I am so excited about today’s post. Not just because Ebere Akadiri is a friend of mine but also because her food looks amazing. And also because it’s for a cause that’s perfectly aligned with MKB’s values. Ebere, a Nigerian expat in the Netherlands and a wonderful cook, was not only kind enough to answer a few questions for us, but also shared her amazing jollof rice recipe. She will launch a cookbook very soon featuring Nigeria most vibrant and colorful food. So without further ado, I present to you: Ebere!
1) Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Ebere Akadiri, and I help food lovers and enthusiasts around the world to learn about the food and culture of West Africa, with a particular focus on Nigeria. I’m the founder of Ataro Food and Spices and the author of Vibrant West African Cuisine, a global spice packaging company, and cookbook that focuses on West African food, culture, and cooking. Having opened and operated two restaurant businesses and now a food packaging business in the Netherlands, I help foodies and those who love adventure to experience the vibrant cuisine of West Africa. I’ve been encouraging people in the Netherlands to stay open and learn about new cultures, people, and food which leads to new experiences.
I bring both the authentic and a modern take on traditional Nigerian recipes.
I love to share the stories about Nigerian culture around the kitchen table and what differentiates Nigerian cuisine from the rest of the world.
2) How did you have the idea to write a Nigerian cookbook?
It has taken me two years of careful planning and preparation to sit down and write this book. I intended to write this book to help teach my children to learn about the traditions and values of their West African heritage, and also to teach the whole world that though we may have our differences, there are so many similarities among us as well.
Diversity is truly the new spice of life.
The idea to write a Nigerian cookbook started in 2015. After holding several cooking workshops, I thought of helping a wider audience experience the vibrant cuisine of West Africa. First I recorded a video cooking course because it was easier to package. I tried so hard to complete the cookbook but at one point had to let go of the dream.
Recently, when I saw the number of Nigerian girls that were drowned while trying to cross the sea to come over to Europe, my heart broke. All I could think of was to launch a project to support these young women and girls so they can be empowered and work for themselves without risking their lives to cross over to another country illegally or be lured by traffickers.
As those thoughts overpowered me each day and night, I realized that I could finalize this cookbook and ask people to contribute to the cause in exchange for my cookbook. That single motivation allowed me to finalize the book and find all the partners required to launch it. I didn’t think that I would achieve it so quickly, but here I am getting ready to support these people and, at the same time, realizing my dream of sharing my work on West African cuisine to a broader audience.
3) What do you wish people knew about Nigeria and its culture?
In West Africa, cooking is all about bringing people together. You’re never just cooking for yourself; our culture is focused on community. We don’t own small pots because you never know when someone is going to stop by your house and expect to be fed. We cook different foods for every occasion, and we go to great lengths to make sure everyone always has something to eat.
Nigerian Cultural Practices:
- In Nigeria, elders are always served first and leave the table first.
- Nigerian cooks taste the food as they cook it on their palms.
- Rice is a staple of the Nigerian diet.
- Last, Nigerians (and especially the Igbos) always thank the people who provided their meals, during and afterward.
4) What is so special about Nigerian food?
Food is not just something we consume – it’s an inheritance, a way to make our guests feel like part of the family. Nigerian recipes are wholesome and delicious and a treat for anyone who is tired of the same old taste!
With its richness and exotic tastes and of course the never-ending volume of dishes for just one meal, you will enjoy the variety and texture of the meals.
5) Please, share a favorite recipe that kids will love.
I’m a mother of 5 kids. My children love jollof rice, and I would like to share my jollof rice recipe with your community. There are many other kid’s friendly recipes that can be found in my cookbook, Vibrant West African Cuisine Cookbook.
Jollof rice recipe
PREPARATION TIME: 20 min
COOKING TIME: 30 min
MAKES: 5 SERVINGS
For the Tomato Paste
- 2 fresh tomatoes
- 1 small tatashe (red bell pepper), cored and deseeded
- 1 small red onion
For the Jollof Rice
- 500g white long-grain rice
- 4 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 30g tomato purée
- 500mL (2 cups) chicken stock or water
- 1 tablespoon Ataro Jollof Spice Blend
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 fresh habañero peppers, blended, or to taste
- Your favorite vegetables, for garnish
- Ataro-Spiced Grilled Chicken and Dodo (Fried Plantains) for serving
- Make the Tomato Paste: Dice the tomatoes, tatashe, and onion. Combine them in the jug of a blender and pulse until the mixture is chunky and well combined. (Or combine them in a pot over medium heat and cook until the moisture is reduced.)
- Make the Jollof Rice: Thoroughly rinse the rice in hot water until the water runs clear. Drain it into a sieve and set aside.
- In a medium pot with a lid over medium heat, warm the oil for 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, until the onion is browned and softened. Then add the tomato purée and fry for 5 minutes, until the mixture turns a deep red color and the acid content is reduced. Next, add the contents of the blender to the pot and fry for 5 to 10 minutes.
- While stirring constantly, add the chicken stock or water to the pot. Add the Ataro Jollof Spice Blend and the salt; add the habañero peppers to taste. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Add the rice to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove from the heat.
- Transfer the Jollof Rice to a serving dish and garnish with your favorite vegetables. Serve hot with the Ataro-Spiced Grilled Chicken and Dodo (as found in the Vibrant West African Cuisine cookbook).
TIPS: Depending on which type of rice you choose, you may need to adjust the amounts of chicken stock and water you use; check the cooking instructions on the rice packaging. If you don’t like spicy food, add the peppers slowly and sparingly in Steps 2 and 4. Taste the dish as you add the peppers to make sure you get the flavor and level of heat right for your palate.
6) Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The proceeds from my cookbook go directly to Beauty In Every Life Foundation, to fund the campaign Keep Dignity Alive. It is an advocacy- and empowerment-based project aimed at the prevention and support of Nigerian women at the risk of being trafficked or sexually exploited and survivors of trafficking. The project is located in Nigeria.
Beauty in Every Life can create public awareness on the dangers of trafficking, how to detect and escape from traffickers and as well as creating an alternative to provide decent livelihoods to young women at risk through entrepreneurship and leadership education. And also aid in the global fight to end human trafficking. For more information about Beauty In Every Life please visit: www.beautyineverylife.org and to donate to our cause, visit http://beautyineverylife.org/make-an-impact/ or order a copy of the Vibrant West African Cuisine cookbook: https://vibrantwestafricancuisine.com/vibrantcookbook/
The Cookbook Launch party will take place on March 3, 2018 in the Hague, Netherlands.
Ebere Akadiri is an entrepreneur and a cook. The founder of Ataro Food and Spices and the author of Vibrant West African Cuisine, Ebere has been a go-to person for West African cuisine in the Netherlands. She organizes cooking workshops, pop-up dinners, and catering. She has also been helping people to experience the vibrant cuisine of West Africa by teaching and telling the stories of Nigeria food, recipes and culture to an audience outside the Nigerian community. You can find out more about Ebere Akadiri and Ataro Foods here: https://www.atarofoods.com/ebere-akadiri/