Nigeria’s Secret: Suya Spice

I didn’t appreciate the nostalgic memories the ingredients which make up Suya Spice conjured  up for Nigerian’s living in diaspora, that is until this weekend at the door step of my home.

Suya (sooya) is West Africa’s shish kebab with a dry rub of nuts and spices. It is believed that Suya originated with the Hausa people (located in Northern Nigeria), nevertheless it’s popularity has spread and is now a visible part of Nigeria’s large towns and cities thanks to the many street vendors who work the grills till way into the night.

Suya is usually made with lean cuts of beef, however now that the spice has come into its own, it has been used to liven up roast potatoes and marinade chicken or fish for example.

So let’s breakdown some of the unique ingredients:

Kuli Kuli (peanut stick)

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The peanut flavour of Suya comes in the form of a fried ground peanut paste known popularly as ‘Kuli Kuli’ (see picture). When crushed, the kuli kuli  or peanut sticks turns into a smooth powder or peanut flour. In essence, kuli kuli is a peanut powder obtained through the extraction of oil from crushed peanuts. The nut powder is made into round peanut balls and then fried. Once cooled the nut balls are once again crushed to make the suya spice. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to get your hands on some kuli kuli from your local African market (mine were purchased in Ridley Market, Hackney).

If you can’t get your hands on any  then crush some roasted salted peanuts in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. A word of caution – you are NOT making peanut butter! I’m being very serious – try not to over process it into a peanut paste. If this happens, simply place the nuts into a tea towel and then press by placing a heavy chopping board or cast iron pot on top to ease the oil out. If that attempt fails, then be satisfied with Suya paste rather than powder which works just as well if you are using other fresh ingredients (such as onion, ginger and garlic). The trouble is it won’t last as long as the powder.

Negro Black Pepper (Udo) aka ‘SpiderLegs’

What do you call this spice in your language? I’m told it’s known as Uda in Igbo, Eeru in Yoruba and Chimba in Hausa. I prefer the nostalgic name ‘Spiderleg’ as used by my friend Alicia (who owns the Ghanaian Street Food Stall Chalé! (she serves very tasty Ghanian cuisine cooked by her very own hands every Sunday, Chatsworth Market, Hackney).

Now to get my hands on some ‘Spiderlegs’. In London. Right now. I had set myself up for the challenge, there were to be no substitutions, I mean after hearing so much about it, what could really replace the unique woody smell and peppery taste of the Uda pod? It put the ‘spice’ in Suya?! So I was told. I had to find out. It HAD to be somewhere in London with such a large Nigerian community, somebody’s Auntie had it. So I sent out a message on twitter, sounding like a right old novice:

“Can anyone help? I’m looking for these two ingredients: Kuli Kuli and Uda/ Negro Black Pepper”

Literally without exaggeration within 30 minutes, I was contacted by AfroExpress (a London based company that makes home deliveries of African groceries) with pictures of the said items they had sourced. Before 4pm the same day they were at my door with the ingredients! I couldn’t believe it! I burst the packet of ‘spiderlegs’ open (ok that sounds gross but stick with me) and the smell hit me: smoky, woody, dark, peppery pods. Then I opened the bottle of Kuli Kuli: intense nutty aroma. At last! The final pieces of the puzzle were now in place, it was time to assemble the spice blend:

 

INGREDIENTS

5 tbsp crushed Kuli Kuli (or crushed roasted peanuts)
5 tbsp ginger powder*
2 tbsp cayenne pepper flakes
10 strands of African Negro Pepper or Uda
2 tbsp garlic powder*
1 tbsp Smokey Paprika powder
2 tbsp onion powder*
1 small stock cube
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp salt

*If making a paste, substitute the powder for the fresh ingredients, using the same measurements

METHOD:

1. Start by crushing the Kuli Kuli in the spice grinder. Once you have a coarse powder, add the remaining ingredients, one by one. It might help to slice open the uda pods to help the breaking down process. If making a paste, follow the same process, in which case a food processor would be more appropriate.

2. The powder can be stored in a airtight container for up to 3 weeks, the Suya paste, no more than 2 days I would say.

Check back later where I will be sharing my version of Suya Popcorn Chicken!

 

Crispy Sweet Potato Chips…Every time!

I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy crispy sweet potato chips until now. Sweet Potato has a very high water content which is why it can’t naturally achieve the crispy status of a regular chip…without some help from its little friend corn starch.

The key to achieving ultimate crispiness is to eliminate moisture, so make sure you pat the potato sticks dry before adding the corn starch and seasoning and more or less toss them straight into the oven soon after that with only a drizzle of oil.

Crispy Sweet Potato Chips


Method

* Pre-heat oven to 425 F. (Gas Mark 7)

1. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch sticks leaving the skin on.

2.  Soak your fries in cold water for around 45 minutes to an hour for maximum crispiness! This draws  out the excess starch from the sweet potatoes, helping them to cook all the way through better so they are crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside without burning.

