Dundun – the Fried yam sold on and off the streets of Lagos- delicious!

When I watch food programs on Netflix like ‘Somebody Feed Phil’ or the late Anthony Bourdain marching through the streets of Asia and tasting all the delicious street foods, I am filled with envy and a strange kind of nostalgia for my Nigerian street food. Especially – dundun(fried yam).

Image by LuvMattaz TV on You Tube

Street Food


It takes me back to a period in my childhood when I lived with my grandmother in Lagos, Nigeria, and before my parents thrust me into a different kind of life. I can visualise the street sellers and hawkers serving dundun to hungry workers who had to face the stress and anxiety of the chaotic Lagos traffic. Or workers that want to snack on something hot and comforting.

Yam


Many countries eat yam, and also many countries do not eat it or know of it. It is an acquired taste as it is quite fibrous and might even be considered tasteless. Yam was at the heart of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart‘. Back in the olden days in Nigeria, farmers commanded great wealth from growing yam. It was the staple food of the rich and the poor valued it.

Yam sold at a London High Street

I love the real pounded yam made by pounding cooked yam in a mortar with a pestle. The powdered version sold in a lot of African food shops in the west is a poor relative made up of a mix of potato flour and other varieties.


Ebute Metta restaurant on Plumstead High Street in London promises you yam pounded in mortar and pestle if you gave them an hour’s advance notice. I am yet to try that but promise you their food is delicious. I had okra soup and amala and cried with joy as I ate it.

Two ways to make Dun Dun


Back to dun dun. It is fried in two ways that I know of – the raw yam is cut into chunks or sliced and fried in deep oil, or the yam is parboiled and then fried. You add a bit of salt to taste before frying. I prefer the parboiled one because it is moist on the inside and crusty on the outside. That is two different flavours dancing on your tongue.

Dundun is delicious with fried stew and your choice of beef, chicken fish or stockfish.

Restaurant or Streetfood

The last dundun I ate was out of a street kiosk at Woolwich market, London. It was called “Joy of the Lord Remain Forever”. I would call the young cook an hour in advance and ask for my special – Fried yam, fish and fried stew all for the excellent price of £7! To my thinking, street markets serve tastier deals than restaurants.

I have tried to make dundun but do not think it is as good as what I have tasted on the streets. If you’re adventurous then when next you hit a Nigerian or African restaurant ask for dundun and fried stew. Better still, when you’re next in London, you might want to visit that street kiosk or got to Ebute Metta restaurant.

Ciao!

Queen Elizabeth II of England and African Royalty

A long reign!

Elizabeth Queen II of England reigned for seventy years and died this week at the age of 96.

There has been posts and articles with different perspective on the monarchy. Many positive and a lot of negative ones. I can only speak from my point of view.

Yes, England colonised majority of the African countries including Nigeria. My children and generations to come will continue to feel the impact of that. Also, Britain is built on the class system.

But, the queen was not just the head of an institution but also a human being – a much respected one.

She reigned for 70 years and was part of mine, my mother and even my grandmother’s life and I think her incredible achievement should be celebrated.

She dedicated, and served her people with quiet resilience and integrity.

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Her Majesty The Queen

I am glad that we threw her a big jubilee celebration!

Growing up in Nigeria all I knew was that there was a beautiful woman who was our Queen. She controlled her kingdom, and her subjects loved and respected her. Ancient and modern African royalty is, however, utterly opposite to this. So my attention will be on the perception of the Queen in the context of African royalty.

Queen Elizabeth with King Akenzua II of Benin Kingdom, Nigeria – 1956

English royalty vs Nigerian royalty

In Nigeria, royalty is given within the tribes, villages or communities. It meant every town had her king, and every community had her chief. As opposed to the English kingship system, the ascension to the throne by a king or village head in traditional Nigerian society works through the patriarchal system (the male line). Such a person must belong to one of the ruling houses that exist within the royal family. It is rare to have a kingship or chieftaincy title passed through a matriarchal line.

Ancient Africa

In ancient Africa, there were only a handful of well-known queens. Thus, I was happy when I discovered Queen Aminatu of Zaria. She ruled Zazzau in Hausaland in Northern Nigeria in the 16th century and was a revered warrior!

Image by David Arboleda – Pexel

I claim some royal blood through my mum, a princess, and so was my maternal grandmother. It means that I can trace my mother’s lineage back to a few centuries. Unfortunately, most histories are transmitted orally. To date, African kingship and other royal titles are regarded with great respect.  

God Save the Queen!

Queen Elizabeth II was a Queen that ruled a powerful nation – a continuous source of fascination. Indirectly, in blistering, sweltering, sunny, crazy beautiful Nigeria, I became a kind of royal fan. Something that I somewhat considered old-fashioned and uncool. But there you are!

When Prince Charles got married to Diana, it was a great occasion that was celebrated in Nigeria. My Dad was happy to share that ‘Charles had sowed his wild oats. Mind you, he was 33 years old at that time. 

When William and Kate got married, I invited friends around to eat, drink and dance. We loved Diana and celebrated her son’s happiness. I made a feast of beef Suya, and we had plenty of drinks. I also celebrated when Harry married Meghan. It was emotional, and I was happy with their happiness.

At the same time, the marriage of the leading Oba of Yoruba land, the Ooni of Ife, to a sophisticated ‘girl about town’, whom many traditional Yorubas disapproved of, fascinated many Nigerians and me. We avidly followed their lives on Google. Was she pregnant? Was she not? It was disappointing that she skipped out of that marriage so quickly.

What does it mean to be royalty in Nigeria?

