London based Nigerian-born culinary entrepeurneur Tomi Makanjuola wants to bring her Vegan Nigerian Fusion food to the masses. Her plant based dishes were fuelled by her becoming a Vegan and her quest for tasty, healthy nutritious meals combined with her love for her traditional Nigerian food. “My mother taught me everything I know about traditional Nigerian food” she said. Alt Africa caught up with Tomi as she puts her catering business on hold due to the COVID-19 and launches her online cooking classes. Like many food businesses Tomi has to quickly adapt to finding a way to sustain The Vegan Nigerian.
- When did your love affair with food start?
My love for food started at a very early age. At 9, I was already obsessed with watching cooking shows on TV and by 10, I was cooking meals unsupervised and testing recipes from the pile of cookbooks we had in the house. The first dish I ever made was the classic jollof rice.
- Tell us about The Vegan Nigerian, how did that happen?
The Vegan Nigerian came about a couple of months after I went vegan myself. Faced with questions such as ‘what are you going to eat now that you have given up all animal products?’ I set out to demonstrate how easy it was to veganise traditional and contemporary Nigerian dishes. What started as a blog and a hobby has since evolved to a thriving online community and a business that sustains me today. Through The Vegan Nigerian, I offer catering services, online resources and recipes, vegan coaching, and events.
- As an entrepreneur how is the lockdown affecting your business?
Due to the lockdown, I have had to postpone or cancel all face-to-face events, as well as the catering jobs I had lined up in the first half of the year. It has caused me to focus all my attention on online activities. So far, it is been a great opportunity to connect further with my audience.
- Are you offering any alternative services as many food businesses have had to diversify?
Yes, I have started offering online virtual cooking classes. Participants register for the class and receive a list of the ingredients and equipment needed. During the virtual class, we cook together, and I answer any food-related questions.
- What kind of support do you need?
Right now, I would love for people to share my work, try out an online class or grab a copy of my cookbook. These little gestures help keep things ticking along during the current crisis.
- Why did you decide to do Vegan Nigerian food? What is the demand like?
I chose to share predominantly vegan Nigerian food simply because I am Nigerian, and I have the desire to share my cultural heritage in the context of vegan food. I want Nigerians (and West Africans) to see what is possible in terms of recreating healthier, more ethical versions of our food. At the same time, I want vegans and non-vegans from other cultures to discover the beauty of Nigerian cuisine.
- Tell us about some of your favourite dishes that you cook?
When I am after something hearty and filling, I love pounded yam with Egusi soup. Anything with rice and plantain is also a winner.
- Tell us about the upcoming cooking class what can people learn?
Participants will learn how to make Moin the easy way. Moin Moin is a steamed bean pudding that can be time-consuming and strenuous to make, but I will be divulging an easy method that still tastes great! Anyone interested in joining the class can do so via http://payhip.com/vegannigerian. How to Make Moin Moin the Easy Way | Vegan Nigerian Cook-Along takes place this Sunday 26th April | 4.30pm (BST) | Online.
- If you could cook only one dish during lockdown what would that be?
It would be beans with plantain and a side salad because it is super healthy and nutritious. With being stuck indoors, I think it is important to make sure we stay on top of our health and well-being, including what we eat.
- What do you think people will learn from this experience when we are looking at a time when so many people are without adequate food and food banks being unable to cope?
I think this experience is going to be an eye opener, shining even more of a spotlight on the inequalities that exist in our society. I hope that we come out of it more compassionate and caring about the needs of others.
Get hold of her 2018 cookbook here: Plantain Cookbook: 40+ Vegan Recipes Paperback
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