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Food and Ageing

 

roast 3

Firstly, I would like to apologise to the lovely lady I promised to write this blog for. It’s late, I am sorry. But I hope it helps somebody else out there too. So let’s get to it. How do you start eating healthily? My method or way is to start looking at food completely differently and to accept that you will have to change the way you eat for life, especially if you are a woman who has had children, and over 35.  What you eat shouldn’t just be titillating to your taste buds, but nourishing to your body – at least 80% of the time.  I don’t believe you can make permanent and lasting changes without embracing new foods, or new ways of thinking about food, which includes seeing food as fuel, as nourishing and preventative for many modern diseases .

Nothing beats a balanced diet.

The honest truth is simple. A balanced diet is what works. But the problem is most of us don’t know what balance means anymore thanks in part to the food industry and their are just too many people trying to make money off ‘diets’ and ‘food’. Also, portions are out of control and we need to re-learn what moderate means. If you are prepared to re-learn, you will enjoy all food groups; carbs, protein and fats! The honest truth is I enjoy everything, including the crazy modern Nigerian cuisine. I call it crazy and modern because the way the younger generation cook dishes like Efo and Ayamase etc is simply not the way my grandmother cooked or ate it. And she lived past 115 on African food only. But what she ate, and how she prepared it, was a lot simpler than the modern version of loading everything into our delicacies and cooking stew swimming in oil! . The principle  I advocate for is  – simple foods, prepared simply.

Age plays a role

I keep talking about women over 30 and mums in particular, because I am a mum of two and 40 this year!! (bloody depressing!! where did the time go). I know how the body changes, I’ve seen those changes. And what they call ‘middle age’ spread is real. Food choices like refined carbs and sugar will stick to the middle more in middle age, your tummy especially, and especially after 35. I am not one of those 40 year olds that  say “40 is the new 20” babanla oro ode (#foolishtalk). 40 is 40. I have eyes. I see 20 year olds. I see their skin, their hair, their waist and their flat tummies!  It’s futile to long to look like a 20 year old, it’s unhealthy even, but if you want to look good at 40 or at 50 you are going to have to be mindful of your food choices, because the by-product of a good diet is that at 40 you will have clear or clearer skin, strong and healthy hair, and a healthy body – if you eat well. Now someone is bound to say “but some people can have all those things, good hair, good skin, and a healthy body without ever watching their diet’ my answer is simple “are you one of those people”? exactly!, keep reading.

Cut the Fad Diets and Stick with whole foods

I don’t believe in cutting carbs or fat because they are not sustainable in my opinion. Instead, I have trained my taste buds to appreciate whole or clean  foods cooked without too many additions – boiled yam with no sugar! remember our grandparents ate roasted yams or boiled yams with palm oil and a little salt; not fried eggs, sausages, corn beef stew and I’ve even seen people add fried plantain – errmmm  If you eat corned beef repent now!!! I cook basmati rice with no salt! I season my meat with natural spices (not too much) sometimes nothing –   because the bottom line is the more flavor, the harder it is for your brain to register you are full and satisfied. learn to enjoy the natural flavor of foods too. If  you need to start a plan even with seasoning start with whole food. And by that  I mean things that grew from the ground, on a tree, came out of the sea, ran on the land, or flew through the air. Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds are all great examples of real food

Reduce or avoid crap food.  Crap food is that which comes from a drive-thru window, a vending machine, box, bag, or wrapper. If it has a long ingredient list it’s probably not good for you.  If it started out as real food and then went through ten steps to get to the point where you’re about to eat it, it’s probably not good for you.

And you know what? I cook most of my meals myself. Eating out is a treat. I don’t even buy sandwiches at work. I make everything and take it into work. If you can learn to do this too, you are 70% of the way there. Do not trust food vendors or eateries. They don’t care about you. they care about repeat business and profit margins, and trust me those profit margins are achieved mostly through cheap flavour enhancers – sugar and salt – cheap products. And no, it wouldn’t even taste sugary or salty but trust me it’s loaded full of it.

Exercise wouldn’t help if you don’t change your diet!

