Red Red – Ghanaian Black Eyed Beans Stew

Believe it or not, I used to hate beans. It was only until a year and a half ago (when I gave up meat) that I started to eat more beans and pulses. It was then that I realised they aren’t so bad.

Red Red is a traditional Ghanaian stew made with black eyed beans and tomatoes. The name comes from the colour of stew as it is normally cooked in palm oil. Red Red is typically served with fried ripe (yellow) plantains.

My parents make this regularly and it was not long ago that I thought ‘I’d better make this myself’. So, I did. If you’re like me, you’d prepare this meal at least a day in advance by soaking the black eyed beans in water overnight. I don’t tend to use canned beans for this, but, if it makes your life easier, definitely go for it!

Make sure you have an apotoyewaa (clay grinding pot/large pestle and mortar) at hand, otherwise, be prepared to finely dice onions and scotch bonnet peppers!

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 500g black eyed beans, soaked in water overnight and washed
  • 200ml palm oil
  • 1 large onion, half sliced, half diced
  • 2 scotch bonnet peppers
  • 400g chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes (I used Knorr)
  • 2 tsp season-all
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 200ml warm water
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. In a large pot, boil the black eyed beans for 30 – 50 minutes over medium-high heat until soft. Ensure that there is always water in the pot so the beans do not dry up and risk getting burned.
  2. While the beans are boiling, grind up the diced onions and scotch bonnet peppers with a dash of warm water, until you get a smooth mixture.
  3. Heat the palm oil in another pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the ground onions and scotch bonnet mixture to the pot and fry off for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the sliced onions and garlic and fry until the onions are soft.
  6. Add in the chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock cubes, season all, ginger and paprika. Stir until the stock cubes have dissolved and are fully incorporated. Cover the pot and leave to cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the warm water to the pot, stir, then leave to cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Once the beans are fully cooked, drain them, leaving some liquid behind. Add the beans and the liquid to the tomato stew and stir until will combined. Check for salt/seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  9. The Red Red is now ready to be served – enjoy with some fried ripe plantains and/or rice!
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Barcelona Eats: Part 3

My favourite part of the trip took place in La Boqueria. This place was food heaven for me. There are a variety of market stalls there from meat, seafood, vegetables and fruit. Lots of fruit.

I went to La Boqueria on two occasions. On the first day, I tried the fresh fruits, fruit juice and some dried fruits. I came across a stall with many dried fruits, such as apples, mangoes, strawberries, pineapples, bananas. I can honestly say that I dried pineapples are my new favourite snack. No added sugar, but they retain a lot of sweetness. You’d think you’re eating candy to be honest.

The fruit stalls are vast and the pricing is cheap compared to London. You can get a fresh cup of fruit juice for a little as €1.50 if you search hard enough. The same goes for bowls with chunks of fruit such as pineapples, dragonfruit, kiwi, mangoes, strawberries and more. Search hard and you’ll find a bargain.

There are also hot food stalls where you can have anything from paella and empanadas, to churros and pancakes. The options are endless.

And then they have spices from all over the world. But one thing I had to get my hands on was the king of all spices. Saffron. And Spain was the perfect place to buy it from.

The second day at the market was for tackling some savouries. I tried a spinach and cheese empanada which was great; spinach and cheese being one of my favourite combinations. I had some tasty vegetable croquetas as well – it was actually my first time trying these and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

The meal of the day however, was the paella from Ramblero de la Boqueria. Again, this was my first time trying this dish. It came with prawns, squid and mussels (my favourite trinity in terms of seafood), all cooked perfectly. I can’t fault this meal and La Boqueria in general.

I’ve booked a cheeky weekend away back to Barcelona, so I’ll be enjoying the food again quite soon!

Barcelona Eats: Part 2

Part 1 went off to a mediocre start, but now, it only goes up from here.

The first evening was spent at La Barca del Salamanca – a seafood restaurant – again on Moll de Gregal. This restaurant was recommended to me by my brother, so I trusted it would be a good meal.

La Barca del Salamanca

To start, my friend and I ordered some tomato and olive oil bread, and I got a serving of padron peppers too. The grilled monkfish was ordered for my main course. For drinks, a pitcher of sangria of course!

Tomato and Olive Oil Bread

I’ll keep this one short and snappy: very moreish and because I ate so much, it was a mission finishing my main. We also got olives with this, but I’m not a fan of them.

