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Cooking at GTBANK Food & Drink Fair

On stage after my masterclass 

It was a spectacular feast in Lagos, Nigeria, where I was invited by GTBank to host a masterclass. This was a special event in its second year, where sme’s and wonderful African and Nigerian made food and drink is celebrated. 

What an honour it was to share my recipes with everyone, especially over five hundred of whom sat in the theatre for my masterclass. It was the perfect season for fresh fruits especially mangoes which starred in my recipe and will star in my menus all summer, as I do love cooking with such wonderful and seasonal fruits.  

with co-chef Brian Malarkey of Top Chef & The Taste 

A host of wonderful Nigerian and international chefs and food personalities like Brian Malarkey, Jehan Powell, Raphael Oduntoye of La Petite Maison on Mayfair, Chef Eros and others hosted masterclasses to the delight of those who got those hot seats!

I cooked steamed fish in green leaves, my African inspired poisson en papillote, with a sweet and spicy mango purée and my ‘skinny’ spinach. I’ll be sharing the complete recipes soon. You will love it especially for a light yet flavourful summer feast. In the meantime enjoy my little video. 

Click here to watch my cooking masterclass on Ndani TV https://youtu.be/D_CYSEl9gTQ

Quinoa Jollof for The Guardian

Nutty & sumptuous, this recipe using wonderful quinoa instead of rice as commonly used in Jollof Rice is a true delight. This is one of my absolute favourites, eaten as a salad with mixed leaves, with a roast or as a vegetable stuffing. A great substitute is couscous or fonio, but couscous is much lighter and absorbs liquids in a different way. Whatever you can do or eat with rice, you certainly can with quinoa. You just might prefer it!

See the recipe in my Guardian ng column and do share how you get on.

https://guardian.ng/features/food-and-drinks/leratos-jollof-quinoa-for-easter/

I also shared this recipe with spiced broccoli, cod baked with grains of paradise in an interview with the BBC.

Listen here:

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Cooking on the BBC

Listen to my interview, sharing African delights live on the BBC

Mark Carter of BBC Sussex & BBC Surrey feasting on Jollof Quinoa, Cod with Grains of Paradise & Suya Spice Roasted Broccoli

I was invited as a guest on the Fell Good Friday show on BBC Sussex & Surrey. I cooked and fed the presenter who made me feel most welcome, making it one of the most fun interviews I have had. He said this was the first time they had someone representing African food as it is still regarded as ‘new’. African food is far from being new, it is not widely understood and appreciated, and I hope to feed as many people to seduce them with its rich history and wonder. From influencing food and culture in the Carribean, Brazil and as far as United States of America, African food is at the helm of a lot of modern civilization. 

It feels strange listening to this now, as I cringe when I have to listen to or watch myself, quelles hereur!  It was such fun and as always, heartwarming to feed someone who was meeting me for the first time. My husband listened to it live in his office and my mother couldn’t figure out the app and has been itching to listen. When I was on television in Nigeria, she would wake up at 5am, go jogging and be back in time to catch me on the breakfast show at 6am. She tries to buy every newspaper with my recipes and tells everyone who cares to listen about her child who loves to cook. 

I hope I continue to make her proud, I hope to share more about African food with you all, and I hope you enjoy my little chat! 
Lerato x

Happy International Women’s Day #BeBoldForChange 2017

I love Women! Incredible women like my mother who nurtures me, still, who teaches me to be wise, delicate yet powerful, empowers me to be ambitious…the wonderful women I meet on my journey, from the mango tree market in Kodo village, in Northern Nigeria, to the Shea butter co-operatives I discover and the hardworking women farming and creating foods that inspire and nourish my body, mind & soul!

My mother in the distance, haggling away with these wonderful women. 

She’s an icon!

The woman selling mangoes by the bushes, pounding away to feed her children, to secure their future. 

#BeBoldForChange 

# IWD2017 

I pray for us all to reach within for the incredible strength we were created with to inspire, to teach, to lead and to nurture.