Royal families in Nigeria, especially Obas with huge lands enjoy a lavish lifestyle with devoted subjects. They strictly adhere to traditional worship and rituals. Most Obas marry many wives and have concubines(yes, the term still stands). My maternal grandmother who was really beautiful became a royal wife at a very young age.

Queen Elizabeth’s II legacy

The Queen left a strong legacy but it will not be the same. King Charles has giant shoes to fill and he knows it. There can not be another Elizabeth of Windsor. But we know that she has done her job on the earth and gone home to rest with her beloved Philip. The rest is now left to her descendants!

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

You beneath Your skin is an intricate crime story centred on Indian American single mother and psychiatrist Anjali Morgan. She relocated to Delhi from America with her autistic teenage son and fights a daily battle to meet his complex needs. 

Damyanti Biswas

It is a multiple-point-of-view story that unfolds Anjali’s relationships with those closest to her. Her best friend Maya, from whom she rents an apartment at her family home. Her long-standing affair with Maya’s married brother, police commissioner Jatin whom she met in America when he was a student under the mentorship of her deceased father. He later left for India and became a police commissioner, married to his powerful boss’s daughter, an indifferent wife and mother. They have a son Varun who is perfect in his father’s eyes, with a lot going on under the surface.

Once Damyanti had made us understand these complicated relationships, we were off on a gritty, gripping ride!

You beneath Your skin takes us through the slums of Delhi with a theme that covers, poverty, power and corruption, love, betrayal, and drug dealing with the brutal murder of slum women burned with acid at its heart.

It is a crime book unafraid of digging deep into the city’s underbelly. Also, in this story, no character is safe!

Damyanti delivers a brilliant debut with layers of intrigue and twists that expose corruption in a way that I have not seen in fiction in a long time.

I loved reading this book and look forward to reading her next one, The Blue Bar.

My Other Husband by Dorothy Koomson

My other Husband is Dorothy Koomson’s 18th novel, and she delivered well! I actually got to a point where I could not put the book down till I finished it!. Dorothy is a Queen of twisty psychological thrillers. So I loved that some months back, she invited me to her proof party with a tissue-wrapped gift copy of the proof, a nice packet of coffee and Maltesers. Maltesers is a favourite in the story!

My Other Husband is the story of  Cleo Forsum, a successful screenwriter of crime fiction, married to a lovely husband and with a life to envy. But Cleo has decided to shatter that perfect life by seeking to divorce her husband and ending her TV series. Someone is hunting her by killing people precisely as it happens in her series and framing her.    From there begins our journey into Dorothy’s dark, twisty world as we go on a trip with Cleo, who harbours a deep secret that is the cause of her problems.

My Other Husband covers the theme of love and obsession. Dorothy’s writing on love and relationships are never simple as her protagonists are mostly angst-ridden complex women with secrets.

What is also striking is our intimate view into Cleo’s life. Dorothy zooms us into her head and we feel her fears, including some of her serious bed action. Hmmm… tastefully done, of course!

The grand reveal came at the mid-point and with a slam! And from then, we’re on a roller coaster ride to a satisfying end.

Cleo was a lucky, unlucky girl with two panting hot men! I can’t say more than that.

Go get your copy!

Complicit by Winnie Li

Complicit is a novel that starts slow and burns bright. I am familiar with Winnie Li’s work as I had read Dark Chapter, which was an incisive page-turner on the fictionalised story of the author’s real-life trauma that happened in Ireland. What made it stand out is how Winnie told Dark Chapter from the point of view of the victim and perpetrator.  

In Complicit, Winnie played with many themes, significant and small, and I think it would be worth rereading it to catch the ones that could have been missed. She had a lot to say in the story on so many levels – misogyny, money power, racism, white privilege, 2nd generation immigrant trauma/experience, the illusion of Hollywood, and feminine powerlessness.

When I began Complicit and entered into the dull world of the protagonist, Chinese American Sarah Lai. I sighed. I wanted to be instantly transported into the magic of whatever ilk as long as it did not reflect the dreariness of our everyday life! Then I slowly got drawn in.  

Winnie Li
Winnie Li

Sarah Lai’s account of starting her career in the Film industry in New York and eventually becoming an associate producer sees-saws between the present and the past.   Hugo North is the Harvey Weinstein-like figure who was bankrolling the film in the production company where she worked.

It is definitely an #Metoo but more than this. This is where I applauded Winnie. She deftly showed us the struggles of the child of immigrants, the expectations and anxiety of those parents and their wish for their children to do well in their adopted country.  

Sarah’s drive toward her ambition ultimately found her in the politics and corruption of the film industry. Winnie reveals behind the scene Hollywood with skill and assured writing. It peels back the casual carelessness of white privilege and racism.

Here is a comment by her former boss Sylvia Zimmerman to the journalist doing the investigation

‘No one likes seeing ambition so visibly. Sarah was from that Chinese restaurant background of hers, so maybe there were some cultural….ways of being which were lost to her. Or maybe we’re just not used to seeing a young Asian woman in charge, so that kind of authority is harder to grant….regardless of her competence.’

There is a lot to take away from Complicit, and I fell in love with it. Winnie’s book excited me and laid bare the universal struggle of women worldwide. The fight to be recognised in our own right and not through the male gaze and power.  

I love the hope at the end that there is now more chance of diverse voices being heard and institutions created to catch young talent. It is definitely an optimistic hope for the future.

When a book resonates with you long after you put it down, you know it is something special.  

Complicit is definitely a critical work in this landscape.

THE VIEW FROM BREAST POCKET MOUNTAIN by Karen Hill Anton

This is a memoir about adventure, resilience, survival and defying the odds!

