Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
Pivoting on a six-pence, dribbling through players like cones, deft little touches and flicks, and a devastating finish; one of my all-time favourite players to watch was number 10, Jay Jay Okocha. I remember him as the tiny Nigerian with the braided hair and it is players like him that makes me love this game to absolute bits. In fact, whilst at Bolton Wanderers in England they used to chant on the terraces that he was so good they named him twice. Jay Jay helped Nigeria qualify for their first ever World Cup in 1994. The 1990s really did herald the emergence of African football on a global scale, and Nigeria – the Super Eagles – compounded this with strong, fast and attacking football.
In Brasil, Nigeria again enter with high expectations, but have not reached the last 16 since 1998 in France. However, they will feel they have a great chance after former player and current coach Stephen Keshi has revived the side that now boasts a host of immensely talented players. John Obi Mikkel is the creative heartbeat of the side and is supported by the likes Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike, Godfrey Oboabona and Kenneth Omeruo. Also, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has a chance to become one of the stars of the tournament.
Nigerian food centres around some key ingredients; rice, yam and cassava, smoked fish, plantain, black-eyed beans, goat meat and native nuts and greens. As with most Africans and their cuisine, Nigerians are well in to their casseroles flavoured with exotic spices and also enjoy some great snacky type desserts.
As soon as I saw the name Masah with Wild Honey, I had no hesitation in selecting this as the dish for Nigeria. On paper it is one of the simplest dishes to prepare, but as I have found out the key is in the process having had a couple of duff attempts. I remembered making dosa about ten years ago, a process that involved soaking rice and lentils, grinding them and then allowing them to ferment. Masah are similar in that they are fermented rice pancakes and for them to work requires time, patience and some elbow grease in grinding the rice – something I didn’t do in those first two attempts. So, recalling that dosa experience I hit the jackpot on the third attempt. Masah can be served with wild honey, as I have here, but are also served with taushe, a Nigerian vegetable soup.
Masah with Wild Honey - NigeriaPrint
- ■ 300g white rice | I used basmati.
- ■ 1¼ litres water | To soak the rice.
- ■ 500ml warm water |
- ■ 7g dry active yeast |
- ■ 80g white caster sugar |
- ■ ½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda |
- ■ pinch Sea salt |
- ■ grapeseed oil for frying | or other non-flavoured oil.
- ■ a sprinkle Icing sugar | For decoration
- A good quality runny honey (wild for authenticity) to drizzle over the pancakes.
In a bowl, soak the rice in the 1¼ litres of water for at least 12 hours.
Prepare the yeast once the rice has been soaked. To a bowl add the warm water, bicarbonate of soda, yeast and sugar and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Put the bowl in a warm place for 30 minutes to activate the yeast. You should end up with a large froth on the surface.
Drain the rice and then process it in a blender. Add the frothy yeast mix and blend further. Now comes the bit where I first encountered problems. The rice needs to be ground finer, which I did not do the first couple of times. Either spoon the mix, in batches, to a pestle and mortar and grind the solid rice bits or transfer the mix to a container and blend using a hand blender. I actually did both and it worked out great. The resulting batter should have a creamy thickness to it.
Put the batter in a large bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or cloth. Leave the batter in warm place for at least 12 hours. The foam should grow and collapse and the batter will then start to ferment. After 12 hours or so give the batter a mix until it is smooth.
Heat a small to medium frying pan over a medium heat. When hot add a teaspoon of grapeseed oil and 1-2 tablespoons of batter. You will see holes appearing in the pancake which is a great indicator to let you know that all is good. Fry for about 4-5 minutes or until the face-down side has browned and then flip and cook for a further minute or two. Serve and drizzle over that wild honey and add a sprinkle of icing sugar. Masah are great for breakfast or a snack.