Pineapple cake for May Day weekend

May Day plants on balcony

Happy May Day! It’s a holiday here tomorrow, so we are enjoying the long weekend puttering at home. I am trying out various seeds on our balcony: here, tomato, zucchini, basil, and lettuce. With 35C in the shade there in the afternoons I suspect it’s on the hot side for the seedlings, but  I have optimistically planted rughetta, bietola, celery and mint today in plastic egg cartons. We shall see. Another hot day here. The short rainy season is delayed, so we will see what it’s like when the rains set in for earnest in the next month or two. There have been some downpours, so trees and shrubs are finally beginning to blossom: orange yellow, red, and highlights of bright pink bougainvillea.

Meanwhile my husband has been busy. Most of what we find in shops here in Accra seems to be imported, often from South Africa. Fair enough. When we first arrived I bought an iron in Game (South African shop) at Accra Mall, thinking I’d need it for office wear. Five months in, no ironing done yet, since a) it is just too much effort in the humid heat, and b) the iron we bought had a South African plug.  So anything linen just remains wrinkled. See below: left is the Ghana/UK type electrical plug, on the right, the South African electrical plug  – and the latter fits none of the sockets in our flat. Today my lovely husband swapped plugs, so now I have no excuse.

UK/Ghana plug versus South African plugGood to have a functioning iron, just in case — I live in fear of mango flies, which lay eggs in damp laundry and which can actually hatch in your skin. Not dangerous but nasty, so we should really be ironing everything – sheets, underwear, and all. Many houses here have dryers, to avoid hanging laundry out, but we are managing so far with daytime drying on the balcony, followed by 48 hours quarantine before wearing anything freshly laundered.

pineapple cake

There are however many good things about living in Ghana, like the fresh mango and pineapple. Most of the pineapple here is amazing, very sweet and juicy. One this week was just OK, and we tossed together this cake to use it up. The oven was on for making Friday pizza and homemade granola, so a quick cake was added. Electricity is so expensive, so baking is a tactical/financial decision! This cake was fine, not amazing but hey: oven-warm cake is nice anyway! Sorry about the photo – with the sunset just after 6PM, photo conditions are not optimal here.

Pineapple upside-down cake (not fantastic, but OK enough..)
35 grammes softened butter
85 grammes brown sugar
260 grammes fresh pineapple, roughly chopped

For cake batter:
210 grammes or 1.5 cup plain flour (I used local what flour, very fine-milled)
170 grammes wholewheat flour
120 grammes white sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/6 cup sunflower oil
3 small eggs

Heat oven to 180C/350°F. Pop 24 cm cake tin in heating oven for a couple minutes to soften butter and grease tin. Spread butter over cake tin base, and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the butter. Arrange chopped pineapple pieces over brown sugar.

Separately, mix the other ingredients together (flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, salt, oil). Pour batter over pineapple pieces. Bake 50 minutes at 180C until the cake looks golden, and a cake tester comes out clean. Carefully invert cake onto serving plate. Cake will be steaming and very hot.

Notes: next time I might add some very finely chopped pineapple or pineapple juice to the actual batter, the cake was just a bit dry. Maybe a bit more butter in topping as well. The cake rose more than I expected for the tin size, and the topping was very nice, more pineapple taste than caramel. The cake was still very nice cold the next day. We had it fridge-cold, as the ants here are so ferocious that a lot of food is kept in our two fridges here. You think your containers are air-tight, until you meet Accra ants…… Anyway,  a leftover slice slightly reheated in microwave would be nice too. 

Dumsor, and mango muffins with streusel

mago muffinsAnother Sunday, another power cut. One of the first words to learn in Accra is dumsor, off-on. From Wikipedia: “Dumsor pronounced “doom-sore” (or more appropriately dum sɔ, “off and on”) is a popular Ghanaian term used to describe persistent, irregular and unpredictable electric power outages.” Despite frequent political assurances that dumsor is over, power cuts are frequent here. Not enough gas coming from Nigeria, late rains, maintenance works — who knows? It’s an election year for Ghana, so this gets very political. Even on Twitter there is a #Dumsor tag.

This was one of my favourite dumsor news from last year: the then-Power Minister being pushed on the power cuts, complaining that “Even God can’t give light all the time that is why we have nights (dum)—when the sun goes to sleep in peace. so why all the pressure?” Officially there is no dumsor in Ghana right now, but we see the power cuts here at least every other day. We manage, we have a diesel-run generator for our compound, so if the power stays off all day here (which happens) at least we still have power for cooking, and keeping water pressure on. It is noisy but worth it. In the office there are also generators, the A/C may not work then but at least computers do (so we can work, though very hot). But for many small businesses the unreliable electricity supply is devastating, and running a generator is expensive. Even in central Accra like parts of Osu there can be lights-off for 40 hours.

power cut in WindhoekThere was a power cut last week in Windhoek, and people were afraid: they are not used to power cuts like here. Better infrastructure, of course, no need for generators.

