Read Wahala by Nikki May – and then make these recipes!

by |January 14, 2022
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Wahala, the debut novel of Anglo-Nigerian author Nikki May, is shaping up to be the most talked-about book of 2022, amid some pretty stiff competition. Due to be turned into a major TV serial, Wahala is the story of Ronke, Simi and Boo, three inseparable mixed-race friends living in London, and what happens to their friendships with the reappearance of Isobel, a friend from their past who’s determined to fix their futures. Rest assured that chaos soon ensues …

Today, courtesy of our friends at Penguin Random House, we’re featuring a couple of bonus recipes for two dishes that feature in the book: Ronke’s delicious kelewele (soft plantains fried in palm oil with peppers, ginger and garlic) and her twist on pasta puttanesca (‘Whore’s Spaghetti’).

Happy cooking (and reading)!

Ronke’s Kelewele

Enough for 4 as a side dish or snack

2 ripe plantains (yellow with little black spots means ripe)
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp grated garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Groundnut oil, for frying

Peel the plantains (cut both ends off, slit a shallow line down the long seam – only as deep as the skin, pull the skin off).

Slice the plantain, at a slight diagonal (aim for about 1cm thick).

Put the plantain, all the spices and 1 tbsp oil in a large bowl, toss to coat.

Cover and leave to marinate for ten minutes.

Warm a large frying pan with groundnut oil to a depth of 1cm on a medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot (not smoking), gently lower the plantain rings in, using a slotted spoon, fry in batches, single layer only (don’t overfill the pan or they will get soggy).

Fry for 5-6 minutes, turning once, until the plantain is golden brown.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with kitchen roll.

Serve warm.

Whore’s Spaghetti alla Ronke

Enough for a greedy two (Ronke and Kayode).

200g spaghetti
1 tbsp salt
1 jar (or tin) of tuna in olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 chilli, finely chopped (optional)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp capers (drained)
About 8 black olives (stoned and sliced)

Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil.

Once boiling, add the salt, and then the spaghetti, stir and set timer for however long the spaghetti pack says for al dente.

Meanwhile, warm a small frying pan on a medium-low heat and add the oil from the tin/jar of tuna and the anchovies. Cook for a minute, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies.

Add the garlic, chilli flakes and chopped chilli (if using).

Keep watching the pans – the pasta should be boiling furiously, the frying pan should be bubbling very gently (you don’t want the garlic to burn).

When the pasta is four minutes away, add the tomatoes, tuna, capers, and olives to the frying pan, turn heat up to medium.

Drain the pasta, keeping a glug of the water back, return to the pan and tip the frying pan contents on top of the pasta. Stir, adding reserved pasta water till you get a nice coating sauce.

Serve. (And try not to row with your partner.)

Wahala by Nikki May (Penguin Books Australia) is out now.

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Wahalaby Nikki May


by Nikki May

Ronke, Simi and Boo are inseparable mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English, though not all of them choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again. When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town...

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