CHEF PROFILE: Atim Ukoh
Name: Atim Ukoh
City: Boston, Massachusetts
Speciality: Culinary styling and Catering
Name of Company: Afrolems
Soul Society 101: Afrolems is such a unique name? What does it mean?
Atim: In high school, we nicknamed food “lems.” When I discovered my passion for cooking, I wanted to tie it to African food with a cool slang that would be a conversation starter and the name Afrolems was born.
Soul Society 101: When did you realize that cooking is something you were good at?
Atim: When I had guests at my house all the time that did not want to leave, I realized I was grocery shopping for my friends every month instead of myself. I cooked dishes I knew they would like because I anticipated their arrival in my house. I grew up being forced into the kitchen, but I didn’t hate the idea of cooking, I just did not like the idea of being pried away from my television time. After a while, TV time didn’t matter because I found a new way to engage my creativity.
Soul Society: What current projects do you currently have going on?
Atim: Most of the projects cannot be revealed until launch, however I am primarily contributing to newspapers and online publications. I also started a catering in Boston series. It started in Toronto, now it’s in Boston. I may take it to another city over the summer.
Soul Society 101: What do you love about Nigerian food?
Atim: Nigerian food is very rich in flavour. If you are not used to strong flavours, it may take some adjusting to. It is however versatile and employs a lot of nutritious ingredients. Many Nigerians complain about the time it takes to make the food, but I say the longer it takes, the more love it shows I have for the people that are going to eat it. It is also the best conversation starter with those that have never experienced Nigerian food, as each dish taps into a conversation of different cultures within Nigeria. For example; the cocoyam pottage called Ekpang Nkukwo, is traditionally an efik dish and was incorporated into the culture of the fattening room when it was in existence. Efik brides to be were sent to a fattening room after a suitor indicated they were going to marry them. At the fattening room, they were fed a heavy diet of Ekpang, so this dish is loved dearly by the efik people.
Soul Society 101: What are some career highlights?
Atim: Some of my highlights have been being asked to cater weddings because of the confidence in my cooking. I have also been featured in a few magazines and newspapers. I’ve also been asked to perform chef demonstrations at a few events. It has made it all a worthwhile experience.
2 Cups of Rice
7 Medium sized Roma Tomatoes
3 Cups of water
1 Clove of garlic
3 Cubes of Maggi
A pinch of Thyme
2 Teaspoons of Salt
1 Small bulb of Onion
2 Bay leaves
3 Scotch Bonnet Peppers
1 Teaspoon of dry pepper
1 Teaspoon of curry powder
1 Small can of Tomato puree
2 Cooking spoons of Vegetable Oil
*Wash rice by rubbing the rice between your palms in a bowl of water and draining the water till clear.
Blend tomatoes, pepper and garlic and bring to boil till the excess water dries up.
Heat up vegetable oil and pour in chopped onions and fry. Pour in the can of tomato puree and fry.
Pour in blended tomato and pepper mix into the pot and stir in. Pour in salt, dry pepper, curry, thyme, bay leaves and maggi cubes.
Allow it to simmer on low heat for 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to the lowest level and pour in the washed rice. Pour in the water and stir and leave on low heat for 20 minutes or till the rice is soft.
Tip: To get the party rice flavor, increase the heat on the rice and burn the bottom of the pot with the pot covered and stir the rice after 3 minutes of burning.
Stir the rice and serve with any protein of your choice.
Akara Recipe (Bean Cake):
2 cups of beans (use black eyed peas for best results)
1 small bulb of chopped onions
2-3 chopped small scotch bonnet peppers
Shrimps (optional- you can include any protein of your choice)
Vegetable Oil for frying
Wash and Soak your beans overnight in a bowl of water.
Wash the beans till the skin has peeled off.
Blend the beans with a little water till it forms a paste.
Pour your paste in a bowl and with a wooden spoon, whisk the paste till the mixture is light and fluffy
Add your seasoning, salt, chopped shrimps, chopped onions and pepper. (You can also choose to blend the onion and pepper and mix it in.)
Heat oil till moderately hot,scoop paste with a spoon and drop immediately.
Fry till golden brown and serve with Bread, Custard, Pap, or Garri.