Anyway, I had plans to bake and thanks to our generator, the oven still works. It was only 33C in the kitchen, not too bad, and well worth it once the muffins came out. It’s another reminder how fortunate we are, thinking of the many sweltering right now until the power is back. No wonder battery-operated fans are so available here (malaria is prevalent).


Dumsor mango muffins with streusel
2 medium eggs
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
75 grammes plain yoghurt
50 grammes brown sugar
35 grammes white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or use vanilla extract)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
150 grammes plain white wheat flour
pinch of salt
3/4 cup diced mango

Preheat oven to 200 C and line a 12-count muffin pan with muffin papers. Dump all muffin ingredients except fruit in a bowl and stir until it just comes together, then stir in mango. Spoon the batter into the 12 muffin papers in tin.

30 grammes soft butter
30 grammes brown sugar
2 tbs oatmeal
20 grammes flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt butter to soften it a bit if needed; here it melts as soon as it is out of the fridge. Stir streusel ingredients together, spoon a little on top of each batter-filled muffin paper. Bake for at 200C for 15 minutes or so, until muffin tops are golden.

mango muffins

Back from Windhoek: biltong, coffee, dates

wp-1461408204704.jpgI am just back from Windhoek, Namibia. Far too short a trip, just four days for a workshop, but I would love to go back. So much space and sky! It felt a bit like Mongolia, all that dry expanse and beauty. This is just between the airport and town, but flying in the landscape looks amazing. The coast is meant to be lovely too. Windhoek itself was very tidy and modern, surprisingly hilly, with warm days and cool nights. I brought back a pile of safari lodge leaflets for closer study, its only an 11-hour trip from here, which is not too bad. It was a very busy few days, working from early breakfasts to dinner discussions. But I had a couple free hours, and rather than sightseeing I went food shopping. Much of the food in Accra is exported and expensive, and not of the best quality, so a Windhoek supermarket was a treat!


Lots of biltong: beef, springbok, kudu…… Biltong is somewhat like jerky, strips of meat covered in spices and hung to dry, prepared without heat. Absolutely delicious. The kudu one is supposed to be very nice. These are just from the supermarket, but they also have fancy biltong boutiques there  – to be explored next time!

biltong crackers

Look at this! Biltong-flavoured crackers, for my carnivore husband. I also found chili beef stock cubes, camembert cheese, halloumi cheese with mint, and some lovely local stoneground wholewheat flour. Turmeric, South African BBQ spice rub, some fresh celery….. We do get celery here, but at 45 cedis a bunch in Accra (USD 11-12), it’s just too expensive. Apparently Shoprite (big South African supermarket chain) flies 7 tonnes of perishable goods  to Accra weekly, including things like celery. Windhoek also had a lot of imported goods, just much cheaper than here, so this was fun.


Lots and lots of coffee beans…… Ghana grows cocoa, and lots of it. Good coffee, however, is harder to find here, most of it imported. Lots of Nescafe, some very expensive arabica, a lot of robusta beans, even some arabusta (a hybrid). Beans from Togo have been OK so far, and the Upcountry Coffee Company from Ghana is pretty good, so we mix and match. We brought our Simonelli espresso maker from Rome to Accra, and a coffee grinder, so I was on a mission to restock our coffee bean shelf. And I found lots in Windhoek! Ethiopian, Rwandan, Kenyan, Ugandan, Honduran, Colombian….. Wonderful. I stopped by Slowtown Coffee in Grove Mall, to get coffee beans roasted just a few days before – the smell was just wonderful.

rooibos espresso

(I must say, it was nice to get home and wake up to a good cappuccino yesterday.)

This is rooibos espresso – interesting! This was from the airport in Johannesburg, lots of rooibos variations there. Apparently this can be used in an espresso maker, so we will try it.

By the way, the food was amazing in Windhoek – really good fresh dish, excellent beef, and wonderful fresh brown bread with salted butter.

20160422_065531.jpgFinally, last food shopping, also from the airport in Johannesburg: a range of marinades and BBQ sauces, all looking rather interesting. By now my hand luggage was disastrously over 8 kilos, but being in transit it was fortunately not weighed.

imageSpeaking of weight……… I was asked if I could bring a small package back to Accra for a colleague. Sure, I said, something small would be no problem. (I know both people.) This was thus delivered to my hotel: a crate of lovely Namibian dates, 4.5 kilos of them (9.9 pounds….) which was a bit of a squeeze in my battered suitcase, already stuffed with coffee and workshop materials. They survived the trip, though somewhat sticky on arrival, and the recipient kindly gave me one of the baskets of dates. Namibia produces lovely dates, which I did not know.

However, next time I will certainly ask how large the “small package” is before agreeing to bring one!