Yemisi Aribisala

Yemisi Aribisala

Alkaki and the Allegory of a Good Marriage

Featured in Apartamento Cookbook #7: Late-Night Meals along with chef Fadi Kattan’s recipe: Late-Night Labaneh.


A Northern-Nigerian bride should ideally have warmed alkakis to hand. A grainy, dense, crumbly, honey-infused pastry that breaks off to reveal hidden silken tracks, alkaki is best served freshly made, or larghetto-warmed in the oven, with a cup of Lipton tea or fura de nunu. Alkaki was originally the preserve of Northern-Nigerian aristocrats, who had it for tea or as a dessert. If you are wondering why a new bride needs alkaki, it is because she is going to be getting more than a few relatives coming round after the wedding. She’ll be expected to show up radiant, with days-old henna-decorated hands, swathed in trousseau. There might not be a whisking off to honeyed isolation for two, but there is syrup for sousing the pastry: honey, maple, jaggery, boiled sugar cut through with tamarind or fresh limes. Alkaki would be that meditative snack I would make in the middle of the night. Prepared ahead, then silently rolled, braided, and deep-fried. While making the alkaki, I will fashion some bastardised Scheherazade tale because I find story-making and slow-cooking wonderful amatory partners. The tale begins with the help of…

Apartamento Magazine - Yemisi Aribisala



1 cup of bulgur wheat

1 1/2 cup plain flour

9 tbsp non-homogenised yoghurt

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp vanilla pod

A pinch of salt

1 tbsp oil

11/4 cup water

Oil for deep frying

Syrup of your choice

For the accompanying tea

5 green cardamom pods, cracked

A pinch of passion flower tea,

lemon balm, or lime blossoms

10 cloves

10 black peppercorns

5 alligator peppers (grains of paradise)

2 star anises

1/4 vanilla pod

An inch of fresh ginger

Fresh lemongrass, cut to preferred length

Rooibos tea, if available

METHOD (Serves 4–6)


Alkaki is an appropriate euphemism for a good marriage. From the first ingredient of crushed wheat and imperfect graininess of personalities, to which you add a few handfuls of plain flour, if you can afford the refinement, to help bind rough grains together. Some fermented milk signifies good tradition. You can decide to add yeast, but why allow hypocrisy so early on into the mix? Non-homogenised goat milk yoghurt is perfect in yeast’s place. It is gentle, fragrantly wild, and indigenous. It is a slow hand compared to the loudness of yeast. Mix the three ingredients together by hand. Add in the ground ginger for subtle heat, vanilla for oud, a pinch of salt for integrity, and a tablespoon of oil for divine presence. Mix again thoroughly before adding the emotions of water.Leave the mixed dough together for a few hours, possibly overnight.

In the morning, put the dough into a mortar and pound for a few good minutes with a pestle—ah, sorry, we are in the northern hemisphere, so use a food processor to do the job instead. Observe that all latent euphemisms apply here, pounding, mixing, whatever. You need a slightly sticky, pliable dough. This can take about 20 minutes of moderate processing. Scoop out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a perfect log. Leave to rest for about another hour or so. Then cut the log into equally sized rounds with a sharp knife. Roll each round into the shape of a man or woman. Put them next to each other and put their arms and legs around one another. The original alkaki is more like an infinity shape than a koek sister, but I think in honour of a good marriage, the alkaki should be more like a flawed braid. Place your married couple gently into well-heated oil and allow them to agonise and bubble up with shock (without breaking apart). Fry until fused, golden brown to slightly darker shade of tan. Fish them out and place them on absorbent paper. Listen to their whistling of relief. Line still-warm couples in ajar and carefully douse them in your favourite sweet syrup—their reward for surviving the harsh vicissitudes of this life that is like a vat of hot oil. Leave the jar open to allow bad reminiscences to evaporate. Cool completely, then lock the jar and turn upside down until all honey or syrup is absorbed. Add more syrup to adjust to how sweet you want the alkaki. You have a free hand since there is no confirmed recipe for a good marriage. Store in the refrigerator and warm up slowly in the oven on demand.For the tea, heat a full teapot of water slowly until the surface bubbles languidly, not vigorous boiling. Add all ingredients and turn heat down completely to allow tea to brew, ideally for about an hour. Stir occasionally. Serve with alkaki. Tea left in a glass teapot overnight tastes best the next day.

Apartamento Magazine - Yemisi Aribisala
Apartamento Magazine - Yemisi Aribisala
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