Good Food


The co-founder of Nigerian tapas restaurant Chuku’s pays tribute to his grandma and shares a recipe using the seeds of the African wild mango


Emeka Frederick’s grandmothe­r was, he remembers, “a staunch lover of her Nigerian heritage”. After coming to Britain in the ‘60s, she embraced community roles that helped Nigerians maintain “their culture and traditions, which, through the generation­s, can provide a rudder. It’s important to know your roots.”

As children in 1990s Ilford, Emeka and his sister, Ifeyinwa, sometimes chafed against their grandmothe­r’s habits: “She was very Nigerian in her ways.” But, today – as if the duo absorbed that cultural pride “by osmosis” – they find themselves continuing their grandmothe­r’s work at Chuku’s in Tottenham, the Nigerian restaurant they opened in 2020. “We weren’t interested in Shoreditch or Soho,” says Emeka. “We wanted to find a community.”

In its contempora­ry dishes (such as the salted caramel chicken wings that employ the spiced peanut mix kuli kuli) and its small plates format, Chuku’s has establishe­d itself as a welcoming haven for those familiar with Nigerian cooking and newbies keen to explore the food. “We didn’t think Nigerian cuisine had the platform it deserved. We’re trying to share the culture,” says Emeka, who worked in the City before switching to hospitalit­y. “My grandmothe­r would be very proud.

“My parents, who are both accountant­s, worked together beautifull­y to support their children. I look and sound just like my dad, but, in food, Mum’s Nigerian cooking was the main influence on me.

“I don’t recall watching Mum in the kitchen, enamoured. But I always enjoyed cooking and, at 13, when I went to boarding school, I could prepare a decent family meal. I was never fazed in the

Ogbono soup & eba

SERVES 4 PREP 10 mins COOK 30 mins EASY

350g skinless chicken thigh fillets,

diced into 2.5cm cubes

½ tsp white pepper

5 tbsp vegetable oil

½ medium onion, finely chopped 3 tbsp sustainabl­e palm oil 65g ground ogbono (the seeds of the African wild mango, available in specialist shops or online) 450ml chicken stock

1 tbsp dried ground crayfish

(see p22)

1 tsp cayenne pepper

200g cooked prawns

100g spinach, chopped

For the eba

350g gari (grated cassava granules, available in specialist shops or online)

1 Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and the white pepper. Heat 2 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and cook the onions until translucen­t, about 5-7 mins. Add the chicken and cook for 10-15 mins, until cooked through. Set aside.

2 Gently warm up the palm oil and the remaining vegetable oil in a saucepan over a low heat, just to melt the oil. Once the oil is evenly spread, stir in the ground ogbono. Turn the heat up a little, then break any large granules with a spoon and keep stirring until the ogbono has dissolved into the oil. Pour in 150ml of the chicken stock and stir for 30-45 seconds until the stock has combined with the ogbono and oil to create a thick, slippery consistenc­y. Add the remaining stock in two 150ml batches. Cook over a low heat for 10 mins with the lid on, stirring midway through to prevent it sticking. The soup will thicken.

3 Stir in 250ml water to loosen the soup and cook for a further 10 mins with the lid on, again stirring halfway through. Stir in the ground crayfish, cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Add the cooked chicken and prawns and cook for a further 5 mins. If the soup has thickened too much, you can add a little more water 1 tbsp at a time. Finally, stir in the chopped spinach and allow to wilt for 2 mins.

4 Start preparing the eba once the ogbono soup is almost ready. Bring 1 litre water to the boil in a large saucepan, then gradually stir in the gari and combine into a stiff dough. Set aside to cool for 2-3 mins. Then, with wet hands, mould into four equal dumplings. Serve with the ogbono soup for dipping.

GOOD TO KNOW folate • iron

PER SERVING 724 kcals • fat 29g • saturates 7g • carbs 83g • sugars 3g • fibre 5g • protein 30g • salt 3.2g

kitchen. And I loved experiment­ing. At university, on Saturday afternoons, I’d put the radio on and cook. That time was almost a guilty pleasure for me. Everyone wanted to eat out or get pizza but I’d eat home-cooked food before going to a student rave.

“Mum was a very good cook. Her thing was intensifyi­ng flavour without much salt. I love her egusi stew – made by cooking ground melon seeds in palm oil, then adding sweet red peppers and dark, leafy vegetables, such as spinach – and her jollof rice.

“For jollof, you blend and cook down tomatoes, peppers and onions, add in a variety of herbs and seasoning, then steam rice in that rich, flavourful sauce. Every cook has their jollof signature. For instance, my partner cooks hers with fresh thyme, my auntie’s version is super-spicy and mum used fresh rather than canned tomatoes, and ginger for zing.

“In Nigeria, we only really have one thin soup – pepper soup. What are called soups or sauces are thicker, stew-like dishes, often given body by first sautéing ground seeds. These soups are eaten with swallows (at Chuku’s we call them dumplings), made from starchy tubers such as yam or cassava.

“You break o‹ some dough, roll the swallow into a ball in your fingers and make an impression in it, to catch the soup.

“My recipe, ogbono soup [ogbono are the seeds of the dika fruit, also known as the African wild mango], was a favourite of our grandmothe­r’s, or as we called her in the Igbo language, Nnenne. Igbo is our ethnic community. Specifical­ly, we’re Delta Igbos from the southern Delta State. Nnenne lived in Edgware and we regularly ate ogbono (p21) with her.

“Mum and Nnenne had fond memories of Nigeria and those narratives were all around us. They didn’t vocally reinforce that cultural heritage around food, but Nnenne wouldn’t let you eat soups and swallows with a spoon. She insisted we eat with our hands, in the right way, using no more than three fingers – your thumb and the next two – no mess, no slurping. And you had to leave a clean plate. That was our Nnenne.

“At Chuku’s, we tend to serve dishes from the collective Nigerian diet; dishes which crossover di‹erent ethnic groups that you might eat in the capital, Lagos. It’s a country of huge geographic and ethnic diversity. We’d never claim to represent it all. We’re students of the cultures ourselves.”

Above, from left to right: Emeka and his sister, Ifeyinwa; a selection of Chuku’s tapas dishes; jollof quinoa

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Above: Emeka in Mile 12 Market, Lagos.
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