Like most newbies to the UK, you’ll have heard that you can get utensils, cooking pots and the like at Wilko for decent prices. But wait.. what should you cook with them? This is were the real fun begins!
First, you’ll need to source out some ingredients and the joy of scavenging though produce and condiments with peculiar names is an enthralling experience. As you’re picking through the fresh vegetables and fruits, you notice a growing trend. This doesn’t look anything like the spinach I know, and is this banana unusually large and yellow?
Most African families are accustomed to bulk shopping, sometimes for the whole week or even a month. Unfortunately, this was impractical when faced with produce grown and stored differently. Only later did I discover those precious Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Oriental stores that offer those hard-to-find ingredients e.g. plantains, maize flour, and parathas. To the country’s credit, there is no short of vegan alternatives as nearly all restaurants and groceries have plant-based options of some sort. This greatly supported me through my vegetarian lifestyle and vegan aspirations.
Breakfast happens to be my favourite meal and some classics are;
- Oatmeal: So wholesome, filling, and nutritious, with various toppings whether sweet or savoury. I usually add some almonds and seed mix.
- “….” on toast : Another opportunity to create a masterpiece and the backbone of it is high quality bread. My combos included : peanut butter and banana, hummus with olives and cucumbers, mushrooms and caramelized white onion, mushy peas, and black pepper (What, no avocado ? I know, I know but some witch cursed me in my crib, preventing me from enjoying this).
- Pancakes : Whether in crepe form or fluffy American style, these are always a winner. Add some syrup or honey on top of that, dollop of yogurt and it’s a done deal!
Other meals called upon my creativity and put those cooking lessons with mum to the test. Just a few are:
- Beans or lentil curry : What better way to make use of a vast spice collection? The outcome of the different blends brings something new to the table each time. I usually munch this down with some turmeric and cardamon rice, but dry curries are excellent in Buddha bowls.
Roast vegetables: I’m talking sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, eggplant, butternut, pumpkin, and bell peppers. This became my staple every week for the sheer ease of making it and the satisfying taste that doesn’t require any additional sauces (though some ketchup or tomato chutney on the side never hurt anyone) . Paprika and dry herbs such as thyme, sage or rosemary are your best friend for these.
The following recipe took dark greens vegetables to the next level in my cooking. Ingredients include:
- A handful of leafy green of choice (spinach, kale, collard greens etc), 1 large white onion, 1 clove of garlic, 2 tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, 1 courgette, 1 spring onion
- Must have spices are ground ginger, ground coriander, mixed herbs and the usual salt and black pepper
- Finally, some olive oil and ¼ cup of water
Start by cooking down the white onion and garlic in the oil till they turn translucent and add the mushrooms. Add ground ginger and coriander to the onions, then roughly a minute later, the splash of water. After letting it infuse, add the other veggies. Once the tomatoes soft, bring in the dark greens. Turn down the heat, crack your black pepper and salt, pop the lid on and let that simmer away. You will not regret it!
I’m not ashamed to admit that I often felt nostalgic for the food of my home country and would sometimes find myself fantasizing about Kenyan chapati with a sad bowl of carrot and coriander soup upon my lap. You know those restaurants that you visit often enough for the waiter to know the order by heart? That would be Saab Bakery, Haru Japanese restaurant, Boho Eatery and ArtCaffe for me.
Just the memory of being with my family and sharing a delicious meal, hits the spot every time. In Bristol, I happened to fall in love with one great hub along Park Street. To this day my tongue never did taste a stack of berry pancakes as delectable as those of Boston Tea Party. Did I already mention I’m a breakfast girl? Well, this joint was among the many highlights between my homemade muffins in the afternoon and a Costa hug in a mug.
What left to say than it’s been and still is one scrumptious odyssey.