Two years after she left Nigeria for London, Lope Ariyo craved for Nigerian food so much that she decided to recreate it.
Although she ate Nigerian food with her family at home, it was not on a daily basis.
It was at the age of 11 when she attended a boarding school in Lagos that she had a proper taste of traditional dishes like jollof rice, pounded yam and egusi soup.
In a chat with Guardian, Lope, explained that she goes beyond the normal way a particular food is cooked to using whatever is available and also gets ideas from other cuisines.
Lope, who is exposed to a wide variety of flavours growing up, said her mother and grandmother initially raises their eyebrow when they see her cooking.
“Whenever my mum and grandma see me doing stuff, they’re like, ‘O-kaaay’. It’s only once they’ve tasted it that they say, ‘OK, I see what you’re doing.’ Now my mum gets a bit upset when I don’t cook for her.”
Lope had the chance to express her love for Nigerian dishes when she applied for a food competition, whose aim was to find a cook who would “break an African cuisine into the home kitchens of the UK”.
The competition, conceived by Red magazine and HarperCollins, wanted to react to a lack of diversity in British cookery writing.
Encouraged by her friends to send in her application, Lope was called in a week later to cook alongside four other finalists representing North, East, South and Central Africa.
Lope’s Nigerian cuisine won and landed her a book deal with HarperCollins.
Now 24 years old, Lope went from being an undergraduate with a food blog on the side, to an author whose first book, Hibiscus, which will be out in June, may change the way British see African food.
Speaking about Lope’s dish, one of the competition judges, Pip McCormac said, “Her recipes seemed really approachable, interesting and exciting but not beyond the realm of comprehension.”
Lope’s cooking is a fusion of English and Nigerian