Rating: 5/5

Padron Peppers

Blistered just right and topped with crunchy sea salt, these padron peppers were bursting with flavour. The portion was large as well which helped me forget about the price!

Rating: 5/5

Grilled Monkfish

This main came with potatoes, asparsgus, tomatoes and a slice of lemon. The monkfish was fresh and the portion overall was large. At this point I was ready to fall asleep and the sangria was not helping. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this dish, it just needed a tad more salt and pepper.

Rating: 4/5

The service was great, however, if you’re not careful, you’ll be convinced to order the whole menu. So, be sure to stand your ground and say no thanks. The night finished with free mini cakes to our surprise and a shot of lemon liqueur. A night well spent, I must say.

I need to go back to this restaurant!

Overall Rating: 5/5

Part 3 will include adventures around Las Ramblas.

Barcelona Eats: Part 1

The trip to Barcelona was an eventful one, to say the least. It was originally planned for 4 days, but my best friend and I faced a cancellation five hours before our scheduled departure. The next available flight was in a further two days. I was annoyed at first, but then I realised there’s nothing we can do, so we may as well enjoy the extra two days!

This meant more opportunities to taste the great food of this beautiful city.

After landing early in the afternoon, we decided to go for lunch. We took a short walk to the beach and went along the strip of restaurants on Moll de Gregal. We were stopped by a greeter of one of these restaurants and was convinced to give it a try. I usually read reviews before I try a restaurant, but this time, I was feeling very lax.

Vitaminas Burger & Beach Bar

I ordered the patatas bravas, calamares and a pineapple, apple and ginger smoothie.

Patatas Bravas

It’s hard to go wrong with patatas bravas, so I wasn’t disappointed in what I received. The portion was a good size, and the fried potatoes were served with cheese, paprika and were piping hot. Very crispy and enjoyable, although a tomato/spicy sauce with it would have taken it to the next level.

Rating: 3.5/5

Calamares

As soon as I saw the calamari, I knew never to order it in Barcelona again. Don’t get me wrong, the seafood is fresh, but where was the seasoning on these calamari? The calamari was fried in a batter similar to the ones you get at your local chippy, but the salt wasn’t anywhere to be found. A bland disappointment.

Rating: 1/5

Pineapple, Apple & Ginger Smoothie

On a brighter note, the pineapple, apple and ginger smoothie was amazing. It was so refreshing and definitely saved my meal overall. Since being back in the UK, I’ve been making myself similar smoothies as it was just so tasty.

Rating: 5/5

To summarise: would I return here for food? Probably not. Would I come here for a great smoothie? Definitely.

Overall Rating: 3/5

We’re off to a mediocre start, but I promise, it gets way better! Stay tuned for more posts on my eats through Barcelona!

On the Bab: A Review

Korean food is becoming more and more popular where I’m from, and for very good reason. I first tried Korean BBQ some years ago with friends. It was a nice and modern restaurant with grills built into the tables. Back then, when I used to eat meat, Korean BBQ was always a great option.

Now that I only go for veggie or fish dishes, it’s a good challenge finding new places to eat. On this occasion, the Korean food spot I went to was called On the Bab.

I visited On the Bab after recommendation from my brother. It’s a Korean restaurant for casual dining. I went there with two friends from university – I hadn’t seen one of them in two years, so it was essentially a reunion. We went to the branch in Old Street, London, around 3pm.

Although this branch does not do table bookings, we were seated straight away, which was quite lucky. It was a small restaurant with tables placed quite close together, typical of a lot of restaurants in this area. I ordered the Gimari Salad, Toppoki and ‘On the Buns’.

Gimari Salad

Price: £4.50

The Gimari Salad is a fried seaweed roll salad. Each roll was nice and crispy and the salad underneath made this starter refreshing. If I could eat these little seaweed rolls all day, I would!

Rating: 5/5

Toppoki

Price: £4.90

My friends swear by Korean rice cakes, and I can see where they’re coming from. This was my first time trying these and I was not disappointed. I had no expectations of the Toppoki, so just went in blind. It was served with a boiled quail egg and a sweet and spicy sauce.

Rating: 4/5

On the Buns – Mushroom Fritter

Price: £8

Two fluffy buns with large mushroom fritters. I had to tackle these with my hands and eat them like burgers. These were so tasty and the textures of soft buns, crispy batter and meaty mushrooms made the experience even better.

Rating: 5/5

On the Bab is a great Korean street food spot and I recommend you visit. I will have to go again to try other vegetarian and pescatarian options. If you’re a meat eater, definitely try their their Korean Fried Chicken, I’ve heard fantastic things about it.

