Some days I want to pack in all in, and get on the first flight back to London.
I’m loath to admit it, but I am still that very same petulant teenager that used to sew buttons and badges onto her blazer, in protest of the over-strict (and to this day foolish) uniforms policy.
I am chaos at its best.
Now, however, the grown up, more mature version of me, has more sway and is finally able to calm me down.
Let’s just say that I had an incident two days ago, that stung my already fragile sense of self.
It reminded me of how much I stuck out here, that I may never assimilate, but more importantly, that I may never fit in; the way I want.
My first reaction, and one we are all familiar with, was to flee or at least plan my escape.
There are very few times when I think my stubbornness is a good trait, but this is one of them, because my next reaction was along the lines of:
So bloody what?
Too often, we are sold prim and unrealistic packages of the places we are about to visit.
The people are meant to be friendly, meant to always come out smiling, meant to be passive and everything is meant to work out all the time.
I won’t go into the particulars because its been resolved, but I can tell you what helped me.
I made chili.
Before you roll your eyes and close this tab in disgust, let me tell you why.
Growing up, my family, as many West African families probably still do, believed in the magical powers of spice (and by spice, they are usually referring to copious amounts of chili).
Chilies when your sick. Chillies when your healthy to keep up your strength. Chilies, chilies, chilies…
You get the point.
Its a flavor that is so familiar. I wear it like a badge of honor. Others may shudder or turn away from the sweltering mind-numbing heat of it all, but I run towards it.
He and I go way back.
As puddles of sweat erupt from my skin, and I shake from the euphoria, it is as if I am shedding a second skin.
That is why I made chili.
Simply because sometimes you need the familiar to snap you out of the unknown.
(Nigerian) Let’s just call it ‘Slow Chili’
I’ve fed this recipe to almost everyone whose ever walked through my door.
My version is my family’s, yet, as with all children, my version will always be a poor imitation of the real deal.
1 tbsp oil
2 large onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 habenero / scotch bonnet pepper, de-seeded and chopped (be careful of your eyes these chilies are dangerous).
If you don’t like it too fiery you can substitute this ingredient for 1 tsp Chili Powder.
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp yellow curry powder
100g adzuki beans – you can use kidney or lima beans
I’m using the dry versions, which I have simply allowed to soak overnight. Although this re-hydrates them, please be aware that they may still require a lot of cooking.
200g carrots, chopped
250g lean minced beef – To be honest mine aren’t entirely minces, they’re more like hacked and beaten finely. It gets all the anger out.
250g minced pork
500ml of beef stock – if you don’t have beef stock, simply dissolve two regular sized stock cubes into warm water
400g can plum tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato purée
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1. Add oil to a pan on medium heat and leave it for 1 minute, until hot.
2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they are slightly brown.
3. Add in your chopped red pepper, carrots, habenero (or chilli powder), paprika, cumin and curry powder, remembering to stir occasionally. Cook for about 3 minutes.
4. Add both your minces, remembering to break them up in the pan as they cook.
5. Once the mince is browned and there is no sign of pink, add in 3/4 of your stock, your adzuki beans, plum tomatoes and your tomato puree. Stir well.
6. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, but keep the lid on the pan.
7. Once boiling, turn down the heat till it is quite low and leave for an hour.
Be sure to check it however, so that it doesn’t dry out or stick to the bottom of the pan. If this starts to happen, simply add in your remaining stock or if more liquids are needed, (incrementally) add some more water.
8. After simmering, the chili should have a thick but moist consistency. However if it is a bit on the chunky side, simply add more water and return to stove, for about 10 minutes. This time, however, cook it without the lid.
9. Turn off your chili, mix in in your grated nutmeg and add in whatever else you feel is missing. You’ll be surprised how much spice it takes to give the chili a real kick.
10. Cover your chili and allow it to sit for 5 minute before serving.
My German can’t stand the heat, so I made a lovely creamy dip to tame the chili.
I also served it with some freshly cut veg and we wrapped the chili in the lettuce leaf and ate it like tacos.
It was glorious.