I first heard of Karen Hill Anton on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ podcast, where she discussed her memoir, the View From Breast Pocket Mountain. It is about her life as a black woman who travelled around the world, finally settled in Japan, and has been there for over forty years. I immediately bought the book because it intrigued me. Karen began her travels in 1965 when she was 19 and went around Europe.

The View From Breast Pocket Mountain
The View From Breast Pocket Mountain

I admired how she transcended a tough childhood – a mentally ill and institutionalised mother, her childhood home burning down, her beloved father and brother murdered. Through all those traumas, Karen continued her life and broke many boundaries.

 One of the most memorable parts of the book was when she, her white partner, whom she later married and her young daughter decided to move to Japan in the 70s to become part of a Dojo. Instead of flying or travelling by ship, they decided they would drive. It took them a year of road, water and flight, living frugally, sleeping in their car, and camping on the grounds.

 Karen described her experiences of unwanted male attention in some of the middle eastern countries. How her partner would stay up all night to ensure she and her daughter were safe. Karen also described the harsh dojo existence, her loneliness, because Japanese culture is multigenerational and supports the family. She and her husband stood out as foreigners with no family support. However, she slowly made friends and began to be accepted in the society.

This would be an excellent read for those trying to understand a black female experience in Europe and other parts of the world in the 60s and 70s.

 Karen went on to have three more children in Japan who grew up bilingual. Still, she and her husband decided to educate their children in the States due to the Japanese education system, which they felt did not encourage creativity. They now have grown children who have gone on to have their own families scattered around the world. At the same time, she is content with her role in Japan as a writer and then as a cultural liaison.

#booklovers #memoir #Japan #stellaonithewriter #bookreview

Platinum Jubilee cake to celebrate her Majesty

It was great to make my platinum jubilee cake.

I was a child of the Empire, a second-generation British Nigeria. My parents were children of colonialism. I grew up listening to my late father’s love for all things British. My mom, who lives in the States, is probably glued to the TV and toasting the Queen with a glass of wine.

This influenced my decision to come back to settle in the place of my birth. I was young and starry-eyed. It had been a bittersweet experience – full of highs and lows.

I was brought up in an all-black nation with lots of its own issues. And came from a good background with a strong sense of my identity. Racism shocked and traumatised me. But where I come from, you pray, brush yourself up and wake up to another day’s challenge. I’ve always strived to be my most authentic and to develop sincere relationships as I love to interact with people.

Empire had played a role all of my life and a constant in this was Queen Elizabeth II. While chaos reigned in moments of her life, she stayed stoic and constant. She survived many scandals, divorces of her children, deaths in the family and events that have rocked the nation.

Seventy years doing a job is not a joke, and I applaud this.

Ten years ago, when she celebrated her diamond jubilee, I made these cupcakes. So, when colleagues requested that I make a platinum Jubilee cake, I decided on this one – a sponge with raspberry buttercream filling and covered in white chocolate ganache.

Stella Oni’s Diamond Jubilee Cupcakes

So, however, I feel about the impact of the Empire upon the life of my parents, my life and the life of generations to come, I say;

Here is to strength and resilience. Here is to Queen Elizabeth II!

Ghanaian Tsofi (Turkey Tail)-An interesting part of a Turkey’s anatomy –

dangerously delicious if you don’t know what you’re eating!

A while ago, I was at a friend’s surprise party and, in my usual fashion, went to take a look at the table’s bounteous offerings. The trick for someone that loves food like me is to ensure I eat in small bites, and as food lovers know, that is a bit hard to achieve.

I spied a big platter of tasty fried chicken among the offerings, and it smelt good! I hovered around it and snatched one that promptly disappeared down my mouth in one bite( sorry, I’m not a dainty eater, my Nigerian boarding school paid put to that).

Chofi /Turkey Tail

A burst of flavour

I closed my eyes in awe and reverence at the intense burst of flavour that increased as I chewed. This was the most well-seasoned chicken I had ever tasted. I snatched 4 more onto my plate and perched in a corner like a puppy with a bone and the countenance that said interrupt this one woman chicken party at your peril.

Once the last of the bites had disappeared down to my grateful stomach, I washed it down with some wine and then beamed at everyone in satisfaction. Then I gave the cook lavish compliments that were graciously accepted.

A shocking truth

Later on, as we drove back home, I continued to wax lyrics about the delicious chicken bites and how I would love to go cook it at home if I got the recipe. My friend in the car said that this would be quickly arranged, then he casually said, ‘you keep calling it chicken bits. You do know it is not chicken?’. I said indeed I did not. What was it then? He said it was Turkey tail!

Friends, that is another name for Turkey’s butt! A particular delicacy in Ghana! My jaws dropped. Should I laugh or cry? Of course, I laughed! I had just eaten turkey, yansh! (Nigerian pidgin English for that bit of Turkey). That tail is a gland that connects the turkey’s feathers to its body, and it is filled with oil mainly meant for grooming Turkey’s feathers!

Now, don’t you go laughing at me? What is the delicacy in your own country? As I am British Nigerian, I can say mine is;

Giant Snails(not those tiny escargots!) — Nigeria
Jellied Eels(Eurgh! Britain)😂😂🤣

The Stockfish – one of the world’s stinkiest fish, yet I love eating!

Those who have read my food articles know that I am pretty adventurous about food. It began at a very young age. Yet I have not written about my love affair with the Stockfish.

In Nigeria, we have particular delicacies that, once combined, create the most aromatic of soups and also the most pungent.

Mind you, our soups are not the blended soups of Europe, America – to name a few.

