Cooking & Eating Healthy in Islamabad & Lagos

“Don’t eat any fruits or vegetables unless it’s peeled or cooked,” we were told during our orientation in Islamabad.

My husband, who ate street food everyday for three years in Bangkok, ignored this warning and got a form of typhoid fever during our first year in Pakistan. Even when we started growing our own lettuce and herbs he simply avoided eating fresh leafy vegetables anymore unless we were in the US. Which is really a pity, because when bought in season Pakistan had some of the sweetest, tastiest fruits and vegetables: mangoes, strawberries, peas, Brussel sprouts, zucchini, and eggplants, to name a few.

My cardiologist brother also warned us our cholesterol levels were way too high, but recommended improved diet before prescribing medicines. I got a chance to learn new recipes based on what was locally available, and in one year reduced our cholesterol levels by half. We also switched to canola oil, reduced consumption of dairy products, and fried foods.

We got careless when we moved to Lagos, but it’s still doable. There is a significant difference, however, in that many of our favorite fruits and vegetables are not grown locally. We can always buy the imported varieties from South Africa, such as mushrooms, asparagus, celery, and cherry tomatoes, but oh my are they expensive! So I had to improvise again.

In my Livebinders of favorite recipes you will find many of these recipes. The ones that I perfected in Islamabad are the following:

  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts (the frozen kind bought in Lagos groceries were not as crunchy)
  • Eggplant Parmesan (parmesan cheese is available but very expensive in Lagos)
  • Baby Bokchoi & Shiitake Mushrooms (difficult to find bok choi in Lagos, you have to grow them yourself)
  • Tom Yum Gong (we grew lemon grass)

And these are the ones that I could still whip up in Lagos, occasionally using canned products widely available in grocery stores

  • Green Beans in toasted garlic and red pepper flakes
  • Mung Bean soup (with bacon and/or chorizon)
  • Baked Zucchini sticks
  • Feta Cheese & Olives, Feta Cheese on Eggplant
  • Pad Thai (the noodles, sauce, tofu and canned bean sprouts are occasionally available)
  • Chicken Lo Mein (pasta and noodles are surprisingly cheap)


Here’s a simple recipe that is good as fresh salad or roasted that I enjoyed this weekend.


  • Fresh mushrooms (imported)
  • Carrots (can be pre-cooked by dipping in boiling water for 1.30 minutes)
  • Celery (imported)
  • Bell pepper (imported)
  • Minced garlic
  • Tomatoes

Heat oven to 350F. Mix everything except the tomatoes and toss in balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil. Add your favorite spices like garlic salt and Montreal Steak. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, then add the tomatoes and let it bake for another 5 minutes. Yummy when eaten hot, but also great cold the next day.


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