicken and waffles! Oh but wait! It has to be the Flying Elk!

KH: Mmm! Did you have the burger there?

Tunde: Because they serve good food as well, not just burgers. The first burger I ever had there immediately shot to the top of my list.. It was like a blue cheese burger. Oh my god… so good! The burgers I have had there are consistently amazing.

KH: Total mouthgasm!

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