Assorted meat or Dried Seafood combo

In our soup, we combine choice parts of meat (the beef, entrails(haggis to the Scottish! cow foot, cow skin) that we call assorted meat or smoked fish, Stockfish, crayfish and shrimps with green leaves and okra. Many combinations make the most delicious soups – efo riro, efo elegusi, edikaikong, etc.

My particular addiction is the Stockfish, one of Norway’s most famous exports, making many Norwegians extremely rich. Stockfish comes from Cod, Pollock, Tusk, Haddock and a few other varieties. The most popular and expensive one is the Cod.

Dried Stockfish

Delicious delicacy

As crazy as it sounds, one of West Africa’s most extraordinary delicacies can only be found in Norway. This is because their waters are abundant with fish during the spawning season.

The country’s cold, dry climate is the best for air-drying the fishes in wooden stocks; hence, they are called Stockfish. The process takes over three months outdoors and about 12 months indoors with no chemical processing, which means the fish can last long. We soften Stockfish by rehydrating through hours of soaking in water or slow cooking it.

Drying fish in Norway – Image from Pixabay

Stinky and fit for a Queen or King!

I wish I could say it is a humble fish for the poor. Certainly not! It is sold in weight, and a large stockfish can set you back about £20 to £50. It is a delicacy fit for ‘Kings and Queens’ and Norway’s ‘white gold’!

The head of the stockfish, which I imagine the Norwegians used to toss in the bin, is a particular favourite in many parts of Nigeria. It is popular in the east as it adds an extra flavour that enriches the soup.

I also wish the fairy tale would end there, but in revenge for being so tasty, the Stockfish is also one of the smelliest in the world. It is a heavy, intrusive smell that has visitors gagging and frantically searching for the hidden rotten corpse in a home. I love eating Stockfish! To avoid the smell, you could soak it for a few days, but it could mean a loss of some of the intense flavour.

When I make by stockfish rich soup, I add dried ground crayfish or shrimp, which are equally as smelly and used instead of the msg polluted stock cubes favoured by some.

The Marvelous Locust Beans

If crayfish or prawn and the Stockfish are not enough, I add my favourite msg avoiding flavour, iru. Iru is fermented locust beans. Now, most of you know that gone off beans is already evil-smelling. Locust beans once fermented smell like the sweaty foot odour of a roomful of athletes locked in a storage cupboard. It is also highly nutritious. 

Iru

The largest importer

Nigeria is the largest importer of Stockfish in the world. They go through tons of them each year as we could never have enough. The Norwegian seafood Council in Nigeria celebrated the first Seafood Festival in October 2018. 

Thelma Obaze’s Stockfish adventure

Stockfish is eaten in many countries like Portugal, Croatia, Italy, Russia, and Dominica. Still, Nigerians have ensured they take it with them wherever they emigrate.

So far, I have named three savoury things that I use to make my soup — Stockfish, crayfish, and iru. How do I cook my soups?

What I cook

Suppose it is efo riro (green mixes like spinach, kale, and other ones). In that case, I ensure I blend the scorching hot scotch bonnet pepper (smoking!) with tomato and some large onions. I would have brought my Stockfish to life by slow cooking it till it is close to tender but will not go into too many cooking details here. Once combined — the sauce, Stockfish, ground crayfish, iru, and greens look amazing. I would sometimes add blended melon seed(a particular type) that we call egusi. Which means the soup is now called efo elegusi.

Nutrition

Due to its drying process, Stockfish retains concentrated nutrients, including 80% protein, marine oils, fatty acids, iron, calcium, and vitamins. Excellent food for old people and pregnant women.

My visitor might, at this point, do a double-take and perhaps hold their breath when they come into my home. But give them some pounded yam with the soup or amala (fermented yam powder) or rice. Your visitor is smiling from ear to ear, and of course, I am thrilled!

Remember to have several glasses of water nearby; my soups are hot and not for the faint-hearted. Bon appetit!

There’s nothing like the Full English Breakfast…Yum Yum!

We call it the greasy fry up, traditional fry up, all-day breakfast, and many other names in EnglandHotels in different countries serve it. In Britain, builders and construction workers love it! Yes! Eggs, sausages, baked beans, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes, black pudding, and toast. The full English breakfast in all its processed glory! I do not eat black pudding. That is going too far, but I started a habit of eating English Breakfast on Sundays. I gladly gobbled it up and had it for breakfast or brunch.

The Corner Cafe

Many years ago, when a job I was working at got stressful, an all-day breakfast with chips was my go-to! A corner cafe near my office served this with a strong cup of tea, and I became a regular customer. They would slap the full English Breakfast on a massive platter with a mountain of chips, and I would consume the food and roll sleepily and happily back to my job. Trust me; I ballooned from a British dress size 12 to 16 in no time! I would spy my moon-shaped face in the mirror and blame everything else for my weight gain!

A near Veggie

Eventually, I weaned myself off the full English breakfast and avoided it except for special occasions. I decided to try and become a vegetarian and, like a hawk, monitored everything that went through my mouth. Friends that welcomed me to the voluptuous and bountiful club watched with envy as I melted down to a size ten and stabilised at 12.

Hair Trouble

Then, I decided to have a change of look and chopped off my hair to grow it to an even shape. But to my dismay, the hair that grew was thin and scanty. I decided to continue to coax and nurture the hair to no avail.

One day, my BFF took one look at me and announced that I had to go back to eating meat! I needed protein to strengthen my hair. I was reluctant at first. My clean diet to be polluted by antibiotic injected cows and chickens? No, sir!

