Sweet potato and lentil soup

Accra fruit and veg

While we always come back to Accra with suitcases stuffed with food hard to find here, there are lots of wonderful food items here too. Cassava, mango, pineapple, red onions, avocado, eggplant and green bell peppers, and  yes – sweet potato. On Sundays I’ll often make soup for next week’s lunches. In Rome it was fridgestrone – whatever vegetables needed using up at the end of the week. Here in Accra, sweet potatoes are often the base, with onions, some pulses,  and various spices, all simmering in the slow cooker.

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Sweet potato and lentil soup

3 onions
6 cloves of garlic
3 tsp fennel seeds
9 cm fresh ginger, peeled
2 tbs oil
1.5 litre vegetable stock
1 kilo sweet potato, diced
200 grammes red lentils
4 tbs coconut milk powder
salt, pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a frying on. Peel and hope the onions, and fry them gently for a few minutes. Add fennel seeds. Chop the fresh ginger coarsely, and add to the frying pan for a few minutes more.

Meanwhile, peel, then coarsely chop the sweet potatoes. I use a hand blender to finish the soup after cooking, so was not too worried about chopping evenly. Put the sweet potatoes in the slow cooker, with vegetable stock, onion/ginger/fennel seeds, and the red lentils. I had soaked the red lentils for a couple hours first, totally optional. Cook in slow cooker on high for a few hours, or in a stovetop pot if you prefer (maybe 45 minutes). When the sweet potatoes and lentils are soft, blend until smooth using a stick blender. Stir in the coconut milk powder (or coconut milk if you have that). Check the seasoning and serve.

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Not so Pinterest-worthy but tasty!

Three days in Kigali

rwandair Muraho! That is Kinyarwandan for hello. I had a few days in Kigali, which was actually really nice. It was my first trip to Rwanda, and I was not sure what to expect. But Kigali was pleasant, and the people I met were so friendly. Rwanda is in central and east Africa, with mountains and savannah, and they grow really wonderful coffee and tea. Both of which I brought back, of course.

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Kigali is hilly, and very green. The airport is new and very easy to navigate, lots of security. Colleagues mentioned that Kigali is hosting a lot of meetings, as Rwanda is stable and relatively safe compared to Nairobi, for example. Interestingly, plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda, so I’d been warned not to bring any in my luggage. When shopping for groceries, the shops gave me paper bags – a welcome change from the many plastic bags we get in Accra. In Accra, I bring cloth bags for groceries, which some supermarkets do not particularly like, but they have gotten used to eccentrics who insist on that. 😉

Kigali

So clean! No chickens in the street! Accra has lots of chickens and goats. My Rwandan colleagues  said, bemused “But here that is forbidden, chickens in the middle of the city? Do the police not do something about it?”  No, I said, I do not think the chickens are there illegally, and the police have bigger problems to deal with than chickens.

I was in Kigali the last Saturday of the month, which is the day for Umuganda, mandatory community work. Really interesting.

“Modern day Umuganda can be described as community work. On the last Saturday of each month, communities come together to do a variety of public works. This often includes infrastructure development and environmental protection. Rwandans between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in Umuganda. Expatriates living in Rwanda are encouraged to take part. Today close to 80% of Rwandans take part in monthly community work. Successful projects include the building of schools, medical centres and hydro electric plants as well as rehabilitating wetlands and creating highly productive agricultural plots. The value of Umuganda to the country’s development since 2007 has been estimated at more than US $60 million.” (From http://www.rwandapedia.rw/explore/umuganda)

Kigali bus

They even have a municipal bus service! And lots of taxis and motorbike taxis, easy to get around. Gender equality is enshrined in the Rwandan constitution, and Rwanda was the first country in the world to have more than 50% female members of Parliament.

One day I managed to get away long enough to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I’f recently read A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali which is set during the 1994 genocide. The book is depressing, but so well written. From Wikipedia: “The Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. An estimated more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed during the 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July 1994, constituting as many as 70% of the Tutsi and 20% of Rwanda’s total population.” 

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The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. 1994 was not that long ago. Amazing to see Kigali today.

 

Kokosmakroner and Christmas in Norway

julekrans Yes, we had a Norwegian Christmas! Almost everyone in the family had been sick or was getting sick with coughs and colds, so I was lucky not to get ill until the very end. I have just been ill ever since (cold, bad cold, bronchitis, then really bad bronchitis) with too much travelling (Accra-Norway-Accra-Rome-Accra) so finally I can catch up a bit. Norway was lovely: hardly any snow over the holidays, but lots of family and Christmas spirit. Back to the family farm to stay with my parents, which is no longer something I take for granted. We are all getting older, but they are still in good shape, fortunately. My mother has been fighting breast cancer again, but this time it seems to have gone better.

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We decorated the tree with old tinsel, Norwegian flags and familiar old ornaments from all over the world (I can see a German wooden house and a star from Kampala there), and enjoyed the peace before the youngest generation arrived. Of course, the julenek had to be put up for the birds (a sheaf of oats for Christmas), despite the lack of snow.

julenek We waited for the hurricane Urd to hit the west coast, but hardly noticed it in the east. We ate clementines, walked in the woods, made Norwegian paper stars and just enjoyed being home with parents, siblings and their spouses, and the increasing horde of nieces and nephews, who are all very sweet. It was great. The ten days went so quickly!

Norwegian paper starAnd we baked. Traditionally there should be seven kinds of cookies for Christmas, if you are Norwegian. But we eat less cookies now (not the grandchildren, they hoover down any cookies around), and had plenty of cake, but some cookie making must be done. As my father is diabetic and, we made almond macaroons for him with artificial sweeter (not bad), and coconut macaroons for the rest of us, along with some other varieties This is from “Kaker som smaker”, a classic baking book, and as you see, the recipe can vary quite a bit. Egg whites only, or whole eggs; potato flour or wheat flour, or no flour. Butter? I never used butter in mine. But maybe it works?

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Kokosmakroner (coconut macaroons with whole eggs)

3 eggs
200 ml white granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
5 tbs all-purpose wheat flour
600 ml flaked coconut

Whisk eggs and sugar light and airy, quite stiff. Sift in flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar (the latter is Norwegian, can be skipped or maybe add a very small splash of vanilla extract). Stir in the flaked coconut carefully, you do not want to lose the air whisked in. We had large fresh eggs from our neighbour’s farm,  so I added more coconut than the recipe specified as as the cookie batter was very runny. You might want to do a test cookie as well, the cookie should hold its shape when dropped on cookie sheet with teaspoons. With smaller eggs or drier coconut, you might need less. Bake 10-12 minutes at 180 C, in the middle of the oven, until they are lightly golden but not too dry. Store in air-tight box, keeps for ages.  If you have any left after the holidays, old kokosmakroner are nice in apple crumble too.

kokosmakronerYes, Santa came and left gifts…….. and the rice porridge left in the barn for him was eaten up.

julenisse fotspor