Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Potted Pineapples

Growing your own pineapples is quite easy when one lives in a warm or tropical country because pineapples love sunshine! But even in cooler climes it can be accomplished if one has a greenhouse or a sunny corner in the home.

To start you need a good tasting pineapple, not one which is too tart. It should be fully ripe. Next a flowerpot of about 20 cm (8 inches) diameter and potting soil. Cut off the top of the fruit with about 2 cm of the flesh included. Scoop a little from the soil to accommodate the size of the cutting. Press the cutting firmly onto the soil and cover all around with the soil you removed. Then water just enough for the soil to be moist. Place in a sunny position and keep plant just moist, not letting it dry out.

Initially the leaves will start wilting before new growth occurs and eventually they dry up completely. By then new leaves should have sprung up strong and sturdy. You will also notice a difference in colour compared to the old leaves.

The plant in the photo is now about 3 months old and I hope I will soon see a sign of a new fruit. Some years ago I was successful in harvesting my own fruit from such cuttings but they were planted in open soil which is more beneficial to the plants. Now I have no garden and have to grow what I want in containers.

I would love to hear from anyone who has successfully grown a pineapple in a pot with a delicious fruit as reward! While mine is still in the process of growing it is time to transplant it into a larger pot to give it the needed room for good growth.

Three months old pineapple plant



Sunday, 23 July 2017

Let's Make It A Date!


In my last post I promised the recipe for my date paste or puree which is an excellent substitute for sugar in baked goods. It is likewise good on a slice of bread and butter instead of jam. Maybe it can be used to sandwich cookies together or use it as filling for donuts Once you taste it other options will surely come to mind!

This post will be a bit lengthy, so let me start with the main ingredient, namely dates. The second ingredient is water and nothing else. Other items required are a bowl or two, a saucepan, cooking spoon, paring knife, a nylon sieve ( metal gives the puree a not so nice taste and also affects the colour ), jam jars or preserving jars and a wide-mouth funnel.


Raw dates 
I buy my dates locally from the market and usually they are really dry and hard, so they can't really be properly enjoyed until they get some TLC treatment.

Dates soaking in warm water

Put the dates in a bowl and cover with very warm water, not hot! Allow to soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how hard they were to start with.
All seeds removed


Use the paring knife to cut the dates open lengthwise to remove the seeds. If dates are still too hard allow them to soak some more.


Place deseeded dates in your saucepan and cover with water. Cover with lid and bring to boil. When boiling, reduce heat to low and remove lid. Allow water to evaporate until you have just 3 or 4 spoonfuls of liquid left which should be a rich brown colour and look rather syrupy. The dates should be very soft now. If not add extra boiling water and again allow liquid to reduce.

Remove from heat and drain off the syrup and set aside. Allow dates to cool a little, then place in  a food processor and process until smooth, adding a little of the reserved liquid to soften the paste. 


Processing the dates

Now is tasting time. If you are satisfied with the texture you can fill the paste into the sterilized jars and seal, using a funnel for convenience. But I find that the skins of the dates don't quite disintegrate, so I add another step to get it really smooth like a proper puree. Turn the lot into a sieve and use a wooden cooking spoon to press through.
Pressing paste through sieve
That way you get a super smooth puree! Fill your jars  just up to the neck and seal with the lid. The puree will keep like this in the fridge for 4 - 6 weeks. To keep for longer storage use a simple preserving method. Choose a pot with a well fitting lid, large enough to hold your jars with at least 3 cm head  space and wide enough so the jars will not touch each other. Place a folded dishtowel on the bottom of the pot, fill with water and bring to boil. Using tongs, place the jars in the pot and bring water back to boil. Water should cover the jars completely. Reduce heat to medium and boil for 10 minutes. Place folded dishcloths on a work surface and carefully add your jars. Let them cool completely before labelling and storing. 

Please, let me know your verdict after you make it. 


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Anya's Muffins

 Since my last post a lot of things have happened to me healthwise. I am not going into gory details, but just want to say that the removal of the gallbladder requires some re-assessment of one's dietary habits. So, now in addition to creating a heart friendly/ diabetic meals for hubby, I have to plan my own with a serious reduction in fats and an increase in fresh fruits and veggies.

In the last couple of months I have designed a few smoothies which I greatly enjoy and take every day as my breakfast. They must be good because my young granddaughters want a share whenever they see me sipping mine!

The recipes for them will come in a later post. Today I will give you a recipe which will indulge your sweet tooth but has no sugar (good for hubby), low in fat (good for me) but rich in taste which is good for everybody!