This year the campaign theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange

Be the change that you want, by being fair, ambitious, supportive and inspiring. Be bold, be brave and be the strong woman you were born to be!

💓Happy International Women’s Day to all women of the world!

Akara (Black Eyed Beans) Pancakes

One of the joys of cooking is cooking for others. Knowing that someone will be happily fed and nourished by eating something created with such love and attention is ever so rewarding. Passing food around a table, with guests sighing, until that brave person reaches out for more only to realise it’s all gone, these and much more are cherished memories of sharing food with family and friends.

As a child, I did more eating and sharing than cooking, but now I enjoy the best from those childhood days combined with hosting duties as an adult, and no ordinary one, but one who cooks for a living. Much is expected of me and I always look forward to such moments when I can make people happy by feeding them well. I often cook treats that take me back to wondrous childhood days, happy days of innocence and joy. One of such memorable treats is, ‘àkàrà’.

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A bahiana frying akara on the street

These deep fried balls of mashed black-eyed beans, onions, peppers, and spices, are nostalgic of Sunday mornings after church; with its warming aroma wafting around the house. I remember running to the kitchen, impatiently asking, “hmm…where is the akara? stealing one when the cook turned his back and running upstairs to feign hunger, as we were not allowed to have any until they were served on the table. Akara is a popular treat in West Africa, specially made by the Yoruba people in the Southern parts of Nigeria. It is called kosai by Hausa people of the North, and kosee by Ghanaians. Palm oil is usually added or used to fry the batter but more people increasingly use plain vegetable oils. Akara is also a popular street food in Brazil, one of many lasting traditions that migrated with African slaves,  who formed a large part of the Brazilian society. Bahianas, as they are called, women of Bahia dressed in white with lovely head scarfs are famous for serving these, known as àcàràjé which in direct translation in the Yoruba language means, ‘come and eat àkàrà‘ from àkàrà + onje (which means food), while in some parts of Lagos, Nigeria, you can still hear the women calling out, àcàràjé!

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Moi moi with black-eyed bean stew, kale and grilled tiger prawns. A hit at my supper clubs.

Akara is the deep fried version of moi moi, which has more water added and steamed to form a pudding-like texture. This is such a popular dish at my Supper Clubs and a favourite of my vegan and vegetarian family members, friends and guests. I had been making akara pancakes at home but not until I made them as breakfast treats for a radio interview, did I realise they would also be so popular. It was first published in my food column in The Guardian ng. Beans are a great source of fiber and protein that keeps one fuller for longer. I prefer buying the readily peeled beans, which are easy to find in local middle eastern, halal grocers, or online. The flatter, lighter and less oily version of akara is wonderful with a variety of toppings, from roasted peppers, spring greens, salads, and dips. This recipe works a treat, a hearty savoury pancake that pulls at those heart strings, bringing back wonderful memories of a colourful and delicious childhood in Nigeria.

Try this recipe and call on others to share!

Àkàràjé!, Come and eat akara!

Akara Pancake with Stir-fried Plantain, Spinach & Peppers


Pan Fried Akara, Stirfried Plantain, Spinach & Peppers

Feeds 8 tummies | Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the Akara pancakes

  • 400g / 2cups dry black eyed beans
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 scotch bonnet, stalk removed & deseeded for less heat if preferred
  • 1 large bell pepper
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper/ chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground crayfish (optional – African crayfish or dried shrimps)
  • 2 large eggs (optional)
  • 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the Plantain, Spinach & Peppers Stir-fry

  • 1 stick of ripe plantain
  • 2 red bell peppers, stalks removed & chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, stalks removed & chopped
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 handfuls spinach, chopped or torn
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp of salt

Let’s get cooking!