Full English Breakfast

Finally, I caved in(too quickly) and began to introduce regular meat and chicken into my diet whilst wracked with guilt for doing this. To my shame (I hang my head), I decided to buy some sausages and bacon(just this once I told myself firmly) and started a Sunday tradition. 2 Sausages(Cumberland if you please), bacon, scrambled eggs, baked beans, and 2 or 3 toasts. Yes, oh yes! I caved in!


I am now more disciplined and only eat it when I’m away and in a hotel. So, I have become an expert and brag that there is nothing like a full English breakfast!

The Birth of Bitcoin and a bit about Blockchain Technology

Introduction

I wrote this article back in the summer of 2018 when bitcoin was only $8,256!    It is to introduce my Web 3 series with how it all began. Bitcoin is currently over $43,000 and will rise!   I have not changed much of the article, so please treat it as a historical journey.  We're in 2022 and exciting things around Web 3 and the Metaverse.
In the technology writing series, I will aim to break down what is happening around the new technologies and how they impact our lives. I also hope to provide in-depth support for the writing world.  

The Beginning

Welcome to the first of my maiden Blockchain Technology series and inside Satoshi Nakamoto’s world. You can read through this article related my way (absolutely interesting. A story in itself!) or scroll down to the bottom and read the summary. So here goes……

Bitcoin
Image on Unsplash

The Creator of Bitcoin

Once upon a time, on 3 January 2009 to be precise, a ‘man’ called Satoshi Nakamoto – rumour has it that Satoshi is not even a person but a group of people! But the long and short of it is we do not know who he is – decided to create an electronic form of currency called Bitcoin.

My take on Satoshi Nakamoto
Image by prottoy-hassan from unsplash

Fiat Currency

According to Satoshi, our money, also known as Fiat – “legal tender whose value is backed by the government that issued it” – www.fool.com – goes through various kinds of financial institutions and third parties and on its journey incurs many charges due to regulations.

He felt that if people could transact their currencies through a peer-to-peer or person-to-person electronic cash system, it would be cheaper and more straightforward for all. His examples of institutions are banks, credit card companies, payment platforms, etc

FIAT
neonbrand-Unsplash

Satoshi wrote that exchanging physical cash, like taking coins and paper money to a shop, might be fine, but when it comes to electronic money, the 3rd parties have to trust you and require a lot of your personal data to do this.

Due to the prevalence of fraud, the 3rd party demands even more in-depth knowledge of you, like your mother’s maiden name, your Grandmother’s first name, etc. Come on! You will be shocked at how much of your info is held out there.

Satoshi calls this a Trust issue. Merchants need to trust you to act on your behalf. We also know how long some of these transactions take. If it is an international payment, it could take over a week with serious charges. Transactions are also vulnerable to fraud, and many people have been ‘burned’!

FIAT
Image from Unsplash

Satoshi felt Fiat is controlled CENTRALLY by banks and Governments and does not give citizens enough say. He firmly believed that there should be a way for citizens of any country to carry out transactions directly, without boundaries and with minimal need for middlemen such as banks, governments and other kinds of financial institutions.

Imagine how controversial this thought was, but many geeky computer people got excited about it and avidly followed his plans. To them, it was not about anarchy or bringing down governments. It was about people controlling their own money. And about them carrying out financial transactions worldwide without the need for bank accounts.

The Unbanked
Image by atharva-tulsi from Unsplash

The Unbanked and Unknown

One of the best cases for decentralization is to help the billions around the earth who are known as unbanked. There are about 2.5 billion of these in Africa and other developing nations who are unbanked and unknown – a lot exist without a record of their identity. Without identity most do not have a bank account although Mobile banking in many parts has done a lot to rectify this. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency will make a bit impact when it is integrated into this space. There are significant developments currently going on in Africa that I will cover in-depth.

So what is Bitcoin?

It is a digital kind of money that can be transferred instantly and securely from one person to the other. You can use it to pay family, friends or transact businesses. It is almost impossible to steal because of how the underlying technology it was built operates.

This technology is called Blockchain and it is simply an electronic spreadsheet that resides identically on  many computers round the world. 

All transactions on this ledger can be viewed by anyone as long as they have what is known as private and  public keys (more on this later) to view the transactions.

Bitcoin can also be divided into 8 decimal places! It means that you can buy a fraction of a bitcoin. Therefore, 0.00000001 BTC is the smallest amount that can be handled in a transaction. The last bitcoin is likely to be generated in the year 2140. The market value of bitcoin fluctuates; at the time of writing this, a bitcoin is; $8,256. When it began in 2009, it was about $0! In 2010 it was worth $0.39. A lot of people who bought it then are now wealthy. Bitcoin is also popularly known as digital gold.

What are the uses of Bitcoin?

  • It can be used as payment for goods or services.
  • You can buy bitcoins from Exchanges (Like the online bureau de change).
  • You can trade bitcoin on trading platforms and exchanges.
  • You can also buy bitcoins from Bitcoin ATMs, although the high transaction fee.
  • You can invest in bitcoin, but the cryptocurrency market is very volatile and not for the faint-hearted. If you want to invest, it has to be money that you can afford to lose.
  • A few’ evangelists’ have predicted that bitcoin could get to 1 million dollars per coin in years to come. It fell from its all-time high of close to $20,000 around December 2017.

SUMMARY

So, let us recap the above;

About Bitcoin

  • Bitcoin was created in 2009 by a man or a group called Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • Electronic money can be processed and viewed simultaneously on many computers worldwide by specialists called Miners with powerful computers that can solve mathematical problems required to find a bitcoin.
  • It is an electronic payment that allows transactions between people as long as they have a private key and public key (more explanation of this later)
  • It is being used worldwide, but it might take many years before broader adoption around the globe happens.

