One of the fundamental lessons I learned growing up in Lagos is that patience is a worthwhile trait to have… of all the virtues, patience is the most exhausting yet rewarding- talk about a conundrum. I am yet to master this, I am as impatient as a three year old, and everyday brings new lesson in patience but try we shall. Lagos shaped my formative years, I remember everything about growing up there, and one of my fondest memories centres around food; my mother cooking on the charcoal stove in the back yard of the compound, and one of the my favourite things to watch her make is (was- I still watch her make it) moi-moi: steamed bean cakes to the uninitiated. We’d normally have them on a Sunday evening, preparing to watch Frank Olize’s magazine news broadcast programme. Moi-moi is a tedious meal to make, too many steps, too many processes so the probability of fucking it up is severe, and it requires a lot of patience, almost the maternal kind and watching my mother cook this particular meal informed my identity growing up, it was that cliché of; when I grow up I want to be just like my mother.
- 1.5 cups of Brown beans
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper
- 1 large purple onions
- 1 Smoked fish
- 2 Knorr cubes
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Corned beef (optional)
- Prawns (optional)
- 4 hard boiled eggs; sliced (optional)
- 1/2 table spoon of crayfish
Soak the beans until soft enough to rid it of the skin, and you are left with essentially naked beans.
Put these in the blender with the onions; the purple onions are better, one scotch bonnet pepper and ground till it becomes a smooth paste.
Pour the paste into a big enough bowl, add in the salt, half cup of oil, maggi, cray fish…the other optional ingredients if you are adding them, and mix until all blended.
(If you are adding hard boiled eggs do that last, do not include it in the mixture because the eggs will break apart so whilst you have the paste in the cone, drop a couple slices of eggs inside.)
Clean your banana leaves, with water and dry with a kitchen towel.
Break off the stalks and line them at the bottom of the pot in which you are going to cook your moi-moi.
Make a cone with two leaves by overlapping them and tucking one over the other (sorry no idea how this works but it is magic)
Kink the base to prevent the paste from sipping out.
Fill the cone with one cup of moi-moi paste, add in other things if you want, smoked fish, boiled eggs, prawns, corned beed… its up to you and how you want to make it, but keep it savoury, this is a savoury meal.
Lay each cone in the pot with the stems carefully, and closely so each cone is securing the other. Once done, add about a cup of water… good enough to half way; DO NOT COVER THE MOI-MOI WITH WATER. Half way is good.
Cover the pot securely because moi-moi cooks solely on steam. Cook for about forty-five minutes until the paste is a solid cake. Moi-Moi is patient work, a slow burn that demands you wait for it.
Take it out of the pot and let it cool, but some like it hot. Watch the roof of your mouth though.
My favourite part about eating moi-moi is us gathering around the table to eat it with various accompaniments; I prefer garri ( dried cassava), others would have pap (ogi) and some others would have it solo… yes I come from a large family. And just as we were sitting down to eat NEPA would strike and there went our Sunday night with Frank Olize, but we’d eat by candle light swapping stories.
Living in the Britain, these moments are few and very far between, holidays are them times we might come together as a family because life has taken us in all directions, but when my mother makes moi-moi it brings back those memories of togetherness, us as a family. It reminds me of home, no matter how far we are from each other, it reminds me of the family I am part of, and the home we grew up in, all loud and noisy and connected and loved.