  1. Wash the beans thoroughly and soak in a large bowl of water for one hour to overnight if you can, to soften even more. Wash the beans by rubbing a hand-full vigorously with both palms. Fill the bowl of beans with more water and carefully get rid of the skin, most of which will rise to the top of the bowl. Pour out the water, refill the bowl with fresh water and scoop out the skin as they rise to the top. Repeat this process until the beans are free of skin. I prefer to use ready-peeled beans.
  2. Pour the soaked and washed beans into a blender. For most household blenders, it is best to divide the beans into two portions in order to blend it all properly, smoothly and without ruining your blender. Add the onion, crayfish, remove the stalks of the peppers and add. Pour some water into the blender, using 240ml / 1 cup of water for the entire mix, ensuring a thick but moveable consistency in order for the pancake to cook properly. Pour into a large bowl and add the dry spices, and stock cubes. Stir and beat with a wooden spoon to incorporate air into the batter. Taste and add salt if needed.
  3. Prepare a large frying pan by heating it with a tablespoon of oil, well spread around the entire surface of the pan. Scoop a ladle spoon or two of the bean batter into the pan (thicker than regular pancakes). Swirl the pan around to evenly cover the surface and cook on low medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes. Cover the pan as the trapped heat will ensure the top of the batter starts to cook as well.
  4. Use a flat frying spatula to loosen the sides and bottom of the batter in order to flip it easily and successfully. The akara batter is far denser compared to eggs or pancakes so do not try flipping it in the air. Using one hand, tightly hold a round flat plate on top of the frying pan, ensuring it covers the entire surface of the pan. With the second hand, hold the frying pan and carefully turn the batter into the plate. Using a kitchen napkin, clean any sticky batter left in the frying pan, quickly return the pan to heat and add a tablespoon of oil to cover the surface. Carefully slide the batter (uncooked side down) back into the frying pan and cook with the lid on for another 3 4 minutes. Slide a toothpick into the batter to check for doneness. If it is very wet with sticky bits on the toothpick, the akara needs more time.
  5. If you have an oven and an oven safe frying pan, repeat the above steps until step 3, preheat the oven and bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 10 minutes. This way you can make more than one pan at a time and avoid staring at the akara for over 7 minutes each time. I really do not enjoy watching and waiting for food for a long period of time, as Id rather be eating it.
  6. For the topping, peel the skin of the plantain, cut the plantain into cubes, deep fry and set aside. In a large frying pan or wok, add a tablespoon of oil, cook the chopped peppers, onions and spinach for 3 minutes. Finally, add the fried plantain and seasoning. Stir and take off the heat. You can be as creative as want to with the toppings each time by adding your favourite vegetables and sauces to make this the most wonderful treat to remember.
  7. Serve the akara pancake, spread the topping onto it and cut into four to eight pieces just like you would a pizza. Grab a piece quickly because this treat wont last. Not ever in my house and I bet it wont in yours!

Have you tried this recipe? I’d love your thoughts in the comment box below, and do share your food stories with me on social media by tagging #leratolovesfood and if you have not, please subscribe to receive my recipes and more.

Food For Thought

It’s February and it feels like 2017 is only just starting for me. I know you must be thinking, “…how dare she post this when the month is almost over?!” At least I don’t have the guts to say, Happy Valentines’s day! Well…Happy Valentine’s day, today and everyday!

Last month was a bit of a blur as I entered the new year feeling rather poorly – a weak body but an energetic mind! I had eaten a lot of crap over the holidays: home-made french fries, fried sausages, leftover Christmas biscuits and lots of Ribena and not enough water. I was stress-eating and spiraling out of control while my mind was preoccupied planning my colourful menus for the various events and cookery classes I have coming up. Now I know what people mean when they say doctors don’t take their own advice or do they say doctors don’t take their own medicine? I certainly have not been feeding myself the best and starting now, things will change!

Some of us light the flame for the new year in January but fortunately for me, I think I may have lit mine last October when I began planning for the next year. I was eager to hit the ground running in 2017. All that planning paid off and feeling under the weather for much of January hasn’t set me back at all. I find that when we plan with a bit of foresight, we are more likely to be successful, as well as minimize stress.

