What a week…… and baking helkornbrød

Ministries, Accra
This has been quite a week. We were due to move from Accra to Rome by now, but clearances are still pending. We had cancelled our Accra lease, as all was meant to be on track, so we found ourselves with no flat and no idea how long the delay might be. One week? Six months? Accra landlords like longer leases. Impossible to house-hunt with no time-frame, also when you have two cubic meters of stuff to lug around. Fans, office chair, sheets, pots and pans: most of our Accra things will be given away, but not if there are more delays in the move.


Last Sunday, we thus packed what we had in bags, and bought my husband a one-way ticket to Rome. Fridge and pantry contents were given away to friends, guards and compound cleaner: pasta, flour, jams… squid ink, frozen cheese, mint syrup for coffee, soba noodles, weird condiments… it all went. The fridge was given to my driver. Monday, we moved our things by taxi trips to a kind friend’s place, temporarily. Insanely sweaty experience in Accra. But we had heard that I had a short-term mission to Rome, which was amazing  news. Tuesday, we moved into a hotel. On Wednesday, my husband flew to Rome and I followed on Thursday.


On Saturday I woke up to this. No chickens or coconuts, but Rome in cool November sunshine, 12C today. I do like Accra, but it is wonderful to be back in Garbatella, even if it is just a temporary visit. We have a small flat here with most of our stuff. As we were last here in the summer, and I just arrived here in open-toed sandals, I have been excavating my winter clothes today and looking for shoes, sweaters, anything warm and not spangly Italian beach holiday-wear.  And I baked!

Several friends have borrowed the flat here in Rome, so there are odd remnants in the cupboards: some rice, several boxes of chamomile tea, stock cubes, half a bag of pasta. Plus cracked wheat and rye flour I left two years ago, so we popped to the local supermarket for yeast and vegetables and I baked two loaves of bread this afternoon. Recipe off the Norwegian cracked wheat bag.

Whole cracked wheat bread

150 grammes whole cracked wheat
200 grammes water
2 tsp salt
* This should be mixed and soaked 8-15 hours. I cheated and just boiled water and tipped in cracked wheat, and let it soak 20 min. Then added to dough.

650 grammes plain white wheat flour
100 grammes wholewheat flour
100 grammes coarse rye flour  (I didn’t have fine rye flour)
600 ml tepid water
50 grammes fresh yeast
50 grammes vegetable oil

Mix ingredients, knead 4-7 minutes. (I could knead without dripping with sweat! My goodness!)  Cover and leave to rise 45 minutes. (I left it two hours in a cool kitchen, bowl covered with a hotel shower cap.) Shape and split dough between two load tins. Leave to rise an hour or so, then bake at 225C on lower shelf in oven for 45 min. If you take it out of tin, and tap base, it will sound hollow. Cool on rack before slicing. Or eat it while still steamingly hot, with salted butter, as we did.




Coconut carrot cake, Stranger Things round two

Fante kenkey

Fante kenkey (fermented maize dumplings), steamed in plantain leaves. Ga kenkey is not dissimilar, but is salted and wrapped in corn husks (if I have not gotten them mixed up again….). There are some interesting fermented foods in Ghana. Kenkey can be stored unrefrigerated, is produced from local crops, and has probiotic properties. This was at my local corner shop in Accra, where I had gone to buy eggs.

local shop Accra

Groundnuts, toilet paper, biscuits, drinks: what do you need? I needed eggs.

buying eggs in Accra

We are still waiting for travel clearances for our return to Italy, so today I’ve defrosted the freezer and scrubbed the balcony, both sweat-dripping processes. Clothes and bookshelves are being given away, cupboards are emptied. Next weekend we might be moving all we have into three taxis and moving into an Airbnb, but everything is on standby, so I have just collapsed under the fan to watch “The Wedding Planner”. And yesterday, we finished the last four episodes of Stranger Things season two, with a friend, homemade pizza and this cake.


It’s basically BBC Good Good Food’s Coconut carrot slices  which looks amazing. See link for recipe. But the recipe calls for 250g butter and 300g light muscovado sugar, which a) seems like an awful lot and b) we did not have. We are emptying the kitchen and making do with what we have. So I made it roughly following the recipe, but with only 100g butter and 100g sugar + 2 tbs honey, and it turned out just fine. The grilled coconut topping makes the cake really good, with a pinch of vanilla salt added.

Note: the recipe calls for 2 tsp mixed spice, which we did not have either, so I used cinnamon and allspice. Maybe 3 tsp next time, or fresher spices. The buttery coconut topping reminds me of Danish Drømmekage, which is on my to-make list. But looking at what is left in pantry and fridge, I think sticky toffee pudding is next, also to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Despite all being so uncertain about our move, we have to breathe a bit. 

The rest of Stranger Things was also excellent!


Use-it-up Stranger Things jam muffins

Accra is getting hotter, too hot too do much in the afternoons, even under the fan. Not sweat-dripping November levels yet, but tiring. We only run the A/C at night to sleep, as electricity is expensive, so the weekend afternoons are getting increasingly slow. There is only so much pre-move tidying and sorting one can do, also as we are not sure we are living three weeks from now. Time for a break: a friend is coming over this afternoon for a Stranger Things marathon, so I just baked jam muffins.

These are of the baking genre my husband politely describes as “healthy tasting”,  meaning they would be better with more sugar and butter. But they will do just fine as dessert, after a late lunch of an improvised stockfish and saffron carnaroli rice dish with bell peppers and chorizo. Maybe some of my precious frozen celery from Oxford? We are still doing our pantry challenge, and so far still eating very well.

Use-it-up Stranger Things jam muffins

3/4 cup wheat cake flour
1/2 cup wholemeal wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp sugar)
1/4 tsp salt

1 small banana, peeled and mashed
1 tbs peanut butter
1 tbs golden syrup
1/4 c milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tbs chia seeds + 3 tbs water   (as I was low on eggs)

1/2 cup jam of your choice: a teaspoon per muffin

Heat the oven to 180C. Get your muffin tin ready with paper liners. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl, except the jam. Stir it all together, do not overmix. Dollop a generous teaspoon in each muffin tin liner, then a teaspoon of jam, then more batter on top. Never mind if some jam is showing, it will be fine. Bake at 180C in middle of the oven for 25 minutes or so. These did not get very golden on top, but I used a cake tester to make sure they were baked through and springy. And we ate one straight from the cooling rack, just to be sure. I may dust these with icing sugar before serving, or heat them a bit and serve with salted butter. Mmmmmm……

Note: If using chia seeds as en egg replacement: they should be ground before soaking, but I just could not be bothered to clean the coffee grinder, so I soaked them whole, about five minutes. The muffins would probably have better structure if I had used ground chia meal.

Jams used: pear and coffee, and apple and Campari It is true, condiments and jams take ages to use up, so this was a great way to get hen into circulation. Chia seeds are easy to find in Accra, I go to Relish in Osu (Akai House) for seeds like sunflower, flax and chia. That makes bread baking and muesli making so much more interesting.


More interesting things: the wonderful local fabrics in Ghana. I will be stocking up on more  before we move, the colours are lovely and cheerful.

Time to get lunch going and the A/C on, since we have a guest coming over! Anyone else watching Stranger Things?