Sesame banana pancakes on a lazy Sunday

brown bananasA quiet Sunday again: we’ve been off grocery shopping with a neighbour, and are now recovering next to the fan, drinking cold water. After a big thunderstorm last night, Accra is back to 32C and it is a sticky day. The harmattan is due soon, the dry northeasterly trade wind which blows from the Sahara Desert, bringing dust and hazy days. It’s already noticeable in the north, we hear, not so much here yet though humidity is dropping. I am soaking klippfisk for dinner, dried and salted cod from Norway, to try making bacalao later. And our banana glut continues, so this time it was sesame banana pancakes.

Sesame banana pancakes

175 gr all-purpose wheat flour
75 gr wholewheat flour
50 gr quick-cooking oatmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
500 ml milk, semi-skimmed (here, mixed from milk powder)
2 eggs
280 grammes very ripe bananas, mashed (here, about five small ones) 
sprinkle of cinnamon
1 tbs sesame seeds
sunflower oil for frying

Add dry ingredients to a bowl: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and oatmeal. Add the eggs and milk, and whisk it all together. Add the mashed bananas. Leave it to rest 15 minutes or so, then dollop a generous spoonful onto a hot oiled frying pan and fry until golden each side. Makes 10-12 depending on size.

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We had these for breakfast with tinned pineapple jam from South Africa, listening to a reggae version of Celine Dion’s “That’s the way it is” on the radio. Reggae is popular here, so is Celine Dion. The French cultural centre Alliance Française in Accra hosted a Celine Dion evening here in October, Ghana celebrates Celine Dion, with Dutch and local singers performing. Quite an experience, and it was nice to hear live music – we do enjoy that here. We were at Alliance Française for pizza last week, and it was hip hop night – hmmmm, we enjoyed the pizza and then escaped. I must be getting old.

With two weeks to go until Christmas departure, a neighbour and I did the rounds yesterday: over to Osu for coffee, and gift shopping at Global Mamas. Fair trade (also online), and lovely jewellery, batik clothes and bags.

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They also have some items from Trashy Bags, a social enterprise based in Accra that makes recycled eco-friendly bags and gifts from plastic trash. Like here, a toiletries bag from recycled drinking water sachets. They also have an online store.

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Then we popped by the Chinese supermarket for fresh tofu, before we finished up at the French Christmas market. Now I just need to sort out who gets what, and supplement this with a book order. Not very commercial or holiday-ish here, which is fine. For some seasonal ambience I’ve tried to watch the start of this year’s Norwegian TV advent calendar Snøfall (yes, for kids) online, which actually works from Ghana!  But our Internet is too slow to watch it, despite our buying more bandwidth on Airtel scratch cards today. Our other Internet provider is down. Oh well. I really cannot complain, we are comfortable enough here and I’ll be able to Skype with friends during the holidays. It is soon time to pull out shoes, socks and the few winter clothes we have here, as we’ll be celebrating Christmas in Norway this year. Brrrr!

Reading the news, I have learned a new term this week: voting skirt and blouse. “Skirt and Blouse is a term in Ghanaian politics where party supporters vote for the flagbearer of the party but not the parliamentary candidate of the same party or vice versa.”  The elections here are on  Wednesday, when Ghana goes to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections on 7 December for its seventh multi-party ballot since the end of military rule in 1992. Best wishes for that.

 

Waiting for elections, and banana granola

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What to do when the bananas in your fridge seem to multiply by the day? This month I’ve made butterscotch banana bread, banana fritters, and banana-peanut butter smoothies, but still there were twelve black bananas today. I confess, I don’t even particularly like bananas, though my husband does, and they are always in season here. So seven bananas went in the freezer (peel and all, new experiment), two are set aside for fritters, and three went in this granola. I’d seen Banana Granola at Green Kitchen Stories, which looks delightful. This is a cross between that and my normal granola. The latter is based on my mother’s 1970s recipe, thus infallible, merely updated with the ingredients we can get here.

Speaking of here: there are ten days left until Ghana has elections on 7 December. Will the National Democratic Congress (NDC) stay in power, or will there will be a shift to the New Patriotic Party (NPP)? There are banners, debates, flags on trees, and radio debates. Campaign cars drive around with loudspeakers, exhorting respective party virtues and slogans through muffled megaphones and playing music. Posters asking for peaceful elections abound, and we can only hope that is the case. In the interim, time to make granola.