In 2006 I pushed back a lot of fear and anxiety and embarked on a journey to bring my cooking to the plates and hearts of many. I started supper clubs in London and Brighton, called WILD AFRICA, and cookery classes at the in Eastbourne. They have been a huge success but also a good learning curve. I have to be so much more than the head of my kitchen, but also a great host and after a few bumps along the way I got better at it and this year even better with a great team to support me, wonderful friends, family, guests and clients. I thank you all. I recently got invited to share recipes and tales from the supper clubs on a BBC radio program. I will share more about it and the recipes on another post.

Part of eating well is also enjoying the best of the season. I am loving citrus fruits and have used them in my menus since Christmas. I served a lot of poached tangerines and clementines which are fading out of season making way for oranges. Citrus fruits can usually cope with the same treatment, poach them, bake them in cakes, use them fresh in salads, as long as tartness and sweetness levels are taken into account, with the exception of limes and lemons which are exceptionally tart. Cauliflower has shown its cloudy white head and what a versatile vegetable it is.

I am excited about kale and purple sprouting broccoli, which I intend to steam, grill, roast with every imaginable spice in my arsenal. My husband, Thurston and I do eat spinach quite regularly as seen here in my effortless fifteen-minute Garlic Prawns with Stir-fried Spinach, but I often prefer the coarseness and earthiness of kale, especially the Italian calvero nero variety.

Salmon, Pea & Pepper Puree, Braised Spinach & Lemon Turmeric and Scotch Bonnet Oil

I have a sumptuous recipe of Salmon, Pea & Pear Puree in my Guardian Nigeria column, using grains of paradise, a wonderful West African spice I adore for its spicy, earthy, yet floral bite. You simply must try it. Tell me, what have you been cooking this month and how are you using the seasonal produce wherever you are?

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. I love and appreciate when you share your food stories with me on social media by tagging #leratolovesfood and if you have not, please subscribe to receive my recipes and more. 

Spiced Chocolate Oat Truffles

It’s the season of love, with Valentine’s day knocking on our hearts and on our pockets. It can be quite the challenge for both singles and couples, scrambling for the perfect gifts, the perfect date, the perfect restaurant, and the perfect way to spend the day. I find that food can make it all better; simple, thoughtful home cooked food. Cooking for oneself or for someone else can be just as gratifying. So if you don’t have anyone to cook for, well…you do, yourself, and if you do have a partner, family or friends around, these easy spiced chocolate oat truffles are the perfect breakfast treat for breakfast on valentine’s day and on any other day. They actually require no cooking at all. They are so easy and quick to prepare. They are both energy balls and truffles at the same time, made with simple ingredients with a lot of room for your favourite healthy nuts, seeds and superfoods to make it truly yours.

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mixed and ready to be rolled

 

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dusted with fair trade dark cocoa powder

 

I made these on a whim while I was prepping for my supper club on 15th February in Brighton as a treat to serve after dessert. As usual, I have Mr. Tomato as my resident tester and taster, but he kept coming back for more, forcing me to make more. I made three batches of these spiced chocolate oat truffles before I protested against spending my entire day making these while he ate them all. He loves, I love them and I love him, and so this will now be a staple in our home. It could be yours too.

Happy Valentine’s day!

 Let me know what you think of this recipe or share your favourite ways to customise it by leaving comments below and you can also share your photos with me on Instagram with #leratolovesfood

Spiced Chocolate Oat Truffles

Feeds 2 – 8 tummies

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 400g /4 cups of oats 
  • 200g / 1 1/8 cup pitted dates
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g 70% dark chocolate
  • 100ml oat cream / double cream
  • 3 tbsp fair trade cocoa powder

 

Let’s get cooking!

