Sunday 26 August 2012

Groundnut soup

groundnut soupThis week’s Sunday lunch was at B’s flat just below ours. B is from Mali originally and he cooked us a traditional dish from across most of West Africa, groundnut soup , which we ate with and ram meat stew with rice and plantains, all yummy. It is strange that here in Nigeria stews are called soups, and soups don’t really exist – but then what is a soup but a watered down stew!

Basically it is onions and tomatoes, tomato paste cooked in water with lots of  different seasonings – black pepper, salt, celery slat, ground bay leaves, dried fermented onion spice, sumbala and of course chilli or pepe as they call it here in Nigeria. No  oil is used . The vegetables or meat if you are using it are then boiled in this and finally the ground groundnuts are added or peanut butter is you shortcut the nut grinding stage and then cooked until it thickens. I first encountered this in Mali but didn’t get a chance to taste it until later. If you love groundnuts you’ll love this. If you’ve tasted SE Asian peanut dishes like Satay, then you should try this.

Friday 24 August 2012

Shortages in the land of plenty

Abuja has been in the grips of a fuel shortage now for just over one week. Long lines of 50 or so cars queue every morning at the filling station at the end of our road waiting to see if there is any fuel, while black marketeers tout round large yellow plastic containers with tubing to dispense their liquid gold. The crisis started just before the Eid Sallah holiday weekend and has continued all through the week with no sign of let up. Lots of rumour and conspiracy theories abound but meanwhile ordinary folks are hit hard. Last Friday when the crisis broke saw people stranded in town trying to get home at a reasonable fare. With what fuel there is being sold at 3 times its normal rate, taxi drivers have soared their prices, making it prohibitively expensive and blowing volunteers travel allowance. Luckily a colleague has come to the rescue and is driving  me to and from work: it means going in later than normal and leaving later but that’s OK for now.

Lots of rumour and conspiracy theories abound as to reasons, cause , resolution and normal service resumption dates – read  more from the Reuters news report. Unfortunately, such shortages are not uncommon in a country which is  produces 2.7 million barrels of crude oil per day and exports over 2.3 million barrels of that, making it the 14th largest producer worldwide and the largest on the African continent and the 6th largest exporter of oil worldwide.

Oil - exports - Ranking

Thursday 23 August 2012

La musique du desert


Just giving a blatant plug to the first album from a young Tuareg group, Dèran, which includes my friend Boubaker from Djanet. I first met him as a young lad who came to cook for us as we travelled in the Tadrart region of south east Algeria. As I discovered he played guitar and kept us entertained in the evening with Tinariwen songs and stories of wanting to make music to “welcome everyone to the desert”. He comes from a long line of Tuareg musicians including his mother who is an imzad player. Now as a young man his band have cut their first album I hope they can get it played and release through one of the internet agencies that specialises in this type of music such as Re-aktion. In the meantime here is a taster for you all to enjoy.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Fruit tasting

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I feel a series of posts on Nigerian food coming on!

One of my flatmates, Abbe, brought home an interesting fruit from the market. I’d seen these before but this was my first opportunity to eat it. The locals call them “sour sop”, although they are in fact very sweet and very juicy. The skins look horrid, avocado greenish in colour, with soft darkish spikes pitting the surface, but the inside the fruit is white with large black seeds, which I assume should not be eaten. My other flat mate< Candace,  decided she liked this fruit but for me it has the same ingredient of taste that many tropical fruits have, and which I don’t like. Guavas have it, noni have it, and sour sops have it. I can drink guava juice once processed so there must be some chemical reaction that takes place when the juice is processed that eliminates the taste. As with all new foods I always give them a try, and I can understand why folks love them, they are so juicy and in such a hot climate a sweet juicy fruit is a lovely thing to have.

Having tasted it and disliked it, the botanist in me then comes out and I have to find out what the proper botanical name is. My botanical skills are clearly still in  tact as I felt sure upon seeing the inside of the sour sop that it was like a custard apple. With a bit of investigation I find they are the same genus Annona. The sour sop is Annona Muricata, and the custard apple is Annona Reticulata, and the sugar pineapple, which I called a custard apple for want of its proper name all through my time in India, is Annona Squamosa . Small world!

Further investigation indicates there is definitely something about this botanical family, the Annonaceae,  as pawpaw which I also do not like belong here in the genus Asimina and perfumery uses another member Cananga odorata (ylang-ylang) which I also do not like.

I remember many years ago getting a freebie from a perfumery company client. It was a cluster map of the various woman’s perfumes, grouping them according to like perfume notes and constituents.  I need to find a similar one for tastes! A very similar fruit ,which was popular on some of the South Pacific islands we visited on the Soren Larsen, was noni. I didn't like that one either. I checked its botanical classification out thinking it might be within the same grouping, but it is not. However, I am shocked to learn that it is related to coffee, both members of the Rubiaceae! No wonder my body says yuck!