INGREDIENTS:

2 - 3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 Tbsp date paste (recipe will follow in next post)
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
10 - 12 Tbsp milk (keep 2 or 3 Tbsp milk back)
-------
1 cup plain flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup tiger nut flour (or any other nut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp rum (optional)

METHOD:

Lightly grease a muffin tin for 12 pieces. Preheat oven to 180 C.
Mash bananas with a fork and place in a large bowl. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Sift all dry ingredients and add to bowl. Mix by hand or an electric whisk until well combined. Dough should fall in a heavy ribbon from spoon when lifted, if too solid, mix in the remaining milk.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion dough  into muffin tin. Makes 12. Place in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. An inserted toothpick should come out clean when muffins are done. Let stand in the tin for a couple of minutes then remove to a cooling rack.

Another option is to use the same ingredients to bake a cake instead of muffins. For this you use a loaf tin which has been greased and floured. Bake at same temperature for 40 - 45 minutes.

Bon appetit!




Thursday, 23 March 2017

More Baked Akara!

After making a baked version of akara with yeast I experimented using baking powder instead. For the first attempt I only substituted the yeast (see previous post) with 1 tsp baking powder. The mixture baked well and was tasty but a little dry. So I decided to reduce the amount of water and add egg instead. It worked!

Since I was expecting a few guests I decided to make a double portion to surprise them. Here is the recipe which will yield two dozen beancakes:

INGREDIENTS
3 cups bean flour
2 cups water maximum
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 large onion
1 large tatase or 2 scotch bonnet peppers
4 Tbsp olive oil or any other good quality vegetable oil

PREPARATION
Grease 2 muffin tins lightly and set aside.
Preheat oven to 180C or gas 4
Finely chop onion and peppers, removing seeds. Heat oil in a small pan and saute onion and pepper for a few minutes on medium heat until onions become translucent and the oil turns red from the pepper. Turn off heat and allow to cool a little.
Meanwhile mix all dry ingredients in a fairly large bowl then whisk in about half of the water. Next add the eggs whisking to incorporate thoroughly. Next whisk in the onion, pepper and oil. Gradually add more water until mixture has a good dropping consistency. You might not need all the water..
Using a scoop divide mix equally between the two muffin tins to obtain 24 muffins. Bake immediately for about 15 minutes.Test for doneness with a toothpick; toothpick should come out clean and dry. Remove from tins and cool muffins slightly on a wire rack before serving or cool completely and freeze, wrapping each in foil to prevent them drying out. To reheat, place in a steamer for 10 minutes. Enjoy!











Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Baked Akara!

Akara in Yoruba and Kose in Hausa, these deep fried bean cakes are enjoyed all over Nigeria. Traditionally they are made from dried black-eyed beans or honey beans, soaked overnight and skins removed. Then they are put through a grinder with onion, salt, tatashe ( a large type of hot pepper) and maybe one or two other ingredients, depending on locality.
Then oil is heated in a large basin and the mixture is dropped in by the spoonful, turned over once or twice and fried until golden brown. When done they are drained on newspaper which does take up the excess oil to a certain extent. Finally wrapped in fresh newspaper the akara are sold to the waiting customer.

For a long time I was racking my brain how to recreate the deliciousness of akara without the process of deep frying, because any food saturated with fat is an absolute taboo for anyone with heart problems, high cholesterol and/or diabetes. So a healthy version was needed, especially since beans are highly recommended for anyone with these conditions..

So I tried baking the mix with the addition of baking powder but all I got was a soggy mess. After several attempts I gave up. Then I stumbled on some bread recipes made with bean flour and that triggered a few flashing light bulbs! 

This time my experiment turned out to be a winner! Therefore I will share my recipe so that anyone with health concerns can enjoy their akara!

Ingredients:
1 cup bean flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water 
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dried active yeast plus a pinch of sugar
1 Tbsp regular flour
1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 small hot pepper (I used Scotch Bonnet), seeds removed and finely chopped

Other items:
mixing bowl
whisk, wooden spoon
measuring cups and spoons
small jug for the water
muffin tin, greased
saute pan