If you don’t change what or how you eat exercise wouldn’t help if your aim is to lose weight! That’s the worst part! You can’t eat crap food and compensate with an excellent exercise programme –Never– hence the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet”. But you can certainly  lose  fat or weight without ever exercising. After I had my two children my body changed so much. It was sooo soft and flabby, even though I was slim. I trained like crazy, no change. I complained to my trainer, and he said “Lola you train like these girls, pointing to magazines with fitness models but you don’t eat like them, and until you do, nothing will change”. I adjusted my diet which was already healthy, and I got my results. Now if you are reading this you may not want my results. Maybe your goal is just to lose a bit of weight, but the principle is the same, until the foundation is right (and the foundation is your diet) you wouldn’t ever see results. 80% of your success or failure will come from how well you eat.

Being fit or healthy comes in different shapes and sizes too!

Please understand one thing. I do not believe we should all be a size 8 or 10 or 12. Fitness and healthy come in different shapes and sizes and the truth is I am against any ‘ideal’ or ‘look’ promoted as optimal. That’s a lie. But in your heart, if you are overweight, or perhaps obese and if you want to do something about it, if you are ready, when you are ready, there is guide below – it is only a guide and it is not easy because it requires you to eat different things and prepare your meals in different ways. This guide will help any average height female around 5:5 tall, trying to lose weight. This is a guide and insight into how I eat – I do eat more, calorie wise, as I am not trying to lose fat – but please treat it as a guide and always consult your doctor before embarking on a new diet.

Meal Plan 101

the meal below  aren’t cooked with oils, expect a smidgen of coconut, olive, or any other healthy oil, a smidgen is less than half a tea spoon – okay maybe half a teaspoon!. Season food to taste but try and switch to lower salt seasonings e.g. Mrs Dash. Once a week eat whatever you want, one meal once a week, not the whole Saturday!! . Once a week have a fizzy drink if you enjoy them,  but only with your cheat meal. Reduce alcohol to once or twice a week – a glass or two maximum.

Meal 1:

1/2 cup oatmeal/ or 5 ounze of yam/sweet potatoes

3 egg whites, 1 egg

I fruit

Snack (20 grams of 90% dark chocolate)

Almonds (23)

Meal 2:

6 ounces grilled chicken/turkey/cod/lean protein

Large salad or any vegetable/s

2 tablespoons light dressing

½ cup of cooked basmati rice

Snack or little meal

Fat free Greek Yogurt (the brand Fage is king and best) OR more lean protein with vegetables or salad if you wish. 2 rice cakes with a tablespoon of peanut butter and fruit

Meal 3:

Fish or steak (salmon, seabass, any really, or grilled steak and vegetable)

Dessert – sugar free Hartley jelly

Water, tea, coffee, no sugar, yes to milk, yes to sweetner.

Oxtail @ Harrods

Funny thing is, like Snails (The Giant  African Snails as oppose to the French Escargot/land snails)  I started out not caring very much for Oxtail.

But you can’t grow up in Nigeria, live amongst Nigerians , or be into naija men and not know what Oxtail is ; that succulently soft, gelatine, Bonny tail of a cattle! Now I can say these things and end with yum!  But until recently I was quite indifferent to it. Everything changed when  I visited one of my closest friends for dinner, she served oxtail amongst other delights, assuming that I and my husband cared for the thing! But in my usual excitement about the amazing spread I must have asked why the Oxtail looked much bigger than normal,  she told  me she brought the Oxtail from Harrods and I remember giving her a look before laughing!

Now if this wasn’t my ‘personal person’ I would have secretly thought how pretentious! But I know my girl loves food, seriously loves food! She is the type of girl you’d find in China tang at the Dorchester on a Friday night, and at Lolak  in Peckham on Saturday ( if you haven’t tried these two restaurants you are a learner), so long as the food is good she/ we are there.

My friend didn’t really need to do much explaining, Harrods is synonymous with quality, the best sourced food under one wonderful roof! Dinner was scrumptous, the Oxtail was sublime! And so the next time I was entertaining with nigerian food, I went to Harrods of course! and I’ve never looked back! No one does it better. Pleaseeeeeee try Harrods oxtail!

There is no trick to cooking oxtail. It needs to be slow cooked. This is how I do mine.

