When a Nigerian says they want to make Nigerian vegetable salad, prepare yourself for one of the heartiest, well-loaded vegetable salads you have eaten. There are as many vegetable salad recipes as one can combine vegetables, but the Nigerian vegetable salad is unique, just like you have Israeli salad, Greek salad, etc.
Much hasn’t changed in the way it is made, our mothers made it this way. When I visit my older sons, they always insist I make Nigerian vegetable salad for them, it is like ‘home’ to them. Mostly, my Renaissance man will not have salad any other way if he has a say in it, although he could have you dress it with lighter french or Italian salad dressing but the salad must be fully loaded. He goes on to eat a large bowlful of salad and that is dinner. If you want to use Nigerian vegetable salad as part of a weight loss diet, then this definitely is not the one. It is just supposed to be savoured and enjoyed with no guilt feelings.
Nigerian vegetable salad is specifically dressed in Heinz® salad cream, which is British, and different from mayonnaise. It is tangier, richer and sweeter than mayonnaise.
Normally, this salad is served alongside jollof rice, moi moi, coconut rice etc. My mother would sometimes add boiled cubed beetroots to hers. Corned beef and tinned green peas are quite commonly added, I don’t like them in my salad so I never even remember to buy them. I hate tinned green peas. Feel free to add them to yours. More recently a few new ingredients have made their way into the Nigerian salad, elbow macaroni, kidney beans, sweet corn, hotdog etc. Feel free to experiment but keep true to the basic ingredients.
The carrot and potatoes, when cut up, should be equal in quantity and size. Tomatoes should be firm so it won’t leach water into the salad. White onion is the onion of choice, it is less pungent when served raw but if you use red onions like I do, blanch before adding to the salad. Blanching removes the pungent lingering smell and taste, leaving only the sweet note of the onions and a crunchy feel.
As with any dish eaten raw, hygiene is of utmost importance, wash your hands well, wash vegetables and soak for 2 minutes in water with vinegar, salt or lemon juice added to it. My mother used to add milton® sterilizing liquid to her water. She would also rinse the salad bowl with a little vinegar before adding the vegetables. Wash cutting boards, knives, plates, and bowls very well.
To make Nigerian vegetable salad
2 eggs 2 small carrots 2 medium Irish potatoes 1 extra small onion (blanched) 1 small lettuce head 1/2 small green pepper 1/4 medium cabbage head 2 medium tomatoes 1 small sized cucumber 1 small tin baked beans in tomato sauce 1 tin sardine in oil Salad cream
Boil eggs to hard-boil, about 15 minutes, put in a bowl of cold water and leave to cool down to room temperature. Peel and use an egg slicer or a sharp knife to slice into rounds.
Wash and scrape carrots, cut into small cubes, peel and cut potatoes into the same size cubes as the carrots. Place both in a small pot with enough water to just cover the cubes. Boil till potato is cooked but still firm.
Drain in a sieve, rinse in cold water to stop further cooking, spread out on a plate to cool to room temperature.
Cut onion into rings, blanch and spread out on a plate or tea towel to cool and dry.
Put some clean water in a deep bowl, enough to cover the vegetables when they are put inside it. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt stir well, set aside.
In another bowl with clean water, put lettuce leaves, green pepper, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumber, wash vegetables in 2 or 3 changes of water.
Place washed vegetables in the salted water and leave to stand for 2 minutes. Drain all into a sieve. Shred lettuce, deseed and cut green pepper into tiny bits, finely cut cabbage to about same size as carrot, cut tomatoes into cubes leaving a few round ones for garnishing. Peel, deseed and cut cucumber into cubes about the same size as carrot. Open the tins of baked beans and sardines.
In the salad bowl or tray, spread your ingredients in layers, then garnish the top using egg and tomato slices.
Cover with bowl cover, aluminium foil or plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 1 hour to get cold.
To Serve, mix Nigerian vegetable salad with the salad cream and serve.
- Mix only the quantity to be consumed and store the rest in the fridge. It can last for 1 or 2 days without the cream.
- *In the absence of Salad cream, use this recipe to get your mayonnaise tasting more like Salad cream (coming soon).