Having just moved into new digs in leafy Ikoyi, I have had to as the Nigerians would put it – ‘manage’ – with my cooking conditions. As workmen carry on working their magic on our new family home, we are temporarily using only a table top cooker. Being deprived of a grill and worse yet an oven would normally have me rushing for the smelling salts, gin or both, but this being Gastrotastic, my deprivation is my dear readers’ gain.
I have discovered that cooking everything, protein, veg and carbohydrate all in the one pot is often the way forward. For a start, it means no element will go fallow and cold while the others are being prepared. Secondly, it saves on washing up and here’s the exciting bit, can be surprisingly economical. Before you smarty pants at the back say that this is no different to a casserole – remember we have no oven so depth of flavor needs to happen pronto! And where else will rice, lentils, tomatoes and sardines all find themselves in the same pot happily, side by side?
Ikoyi Hot Pot
Difficulty rating: Easy Peasy
1 tin of Sardines
2 Onions finely chopped
2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers finely chopped*
2 Tablespoons of Garlic Powder
½ a cup of Red Split Lentils
½ a cup of rice
1 tin of Plum Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons of any dried mixed herbs
1 Maggi Cube
Juice of 1 Lime
3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil or any other you prefer
Salt (to taste)
*Since becoming a Naija Wife I have accepted that heat in most dishes is a human rights matter, but if you are not a fan Scotch bonnets can be left out.
This dish, fancy neigbourhood in the title aside, is all about using ingredients that are very easy to find, even easier to store (as I said renovation has rendered me somewhat challenged), and very quick to prepare. Before you start this dish please note the measurements of ‘cups’; these are not American cup measurements, but the cup or rather mug that I had to hand. Choose one mug in your home and stick to it for the measurements of the rice lentils and later water to ensure consistency.
First heat a deep based frying pan and fry the onions and pepper if you are using it. Wait for the onions to slightly clarify before adding the garlic powder so that it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Next add the lentils, stirring rapidly so that they do not burn or stick to the pot for a couple of minutes. At this point add the tin of tomatoes, Maggi cube, my personal lifesaver on many an occasion, and herbs. When I said whatever dried herbs you have to hand, I meant precisely that, so whether you prefer Italian style or French style the choice is yours. Allow the tomatoes to simmer for five minutes before adding your rice and an additional two cups of water. Bring to boil and reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.
Remove the sardines from the tin carefully so they maintain their shape. Squeeze the juice of half of your lime on all the sardines and put to one aside. Check your pan at this point, some of the liquid should have reduced and it is at this point you should add the sardines. To make the finished dish look a bit special, put the fillets in a fan shape; this will also help with portioning the dish as you can either serve in one sardine or two sardine fillet portions. Put the remaining lime juice in the pan and cover once more.
You will know the dish is ready because the liquid will have been absorbed fully, unlike in a casserole. Check the rice in the dish is cooked before removing from the heat. If there is still too much bite in the rice add a quarter cup of water and re-cover the pot, the additional water should be absorbed and make the rice soft and perfect.
Plating up somewhat goes out of the window with this dish, think rustic, back to basics and chow down!