  1. Ensure your dates are pitted, as you don’t want to bite into the hard seeds in the center. If the dates are dry, soak them in warm water for 1o minutes, and then blitz in a food processor. Pour the sticky blitzed dates into a bowl with the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder.
  2. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and set aside. In a saucepan, gently heat the double cream. Just as it starts to steam and before it bubbles up, take off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Leave for a few minutes to melt and then stir. Add the chocolate ganache to the bowl of oats and spices and mix well until all the oats are coated in chocolate.
  3. Use a teaspoon to scoop the spiced chocolate oat mixture into your palm. Roll into balls and place in a clean oven tray or baking dish. It will get messy, so rub your hands with some coconut oil to keep things slick and not sticky. Once you have rolled them all, sprinkle the remaining cocoa powder all over the rolled spiced chocolate oats, starting with one tablespoon all, and lightly shake to coat them.
  4. Cover with clingfilm or foil and place in the refrigerator to set. It will be just right to eat after 15 minutes. You can keep them dry in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Just try not to eat them all in one go! Try hard!

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. I love and appreciate when you share your food stories with me on social media by tagging #leratolovesfood and if you have not, please subscribe to receive my recipes and more. 


 

‘How to become a supper club host.’ with Tabl.

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Wild Africa Supper Club in Brighton

 

I am on a mission to feed Britain wonderful African food. No! I am not force feeding you plantains, jollof rice, and peanut stew, but I am slowly but surely sharing my approach to African cooking by sharing all that I have grown up with and what I continue to learn. African food remains such a mystery amongst many despite the large Afro-Caribbean and African population in the United Kingdom. I have been hosting supper clubs from Sussex to London, teaching cookery classes and hosting private events for individuals and organizations that want to experience African spice and culture. It is the most fulfilling thing to me and I cannot imagine a different life. I meet lots of different people who inspire me through their own stories and experiences. By eating and understanding African culinary history, traditions, and flavours, we can easily include and adapt them to all other recipes and diets. If you love chocolate, you already love African food, as a large amount of the world’s cocoa is grown in Ivory Coast.

 

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A night at my seafront supper club

The lovely people at Tabl, a community of food lovers, spoke with me about my food journey and especially how to become a supper club host. I shared tips I picked up after a few pitfalls and my approach to hosting which ensures I and my guests have a wonderful time together. Every day is more successful than the last because I get to share food with more people and after every event, I learn more about becoming a successful cook, and supper club host.

I hope my little chat sheds more light into our extraordinary supper club world that is sweeping across Britain and the world, and I hope it inspires you as a cook, chef or as a food lover who just wants to dig in and eat!

READ MY INTERVIEW WITH TABL HERE

READ HERE for more on my supper clubs, cookery classes, and events.

Wild Africa Supper Club in Brighton

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After moving  to Sussex, I have completely fallen in love with seaside living on the south coast. The wonderful sea breeze and the slow pace of life I find are most inspiring for writing and dreaming up wonderful food that I want to eat and share with everyone.

I started hosting supper clubs in London with African Afternoon Tea, inspired by my experiences, family and environment. I create a marriage of cuisines, full of indulgence; a celebration of African provenance, featuring Ghanaian cocoa, Ugandan organic vanilla beans, West African nut butters, wonderful spices such as grains of paradise and selim, hibiscus flowers, with exquisite teas from Malawi, Kenya and South Africa alongside seasonal, local and well sourced ingredients. Late last year I started hosting supper clubs in Brighton in an intimate location on the seafront sharing a feast of contemporary African recipes from my column in The Guardian Nigeria. 

To my knowledge this is the first and only African supper club in Brighton, and Sussex folk who come together to celebrate the wonders of Africa leave with a greater understanding of the diversity in African food. I have been featured in Good Things Magazine as ‘Finest Afternoon Teas To Try’the London Evening Standard and on the BBC, slowly but surely sharing all the wonderful food and traditions that make Africa such a rich continent.

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As seen in the London Evening Standard

African food is not widely eaten or understood outside Africa or by other cultures, and even Africans have a wealth of food from the diverse regions that they, that we are yet to explore! The world has no strong vision, taste or memory of what African food is or should be and I am cooking and writing to shape that. It brings me real joy to be able to bring people together in such divisive times; wonderful people who share a passion for food.