Method:
Sift the two flours together with the salt into the mixing bowl. Stir yeast and sugar into the water, cover and allow to stand for 5 - 10 minutes.
Meanwhile heat the oil in the saute pan and gently fry the onion and pepper for a few minutes until onion is translucent. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
When just warm pour over the flour mix and stir in. Then add the dissolved yeast and whisk to get rid of any lumps.
Pour into the muffin tin, dividing batter equally, not more than half full for each. Cover with a dishcloth or a sheet of plastic and allow to rise for an hour or two in a warm place. The batter will not rise too much because bean flour does not contain many carbohydrates. The extra flour added will allow the yeast to lighten the batter. When ready the batter will have a spongy, mousse like texture and should have risen by half.
Preheat oven to 180 C - gas mark 4 - for 5 minutes, then place muffin tin on middle shelf and bake for 15 minutes. When a toothpick inserted comes out dry and clean remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving.
This quantity makes six akara, depending on the size of your muffin tin.  The recipe can easily be doubled. Any leftover bean cakes can be frozen and reheated in a steamer when needed.





Saturday, 4 February 2017

Make Your Own Yoghurt!

Many years ago a friend of mine in Kano told me how to make my own yoghurt which I have done off and on with good results. After a while flavoured yoghurt in little pots became fashionable and of course, the children preferred that. Later still real fruit was added, fruit which was not easily available in Nigeria and does not even grow here. Naturally one wants the best for the kids and I bought those as weekly treats.

Looking back I now know that this was foolish, expensive and quite unnecessary! So I want to encourage the younger generation to always provide the very best they can which in my opinion is always made at home.

Homemade, because one is totally in control of what goes into the product. In this case it is yoghurt, full fat, rich and creamy!

Just buy a pot of natural yoghurt without any added sugar and you are ready to start. You will need milk, a saucepan, a whisk, a jug for mixing, a container for maturing the yoghurt and a measuring gadget. A thermometer is not needed, your little finger will do nicely!

I have researched various recipes and I am sure they all work perfectly well but are not ideal for a hot climate. Therefore my method will give excellent results in sweltering conditions!

Measure 500 ml milk and put in your saucepan. Measure 120 ml (1/4 cup) of the purchased yoghurt and place in mixing jug. Put the saucepan on the fire for a few minutes. Dip your little finger into the milk to test. It should not be hotter than a baby's bath water! If it is too hot you have to allow the milk to cool down, otherwise you will get cheese instead of yoghurt! Another way to test is to dip a spoon into the milk and touch it to your lips. You will know it is too hot if you get a burning sensation. A little warmer than lukewarm is alright. Remember we are in the tropics and a little heat goes a long way!                                        

Yoghurt and milk mixture
                                                                                         
When you are satisfied with the temperature take 120 ml of the milk and add to the yoghurt, whisking to remove any lumps. When smooth, slowly add the remaining milk, whisking gently to distribute the yoghurt mix. Now pour into the container you have chosen and put the lid on. In a warm kitchen the yoghurt will have set in four hours. Average temperature in my kitchen is between 30C-35C(86F-95F).
       
The setting stage
                                                                                                                                                   

Yoghurt is set and ready to be placed in the fridge
                                
When chilled, serve with chopped fruit of your choice. Good options are sliced bananas, cubed mangoes or pawpaw. Instead of milk, this yoghurt could be used for muesli or cornflakes with some fruit added, so no extra sugar is needed!  
                                                        
Don't forget to keep some for the next batch!                                                                                                                                                  
                                                                    

Sunday, 29 January 2017

It's Apple Compote This Time!


Instead of apple puree for your pancakes you could make an apple compote instead. No additional sugar is used, which makes it quite healthy.




You will need 3 to 4 tasty apples for 6 to 8 small pancakes. Peel the apples, cut into quarters and remove the core. then cut into smaller pieces, about 2 cm square. Place in a suitable pan, then add


a handful of raisins or sultanas and a little cassia bark, or if you prefer use 1/2 stick of cinnamon.


Also add 1 tbsp of water and 1 tbsp of lemon juice plus a dollop of butter. Cover pan and bring to    boil. Remove cover and allow liquid to evaporate, by which time the apples should be soft. Now just   let the added butter do some caramelizing to give the apples a golden colour. Stir the fruit gently so  it wouldn't break up, making sure that all pieces are well caramelized.                                                      



Remove from heat and turn into bowl to cool. After cooling you might want to keep it in the fridge to chill until ready to use.                                                                                                                              


Finally arrange the pancakes, add the apple compote, serve and enjoy! You will find that additional sugar is really quite unnecessary in this recipe as well as in the previous ones!                                  

Bon appetit!                                                                                                                                          

Latest Post

Potted Pineapples

Growing your own pineapples is quite easy when one lives in a warm or tropical country because pineapples love sunshine! But even in cooler ...