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Food Profile - Tomatoes

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Pineapple & Agbalumo (African Star Apple) Juice Drink

The African Star Apple is such a fruit that is most unlikely to be used in any recipe, and certainly in Nigeria, its a fruit that is mostly enjoyed eaten in its naturally ripe state.....

It has a unique taste and texture and up until recently, it is not utilised in any other way....other than just as a fruit to be eaten as a snack, in between meals. Today, I have encountered its use in desserts, especially and in a couple of drinks.

The African star apple's unique taste is not comparable to any other fruit I have tasted, but one can describe its taste as a delicate combination of sweetness and sourness with a light fragrant aroma.... All these characteristics make this fruit as a very worthy ingredient that can be used to make a variety of desserts and drinks...

In this post I share with you how I used the star apple to create a really refreshing and satisfying drink. I first made this drink over a week ago and I decided to drink it over this period to try and determine any special qualities or nutritionally beneficial effects.

Because of the added water, the resultant drink is a juice drink. Other than the small amount of sugar used to macerate the African star apple, the drink did not require additional sweeteners, because the pineapple provided all the natural sweetness. The star apples also provided an addictive sourness which found me drinking more than two glasses...!

My verdict, it was a really hydrating drink. I served it with a lot of ice, so it had a cooling effect as well as giving a general sense of satisfaction. Several hours later after drinking, I was still feeling quite hydrated, not feeling any urgent need for a drink of water, especially in this very hot weather of Lagos...!

So could this drink really be the best tasting hydrating drink I have ever drunk...or couldn't this be a really sensible swap for all those sugar laden fizzy drinks?

Currently in Nigeria, African star apples are slowly vanishing from market stalls as they are gradually going out of season, so if you are still able to get your hands on some, then you must try this drink.

What you need
---Some African star apples (peel and remove the red flesh of the fruit and macerate with some sugar for at least 3 days. This helps to mellow down the harshness of the taste of the fruit. Learn how to macerate it here ).
---Large well ripened pineapple
---500ml of fresh clean spring water (or any table or drinking water would do)
---Some sugar
---For garnish, thinly slice one of the star apples

What to do
1. Wash and peel the pineapple and chop into large chunks. Place the pineapple chunks in a blender and add some of the macerated star apple.
2. Then add the water. Blend all ingredients together and strain using a fine sieve. Strain twice to get a really smooth blend with no bits from the fruits.
3. To serve, place some of the star apple slices in a glass, with some ice, then pour over the drink and enjoy.

Hibiscus Flower (Zobo) Cake

So finally I am sharing my Zobo Cake recipe after so long...and many requests from my readers to share...I even received a private email from a French chef who wanted the recipe...! how gratifying....

So I enjoy exploring new tastes and flavours.... Hibiscus flowers are so fascinating to me and I have used them in a lot of exciting ways. It was only a matter of time that I would include them in my cakes..

I love to create desserts and I always look for new thangz to incorporate in them. Hibiscus flowers seem like a good thing to to use in desserts because of its unique taste and texture. It has a really tart taste which can be maneuvered in a lot of ways.

So for this recipe, I did some prepping, after which it became so easy.

Prepping the Hibiscus Flowers
Using the leaves as they are will create a disaster....! I had to mellow down the harshness of the tarty taste before I could use it in the recipe. This was simple to do but required a bit of patience. I first macerated the leaves in some sugar for a few days...

So I started by coarsely blending some washed dried leaves in some water, then I added a lot of sugar and boiled, just for about 5 minutes. I then transferred into a jar and stored away for a good 5 days to mature. After this, the leaves were ready to be used....

At this stage the leaves tasted really sweet and not so tart. The texture had also improved into a desirable softness, which actually will add some good texture to the know just like raisins in a fruit cake.

Adding to Cake Batter
Before adding to the cake batter, I ensured that the leaves were well minced into tiny little pieces...and I added to the batter at the last stage, folding into the batter in one direction movement until its all evenly incorporated into the batter......that's it.  And the colour is just divine as you can see from the pictures.

I used my favorite cake recipe but I imagine you can include the hibiscus leaves in any of your cake recipes. They would not have any noticeable bad effect on your cake, just they impact a beautiful color, great texture and the exciting sourly sweetness that you would absolutely love.....

Food Profile - Tomatoes

Sometimes, what we have gone all the way to find in a place called Sokoto, is right there in our Sokoto (trousers)..... Nigerian word of wisdom...

This essentially means we should not take for granted what is immediately available and accessible us. Rather than find treasure in things/places so far fetched, we should be looking inwards to use those things readily available to us, and which we are familiar with.

I recently encountered a research document which re-highlighted the wonderful nutritional benefits of tomatoes, which lit up my eyes in glee.... Our most humble tomatoes, one of the most commonly eaten veg/fruits.... is actually a super-food, packed load with vitamins, minerals and above all, antioxidants.

This made me really excited and reduced my constant worry about whether the typical Nigerian is able to eat a healthy nutritious diet on Nigeria food.

You see, in Nigerian cooking, tomatoes are a frequently used food ingredient. Though not usually eaten in its fresh/raw form, it is included in virtually every type of stew/soup made on a daily basis. It is also added to eggs, rice or yam dishes, to make pottages etc. And of course, sliced tomatoes and onions are the perfect accompaniment to suya bbq...!

Nutritional Data (100g of raw fresh tomatoes) 
Calories - 18kcal
Fat - 0.2g
Carb - 3.9g (including sugars)
Protein - 0.9g
Fibre - 1.2g
Vitamins: A, C B6
Minerals: Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium

Nutritionally, you can get the most out of tomatoes when eaten raw. Juicing them is also a great way to eat them or adding them to your smoothies. They can also be blended or added whole to stews and soups. And of course, tomatoes can be sliced or chopped and added to a different range of salads, salsas, and all manner of foods.

In particular, I think juicing is a really great way to enjoy tomatoes.

Tips on Juicing Tomatoes:
* Choose very ripe tomatoes because they are at their sweetest and contain more juice

* It helps to strain the juice using a fine sieve, and makes it easier to drink

* Add other ingredients like scent leaves, to provide some flavour to the juice

* From experience, adding some pineapple juice as a sweetener, works better than adding sugar or other sweeteners.

* If you are making tomato juice at home, its best to make some and consume immediately. Storing tomato juice for more than a day, decreases its appeal.

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