Off to buy eggs, a sunny morning in Accra

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

Ghanaian Coffee Cake (adapted from food52)

vietnamese coffee cake

Coffee, cardamom and cake, who does not like that?  I had bought sweetened condensed milk with the thought of making the Vietnamese Coffee Cake on food 52, which looks amazing. Rave comments too. We had a brunch coming up with neighbours, so I made this the night before for post-brunch coffee.  Really, really good. I did tweak the recipe, as I thought it might be too sweet and wanted less butter, so amended recipe is below. However, you should try the original recipe, the cake there was higher and the sweet sauce far smoother and less lumpy than mine — wonderful flavours, though!

Ghanaian version of Vietnamese Coffee Cake  (less butter, less sugar, more yogurt)

  • 60 grams white sugar
  • 110 grams brown sugar
  • 60 grams butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams plain wheat flour
  • 3 heaping tbs whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 grammes instant coffee +1/2 tsp ground coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 300 grams plain Greek-style yogurt, full fat
  • 2 eggs

Cream butter and sugar, toss in eggs and yogurt, add rest and whisk briefly. Butter a 24 cm tin, pour in batter, bake at 180C for 35-40 minutes, until cake is springy and cake tester comes out clean. Yes, slightly brutal in method but I wanted to get this in the oven quickly so we could get back to watching Trapped, the brilliant Icelandic TV series. Snow, a murder, a small town cut off by a storm — highly recommended.

Cake sauce topping  (called brigadeiro, interesting, it is a Brazilian chocolate bonbon I think, the original recipe author is Brazilian)

  • 385 grams (one 14-ounce tin) sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee and a pinch of ground coffee
  • 25 grammes butter

Heat in a small pan carefully until it thickens. I added more coffee, so it took a while but suddenly came together (and caramelised a but, not intentional but rather nice). Very sweet, so I served it as optional with the cake slices, slightly warm, rather than pouring it over.

Accra yogurtNotes: The cake was moist, plenty sweet as it was and with a gorgeous coffee/cardamon flavour. Sometimes when I reduce butter and sugar my husband politely says “Well, it tastes healthy…..” Not the case here. The texture was rather like the Norwegian spice cake my mother makes, with surmelk (like kefir or buttermilk) which I must make soon. I might skip the sweet sauce next time, not really needed. 

Lots of yogurt in cake, thick Greek-style yogurt. Store-bought local yoghurt  is usually good here but sometimes there is a so-so pot and this was a good use for it. I am learning to make my own yogurt, which is interesting. Like sourdough, the results are slightly different every week but I am learning. 

Another reason the cake was quickly/brutally assembled was the discovery of yet another sealed box of flour with happily munching little black bugs.  The rice here often has small weevils in it, a bag of local Tema flour had moths exploding out (good  hard wheat flour, though), and even the expensive 00 flour we bought for making pasta has been a disappointment. Almost all the 00 bags we bought have had  “some extra protein” (as my mother calls unwanted bugs from her years abroad)  and I thought I had rotated them all through the freezer to kill them off. Oh no – one bag I forgot…… but I was not going to waste somewhat bug-infested 00 flour, though that may horrify you. So I measured out flour, sieved it VERY carefully, while dumping scurrying small bugs down the sink and trying to avoid escapees. Hopefully none made it into the cake………

 

Corn and coconut: small chops

corn and coconut, Accra

Yesterday, I went to the bank. The mother of a colleague had died, and the office was collecting for the funeral. Funerals are expensive, often three-day affairs here, I was told. More costly  than weddings, so the hat goes around for contributions, and transport was organised for colleagues to attend,

I was low on cash, hence the bank, as there no ATM nearby. Rather than keeping the large pile of grubby cedi notes received on arrival at home, I have opened a local bank account, especially as stories of home invasions and robberies abounded when we arrived in Accra last year. Anyway, the bank is absolutely fine, very modern, though the phone banking never works we can pay for groceries at at large supermarkets by card, which works really well. I got my cash, and on the way back, there was a stop for someone to buy lunch. Street vendors are a key part of street life here: you can buy plastic bags of sweet porridge, bread rolls with chocolate, fruit, meat pies, kenkey (fermented maize dumplings, some times cassava) wrapped in banana leaves, fresh coconut, Fanyo icecream; grilled meat, and much much more.

corn and coconut, just bought

We bought corn on the cob, with fresh coconut. Steaming hot corn on the cob, from a large fabric-wrapped metal bowl, de-husked as we waited. “Soft? You want soft?” Yes please. Into the plastic bag it went, one cedi each (25 US cents). The fresh coconut was 50 pesewas extra (12 US cents) – interesting combination! Corn and coconut is common here, and in Nigeria, I am told. Cooking a full meal can be seen as ‘heavy chopping’, and smaller meals (snacks) are small chops. There are chop bars all over Accra.  I took it home, grilled the corn slightly in a frying pan and it was delicious with the fresh coconut!
kenkeyKenkey, the fermented dumplings from the local corner shop (shack) where we now buy eggs. There are several versions of kenkey, I think this is Fante kenkey (based on wrapping) but it might be Ga. I am not so keen on the fermented flavour, but it is popular here and colleagues will buy it for even birthday lunches to share. More on the local goats and chickens another day.