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Nigerian food is prepared from a variety of exotic meats, fruits and vegetables. In this section, I explain indigenous food ingredients and profile their chemical components and nutritional benefits. Some details of their processing and preparation are also provided.

Locust beans
locust beansAncient and very traditional condiment used in most parts of Nigeria. Very versatile and used in many dishes. Locally called irú, dadawa or dawadawa. Great tasting with very strong pungent smell which is off putting for some but desirable by many. Defines taste, appearance and flavour of dishes in which it is used. Rich in vitamins A,D & E.

Brown beans
Affordable source of protein. Widely eaten as an accompaniment to other dishes such as fried plantain, boiled rice or boiled yam. Cooked in a variety of ways including peeling, blending and steaming to make moin moin or ekuru or fried to make akara. Can also be cooked in a mash with rice or sweet corn. Two main varieties oloyin (with a naturally sweet taste) and olo1 and 2.

Ground smoked crayfish
Made by grinding smoked and dried crayfish into powder. Used to define the taste of vegetable dishes such as ogbonna, okra, ‘egusi’ and ‘efo riro’, desired for its flavour and aroma. Also available as a seasoning cube

Cassava granules
Fermented and toasted cassava granules (gari). Eaten as a snack by soaking in ice cold water with sugar and groundnuts. Also made into eba, one of the most commonly eaten staple food.

Suya mix
A blend of spices (typically cloves, garlic), herbs (dried thyme), roots (ginger), barks (believed to act as an aphrodisiac), chillis powder and groundnut paste (kulilkuli). Seasoning cubes and dadawa powder may also be added. Suya mix is used to make meat or fish barbeques

Plantains are a bigger variety of bananas. They are eaten and loved for their sugary taste especially when fully ripe. Can be cooked in their different stages of ripeness. A good source of minerals and slow release energy.
Fried as ‘dodo’, ‘crisps’ or ‘kelewele’, roasted as ‘boli’, dried and powdered into ‘elubo-ogede’ to make amala, boiled, or cooked with other vegetables such as beans. Stage of ripeness dictates best cooking method and dish it is made into.

Smoked, Dried or Stockfish
These are made by smoking or drying fish such as cod, hake, mackerel and catfish. They contribute flavour and texture to dishes as well as provide nutritional benefits such as protein, B vitamins, omega oil and minerals. In nutritional value, for instance, 1 stockfish is the equivalent of 4 fresh cod!
To use dried fish, they are first prepared by soaking in hot salted water. Thorough washing is also necessary. Preparing stockfish requires boiling to tenderize and soften it. Dried fish may be used in place of, or in addition to meat or fresh fish in some dishes. Stockfish is locally known as panla or okporoko

Derived from oil seeds of the bush mango. Typically used to thicken soups and widely desired for its taste and aroma. Rich in oil soluble minerals and vitamins.

Pepper Soup Mix
A combination of herbs, seeds, pods and spices (African nutmeg, aniseeds, alligator pepper, ground ginger and ground chilli) which creates one of Nigeria’s most enjoyed dishes. Branded pepper soup mixes are readily available but their contents vary. Typically high in chilli. Dominant components of pepper soup mix include achi, utazi, ‘scent leaves’, (efirin or bush basil), and African nutmeg, (kanafuru or ehuru).

Garden eggs
Also known as egg plant. There are different varieties but are typically white or green. Belong to same botanical family as aubergines. Eaten raw or stewed. Traditionally served to welcome visitors in Igbo land.

Ground Chilli Powder
Excess harvest of chilli peppers are preserved by sun drying and grinding into flakes or powder. Used in place of fresh chillis in cooking and for spicing up dishes or meals. Also used as a table condiment.

Pumpkin Leaves
Found mostly in the eastern parts of Nigeria. Locally called ugwu and used in a variety of dishes. Offers same nutritional values as most dark green leafy vegetable. Used in dishes such as edikang-ikang, egusi soup.

Scotch Bonnet
scotch bonnetUsed to give spice and heat to dishes. Has a pungent aroma which can be perceive during cooking. There are two main varieties, red and yellow. The yellow variety is thought to have slightly less heat and more of the pungent aroma which some prefer over the red variety. Chillis generally are nutritionally rich in minerals and vitamins A & C.
They are believed to have medicinal properties. Medical research shows they act as an effective decongestant, thin the blood and aid digestion. They should be used with caution. Removing the seeds before using is believed to reduce the heat.

yamYams are the main staple source of carbohydrate, they come in different varieties and used in a variety of recipes. Eaten pounded, roasted, boiled or chipped and served with vegetables. Yams are rich in vitamin C, minerals and high in fibre. The different varieties have a different appearance by which they are identified.
Yams can be boiled, roasted/baked or fried, like their European equivalent - potatoes. They are also dried and powdered into yam flour. The variety of the yam determines how best it may be cooked or processed. Native name(s) isu, doya.

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