Salvaged peach compote for Sunday dessert

Garbatella, Bar dei Cesaroni

After months of ifs and maybes, we have some clarity. Moving day is approaching: we should be on a plane in 7-8 weeks, and the finality of that is sinking in. I am writing lists, sorting through cupboards, de-cluttering shelves and wondering what all this will mean. The planned destination is Accra (Ghana), which should be really interesting on many levels. I hear so many good things about Accra, and am very much looking forward to new opportunities there. It will be very challenging to leave Rome and friends here, and I am certainly a bit overwhelmed by it all. This morning we went for our usual Sunday cappuccino up the hill, in the heart of Garbatella, and it is hard to imagine being a continent away from here.

steps in garbatella

Part of moving is emptying out fridge, freezer, and most of the cupboards, all of which are stuffed. It calms me, sorting through section by section. We could live for weeks on stored food, and it does spark thought of why I keep so much on hand. Love of cooking, wanting lots of option of what to cook, recipe contents of Ottolenghi cookbooks, the hunt for certain ingredients in Rome (tarragon, lemongrass, custard powder…) and subsequent stockpiling when the item is located here or abroad. Or the interesting items discovered at local food markets: truffle salami, peperoncino honey (very spicy!), a new lemon-zucchini-pepper condiment….. No, it is time to enjoy it. I am sure Accra will have interesting food markets as well.

I had a box in the freezer marked “chocolate cake”, so yesterday I pulled that out for afternoon tea. Autumn is coming, it’s down to 23-24 degrees and sunny, so we’ve actually started having hot tea again. Freezer-burned mystery chocolate cake? Why not? But when I opened the box, it was rock-hard frozen chopped-up fruit, not cake. Possibly plums, probably hastily tossed in before some trip, with a vague idea of using those for a smoothie or a cake. Oh well. Our oven just broke, and as I have been reading Norwegian news about plums being in season there, I thought – aha! I’ll make a Norwegian plum compote! Very retro. More dessert than jam: plums cooked with water and sugar, maybe a pinch of cinnamon, until they collapse a bit, then thickened with potato starch. You serve it cold or lukewarm, with cold milk or cream. On closer examination the box contained ice-crusted peach wedges, so peach compote for Sunday dessert it is.

peach compote

Salvaged peach compote for Sunday dessert

500 grammes stoned peaches (or plums), roughly chopped
200 ml water
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
75 grammes golden sugar
2 tbs potato starch, stirred into 100 mol cold water

Cook the chopped peaches with the 200 ml of water, sugar and cinnamon, ten minutes or so until soft. My peaches were frozen and needed 15 minutes. No need to skin them first, the peach pieces will gently collapse after a while. Taste it to see if you think it is sweet enough, if not add a bit more sugar. Now, take the pot off the heat. Stir in the potato starch + water by pouring it int the hot fruit mixture, then put the pot back on the heat and bring to the boil again, for a couple minutes. Keep stirring, you feel it thicken and become more gelatinous. Cool. Serve cold with milk or cream, with a little sprinkle of sugar if needed.

And for afternoon tea, I am now baking banana bread in our old bread machine……. There is always some way to make cake!


Tandoori spice baked aubergines on a vegetable-rice bed


It’s almost at the end of August, but still quiet here. Schools do not seem to start until mid-September, so the buses are intermittent, the metro pleasantly spacious (quite odd!), and many shops are still closed. The worst heat may be over, and I stocked up on vegetables on my way home, noting the usual accumulation of older men outside the ferramenta (hardware store), the bar and their venue with the yellow & red door, for the Rome football club. Very location and time specific, these gatherings. The older ladies never seem to congregate in quite the same way. Regardless of age, people lean out of their windows in the evenings, often in their undershirts, to catch a whiff of a breeze, to see what is happening in the piazza (not much), and to toss comments back to someone inside the other shuttered rooms.

albergo rosso
The Albergo Rosso in Garbatella. Almost tandoori red? I’d seen a recipe like this recently calling for aubergines and curry paste, which I did not have, but I excavated a really old jar of tandoori-barbecue spice powder of dubious vintage, which worked just fine. You might need less spices if yours are fresher. Taste them to see. At least with the heat relenting, it is possible to cook again, which is wonderful!

Tandoori-spice baked aubergines on a vegetable-rice bed

Three small aubergines, sliced lengthwise
200 ml plain yoghurt
2 tbs tandoori-barbecue spice powder (use less if yours is not quite old…)
3 tbs olive oil, to grease aubergine bases

1.5 cups rice
3 cups water
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
10 cherry tomatoes


Heat your oven to 220C. Slice the aubergines lengthwise in three. I took off a little on either side so the slices would lie flat. Brush the bases with a little olive oil or sunflower oil, so they do not stick. Stir your spices into the yoghurt, and spoon some over each aubergine slice. Bake at 220C for a couple glasses of wine  — until they are soft — maybe 30 min?

Separately, boil your rice. Just before it is done, toss your chopped onion and chopped bell peppers on top, so they steam just a bit. Spread the cooked rice out on a serving dish, add some halved cherry tomatoes, and top with some of the baked aubergines.

tandoori spice baked aubergines

I could have sliced these, to faciliatate diner in the sofa, but that would look quite messy. Tuesday is TV night, when a friend comes over, so we enjoyed this with “Alpha House”  and “Dag”, the latter a dark Norwegian comedy. After months of Scandi thriller noir, it was a nice change!

Heatwave and failed chickpea meringues

IMG_4061Now that the worst of the summer heatwave seems to be subsiding here in Rome, life is improving. I might actually cook something soon, after weeks of proscuitto e melone,  caprese salad, Greek salad, anything that did not require cooking. What I have been enjoying are the articles in the Rome news about the heatwave. Like this: Il criminologo e gli effetti del caldo, where a criminologist advised us to avoid places with many people, as the aggressive tendencies increase with rising temperatures. Of particular interest were the dietary recommendations for a heatwave, in another article. Eat fruit and veg, of course, avoid mayonnaise, but drink warm or tepid beverages rather than iced drinks, as iced drinks may create alterations of the mucus of the stomach. I daringly continue to drink iced tea and iced coffee, wondering what havoc I may be causing internally.

giglio magnets

We had a few days by the sea, at Isola del Giglio in Tuscany, sharing a holiday flat with friends again, with a limited but OK holiday kitchen. One person was allergic to eggs, to I thought this was the perfect time to make vegan meringues with chickpea brine (also called aquafaba, trendy this summer). I have been reading about them, and optimistically packed my hand mixer to try. Indeed, the chickpea brine and sugar whisked up amazingly! whipping chickpea meringue

The chickpeas themselves we heated with some raw-el-hanout spice mix and olive oil, and sprinkled over a green salad.

Vegan meringues

Liquid from one 15-ounce can of chickpeas
3/4 heaping cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (to take the chickpea taste off)

Whisk until airy and stiff, bake at 250C on baking parchment. All fine so far. Unfortunately I had forgotten how unforgiving the holiday oven was: open gas flames, licking at the tray from below, which soon scorched the meringues. Still edible: we salvaged these not entirely black on the base, and served them as a do-it-yourself summer dessert: halves of fresh apricots, with cold vanilla yoghurt spooned over, and caramelised vegan meringue shards crumbled over the top.

burned meringuesDefinitely to be tried again, maybe next time with more sugar and longer whisking, and an oven with more all-over heat. This should be possible to conquer, and I love the idea of an egg-free pavlova.