Fun at the Fair

They say money makes the world go round, but has anybody ever considered food for the same title? It is so much more than sustenance. Food is the light and colour in every day; from a carefully prepared breakfast to an anticipated late night snack, it has the power to delight, ignite, bond and inspire. It is for this reason that any major city worth it’s salt (pun entirely accidental) has a city food fair, and it was why I for one was beyond excited when the GT Food and Drink fair opened in Lagos.

food fair scene

It was a sizzler weather wise and organisers might not have anticipated the crowds that would descend in earnest to Oniru, but come we did. Amongst the hundreds of stalls I chatted to small producers and suppliers, all who had a passion for the Nigerian food industry. It felt a bit family reunion-esque as I ran into the Cookie Jar team (their new peanut cookie is a revelation) and saw other Food Heroes previously featured on Gastrotastic.com such as Nuli Juice. New discoveries came in the form of Eleojo Foods of Kogi State who convinced me of the merits of their pre-dried bitter leaf and Oh So Wholesome, gluten and dairy free snacks that were as addictive as a conventionally naughty sweet treat and were made by Oh So Nutritious one of Nigeria’s leading health food companies. My recommendation to readers? Buy and eat some more.

However, like any event there were a few superstar turns. At the fair celebrity chefs based in Nigeria and further afield (Marcus Samuelson of New York’s Red Rooster fame and Raphael Duntoye of London’s La Petite Maison were just two of the international stars who made the trip) wowed audiences with their masterclasses. I was thrilled to see Alex Oke of XO Boutique Bakery who is also the head pastry tutor at Nigeria’s Culinary Academy, on the roster of celebrity chef masterclasses, especially as I have experienced heaven by way of his patisserie creations. Known in the industry as the King of Bread, Alex’ baking masterclass was all about introducing the audience to the essentials of baking with a few insider tricks and tips thrown in for good measure. For those who had never experienced the carb nirvana that are XO’s creations the bakery also popped up at the fair with a few XO Boutique Bakery Greatest Hits on the menu. Worth the drive to Oniru alone this weekend (and Ikoyi on any other given day) would have to be the mozzarella and olive sourdough loaf, which drizzled with olive oil is meal magic all by itself, giving a new ring to the line in the Lord’s Prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’!

sourdough xo bakery

I also succumbed to a hearty slab of Sticky Toffee Pudding that was disgrace yourself and lick the plate clean worthy, or in this instance, container. In the mayhem of the fair itself I was struck by the chilled and professional vibes of Alex and his team who seemed so unflappable, even when managing the disappointment of the crowd who missed out on their sold-out-early stall’s goodies.

sticky toffee pudding xo bakery

I couldn’t end with this post without a Gastrotastic food soliloquy to the wonder that were my Urban Fuxion Ribs. It is unlikely I will ever stop being a carnivore. I come from Uganda, and in East Africa grilled meats are not so much a ‘thing’ but a way of life. Therefore, anyone who can do justice at the grill station will have my attention. The Urban Fuxion Pork Ribs didn’t just meet on taste expectations – this was barbeque meat – the unofficial masterclass. The pork fell off the bone and was so soft and succulent and melt-in-your-mouth fabulous. The rub and glaze was a perfect balance of sweet and finger licking sticky with heat and just spicy enough finish. I found myself channelling Disney’s Pluto and chewing on the bone after the meat was long done, I know not a lady-like high point, but when food is very good, propriety often goes out of the window. Also worth a mention was the fried rice accompaniment, studded with shards of red and green peppers, truly yummy, but no match for the main event ribs. I know there are other challengers in the Food Truck Scene (we’re talking to you Chef Niyi Williams of Corner Food Truck lol!), but I can honestly say that Urban Fuxion have well and truly thrown down the rib gauntlet and I cannot wait to taste their offering again and of course, the competition’s very soon! Let the food-truck battles begin!

It might be another year til the next Food Fair but with the food scene in Nigeria continuing to grow at a rapid pace, things will only get bigger, bolder and of course taste even better. My waistline might not thank me for this weekend’s exploits but that satisfied-by-delish feasts part of my soul certainly did.

pastry extravaganza

Gastrotastic Food Heroes: The Bakery Babe

It was the smell that hit me first. In the midst of the crowds that had gathered to dance and make merry in Freedom Park, Lagos for http://www.afropolitanvibes.com/ concert  I decided to walk around the park with bae and had become convinced that someone, somewhere was cooking something amazing. My olfactory sense did not let me down as soon we found a small cabin where a young woman was diligently icing cupcakes. Mystery solved.

