Meat pies for me always take me back to my first year of university, my mum worried that I would not be able to look after myself made me a large batch of meat pies to take to university with me. I termed them my emergency pies. I used to freeze them and when it was exam time and I had little time to cook, I would enjoy it as a snack or if feeling particularly hungry have 2 for dinner.
Although my new flatmates were quick to term them Cornish pasties when I described the succulent mincemeat filling, intertwined with an assortment of carrots and potatoes. I was always sure to set them straight, that although the ingredient list resembled that of Cornish pasties. Nigerian meat pie brought so much more to the table, an unrivalled taste enhanced by the flavours of thyme and Maggi and a dash of, my secret weapon, curry powder. Thereby uplifting staple ingredients which often are seen, in shepherds pies and many pasties. To a pocket of heaven, encased in shortcrust pastry.
Small chops are the reason that many children reluctantly agreed to accompany their parents to birthday bashes and wedding parties. Knowing that endless awkward conversations with ‘aunties’ that held them once when they were babies, would be rewarded with a bountiful of meat pies, pof pof (or bofrot if you are of the Ghanaian persuasion) and chin chin.
During my third year at university, I regretted all the missed chances to join my mother in the kitchen. As there was always an assignment to finish or an exam to study for. However, that year I decided to do something about it, I was going to unleash my inner Nigerian Martha Stewart (sans the insider trading jail term). I made it a mission to master the art of Nigerian small chops. Small chops for those who don’t know is another term for hors d’oeuvre, appetisers. With the help of my mum and countless phone calls to check for the right amounts of ingredients to add, as few family classics come with the exact quantities. And with some cyber assistance in the form of http://www.allnigerianrecipes.com – which has countless recipes and step by step guides on how to make many Nigerian staples – I was able to learn many Nigerian delicacies. I can now say that my Nigerian cuisine game has gone from 0 to a strong 70%, there is still some way to go but this summer I shall level up!
If you are wondering, I did end up mastering the art of making meat pies. It’s not exactly the same as my mum’s, because I gave it my own twist but I can promise you that it is still scrumptious. And that is the beauty of food, although some recipes are passed down across generations, through time we each get to put our stamp on things.
Barbara Ojei Agwaziam