Good things about Bitcoin

  • In the future, the need for banks or financial institutions might become minimal due to the disruption of this technology. Think of how email disrupted the postal system.
  • Many startups in developing countries use it to pay local people who do not have banks or easy access to banks.
  • The birth of bitcoin allowed us to discover the value of its underlying technology – The Blockchain. It has also allowed the creation of hundreds of other digital currencies.
  • Bitcoin is also called digital gold and, in time, might become a store of value, just like paintings by the old Masters.
  • Due to the birth of bitcoin, we now have the Internet Of Money( A book title by Andreas Antonopoulos). It means the internet will become a means of banking our own money. How exciting that is!
  • Bitcoin is not a’ FAD’. It is here to stay.

The Not so good Things

  • It requires considerable computation power to mine, so a bitcoin transaction takes a long, and charges could be expensive. 
  • Its value fluctuates, and it is still very volatile.
  • Cybercriminals have used it for fraud, but it is rising above this.
  • The market is currently unregulated and subject to market manipulation.

Finally..do you know….

There is a traditional currency system in places like the middle east and Afghanistan known as the Hawala, where people exchange currency based on trust. The only difference between it and bitcoin is the mode of transfer. There are no computers. It is too long to explain in this article but do google it. It makes an exciting read.

Hawala
Image by Junhan Foong from Unsplash

I buy my bitcoin and other coins from the following exchanges; Coinbase, Binance. The links are also my my personal referral to these exchanges.

Note that I am not a financial adviser. If you want to make a financial decision please seek advise from a professional.

Some of my favourite books of 2021

This is always incredibly difficult because there are so many damn good writers out there! Then to complicate matters, I am a judge for a prize in 2022 and have been going through a heap of books that I can’t disclose. 

So, I have not been able to do much book review this year, but I have many books that I wait to read in 2022!

Here are the books I will mention that made an impression –

KINTU by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. I love her fiction that weaves the history of Uganda and also life in diaspora. I have her other books including MANCHESTER HAPPENED – her book of short stories.  She has won a few prizes, but I can see her winning big ones in the future. I will do a review soon.

LOVE IN COLOUR by Bolu Babalola is light and fluffy and re-imagines love using mythology. I liked what she tried to do. Our writing should not be heavyweight all the time.

I read Louise Hare’s THIS LOVELY CITY, a strong crime fiction set in London’s Windrush arrival in the 50s. Louise created a sense of place and time, and I loved her characters and the final twist in the story.

I went back to an old classic, YARDIE by Victor Headley, who took me back to the backwater London of the 80s where the streets were dangerous, and Jamaican bad guys were revered. I am not sure a lot has changed, and perhaps we need a modern take on this. Aspiring Victor Headleys, I’m calling out to you!

I have read and will review The JIGSAW MAN by Nadine Matheson. An ambitious debut with an unforgettable lead in DI Anjelica Henley. Nadine has THE BINDING ROOM coming out in 2022, and I am looking forward to my copy!

I KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE by Dorothy Koomson – I thorougly enjoyed this and plan to review this as well. I loved my interview with Dorothy in August at the H&SWriters Festival coordinated by @rashedaashanti. She has written seventeen good books, is absolutely focused on her craft, and supports ‘young’ up-and-coming authors like me.

BROTHERS IN BLOOD by Amer Anwar is another one for review – It introduces Zaq Khan and allows us to travel on a rollercoaster ride through Southall, West London and the Asian community there.

BROKEN PLACES by Tracy Clark takes me on a ride through Chicago with her police turned private detective Cass Raines. I really loved it, and it is also up for review.

BP Walter’s HOLD YOUR BREATH. Barnaby reached out to me on Instagram re: Deadly Sacrifice, and I decided to read his book. What a find! So, I am collecting all his other books to read. He gifted me the DINNER GUEST, which I look forward to reading and reviewing.

MIDNIGHT HOUR is an anthology by some Crime Writers of Color @CWoC and edited by @AbbyVandilever. I am proud to be a part of this incredible line-up of authors! I have just finished the first two, Tracy Clark’s LUCKY THIRTEEN and David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s SKIN and what great reads. so I am in for a treat with all the others.   My short story, THE BLACK WIDOW OF OSHOGBO, introduces ex-army and ex-secret agent Lara from a new series that I will be polishing off in 2022/2023.

Finally, Hollywood Homicide and Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett. She brought us broke former actress and aspiring detective Dayna Day. It is good to have fun and laughs, and Kellye’s Dayna is funny as she stumbles through her investigations. Kellye has re-issued the series as eBooks so go get yourselves some copies and enjoy some belly laughs!

So, what will I be reading in 2022? Here is some of my pile! Many have been on my TBR for a while, but I cannot wait to read and review them!

Image by Stellaonithewriter
Image by Stellaonithewriter

Have a wonderful and Happy New year!

Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me Into the Life of My Dreams by Yvonne Orji

Bamboozled by Jesus was written by Nigerian-American comedian Yvonne Orji known for her role as Molly in the popular HBO series Insecure. I first heard Yvonne On her podcast, Jesus and Jollof , co-hosted with Luvvie Ajayi. From there, I began to follow her on Instagram and was excited to hear she wrote this book. I also have Luvvie’s book; I am Judging You, which I’m waiting to read as I am a big fan of both girls! I love Jesus and Jollof Rice, especially their stories of growing up with Nigerian immigrant parents and what success meant to them. The podcast is full of nuggets and tips.


Yvonne’s book is a memoir about her life’s journey and how her Christian faith helped her decisions. She said she was tricked into a life of success by her faith in Jesus. She had a lot of testimonies from her career to how she bought her first home. She said she started in entertainment at 24 and did not get her big break till 31.