There are four locations all in London: Shoreditch, Covent Garden, St Paul’s and Soho. There will be one opening soon in Paris too!

Overall Rating: 5/5

Location: On the Bab, 305 Old Street, EC1V 9LA

Website: http://onthebab.com/shoreditch/#3rdPage

Red Velvet Cake

I remember first trying the red velvet cake from Costco, maybe seven or eight years ago. I was in food heaven.

These days, however, the sweetness is a little too much. The solution? Make my own! On this occasion, it was my brother’s birthday, so I decided to make this cake for him. He’s a big fan of red velvet too.

The cake recipe in this post was inspired by The Hummingbird Bakery’s Red Velvet Cupcakes. The recipe below uses two 15 cm round cake tins to make it a two-layer cake.

I levelled out each cake before stacking them. I broke down some of the cut off pieces of cake to make into crumbs, and used these to decorate the top. The leftovers were eaten (It’s never good to waste food in my household, and who doesn’t like extra cake?).

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 300g icing sugar, sifted
  • 50g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 130g full fat cream cheese, cold
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method

  1. In a bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar with an electric whisk or free-standing mixer, until a sandy texture is achieved.
  2. Add in the cream cheese and the lemon juice, then whisk for about 1 minute until light and fluffy.

For the cake

  • 150g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g plain flour, sifted
  • 25g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp red food colouring paste, mixed with 4 tsp water ( I prefer Sugarflair Maximum Concentrated Paste Red Extra)
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 240 ml buttermilk
  • 3 tbsp vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
  • 1 tsp salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan)/ gas mark 4. Grease two 15 cm cake tins with butter and lightly flour.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk or free-standing mixer, until well combined and paler in colour. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix together the food colouring, vanilla extract and cocoa powder until you get a thick paste. Add more water a teaspoon at a time if necessary to get the required consistency. Add this to the cake batter and mix in, until you get an even colour throughout.
  4. Add half of the buttermilk and mix until combined fully, then add half of the flour and mix.
  5. Gradually beat in half of the buttermilk and flour, mixing until well-incorporated. Repeat this step once more until you have added all of the buttermilk and flour
  6. Add the bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and salt, mixing well.
  7. Separate the batter into the two cake tins. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the cake springs back when tapped gently.
  8. Once the cakes have cooled down completely, decorate them as you wish using the cream cheese frosting.
  9. Grab a knife and cut yourself a slice!

Dutch Pancakes and the Best Fries Ever

To celebrate the end of university, a friend and I took a quick day trip to the Netherlands.

Just for some background, I started my degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2014. It’s now 2019 and I’ve completely the four-year Integrated Masters along with a one-year placement. Five years later and I’m free of education!

For now.

We have suffered long enough, so it’s time to treat ourselves!

The return flight cost just £49 which was great for our pockets. We landed in Amsterdam before noon and took the typical tourist photographs by the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign outside the airport.

The first place we ate was at a pancake restaurant called Pancakes Amsterdam. The branch we were at was in Amsterdam Centraal.

They have options of traditional Dutch pancakes – sweet or savoury – American style pancakes and Poffertjes (mini pancakes). What’s great is that they have gluten-free and lactose-free options for their Dutch pancakes!

I decided to go for the traditional Dutch pancake with apple crumble, cinnamon and ice cream.

The Dutch pancake alone was fantastic, but topping it off with apple crumble pie? Next level!

Rating: 5/5

The second food spot we went to was a place called Manneken Pis. One of my brother’s suggested I go try these fries and I was not disappointed at all.

The logo may be of a child taking a piss, but don’t be put off. I went for the small portion of fries with ‘Samurai sauce’ – a mayonnaise and ketchup combination with a spicy kick.

The fries were thick-cut (my favourite kind), hot, and very crispy. They reminded me of Kettle Chips in the form of fries, and I love Kettle Chips. I wish they had something on par here in London, because I can’t stop thinking about those fries!

Rating: 5/5

My friend and I managed to do a lot in the space of eight hours including visiting:

  • I Amsterdam sign
  • Pancakes Amsterdam
  • Tropenmuseum
  • Windmills at Zaanse Schans
  • Manneken Pis
  • Gluten-free McDonald’s
  • Exploring the city

Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands will definitely need to be visited again – there is so much more to experience. However, my next stop will be Barcelona in July, after graduation!