Chef masterclass plantain, smoked scotch bonnet and raspberry chicken breast marinade for grilling

Tagines are easy to find, but where can an adventurous diner – or a homesick ex-pat – sniff out a bowl of ogbono soup or a few balls of fufu?

The various cuisines of the 16 countries that make up west africa are especially poorly represented in the capital, something that friends jeremy chan and iré hassan-odukale set out to change when they opened ikoyi.

Well, sort of. The pair derive inspiration as much from haute cuisine as from the market stalls of lagos, and the menu at ikoyi – while showcasing many unfamiliar ingredients – is designed, as chan puts it, “to weave deliciousness into a whole new concept. The aesthetics of our food are almost as important as the taste: we play with colours, textures, geometry.”

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Much research has gone into their menu, including sessions in the british library researching west african cuisine, but other elements are at work, too. Chan’s reworking of jollof rice – a complex assembly involving brown crab meat cooked like a custard in a thermomix; rice fried in chicken fat and cooked in a broth of barbecued vegetables, chicken and seafood; then a final burst of high-temperature, cantonese wok hei cooking – is a case in point: “the flavour is west african, but the cooking is from my childhood in hong kong.”


And the genesis of one of ikoyi’s most popular dishes – fried plantain strips, dusted in raspberry salt and served with a smoky, sweet sour, piquant emulsion – lies in paris.West african at le châteaubriand, to be precise, where chan ordered iñaki aizpitarte’s tempura of calves’ brains in strawberry powder.

“using dried fruit as a seasoning was shocking and brilliant,” he recalls. “it came back to me when we developed the dish. Not just the flavour, but the colour and texture, like the surface of mars.”

The dish looks dramatically simple on the plate, but there is much complexity in the preparation: chan even dehydrates his own raspberries, but admits that the freeze-dried version works just as well.

Much trial and error went into the right coating for the fried plantains – a blend of polenta with sorghum, rice and tapioca flours, which stops the fritters becoming soggy – while his recipe for chilli oil needs a fearless touch at the grill.West african “the shallots need to be blackened and completely soft, or the oil will end up unbalanced, bitter and very spicy,” he advises.

The other element in his emulsion is a pickling liquor flavoured with honey, lavender and two west african spices: calabash nutmeg, the seeds of an evergreen tree from the forests of west africa with a similar odour and flavour to common nutmeg, and grains of selim, a musky, peppery spice. Both are toasted before being added to the pickle “which is like a honey and lavender tea: you can drink it”.

At ikoyi, the plantain dish is a kind of mission statement for the menu. “it’s the first bite of food that most diners have, and it’s also the spiciest. We enjoy playing with flavour, visuals and diners’ preconceptions.” chan hesitates for a moment, then smiles.West african “actually, what we really like is playing with people’s heads.”

1. For the chilli oil, pierce the chillies and halve the shallots lengthways. Toss well in grapeseed oil, then thoroughly blacken everything under a grill. Chop it all finely and mix with the oil. Vac pac and leave for 48 hours to infuse, then strain through a double layer of muslin.

2. For the pickling liquor, bring the liquids and honey to the boil and set aside. Toast the peppercorns, grains ofselim and nutmeg until fragrant, then add to the hot pickle liquid with the chilli, lavender, thyme and bay leaves. Chill and reserve.

3. Make the emulsion. In a blender, mix the egg, mustard, paprika, chipotle chillies and salt, then drizzle in 400ml of the chilli oil to form an emulsion.Pickling liquor scrape down the sides of the blender and add the pickle liquor. Blend again, slowly adding the remaining chilli oil.

4. If you are using fresh raspberries, dehydrate them in a fan oven at 55°C overnight. Blitz them (or the freeze-dried raspberries) with the spices, then mix with the salt.

6. Slice the plantains into long 5mm strips. If they are not quite ripe, deep-fry them in oil at 120°C for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the cores and lightly caramelise the outsides. Lightly dust the plantains in the flour mixture, then dip in the buttermilk, then in the flour again. Deep-fry at 180°C for 3 minutes, until caramelised and very crisp.

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