When I returned from Nigeria on the finish of February, it was on the tail finish of the Harmattan, a season when the winds from the north deposit the best sand from the Sahara onto Lagos’s each floor. The metropolis was scorching and dry, and the markets have been bursting with life.
I’m not a vegetarian, however in Lagos, nutrient-dense produce surrounded me, inviting me to prepare dinner with it. I used to be grating coconut flesh to extract its milk, pickling star fruit and replenishing the salad bowl with bunches of palm-sized spinach greens straight from the yard.
Back in Brooklyn, I’m nonetheless cooking, however principally from my pantry, utilizing staples and hearty greens that I’m stretching so far as my creativeness permits. I first made this spicy vegetarian yam and plantain curry on a scorching evening in Lagos, however I now discover myself revisiting it many times. It is a brothy model of asaro, a wealthy stew made in kitchens and bukas, or roadside eating places, throughout the south of Nigeria, and it’s my final consolation meals.
Built round long-lasting hearty greens and root greens, the core elements are West African yam and plantain, however you may substitute at will. No yams? Use any potato that’ll maintain up in a soup. Yellow plantains as an alternative of inexperienced? Use them, however drop them in towards the tip of cooking. And there’s room for herbs, greens and any alliums you’ve got readily available. It is gluten-free and vegan, nevertheless it doesn’t need to be; add a bit crayfish or bacon to present it heft, or a bit flour to thicken the broth.
This asaro is a one-pot meal that makes a lot, so a number of meals will come of the washing, trimming and chopping required. It’s the form of stew you may warmth and reheat, and the flavors intensify every time. If you maintain off on including the greens till you’re able to serve, you may refrigerate it as much as per week, and it freezes superbly, too. The actual pleasure is that it’s a lighter, warm-weather form of stew that could be a meal by itself or paired with any grilled meat or fish.
It’s a dish that jogs my memory of the final journey dwelling I’ll be making for some time, and one which lends consolation within the meantime.