  • Get your onions, ginger, garlic, black pepper, and knor.
  • Blend all the above and pour over your washed oxtail
  •  I rarely use dried herbs in my cooking, please leave it out; No to curry and thyme if you are Nigerian! Knor however is king of the jungle.
  • Salt it to taste, but usually the salt in the Knor cubes should be  sufficient
  • Cook on low heat; I can’t give you specific a time but I generally cook mine for over an hour
  • Getting your oxtail right is all about texture, texture,  texture, texture!  Just like spaghetti, and yes 90% of people I know can’t cook spaghetti right! So your oxtail needs to be soft enought to eat, without you chewing your jaw off!  but not so soft that it falls off the bone – think Al-dente.
  • Once your oxtail is cooked, put it under the grill, heat up high, and brown both  sides.
  • Now blend one onion, a scotch bonnet and fresh tomatoes.
  • Pour some palm oil ( use vegetable oil if you prefer, but if you are serving with efo then be consistent with the oil you used for the efo) in a pan, when it’s nicely heated pour  in your blended onions, scotch bonnet and tomatoes and cook it till its all reduced, add one knor chicken.
  • Once this paste is reduced, add in your oxtail, simmer and there you have it!

Thank me later! Naija food forever!

 

 

 

The Humble Yoruba Stew

My Igbo friends love taking the piss out of Yoruba cooking, in jest. I laughed and laughed  when one of them said we just like everything red! The truth is we do love our tomato base cooking! And my gosh it doesn’t get redder than stew; chicken stew is red, goat stew is red, beef stew is red, fish stew is red, you get the drift! And you know what? it’s a little redder when you use palm oil. So this weekend it’s all about chicken stew in my house. My hubby is addicted to rice! He says he is not,  but he is! He can happily eat rice and stew for the next 3 days,  minus tomorrow,  because you know it’s Sunday and Sunday is Roast day! If there is cooked food for the next 3 days it simply means peace for me, I tell you,  as long as there is food I  think I can wander off for days and SB wouldn’t notice! But more importantly if I cook the stew now, I’ll avoid that oh so annoying question ‘Titi ki la ma je lale yi” yes I hate the question because I feel like saying  ‘dude, why don’t you think about what’s for dinner tonight! And the real question you are asking is ” Titi what are you making for dinner’! And, yes there is another and,  there is no ‘we’ here cause weeeeeeeeee never eat the same thing  mid-week”!!! he eats rice, and I eat salmon and asparagus! Apart from weekends when I kinda eat whatever!
So today I stretched to open the  cupboard for the canned plum tomatoes which will make the base of my chicken stew and I think hang on a minute! I did say I’d stop using canned tomatoes and switch to fresh . But then the thought of actually using fresh tomatoes freaked me out!!! Firstly, I’ve not cooked stew with fresh tomatoes in years! What if it’s a disaster, watery, strange colour, I literary had to get a grip! Like seriously! What’s the worst that can happen ….

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So instead of the canned tomatoes I blended a dozen tomatoes, four scotch bonnet and two onions! I heated my vegetable oil and when it was hot I poured in the mixture and started the cooking process.  It looked cleaner, it looked fresher and when I’d fried it down to the point where I could see a bit of oil peeing through,  I poured in the chicken stock that I had set aside,  and it tasted divine!! I allowed the chicken stock to cook its way through my stew and the result was absolutely superb!
I have been frustrated with plum tomatoes for months, most brands are either too sweet so that your stew tastes sickly sweet,  or too bland! Or too sharp –  acidic! Using fresh tomatoes is simply a return to basic to the best. And based on taste alone i think I’ll find it difficult to use plum tomatoes again! Ever!  so yes it may cost a little bit more! But you know what,  I intend to start growing my own tomatoes ( well I can try, I hear it’s quite easy to grow).  After moaning and moaning about plum tomatoes my friend suggested fresh and I’m thanking Funke for planting the seed and for returning me to basics!!
For the chicken: Boil your chicken with fresh ginger, garlic, onions and chicken knor with a splash of black pepper corn! blend all these ingredients with water and pour the paste on your chicken. Nix it in well and start boiling. Once the chicken is boiled,  put it under the grill ( not oven), once brown add it to the stew at the last-minute and switch off the cooker immediately. Do not cook your chicken in the stew. I buy my chicken from Tesco. If you still eat  Pluvera and like it carry on, but some people buy this chicken simply because it’s what they have known their parents use or for some odd misconception that other varieties don’t work in stew. I am more comfortable with chicken from the supermarket – taste and freshness wise,  if you can go free range even better.  But leaving the chicken thing aside, the moral is to try going back to fresh tomatoes for your stew – try it.
Eat with rice and grilled plantain!

