Here’s a quick recipe I think is among my top 3 favorite Nigerian dishes. One of my University-level students made it for me to try, then I asked about a recipe and realized it’s not hard at all. She has consistently brought me random Nigerian dishes, and I love the time we get to spend together at the table as they giggle while curiously go forth. The students are teaching me so much more than they realize. I’m able to see them as people, and not just numbers on a role sheet, or grades in an excel file. There’s is such depth in education, but that’s another article in itself.
The dish is called Acha pudding. The main ingredient, and in most cases, one of 3 ingredients, is Acha or Fonio grains. They are pretty popular grains in West and Sub-Saharan Africa. They’re tiny, smaller than quinoa, and cook down with various liquids to create practically any dish! I’ve been on this kick with researching the health benefits of everything I eat, primarily grains. I think it started when I was first diagnosed, and it has become somewhat a habit.
Okay, so this is what they look like. Despite my elephant hands, I think you can tell how tiny these super grains are.
I’ve read a few articles on the grain itself, and the most common response is, “very little goes a long way!” Most people can feed a groupof 16-24 with only 2-3 cups. TWO TO THREE CUPS. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but that’s a lot of mouths being fed. Research shows that the average household size in Nigeria is 6 people, so imagine the naira (money) being saved if this was the starch for a meal rather than something as expensive as rice.
We walked right into the market, and grabbed a huge bag for about
₦ 1000 ($2.80).
Now, there are PLENTY of health benefits listed, but I’ll only share a few. If you want to know more, there are hundreds of articles where people talk about the amino acids, methionine, and origins of acha (fonio), we’re not doing that today, friends. I’m sorry if I let my science folks down.
Health Benefits (a few)
My favorite are the digestive benefits. I think anytime I can eat a meal that will not leave me so full I want to die, or unbearably bloated- it’s a plus. Like most healthy grains, fonio is loaded with fiber and as such, it rids your digestive tract of toxic waste. It’s also gluten free. That doesn’t mean much to me, but for some, that’s the selling point so there ya go! I’m finding that more people are developing a gluten allergy than I’ve ever seen, so anytime I can recommend, I will. I’ve heard about the challenges that come with finding delicious, affordable foods that aren’t gluten-filled.
It is also a great source of energy. Most people here (Central Nigeria) eat acha pudding for breakfast, which makes complete sense because you can literally feel the boost of energy hit you in the face. It’s like another form of Oatmeal. Obviously, it isn’t but that’s the best way I can describe it. It actually reminds me of Cream of Wheat, too. I feel like I’m just typing out loud. Is that a thing? Like, thinking out loud-but with my fingertips? This is what happens when you write without outlining, kids. OUTLINE. What in the English teacher is happening? This is a mess. LOL. MOVING ON….
I cooked it down with skim milk (because lactose intolerance), honey, and it took about 30 minutes. Yes, 30 minutes. I thought I would be able to just pop it on the stove for a bit like oatmeal, but this is a much more dense grain and apparently she needs a bit more attention. You want it to be smooth, rather than “gritty”, the consistency is much like quinoa. If you’ve never had quinoa, that’s not helpful at all…
Here’s the recipe we used:
1 c Acha (Fonio)
4 cups of milk. (Any milk is fine, but again, I'm lactose intolerant so
I've used soy, almond, and coconut and they've all worked fine)
1 dash of salt (I always lol at this measurement)
1 tbsp raw honey
& fruit of your choice. (The first time I had it, I didn't add fruit,
the second time I added bananas, and the third time I added mango.)
1. Rinse the acha (just like rice, I can't believe there are people in this world who
don't rinse their rice)
2. Add the acha and the milk in a medium/large pot and stir
continuously for 30-40 minutes.
3. Once the grains are tender, it's finished!
4. Add whatever toppings you'd like.
I know this wasn’t the most traditional recipe article, but none of my recipes ever are. I have such a strong love for “author’s voice,” that I refuse to compromise. Also, I wanted to share a bit more of my food adventures while I indulge the beauty of Nigeria and her culture.
Thanks for reading.
I love you.