We will feast on a monthly changing menu with a wide selection of fruit and vegetable dishes. Vegans, vegetarians, and gluten free diets are well catered for as seen in my seasonal menu below.

Brighton is a wonderful seaside town with an eclectic food scene and I am happy and fortunate to be a part of it. Join me at my Brighton supper club and do check my supper club and events page for events in London. I look forward to sharing this adventure with you all and creating new traditions through our shared love for great food.

Lerato x

See here for more about our supper club, food and wine events, private dining and cookery classes. 

Venue and further details of each event will be shared with guests. Do contact me to discuss your dietary requirements, or to enquire about private dining, cookery classes, and demonstrations by emailing me on: lerato@leratolovesfood.com

A Citrus Christmas Treat: Honey Tangerines with Hibiscus Flower Syrup

 

Our Blurry Christmas Tree

 

It’s Christmas weekend! What a fantastic treat for us on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. And I know we are all looking forward to eating all the jollof rice, pies and roasts. I recently planned my own Christmas menu and I couldn’t resist the temptation to add more and more. 

My brother in law is sorting out pudding and as he is vegan he likes to get a special fruity pudding. Its so rich and moist with some oat cream which goes on top, but also very heavy after all that feasting.

And so, I have added a fruit dessert, a citrus Christmas treat which we can enjoy in-between meals or after pudding, with a bit of exercise dancing. As a child, I remember peeling a tangerine while holding it up to my face with my eyes closed. That refreshing spritz of citrus water always felt like a mini spa break., and even now it brings back such sweet memories. It is delicious, refreshing and the perfect palate cleanser.

A Citrus Christmas Treat

 

If you are in Africa then Tangerines will most likely be available, but in some countries tangerines are less popular, instead clementines are common because they have little or no seeds. Substitute with what you have, oranges are also as delightful.

The Hibiscus Flower Syrup is not really a syrup in the sense that it is not one part water and one part sugar as a syrup recipe calls for. In Nigeria Hibiscus flowers is known as Zobo and is enjoyed as a drink or tea. I love to use it for sweet and savoury syrups and glazes for cakes, meat or fish. I just love the dark crimson hue extracted from the dried leaves.

Tangerines are already quite sweet, clementines are less sweet, so this recipe really allows you to tailor the ingredients to your preferred taste. Add more or less honey to suit you, and use sugar if you don’t have honey. But honey is far more delicious I can assure you. Make this Citrus Christmas Treat your own and enjoy it with family and friends.

Honey Tangerines with Hibiscus Flower Syrup 

For 6 – 8 tummies
Preparation time: 20 minutes to 1 hour

Ingredients

10 – 12 tangerines or clementine, peeled & separated

1 tbsp dried hibiscus leaves

500ml water

Juice of two lemons

5cm / a thumbsize ginger, peeled and grated

3 – 4 star anise

1 cinammon stick


½ tsp lemon zest


2 tbsp honey


4 basil leaves, chopped


Let’s start with the hibiscus brew. On medium heat bring a small pot to the boil with 500ml of cold water. Rinse the hibiscus leaves and add into the pot. Also add the tangerine peels, ginger, star anise and cinnamon stick. Once hot, turn heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to steep for up 20 minutes. Using a sift with tiny holes, drain the liquid and discard the peels and leaves. Save the cinnamon stick and cloves and place in a bowl.

Add the honey, lemon juice, chopped basil and lemon zest. If the honey is thick, mix it with a tablespoon of hot water before adding to the steeped hibiscus liquid. Mix well and add the tangerines into the liquid. You can serve immediately, in small bowls or cute little glass cups. But the longer the fruit sits in the hibiscus syrup, the more it will absorb its yummy honey, citrus flavours. You can add a dash of brandy or your favourite liqueur to it.

Oh! I cannot wait to finish off Christmas lunch with this!

HAVE A HAPPY CHRISTMAS, WITH LOTS OF JOY, PEACE, LOVE AND DELICIOUS FOOD!

From my family to yours!

xo