Sunday Roast

My neighbour and my friend’s son just turned 18, lovely boy,  and like me the dude loves food; from pounded yam to everything! He has told me once or twice, actually more than 3 times that he loves my juicy and succulent chicken roast, so to welcome him into adulthood I decided to host him and his family for Titilolami’s special roast chicken, and in the process share my recipe with you guys.

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It has taken me years to perfect this recipe. If you have any questions ask, but remember, I’m a cook, not a chef, so I will not give you recipes with exact measurements, please use your judgements, intuition and preferences. But most importantly ‘Trust the process’ please don’t put any spice I have not specified. This really means –  No curry. No Thyme. No crayfish!!

You need to get the roast chicken and the potatoes right, once you do, the rest is easy. I always serve my roast with home-made coleslaw or vegetables but I’m not going to teach you how to cook vegetables! should !?

This roast has been tailored to the preferences of Nigerians, as I mostly cook for Nigerians who tend to prefer a lot of flavour.

So let’s start with the chicken – Buy the best whole fresh chicken you can afford. For me this usually means free range.  If you can’t find free range just buy a whole but fresh chicken. Some people will say marinate it the night before bla bla bla, sorry but on a Saturday night I’m either in a bar or at a restaurant enjoying my life. The two must have seasonings for your chicken is ginger and garlic. If you haven’t got either don’t bother. If you don’t like either you are not ready.  And only fresh ginger and garlic will do. Use a whole clove of garlic, even more if you want, and use a lump of ginger – don’t be scared of garlic and ginger in this dish. You must grate these two condiments. Do not chop them, please grate or crush your garlic with a garlic crusher. Once grated or crushed use your hands to rub the garlic and ginger into every nook and cranny, including the chickens cavity. Cut a whole onion into the chicken’s cavity (Nigerians don’t do stuffing’s).  Then add knor, knor chicken to be precise. For a whole chicken use up to 4 cubes. I like the extra flavour of black pepper so add black pepper, but again it must be crushed peppercorns not the flavorless powder. Now add Nando’s peri peri marinate sauce. This sauce is sold in all major supermarkets, add half a bottle (keep the other half, we will come back to it). Rub the marinade in, turn the chicken around and get all the seasoning worked in. Now squeeze half a lemon all over your chicken.  rub a little butter or olive oil  all over the chicken.

Now pre-heat your oven, gas mark 5, after 5 mins put your chicken on a rack with a tray underneath to collect the juices; i prefer to face the breast down so that the juices run into what is the toughest part, keeping it moist. Keep it at gas mark 5. Turn your chicken over after 30 minutes. Cook it for approximately an hour twenty minutes. Now bring it out of the oven. Strain all the chicken stock into a big bowl/dish.  Make sure it’s a dish you can place back into the oven e.g a le Creuset– carve your chicken but remove all the stuffed onions – bin the onions. Put the chicken into the dish the stock is in, now pour in the rest of Nandos Peri Peri Marinade.  Also add the Nandos peri peri extra hot sauce – a whole bottle. Place your chicken back in the oven and cook for a further 15 mins – the juice of the stock, mixed with the peri peri sauces will work and cook through beautifully –  This is the gravy – a super gravy! This recipe is amazing – as long as you don’t start putting thyme or curry or crayfish!! Nigerians!!

Roast potatoes: I very rarely come across people who make roast potatoes right, even at restaurants, actually they don’t work at restaurants because roast potatoes can’t hang about, so timing is everything, you want to serve immediately its cooked. Anyway this is so simply just trust me and follow the process – don’t use any old potatoes you come across in a supermarket – go for Desiree or I like Maris Piper from Marks and Spencer. While you are at Marks and Spencer, buy their roast potatoes  seasoning (its divine). Now peel your potatoes and per boil them, per boil means just that, do not thoroughly cook them. Drain the water and season with just the Marks and Spencer seasoning now give it a shake and roughen up the edges for that crisp taste. Leave to one side. Now pour some oil in your baking tray, you must use a shallow tray for this. You need the heat to be high, very high, this is the trick to get it crunchy on the outside but fluffy on the inside! so turn it up Highhhhhhh! I usually roast on maximum heat. Once the oil is piping hot and I mean it must sizzle! now tip your potatoes in,  spread them around and roast till brown on the same high heat, turning at least once,  it always turns out delicious.