3. Drain the fries and allow them to dry on kitchen towel absorbing all the excess moisture.

4. Mix together cornstarch, rosemary, garlic salt  and salt. Add the fries to the mix and  seal the container and shake!

5. Place fries on baking sheet.

6. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt

7. Spread chips out on baking tray. Make sure they are not touching to achieve ultimate crispness.

8.Bake for 15 minutes. Turn over if necessary. Bake for a further 5 minutes.

Recipe inspired by Southern Fatty 

Grilled Onions w/ Pomegranate Molasses

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Pomegranate molasses (also called grenadine molasses) is a staple in the countries of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. I recently discovered this syrup whilst trying to replicate this roasted red onion side dish which often accompanies meals in Turkish Restaurants here in London. I was surprised at how sour and tangy the molasses was given the sweet dry taste of a pomegranate. I would only recommend buying a small bottle at first (which can be purchased from most Middle Eastern shops).

Once you get use to its flavour, I think it will become a stable in your pantry. You can use it as a substitute to honey for glazing meat, poultry or roasted root vegetables like carrots. But traditionally it’s used as a dressing in salads or relishes. To achieve the sweet and sour taste here, I added fresh pomegranate juice to take the edge off the molasses.

 

Grilled Red Onions w/ Pomegranate Molasses

  • Servings: 4-5
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Ingredients:

2 red Onions 1 white Onion cut into quarters.

Sunflower Oil Spray (for the grill)

2 Garlic Cloves

2 tbsp  Pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup Pomegranate juice

2 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses

Pinch of salt/ pepper

 

Method:

1. Put the grill pan on a high heat for about 3 minutes, then spray with oil.

Place the onion quarts on the grill for about 3 minutes per side or until it is well caramelized.

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2. Once both sides of the onion have been grilled, break up the segments to allow the onion to soften a little more.

3. Remove from the grill and leave the garlic on the grill to roast some more. Once soft remove from grill and mash with a fork.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the pomegranate juice, molasses and garlic.

When you are ready to serve, strain the juice through a sieve to remove the garlic and pour over the onions.

Add the pomegranate seeds as a garnish.

5. Serve as a condiment or with warm flat bread.

 

 

 

 

Salmon Kebab Sticks

IMG_7101Here marks the end of the stick it in the oven with a drizzle of lemon and pepper Salmon fillets. No more, and I mean it.  I have no problem with grilled Salmon any day of the week, especially if you want something quick after a long day that still tastes pretty decent with a simple side of potatoes or vegetables.

I bought some salmon earlier at the weekend and seriously that was all I had in mind; but as with life, we all need a transformation of some kind and so as I walked through the dreary aisles of Morrison’s Superstore I almost shouted:  “What about the salmon?!” So this post is dedicated to the beloved Salmon which has served us tirelessly and has been crying out for a make-over greater than being chunked, diced or smoked. He wants more out of life.

This recipe should take you no more than an hour. I took my time with this one only because I find cooking very therapeutic, but I’m sure it can be achieved in much less time. As with regular Salmon fillets, be careful not to over-cook them, you want to retain the juices, this often happens when you re-heat Salmon which sometimes can’t be avoided. Having said that I re-heated these for my lunch and they were fine.

Salmon Kebab Sticks

  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

2 skinless salmon fillets (480g)

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

1 tbsp Thai Green Paste

1/4 cup finely chopped red sweet peppers

1/4 cup freshly chopped Coriander

1 tbsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp garlic and ginger paste

Mini kebab sticks (optional)

1/2 black pepper

 

‘Basting’

1/2 tsp Tumeric Powder

4 tbsp Honey

1/2 cup hot water

 

METHOD:

  1. Take the salmon steaks and either roughly blend it in a food processor or mince it using a meat tenderiser and sharp knife on a chopping board. You want a mince like consistency.
  2. The breadcrumbs are formed from stale white bread of a crusty loaf of bread which you can slice and place in the oven for a few minutes to dry out slightly before blending in the food processor.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together adding the breadcrumbs little by little, you want the mixture to form a large ball.
  4. Shape the mixture into 8-10 balls and place in the fridge for 30 minutes, this will help the mixture hold together whilst cooking.
  5. Remove from the fridge and form the salmon into ‘tear drop’ shapes before piercing through with the kebab stick. Alternatively roll them into sphere’s on to a well oiled baking sheet or pan. Make sure you leave spaces between the kebab sticks whilst cooking.
  6. Place in a pre-heated oven a gas mark 5 for 15-20 minutes, turning the kebab sticks over if necessary.
  7. Half way through the cooking mix together the turmeric, honey and water, using a pastry brush, brush the kebab balls with the marinade before returning to the oven for the last 5 minutes.
  8. Serve with sweet mashed potatoes

All content and images copyright ©  2014 Ranette Prime – Love Loretta’s Kitchen