27 February 2011

Head to Nigeria with FOODalogue and Sample Some Chicken Suya with Cracked Wheat Salad

Suya with Cracked Wheat Salad
Nigeria is a large country located in West Africa whose name is taken from its namesake the Niger River, which plays an important part in the daily lives of those who live there. Not only is the river an important transportation highway, it is also an excellent source of fish, including carp, Nile perch, and catfish. It also provides much needed irrigation for cultivating crops. A large part of Nigeria lies in the tropics, where fruits are abundant. Some of the popular fruits we are familiar with are oranges, melons, grapefruits, limes, mangoes, bananas, and pineapples.  It seems that food would be be abundant but to put it into context, my Lonely Planet travel guide states that food in West Africa “is more a question of survival rather than enjoyment”. The "hungry season" is before the rains arrive in March, and the "season of surplus" follows the harvest in October and November. It would be a difficult place for a self-professed “foodie”.

Nigeria is the continent's most populous country as well as one of its most diverse. There are such a variety of people and cultures with each area having its own regional favourites that can depend on customs, tradition, and religion. With over 250 ethnic groups, the traditional dishes may vary from region to region, and some elements, like pork meat may not even be served in a Muslim family, while in others may be much appreciated. The different foods available also depend on the season.

Popular dishes of the area are jollof rice, dodo (fried plantains), fufu, or iyan (mashed yams), and moin moin (a bean pudding). Yams, cassava, rice and sorghum are common starches, while tomatoes, peppers, onions, peanuts and beans are important vegetables. Rich red palm oil flavours many dishes all washed down with a thirst-quenching  Zobo, a drink from hibiscus blooms.

I have read that people of northern Nigeria favour meat kebabs, and enjoy grain meals as side dishes. This is where the inspiration comes from for my foray into Nigerian cuisine with Joan of FOODalogue and her Culinary Tour 2011.

 Joan has been travelling virtually wherever her imagination takes us. Who wouldn't enjoy taking a journey around the world even if it is from the comfort of your favourite armchair?? We have already met up in Panama where we feasted on traditional dishes  and visited the markets, caught our own salmon and King Crab in Alaska, traversed the spice markets of Turkey, discovered over 2,000 years of "harmony" in Japan, explored hot,sour,salty sweet flavours in Thailand and explored ancient traditions in Egypt. As her final destination Joan has taken us virtually to Nigeria. I have explored each and every one of her destinations this year with my own special twists on each of the culinary destinations. I wanted to thank Joan for taking us on this journey crossing 7 countries in 7 weeks in the middle of a Canadian winter. It has been fun to explore new cultures and cuisines from the comfort of our own armchairs. Thanks Joan for making the winter more bearable!

My chosen dish for Joan's last challenge is Suya which originates in the northern regions of Nigeria where it was the specialty of the Hausas tribes. Today Suya is found on every street corner in Nigeria, a common late night delicacy, but is also sold during the day by countless street vendors. The meat is marinated with a unique blend of spices before being slow-roasted over open flames without ever directly touching the fire. The result is mouth-watering morsels of spice-induced tender chicken, beef, or pork on a stick.

I do have to stay it was very tasty and I will definitely repeat my foray into Nigerian cooking many more times. Nothing like firing up the barbecue in the middle of a Canadian winter to get the creative juices flowing!!! I served my Suya with some cracked wheat salad and grilled red onions in true Nigerian fashion. I read recently from someone who was spending a year in Nigeria on a missions trip that, "Many Nigerians could not fathom the excess of food in the West – it would simply boggle their minds. “So much food!” they would say, “Could I please have some rice and beans?”

**Nigerian Suya with Cracked Wheat Salad**

4 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 cup peanuts
grilled red onions

Grind the peanuts in a food processor or blender, being careful not to grind them too much. Give the peanuts 4 or 5 good quick pulses, else you will end up with more of a peanut butter from all the natural oil in the peanuts. Mix in the ginger, garlic, onion powder, chili powder, and paprika and mix well.