Vegetables – whichever tickles your fancy, I love peas and carrot but seriously I’m not going to teach you how to prepare vegetables!! (Steam don’t boil).  If you do try, and love this recipe please thank me on the blog!!

Coleslaw – please stop buying supermarket coleslaws! bloody hell – grate your carrot and cabbage, add a bit of onion, add mayoinase full fat, a dollop of salad cream, a pinch of salt, and my secret is a dash of honey mix all these together and you will thank me!!

Come on girls and boys, try this next Sunday!!

let me feed you

Peppered Stew

Last year we celebrated my husband’s 40th birthday with close friends and family dining and partying the entire weekend. We ate food far removed from the Nigerian Cuisine; perfectly cut pieces of steak, timed to cook to perfection.  There was no such  serenren this year. Instead, I  cooked Nigerian food, for him and his squash buddies.  They dined on beef that had been boiled, fried, and stewed. They ate pieces of meat which didn’t look dainty or pretty; Bokoto, Saki, Ahan, Ofun, fuku, edo!  That’s cow foot, tripe, tong, liver, kidney and so on! I used to be embarrassed as a teenager having to explain to my non-Nigerian friends why there were pieces of chicken foot in my mum’s plate! Now I love the way Nigerians hold on stubbornly to eating every edible part of a cow; ignoring the irritating vogue of cling filmed meat looking perfect in supermarkets . I now proudly tell my non-Nigerian friends that ‘we’ respect the importance of living sustainably, ‘it’s not all about recycling bottles you know’, we eat everything – waste not, want not, we are deep like that.

So I immerse myself in Nigerian cooking and God knows its long!  boiling, frying and stewing! I left out the assorted meat shhhhhhhhh but I am not a huge fan of tripe, tong, liver etc, except for Oxtail! I will blow my healthy eating habits completely, adding palm oil here, knor there, frying the fish, frying the gizzard. I even found ogiri in the market (fermented pumpkin seed), now that will go in my efo and peppered stew.  On the menu is Efo elegusi, peppered stew, fried and stewed fish, oxtail, dodo and gizzard. If you are reading this and you have never experienced Nigerian food, you are dulling! When I cook I come correct, with passion.  For me cooking is an expression of love, of friendship and a desire to see others pleasured. Good cooking is like good sex, you just can’t rush it. So when people ask me for my recipes I will share it freely. But the secret ingredient I can’t give you is patience and timing, people are always looking for short cuts;  one night stands, easy money, friends with benefits, sugar mummies. Good food like good sex or any lasting relationship needs time. Fine Nigerian dishes need a solid foundation and that’s simply fresh and fine ingredients (cheap ingredients taste cheap). And remember,  patience and timing. People often ask how I make my peppered stew, some call it red ayamase, the one with eggs, they can’t quite believe the simplicity of this stew; simple ingredients cooked slowly in palm oil for up to two hours or more; don’t  just throw things in the pot, marinate it, build it up; cooking need not be complicated.

Recipe peppered stew

Ingredients

  1. Mixed Peppers –  Red and Green
  2. Scotch Bonnet – To taste
  3. Onions – Red and White
  4. Plum or chopped tomatoes – a can
  5. Ogiri – a smidgen
  6. Blend all the above ingredients.
  7. Heat your palm oil, be as generous as you dare. However, you must, must heat it slowly, with the lid covered ((this is important for flavour) for up to an hour or two. It must be on low heat or else you will burn the palm oil.
  8. Now pour your peppered mixture in and cover and cook for another two hours – it requires patience.

Your meat

  1. Buy a cut that lends itself to slow cooking, we Nigerians like to murder the meat after its dead but stay with us, it taste sooo good. Leg of Beef is the cut you need. Season it with Knor and onions only, boil and fry – deep fryer yields the best result.
  2. Pour some or all the stock in your cooking pepper mixture above, cook it some more, now wait  until you see palm oil floating on your peppered stew – its ready, now pour in your fried meat and switch off the cooker immediately.
  3. Boil your eggs and use as garnish. Thank me on the blog!!