Teaching in and around London has the advantage that you get students from all kind of backgrounds, so when I was faced with the challenge of preparing something traditionally Nigerian, I was able to get a recipe off one of my students, whose mum, like many immigrants here, came to England via Germany. Quite regularly when I am out and about speaking German to the kids I have someone turning around and telling me, in accent-free German, that they had been born and raised in Frankfurt, Hamburg or Düsseldorf, where their parents had found asylum after fleeing their war-torn home countries.
Food plays an important role in finding your identity if your are a second generation immigrant: often you struggle to learn to speak your parents’ language, and returning to their home country does often feel more like a foreign holiday than a return to your roots. But the flavours, scents and textures of your mum’s and grandmother’s kitchen are the non-verbal moments that link you to their – and your own – past.
My student’s mum came to Europe on a research scholarship, the same reason that brought me to the United Kingdom over a decade ago. By preparing traditional treats like these Nigerian rock cakes, which are sold as street food or served at parties and family gatherings, we can help our children negotiate their mixed heritage.
Puff Puff (Nigerian Rock Buns)
- 250g plain flour
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- 1 level tsp salt
- 1 egg
- milk or water as needed
In a bowl, mix the ingredients with a little bit of milk, adding more until you get a smooth but stretchy dough (you will need to form little balls out of it). Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Heat up oil in a deep pan until it is moderately hot – if it starts smoking you need to turn it down and wait a bit. Scoop the batter or mold little balls and drop them into the oil. Fry for about 20 minutes at medium heat: they need to cook inside as well as brown on the outside. Before you fry the next batch, reduce the heat of the oil as it will have heated up!
Leave them on a bit of kitchen paper to soak up excess oil. Serve as they are or rolled in sugar. Don’t even think about the calories you are consuming – you’ll burn them off as you’re frying the next batch…