Cube the chickens into small chunks and mix the chicken in with the peanut mixture, making sure the chicken is evenly coated. Place the cubed chicken onto skewers and place back in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

Prepare the grill for medium direct grilling and placed skewered chicken onto the grill. Grill until the chicken is done,make sure to flip the skewers occasionally and make sure that the peanut mixture does not burn too much.

Serve with a side of North African Cracked Wheat Salad  topped off with some grilled red onions.

**North African Cracked Wheat Salad**

This salad is a cook's dream because it must be made the day before serving to allow the cracked wheat to "cook" in the lemon juice. Cracked wheat is very similar in nutrition and texture to bulgur. It is the whole kernel broken in small pieces, but it is not precooked. I allow the salad to marry in the refrigerator and only mixing all of the ingredients at the last minute to retain the fresh taste. If you would rather eat it on the same day it is made, cook the cracked wheat in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then drain through a fine sieve. Proceed with the recipe, but serve immediately without refrigerating.

4 ounces cracked wheat
Juice of 4 lemons
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, peeled cored, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 green bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the cracked wheat, lemon juice, and oil. Mix well. Add the tomatoes, red peppers, green peppers, cucumbers, celery, scallions, parsley, and mint in layers. Season with the salt and black pepper.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or until the wheat has softened. Toss well to combine ingredients.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.

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  1. Just based on your descriptions, it sounds like I would really love Nigerian food! The breading on that chicken sounds fabulous. And a cracked wheat salad? My kind of meal!

  2. You're welcome Val. I was happy to have your company and to share your interesting posts and delicious dishes, like this one, with readers.

  3. What a healthy and tasty dish!



  4. This looks and sounds quite delicious. And, yes any dish prepared the day ahead is a boon--in serving and tasting.


  5. Your trip around the world with Joan is so much fun Val. I've really learned a lot. This salad is so healthy and refreshing.

  6. Evertything look delicious! Haven't been around for a while... Love the Nigerian salad and the lasagna. Can't wait to start cooking & blogging more often again, for now baby Ella is taking all my time and energy ;)

    Have a wonderful week Valli!

  7. Sounds like a delicious and healthy dish, great to learn about this specialty from Nigeria.

  8. I really like this dish Val. Beautiful presentation and healthy at that.

    It is the end of the tour and I was glad we traveled together. Will miss you, but will be checking your future posts.

  9. Great post and very informative. I have given you a Stylish Blogger Award at http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/3338083-award-and-an-update. Judy

  10. Is cracked wheat close enough to bulgar that bulgar could be used as a sub?

  11. It looks and sounds really unique and delicious.

  12. Beautiful looking dish! Sounds like a very yummy recipe!

  13. I remember my 3rd grade teacher doing a very long unit on Nigeria. I remember being fascinated by it because I had never really looked so hard at an African country before, but unfortunately, that's all I remember is that we studied it! Thanks for taking me back there in my head. The chicken looks great. I love the peanut coating.

  14. i had no idea that nigerian food was so appealing! the chicken preparation sounds great, and i'm definitely intrigued by the salad. if your goal was to get at least one person to try nigerian food, consider that goal met! :)

  15. I love kebabs of any kind! These look great!

  16. I like the combination of bright flavors of the cracked wheat salad, it's the perfect side dish to a lighter fare.

  17. I loved this trip to Nigeria! The *kebabs* look great and I'm inspired to make the salad -- I just have to use bulgur, though.

  18. Val, beautiful photos-I love this recipe-chicken, ginger and the grill-what more could I ask for-can't wait to try this one.

  19. The cracked wheat salad is so similar to Tabulleh - not so surprising. Great flavours here. Oz's post was so informative, too. This country has been the biggest eye opener for me as there are so many new spices, flavours and traditions I am learning. I love that!
    The chicken looks YUMMY!

  20. Great post and since your choice doesn't have too exotic ingredients ... is there any reason not to cook them? I will certainly do so. The kebabs are screaming for a veganized version and the cracked wheat salad sounds so yummie. Thanks for posting these lovely recipes :)


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