Banana granola

700 grammes old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cook)
a handful of rye flakes
60 grammes untoasted sesame seeds
1 pinch sea salt
40 grammes sunflower oil
1 tsp salt
3 very ripe small bananas, peeled and mashed (about 250 grammes)
100 grammes golden syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon

After baking, I added:
A generous handful of unshelled, salted toasted pumpkin seeds
A generous handful toasted  coconut chips

Heat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. In the tray, mix oats, sesame seeds and salt. Mash bananas, mix with oil and syrup, and pour over oats. Mix well, so everything is slightly coated Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes or so, checking at at 10-15-20 minutes that it is not burning, and stirring through oatmeal so it all gets evenly toasted. Cool (if in Accra, while keeping an eye out for marauding ants) then store in an air-tight container. I am happy to report that the banana flavour in the granola is not overpowering!

Notes: I normally make granola with golden syrup and sunflower oil, maybe some mashed apple, and assorted seeds, so this one with banana felt quite moist after 15 minutes. I did not want it to burn though, so checked every five minutes. The less you stir the lumpier it gets,  if you like that, just make sure it’s evenly toasted. We keep our granola in the fridge, as the ants get into all kinds of things here. Last week, they invaded the peanut butter. We actually bought a second fridge where we now keep oatmeal, cereal, sugar, golden syrup, the precious maple syrup from our Canadian neighbours, Italian cheeses and salumi, English cheddar, blueberry jam from my mother, spare flour, etcetera…  No need to encourage the wildlife. 

Speaking of ants and other bugs: below, another bag of oatmeal, just bought, very bug-infested when opened. I know insect protein is healthy, and something we will see more of in the future, and that food waste is a shame…. but this was a little too lively to be salvaged. Urrrrgh. Flour is easier, when I find bread flour I just freeze it and sift the weevils and such out later. 

bugs in oatmeal

Neighbours, and chicken curry with pineapple and coconut milk

wp-1479558855684.jpgOur balcony overlooks the neighbouring garden, which belongs to a bakery. There is always something going on: laundry to hang out, feeding time for the dogs (doghouse on left), amazing smells of cakes or chicken roasting, or like this Saturday, palm tree pruning. A small brown puppy gets let out now and then, otherwise we never see the dogs. There is often a radio playing music, which we hear faintly, and people chatting while working under trees on the right. Some days we hear the thwack-thwack of chicken being chopped, probably for their jollof rice takeaways. Very tasty.

Accra neighboursAnother day they pruned the big tree on the left, which really opened up the view to the next lot. We’d heard the low house on the left is boy’s quarters, which our compound does not have: living quarters for household staff. We could always hear music, chickens, kids playing and people talking there, but now we suddenly see them. Most have very tidy yards. Days like today, I’ll be hanging out laundry, as the lady in the yellow skirt does next door. She seems to like to sit in her front step, as I do on the balcony until it gets too hot. It’s already 32C mid-morning in the shade, we can feel the hot season approaching. It is a little odd, living in a compound with electrical fences and a pool and privileged comfort, when you see your neighbours managing with very little. They have tap water, but that may not be safe to drink. Many in Ghana still lack access to potable water, and the most prevalent water-borne diseases here are typhoid, cholera and dysentery. There is a cholera outbreak in Cape Coast now, though no deaths yet, thank goodness.

Another neighbour just popped by. We are having a small BBQ tomorrow with neighbours on this side of the fence, and he dropped off sliced beef from his Lebanese butcher so we can prepare it for tomorrow. “Wash it, layer it with sliced onions, garlic and vinegar, and leave it overnight to rest.” We shall do as instructed. I’m making risgrøt for tonight (Norwegian rice porridge) so we can bring riskrem as dessert for the BBQ, made with cold rice porridge mixed with whipped cream, served with red currant sauce. I’ll try making it in the slow cooker, to avoid dissolving in a sweaty heap while stirring it on the stovetop for 40-50 minutes. I’ll never complain about Ferragosto heat in Rome again!

Speaking of slow cookers, here is a tasty (though not so photogenic) recent dinner. We love the slow cooker — it is perfect in the heat, and hopefully more energy efficient than stovetop cooking.

Slow cooker coconut chicken curry with pineapple

2 medium chicken breasts
One onion, peeled
Four cloves garlic, peeled
a small knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (or use powdered ginger)
4 small peppers (we used local green peppers as red/yellow ones are too expensive here, otherwise I’d use red)
A tin of coconut milk (we used coconut milk powder and mixed it up, 350 ml or so)
About 300 ml of stock
5 tsp medium curry powder, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp chili flakes

Cooked rice to serve with it

Chop your chicken, and fry it lightly in a frying pan. (Probably not needed, but for hygiene reasons I wanted to make sure the chicken was well-cooked.) Put chicken, onion, garlic and ginger in the slow cooker. Pout in stock and coconut milk, and cook on high for 2-3 hours. If it looks very wet, a little desiccated coconut can help firm up the curry. Taste and add salt, pepper and more curry powder if it’s a bit bland. We added chili flakes as well at the end, to give it it a bit more kick. Flavours are deeper the next day.

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