Midweek Magic in Minutes

We’ve all been there; peered in the fridge and realized that the weekly shop wasn’t done quite as comprehensively as it could have been but a decent meal still needs to be prepared. The options go a little something like this: eat out somewhere that may or may not be that great or make do with whatever random items you have to cook. Today’s post is all about the latter; working magic and creating something delish. The key is to have these four core food hack ingredients: garlic, onions, a green leafy vegetable of any description and finally pick a protein, any protein to act as the star of the show.

Pork Chop with Sautéed Vegetables

Difficulty rating: Easy Peasy

Ingredients:

2 Pork Chops

1 Onion finely chopped

2 Cloves of Garlic finely chopped

Approximately 100grams of Green Leafy Vegetable sliced if necessary

¼ of a Red Bell Pepper finely chopped*

3 cooked potatoes cut in half*

Approximately 50mls of Sweet White wine*

Salt (to taste)

*entirely random and completely optional, a case of they were also in the fridge so I decided to incorporate them too, just call me greedy!

Midweek cooking is all about short cuts, there are still full two work days ahead so it is here that one wants to get their food hack hat on. I am a great believer that anything and I mean truly anything tastes better and feels special with my essential food trio: Garlic, Onions and any Green Leafy Vegetable with the protein of your choice. Apart from providing you with your essential nutrients, they all go so well together and are super quick to make. I had two pork chops knocking at the back of the freezer, but this could work just as well with chicken breasts, fish fillets or Tofu.

The protein is going to take the longest to cook so put this on first. As I was using pork chops I put them in a large frying pan, fat side down and let the fat render down. You might have to stand over the chops so that they do not fall over and cook on their flesh side as this will dry out the meat. As the fat is rendered you will end up with a chop that has a crisp on the outside, sinfully juicy on the inside rind of fat. You have options with the fat itself: either discard (boring!) or put aside to make something delicious later. Once the fat side is cooked through, reduce the heat on the frying pan and lie the chops flesh side down and cook until the juices run clear. You will know the pork is cooked as juices will run clear once pierced with a fork. This shouldn’t take too long as the chop would have been cooking whilst the fat was being rendered, but it is important to make sure with pork or indeed chicken that it is fully cooked and there is no pink flesh in the middle. Wrap in foil and put aside so they do not get cold. You can deglaze the pan with the sweet white wine on a low heat stirring vigorously so that you don’t lose any of the meat’s juices but the alcohol burns off. Put this liquor to one side for use later.

For the sautéed vegetable medley, it is important that you have done your chopping before you start cooking as you don’t want your protein to get cold. In the same pan that you have been cooking the pork or whatever protein you are using (hey, this is all about minimal washing up too!), put a tablespoon of the oil of your choice and fry your onions until they become translucent, then add your garlic, so that it doesn’t burn. Next add whatever leafy vegetable you are using, in my fridge was a Nigerian vegetable that the chap in the market called ‘Green Leaf’ but which looks and tastes like a variety of Chard. I also put the remainder of a red bell pepper in the mix and sautéed for less than two minutes as I have a profound dislike for over cooked vegetables. Remove from heat and put to one side, stirring in the deglazed liquor if you made one into the vegetables.

Next re-heat your pork fat and fry the potatoes, the potatoes will colour, which always makes thing look professional kitchen worthy and also the pork flavor will give the illusion of them having been roasted – results all round!

To plate up put a puddle of the vegetables at the centre of the plate, balance your pork chop so the rendered fat side is showing in all its glazed glory, begging the diner to eat it and casually scatter your cheat potatoes in a semi-circle. Wednesday just got tasty.

Wednesday Night Feast

Wednesday Night Feast

Loving the Legumes, the Lagos Remix

Regular readers of Gastrotastic will know I have a bit of a thing for legumes. High in protein, low in fat, with so many varieties that one would be pushed to get bored. Some recent discoveries that have become store cupboard essentials have included Urad or Black Lentils and Moth beans which resemble brown beads when raw but are beyond delish.  For those who think this is a recent conversion, check out the throwback video below:

Since moving to Lagos, legumes have been high on my culinary agenda. One of the amazing things about beans and other pulses is their relative ease to prepare. Most of the time it is a case of soaking and boiling until tender and boom – delicious meal, and whilst it is tempting to pimp the beans, and indeed many Nigerian recipes call for it, from akara to moin-moin, simply boiled is a no-brainer treat that can be accompanied with anything.

Ewa Oloyin

Difficulty rating: Anyone can do it, promise

Ingredients:

¼ cup of Nigerian Brown Beans sometimes referred to as Honey Beans

½ a Red Onion

Salt (to taste)

Method

A recipe with so few ingredients might raise eyebrows or make the nervous amateur cook cheer, but the reason for this is simple; the beans are the undisputed star of the show. To embellish or add would simply detract from this stellar ingredient.  Nigerian Brown beans come in two varieties, one in which the beans have a slightly thicker skin and the Honey variety that I used in this recipe. The name Ewa Oloyin is Yoruba for “Beans with Honey” although this variety of bean also grows in the Southern and South Eastern parts of the country, it has a distinct naturally sweet flavor when cooked.

First, pick out any grit or dirt that might be in the beans. I bought mine in the market, so whilst their freshness could not be disputed, cleaning them thoroughly was absolutely essential. For this dish as it really was a cheeky treat rather than my my main meal, I only cooked a quarter cup, but if the beans were forming your main meal a minimum of one cup is advisable multiplying the onion quantity to the same ratio.

Cleaning the beans - cheery coloured bowl an optional extra

Cleaning the beans – cheery coloured bowl an optional extra

Once cleaned, chop up half a red onion. The onions are best roughly chopped as this will allow them to cook at the same rate as the beans rather than completely breaking down. Add them to a pot with the beans and top up with one and half cups of water and salt to taste. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer.

Sometimes the best things are the simplest

Sometimes the best things are the simplest

Many will baulk that I haven’t soaked the beans overnight, but I have found that Honey Beans don’t seem to require the same full on soaking treatment that their tough skinned cousins Black Eyed and Kidney do. What I would advise is keeping an eye on your beans while they simmer, as with all ingredients, batches vary, so one might find that your beans require a splash more water. You will know your beans are ready by testing one and it being easy to bite through with a soft centre. If the centre is in any way hard, leave simmering for a while longer adding water to the pot if it has all evaporated.

How you eat the beans is entirely up to you. One might choose to team them up with rice, or try my recent breakfast favourite of accompanied with a boiled egg. However, if we are being truly Lagosian, nothing goes quite like a dollop of stew. Stew in the West African context is essentially a tomato, Scotch Bonnet Pepper and Onion reduction; think African Passata with added heat and bass. However, there are many regional stew variants each positioning itself as the best. As this post is all about beans rather than stew, I will only say mine was Native Stew, super old-school with smoked fish added to the core ingredients. One word, yum.

Lick the plate worthy scrummy!

Lick the plate worthy scrummy!