“While my friends had houses and kids. I had hopes and dreams.”

Yvonne Orji

As a Christian, I enjoyed listening to Yvonne’s story. In the creative world, it’s a thin line between being creative and being consumed by the world. Yvonne stood up to her parents by choosing her career as a comedian. Most immigrant Nigerian parents want their children to have a professional background as they’re scared of them scraping the bottom of the barrel. They understand the brutality of racism and want to give their children the best start in life.

Yvonne studied sciences but could not stomach a career in this, which began her journey to success. It was a tumultuous rocky journey, but Yvonne persevered with prayer. She felt that every journey she made had a message. And she was never giving up until she got her break. She also said success brings its insecurities as there are now more choices to be made, and you have to choose the right ones. One of the unique things about Yvonne is that she is in her 30s and decided to stay a virgin till she married.


I look forward to going back and rereading the book as you can get a lot of inspiration from her journey even if you’re not a Christian. Thank you so much, Yvonne Orji, for taking the time to write this book and standing up for your faith.

(Iru)Fermented African Locust Beans – smells foul but tastes heavenly!

In the Yoruba language, we call the African locust beans iru, but it has many names in different parts of Africa – dawa dawa, eware, ogiri, sumbala, The biological name is Parkia biglobosa. When boiled down and then fermented it produces a savoury flavour that is used as a natural seasoning for soups and stews, and has incredible health benefits.

In Nigeria, once the wealthy understood its benefits they got their cooks and Chefs to add it to native dishes proclaiming that it tasted like the mouth-watering food their grandmothers used to make. If you want to know the truth, I learnt how to cook with iru from my grandmother and great grandmother – may their souls rest in perfect peace.

Iru is a natural umami. I came across umami in my chef fan journey as I love to watch chefs cooking on streaming platforms. I am their groupie!  But seriously, it was when I got interested in Japanese cooking. Umami roughly translates in Japanese as “pleasant savory taste” and is the fifth taste of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. The Japanese see it as a wholesome taste that completes a dish. I am no culinary expert but just fascinated by food, its taste and smell.

I started my Japanese cooking with Ramen and wanted the broth to have Umami. The only way to gain a quick umami taste is through monosodium glutamate(msg). Japanese Chemist Dr Kikunae Ikeda and businessman Mr Saburosuke Suzuki II created Ajinomoto, a pure msg and the start of artificial umami in 1907. The height of any cooking is that wholesome taste with depth and flavour that cannot be copied except through cheap msg. Ramen is basically noodles in sauce with all sorts of bits thrown in. Sorry if I am upsetting ramen purists😀.  

Usually when we make our food we add some stock cube or other kind of flavour enhancing from the supermarket. Perhaps, either chicken, vegetable or beef stock. That stock has been made to create umami, and once added to your cooking, completes its taste.

But villagers all around Africa discovered that if you fermented the locust beans and added it to a traditional sauce, you transform the taste from basic to flavoursome. Think about what drives you to the best restaurants. It is no more than a complex combination of the five basic tastes.

For example, many years ago I had the best vegan vegetable mix from a health food shop in Greenwich, London. I had to to track down the small catering company that made it because I could not believe that they could lift the typical taste of the food just by the quality of the vegetable and the dressing, but they did!

Back to iru or the locust beans. I need to describe the smell before you rush to an African food store to try and procure it. It is a a combination of foot odour and unwashed crevices. I leave that to your imagination! But when I add it to my traditional Nigerian soup, especially with stockfish, it is finger-licking delicious. Do not blame me though, if your house stinks afterwards, it is all part of the joy!

Does it work for another kind of dish? I have not tried it. I intend to add it to my ramen sauce as an experiment.  

Here is a list of the health benefits of locust beans. I am not a health professional so this is just a guide. Do go and do your own research.

1. Full of polyphenols and therefore an antioxidant 

2. The whole plant itself has health benefits. The bark is used to treat wounds, including leprosy

3. It is used traditionally to treat hypertension 

4. The bark is also made into powder for carob

5. It is rich in lipid, protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients

6. The bark is used to relieve toothache

7. Eating the locust beans helps improve vision

8. Locust beans are from the seed of the carob tree

Cooking my Christmas Turkey The African Way

Growing up in Nigeria, my nourishment for how the West celebrated Christmas was the steady diets of American movies. We considered British films boring and too realistic for comfort and only watched British comedies. Therefore, we cuddled up to American Christmas family angst. A father, mother, and two children or a father, mother, grown children, and grandchildren share a massive turkey and have lots of drama. Perhaps dad was strict while mum was the peacemaker amidst several sibling issues and rivalries.

Everything was done with the backdrop of a massive Christmas tree with twinkling lights and tons of beautifully wrapped gifts waiting to be unwrapped. In Nigeria, my parents did not have any pretension to this. No Christmas turkey but chicken or beef with plenty of white rice, Jollof rice, Moin Moin, and stewed goat meat. This, I believe, influenced my Christmas story Jollof Rice and Crayfish mystery in the culinary cozy mystery anthology by seven crime writers of color – Festive Mayhem 2, where my lead character Elizabeth tries to solve a mystery around jollof rice.

My first shock was how tasteless my turkey was, even with the two days of marination. I managed to dismiss this as beginner’s luck and promised to do better the following year. I had started work and attended tons of Christmas meals by this time. I made sure to choose the Christmas turkey from the menu and was shocked at how bland it was. I would then drench the slab of white meat in gravy and cranberry sauce, which made it palatable. After these, I settled for ducks for other Christmases — too scrawny! Goose — too fatty! Beef — well, too beefy! (I can’t help that!)

