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!

 

Bara and Channa (Doubles)

Yes Bara and Channa: the original street food of Trinidad. I soon learnt on my first trip to Trini, not to buy Bara and Channa from just anyone!

My Dad and I still laugh about it to this day how we would drive 45 minutes away from my Uncle’s home, in the south, to buy fresh bara (bread) and channa (chick-pea) from a middle aged lady who made it straight from her isolated hut, passing many other vendors along the way. This lady’s bara was made right before our dry eyes and watering lips rather than fried beforehand and left to steam in a hot pan waiting for the first customer. The best bara is slightly crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle with a mild curry flavour.

This wouldn’t be a true hot sandwich without the condiments: the Anchar (pickled mango chutney), the tamarind sauces and the cool cucumber salad. If you follow this recipe correctly, you will also have the most lightest fluffiest bara you could ever want: easy to slice into a pocket or sandwich two bara’s together with a serving of curried channa, hence the name ‘doubles’.

It’s a messy sandwich to eat at times, but that’s all accepted as no compromise is made on taste! It’s quick, tasty and your sure to have another (doubles!) Ok here endeth the puns!

Bara and Channa (Doubles)

INGREDIENTS

Bara

2 cups strong white bread flour

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp instant yeast

1/3 Cup warm water

1/4 tsp Sugar

Oil for frying

 

Curry Channa

1 tin of Chick Peas (keep the salted water for later)

3 cloves Garlic crushed

1/2 medium Onion – grated

2 Spring onions – finely chopped

1 tbsp of Sweet red pepper (finely chopped)

1-2 tbsp of Patak’s Madras Curry paste (or Chief Curry Powder)

1/2 tsp of Cumin powder (Geera)

1 tbsp Olive oil

 

Cucumber Chutney 1 Cucumber – finely sliced

2-3 Garlic cloves

Juice of 1 Lime

1/2 tsp of Scotch bonnet pepper

1/2 tsp Brown sugar 1-2 tbsp of freshly chopped Coriander.

 

‘Tambran’ Tamarind Sauce see recipe here

 

METHOD

Bara

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, turmeric.

  1. In a separate small bowl place the warm water, sugar and yeast, stir and leave to foam for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the yeast mixture to the flour to make a slightly firm dough.
  3. Knead it for 3 minutes and then place in an oiled bowl, covered with a damp cloth and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours (in a warm place preferably, not in direct heat).
  4. When the dough has risen, take the dough and punch the air out of it on a floured surface.
  5. Divide the dough into 8-10 pieces and then shape each piece into a tight ball. Again place the dough balls under damp cloth and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Then with a bowl of warm water, moisten your fingers take a dough ball and flatten it to a round base, 4 or 5 inches in diameter.
  7. The dough should still be moist at this time. You should be able to fit only 3 in the frying pan to give you an idea of their size. Take a frying pan and fill it with 2″ of oil. Heat the oil to a medium – high heat. place 3 of the bara’s in the oil, it should take no more than 30 seconds to cook each side, the bara. Place the bara in a warm oven will you fry the rest.

 

Curry Channa

  1. Take the onions, garlic and red pepper with the oil and fry gently in a saucepan. The onion may take a while to fry, as you have grated it and so some of the water would have to dry out. This should take 2 minutes.
  2. Then add the curry paste or powder, cumin, lower the heat and fry with the onions for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Then add the drained chick peas to the curry mixture and stir the peas in so that the curry coats the peas completely. Allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Then slowly add the chick pea water, you may not need all of it, just enough to get the right consistency, I used about 3/4 of the water. Season to taste. Allow it to simmer slowly for another 5-8 minutes.

 

  1. Cucumber Chutney Take all the ingredients, grated, crushed and juiced, stir them lovingly into a bowl. Season to taste if necessary.

 

Copyright 2015 – all rights reserved.

Guyana: Paratha Roti

Oil-roti, buss-up-shot, Dhal puri. Some of the names I have grown to associate with the iconic national dish of both Guyana and Trinidad. From the Street Vendor in San Fernando to the Blue Hut on Mount Irvine Beach in Tobago, Roti is enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. The hardest task I have found however was not in the consuming, but finding someone who could do it well (or as well as my Mother…as we would all say). And I’m sad to report that those places and people are very few and hard to find. Many make the mistake of preparing Roti much like chapatti or some other flat bread, which is fine to those who don’t know any better, but to those who can sniff a good Roti from a far off it won’t be enjoyed as well.

The key to making a good Guyanese Paratha Roti is letting the dough rest adequately between each stage. The ratio of baking powder to flour is equally important. It’s also important that you use the right utensils. IMG_6930A Tawah (flat iron griddle) is what is used to cook the Roti on for the best results. There are several other stages not to mention the filling which varies if you are making Dhal Puri roti or simply oil-roti (plain). But essentially it is a tedious process, but once you get the hang of it its a really convenient side dish that can be stored in the freezer and used whenever you want to.

If you would like details of the recipe below, feel free to e-mail me: lovelorettaskitchen@gmail.com and I will be sure to send you the detailed directions (with step by step pictures).

Copyright © Ranette Prime and Love Loretta’s Kitchen, 2014. All Rights Reserved.