Calamaretti in umido (tomato)

calamaretti in umido

Accra is by the sea, the Gulf of Guinea. Still, getting fresh seafood can be a challenge. A neighbour kindly led an expedition to Tema Fish Market, to get big prawns, and we bought some small calamari as well. Tema is about 30 km away, down the highway, which is a pretty smooth drive. There are traffic slowdowns here and there, with street vendors and hawkers selling things to the cares waiting in traffic: snacks, water sachets, bananas, rubber balls, bathroom scales, religious books, phone cards, towels, sunglasses….  Time also to look at the herd of cows calmly crossing the opposite lane to graze in the middle of the road.

cows on road on the way to Tema We did get there eventually, and bought small calamari (calamaretti)  which were part of Sunday lunch.

Calamaretti in umido (tomato stew)

2 tsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large tin tomatoes (750 grammes or so)
pinch of salt, pepper, sugar
a bit of dried parsley and fresh basil
3 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp white vinegar

1 kilo calamaretti (small calamari, cleaned)


Heat the oil, and gently fry the garlic until slightly soft. Tip in the tomatoes: I used a tin of whole peeled tomatoes, and cut them up them with scissors. Season with a little salt, pepper and sugar, plus parsley and basil (as you prefer). Normally I would add a splash of white wine, we always have some leftover wine ice cubes for cooking, but as one of the lunch party is Muslim, I skipped that.  Just a splash of vinegar. Let the tomato sauce slowly cook for at least half an hour, so the flavours come together, then taste. I then added a bit more salt and tomato paste.

Voila! Serve with crusty bread, or polenta, or rice. Rice is very un-Italian, but was requested, and soaks up the tomato nicely. 

Our neighbour also did some lovely deep-fried calamaretti, soaked first in milk for 20 min or so to soften the proteins. Tip from his restaurant back home, it was certainly very good. Then dipped in flour with a bit of salt and pepper, and deep-fried in another neighbours fryer. VERY light and tasty!

calamaretti fritti

Looking for prawns, Tema Fish Market

Tema fish marketYesterday we went to Tema, near Accra where there is a large fish market. Goal: find large prawns for Sunday lunch. Quite the the experience. Lots of fish, of various shapes and sizes. Four of us went, and it was interesting.

fish at Tema Some fish in bowls or baskets, some on sacks, some looking fresh and some else so. Eels, mackerel, red snapper, even some sharks at the water’s edge. All available to be bargained for. Much less hassling than I expected.

Tema harbour The harbour was full of wooden fishing boats with flags, I had no idea most boats used were so small here. They were building fishing boats as well there. And there were some random chickens with chicks even there, pecking among the scraps.


Not sure what fish this is, but it was all over the market. Here we stepped to the side as a hand-pulled cart was coming through, I was trying not to step on the fish. A little later a cart had overturned, spilling little silvery fish on to the group  – quickly being scooped up again. I suppose the some of the less fresh fish gets dried and used for shito (pepper sauce, usually includes fish, oil, ginger, dried fish, prawns, garlic – it is very good.)

Tema prawns

THESE are the prawns I was looking for! These were 50 cedi a kilo. Plus some calamaretti – next post, 15 cedi a kilo. Hard to know what the right price is, but these do look very nice.

We cleaned them all here this morning, cutting out the intestinal tract and de-shelling them,  Quite an exercise compared to small Norwegian shrimp. The prawns are currently in the kitchen, waiting to be cooked. Some have just been boiled with onion and garlic, under directions from our Egyptian neighbour. Some have been dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, ready to be fried downstairs. Then we’ll go to the Canadian neighbours and have lunch there. This is a nice part of compound living!

UPDATE: and here they are, cooked for lunch. Very nice!! I also made calamaretti in umido (small calamari in tomato stew) and we made deep-fried calamaretti as well, all lovely. But with half of our group out sick, including my poor husband (just a bad cold, he is in bed listening to English football), there is still food left. I think I’ll make prawn risotto with the leftover stock tomorrow.

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Off to buy eggs, a sunny morning in Accra


Eggs are easy to find here, though the supermarket eggs have been so-so. A little pale, and after some dire experiences with weirdly gloopy Shoprite egg contents, I always break them one by one into a small bowl first. Probably a freshness issue, eggs are not refrigerated here but neither are they in Italy. Supermarkets are popular here but expensive, most people would shop locally or at markets instead, probably some eggs just sit around too long. A neighbour had recommended the local chop shop round the corner, a small shack selling drinks, small snacks, tinned food, well-priced beer – and eggs, 80 pesewas each (20 US cents) so I bought eggs there: carefully placed in a small plastic bag and taken home.


These eggs were fresh, lovely yellow yolks, just in the day before. There are surprisingly many chickens here, and every morning the roosters next door start crowing at 430 or so. There are chickens wandering around on the dusty streets, some followed by scrawny chicks, eating bugs and drinking water from the open drains. I still have not worked out where the local chickens roost at night: there are hardly any dogs here, and few cats (cats get eaten, I am told) so maybe there are not so many predators of chickens in town. Maybe two-legged ones. These eggs come on cardboard trays, I have no idea where they are from.  Must ask!


A passing chicken. We live in North Ridge, a nice quiet area of Accra, with an embassy and hotels nearby, but there are chickens scratching away on the embassy doorstep and small, sleek, plump goats wandering down the street now and then. Our Internet provider Surfline was offline for two days, so we went to our Airtel lady (another corner shack) to buy 20 cedis credit  to get online. She also sells eggs, even cheaper at 50 pesewas each – rather filthy, but also very fresh and great quality, counted out and deposited in a small plastic bag.


Saturday was laundry day for this neighbour (or more likely their guard, since it is outside the fence.) This laundry is drying on the grass, which is a common sight (fences and hedges are also used.) Even in the rainy season laundry dries quickly daytime, before evening comes with 95% or higher humidity. Good to know, as some houses are damp and clothes/shoes/books go moldy – we have been spared so far. As you see the houses in our area are generally fenced in, barbed wire and/or electrical, with heavy security gates and 24 hour security. On the left above you see the street gutter, actually covered here with cement squares. Often gutters are uncovered and rather deep – indeed, as in the photo with the goats above. Street flooding is a serious issue here.

But we seem to be heading out of the current rainy season, which has been lovely and cool. 23-32C, such a difference! I have packed away the light summer duvets we brought, unopened, as it is never below 23C here and sheets suffice nicely. Our guards have blankets and coats for the night shift, whereas I think it us just wonderful to escape the relentless sweaty Accra weather, even just for a month or so.

With nice fresh eggs as well, life is good indeed!