temi cooking

Once inside, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to the lady behind http://www.kiniyidun.com, owner and baker Temi Igbinovia, as well as sampling treats and ordering some of the most delicious baked goods I have had the pleasure of eating. This written by a woman who has walked the streets of Paris in search of the perfect Tarte au Citron (La Patisserie Cyril Lignac, since you ask) and makes an annual pilgrimage to the West Country of England for true scones with the obligatory clotted cream and jam (No, I am not telling!). The birthday cake, cookies and cupcakes I have since ordered from Kiniyidun did not disappoint, so it felt only right and proper to return to Freedom Park for an interview, and some more delicious cake.

thursday cakeBorn in Camden London,  Temi returned to Lagos as a child and remained there until  her first degree in Communications Design in KNUST, Ghana. It was whilst at KNUST that her food calling initially manifested, and she started a baking business with a friend that before long made them the toast of Kumasi and beyond. However, with graduation, the business came to a natural end and Temi travelled to London for her Masters in Character Animation at the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s.

“I decided to set myself the challenge of baking my way through the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and blogging about it.” Temi says “My blog Sweet Art By Temi http://www.sweetartbytemi.com was really an online journal for me but also an introduction for readers to baking and I quickly gained a wide readership with comments coming in from Nigeria, the UK and America”

biscuit

I asked her whether the baking interrupted with her studies, and apart from a season where her finals loomed, it was an opportunity to marry her love of food with her innate artistry. Although keen to return home after graduation, London with its multifarious food culture influenced her; concepts such as seasonal  consumption, additive free eating, as well as the importance of aesthetics would later inform the unique Kiniyidun offering.

“I knew I would never stay in London beyond my studies. It was too cold and grey. Having said that one of my big discoveries was Patisserie Valerie, obviously the Hummingbird Bakery and Busaba, which had the most incredible Asian cuisine. My academic mentor had an office in Soho, so this gave me the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of cuisines.”

But onto the magic that is Kiniyidun. I asked her why the name? What was the ethos of the brand itself and what were her long term plans:

“Kiniyidun is Yoruba for ‘This is Sweet’, it was important for me that the name of the bakery was rooted in my African identity, as well as giving a clue to what I make.” I probed her and suggested that there was a certain ambiguity in ‘sweet’, it could be literally about her being the purveyor of sweet treats but it could also be used colloquially for things that are in general amazing. “I hadn’t thought of that,” Temi said laughing shyly “But we don’t just do cakes so perhaps you are right, I make gourmet sandwiches and salads and we serve artisan coffees too. But yes, it is principally about the cakes and about the name being something my customers can relate to immediately.”

close up of the shop

Talk moved onto the cakes themselves: for those who are lovers of minimalism, precision and insane flavour combinations, then Kiniyidun is the place for you. I ask her about the cakes, which also come in tall options and oftentimes are decorated with tonal almost semi sheer  effect icing, with a smattering of edible gold dusting that can make you reluctant to cut the first slice.

another cake kiniyidun

“Yes, the cakes are definitely decorated with my aesthetic language in mind. I see myself as principally an artist and that is reflected in my work. Animation and graphics are rooted in my decorating style, hence the black ink effect wording for the messages, presented on a white icing disc, and the precision in additional artwork. I even designed my logo, and the aesthetic is something customers noticed immediately, even before I moved to the Freedom Park space in August last year and I was working out of home for a year. I believe art can be appreciated by all, and should not be limited to what we see in a gallery, hence my cakes looking the way they do.”

all white cake

What of the challenges of sustaining her standards in the challenging environment of Nigeria? Had supplies and sourcing proved difficult? Temi was quick to answer:

“Many of the challenges of Nigeria would be the same with any business start-up. You have the issue of training people, the power issue is ongoing, but essentially the business has grown out of ours and our customers’ passion for our cakes.  We have worked hard to educate people away from artificial colours and flavouring in how we do what we do, and most of our ingredients are sourced in Nigeria, allowing us to create seasonal recipes too. Ideally in the future we will expand, not just across Nigeria but the rest of Africa.

temi baking some more

As our time comes to a close, I couldn’t resist asking Temi whether she had a favourite flavour of cake she made; she responded it was ‘like picking a favourite child”; I asked her of her most audacious baking plan and she replied ‘baking her own wedding cake’. I know, I too was in awe of that!

I think we can expect to hear a lot more of Kiniyidun. The quality speaks for itself, Temi’s passion oozes through all the work and her small team are as dedicated as the lady herself! Food Hero? Absolutely, especially as she is conquering Lagos one exquisite bite at a time. http://www.kiniyidun.com

rose cake kiniyidun