At Christmas, presents were to be new clothes or money. I was fascinated by the American way of celebrating Christmas. I could not wait to celebrate my first Christmas in the UK. I pored over recipes and the best way to cook my massive turkey as a foodie. I bought stuffing, gravy(Aah Bisto!), bacon strips, and everything that would allow me to produce the golden, mouthwatering creation of my American dream. I almost wished for a re-creation of drama in my front room as well. I loved Home Alone best!

I then determined to make the turkey my way – the African way. To be truthful, Africans defeat the turkey’s mountainous girt by chopping and dicing it and then seasoning and roasting it in the oven. Or better still, they steer well clear! I consider these cowardly (sorry, my darling African brothers and sisters). After thinking long and hard, I decided that the best way to tackle this and produce a tremendous tasty turkey. I planned to combine every spice in my kitchen’s cupboard plus salt, add plenty of powdered cayenne pepper, and stir in olive oil. Then ensured that my turkey was slathered in this, inside and out. I added chunks of onion as my stuffing and marinated for three days!

Afterwards, I set the turkey inside the oven. When it came out of the oven four hours later, it was golden brown, the juice and a bit of Bistro became gravy, and I was living my African dream! The turkey was delicious, all eaten up and enjoyed by my family, and I never looked back! I had almost forgotten the traditional way of making turkey till one day, a friend asked me how I made my turkey and what stuffing I used. I gave her a strange look and proudly described my method. My description was so funny that it was added to a script in my church play and had everyone in stitches. So, if you fancy a scrumptious, delicious spicy turkey for Christmas, then subscribe to get my free SPICY TURKEY Recipe Card! Remember that you can also cook this turkey and remove the pepper. The beautiful image of the golden brown turkey is by Alison Marras.

Here’s my gift to you. A free Turkey Recipe Card

Mad Cake World

Exhibition! Exhibition!

It was a different world once I began my cake classes and I loved it! It was a world where you talk with your hands. I was clumsy and messy at first and did not have the nimble and quick hands of my friend that introduced me to cakes. She came from an Art background and was good at drawing, painting and modelling.

My early attempts at making sugar leaves and flowers in a sugar pot!

I had to force my normally cerebral brain into making my hands do the talking and oh it was a messy business! My flowers were clumsily created and looked ugly. I would cast envious glances at my more able class mates and wonder at what I was doing at these classes.

But the stubborn person in me persevered as I tried to bend sugar to my will. But one thing I did was to try to produce my own original ideas sugar as a medium.

It was from going to college that I learnt about the cake exhibitions. My friend warned me that they were addictive and to not take a lot of money. I did not believe her till I went.

The exhibitors come from all over the world to sell the latest sugar gadgets. Cookie cutters machines, pliable sugar paste that would half your time, baking tins that would mould your figures, rolling pins that would create the most delicate of designs. I fell hook line and sinker and blew my budget! The exhibition years would start at Squires Kitchen in Farham on to Cake International, then to every other exhibition.

It was at the exhibitions that I realised that beauty could indeed be created with sugar!

I loved it all!

How my Cake journey started……

I had written the book that is now Deadly Sacrifice and was already on a dance between agents and me. I think I made only one submission to a big publisher’s slush pile and the rest were agents. I had been doing this dance for about three years and read an article in a magazine that advised writers to take on hobbies to take the edge off waiting for agents and publishers. I took it to heart and decided to explore my love of baking by learning to decorate the cakes. I went to a friend who was already into it to teach me how to cover a cake and fell in love.

My first sugar flowers on a giant 5 tier cake that I decorated

My first sugar flowers on giant 5 tier cake that I decorated
She suggested I attended cake classes, and that began my journey. Cakes tend to bring smiles to people’s faces. I think it is because it is excellent as presents and for celebrations. My friends were happy to receive my early efforts at decorating, and my children had a decorated cake each birthday. I discovered a world full of cake enthusiasts and met incredibly talented professionals along the way. Like everything that I love, I decided to take my cake decorating hobby seriously.

Most of the popular cake classes that year of 2009 were already filled up except for sugar flowers. It was hysterical! I barely knew how to cover a cake with sugar paste and yet was learning how to make flowers out of sugar. What an experience! Through that class, I got to know about flowers and realised there is hardly anything that you cannot make with sugar!

You can view some of my cake on instagram.

My Cake beginning

Everything has a beginning, and the same could be said for my cake decorating passion. I had always been fascinated with baking and cooking from a young age. And my brother can still recall the first cake I baked in Nigeria, which I coloured blue! They all ate it and had fun with it, and I was happy! I happily baked cakes and made meat pies and experimented with different forms alongside my voracious appetite for reading until I got to university and other distractions took over.

I picked up baking again about 11 years ago when I was searching for other creative outlets aside from my ‘tough’ writing life which was full of rejections! What joy! The baking was the easiest part and the cake decorating a journey that I will share with you.

An Adventurous journey…

IT, Fiction, cake decorating, blogging….there is no end to my adventure! I went through many challenges and prayed through it all. Never stop inching towards your dream. Deadly Sacrifice took me a long time!

I wanted a strong black African female police detective and was turned down by many agents and publishers like so many authors before me. Finally, Detective Constable Toks Ade of the East London Crime Unit found a home with Jacaranda Books . The crime she solves with Detective Sergeant Philip Dean is a grim one involving human trafficking. The inspiration was loosely based on a real life crime that happened in 2001. The torso of a young African boy whom the press nicknamed Adam was found in Thames. It became known as the Torso in Thames. This is the first of many series. I am currently in the process of writing the next one.