Monthly Archives: November 2016

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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Back from Harare, and butterscotch banana bread

banana breadLast Sunday was my husband’s birthday. I think he enjoyed it, but I left at 530AM that day for a quick work trip to Harare, Zimbabwe. So I missed most of it. Today I am making an impromptu delayed birthday cake: banana bread with butterscotch chips. The oven was on for a fish pie, for potluck Sunday lunch with our Canadian neighbours, and we had some very brown bananas, so hey presto! Bonus cake! Electricity is expensive here, so if the oven is on, we try to double up: granola while making pizza, focaccia while making cake, or here, banana bread while making fish pie.

Harare

Street corner, Harare. I was watching the US elections from Zimbabwe, since there was CNN and Sky News in the hotel room. In Accra we don’t have the TV connected to the aerials, and just get news online – hardly ever video, as bandwidth is slow and too expensive, so live TV in the evenings was a bit of a luxury, though the news was surprising. Of course, one must be politically correct when asked what one thinks. Well, I said, at least they have democratic elections in the US. That is not the case in some countries.

Driving to the airport Thursday, the taxi driver said “Mugabe is 92, but he is already endorsed to run for president [of Zimbabwe] in 2018. He will die in power.”  Zimbabwe is also in an ongoing currency crisis: government employees I met has been paid two weeks ago, but could not get the actual money paid out. The USD is used as the official currency in Zimbabwe, along with rand and euros, but the banks and ATMs do not have much cash. What cash they have is rationed. See BBC article from this week: Why Zimbabweans are spending the night outside banks. My driver said “No, only 50 USD withdrawal a day, if you are lucky. We cannot get bigger bills than 50 USD, the bigger bills have all vanished. People are hoarding them. How are we supposed to pay for fuel, schools, food?”

Zimbabwe Herald

The people I met were so nice, though. Very friendly and talkative, and forgiving of my attempts to use Shona phrases and pronounce their names correctly. Nditenda! (thank you). We would laugh over lunch, especially when they saw me not having meat. I explained that while I enjoy meat, I generally do not eat it every day, and since I had delicious Zimbabwean beef and sadza (maize porridge) the day before, I’d skip meat for a few days after that, but would look for lentils, cowpeas, sugar beans. “No, no!” my tablemates said, indicating that a meal without meat would not be complete. Indeed, even the hotel breakfast buffet had several meat options.

Coming to Harare, I brought 4 kilos of wedding invitations over for a friend — might as well take advantage of two checked bags, even in economy! The groom to be has paid 15,000 USD in bride price, still used in many countries here. Anyway, I still laugh about the time a colleague asked me to bring a small package from Windhoek, and it was actually 4.5 kilos of Namibian dates…. So now I budget some extra space when travelling. No time for shopping in Harare, but while in transit in Johannesburg I found coffee, roiboos tea, rooibos compote, cooking sauces, chocolate ($17 USD for a bag of Reese’s Pieces….!), Pimm’s, biltong and relish, so I was happy.)

food shopping JBG airport

Now, back to the butterscotch banana bread…..

brown bananas

Butterscotch banana bread

This is based on http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/10/butterscotch-banana-bread-recipe.html  which looks wonderful, but with less sugar, and some tweaks as we have small eggs and smaller but very sweet bananas here. As you see, they fit in the palm of my hand.

3 medium bananas, ripe and mashed (about 230 grammes peeled)
2 small eggs (108 grammes with shells)
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
150 grammes all purpose white wheat flour
50 grammes all purpose white wheat flour
3/4 cups butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 200C. Mash your bananas. I weigh the eggs as they vary in size here, a medium egg would be 60-70 grammes. Mix mashed bananas, eggs, oil, sugar and butterscotch chips. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, baking powder and flour. Stir. Pour batter into parchment lined loaf tin, and bake for 50 minutes or so, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.

Notes: Probably better to bake this at 180C, but this was co-baked with a fish pie that needed 200C. We had four power cuts while this was in the oven, so I am estimating the time. It’s still quite sweet so next time I’d reduce sugar or butterscotch chips further. 

The butterscotch chips are from a quick trip to New York this summer – hand luggage only, 8 kilos. When JFK security went through my bag, it was a jumble of laundry, computer gear and cables, and exotic food: Old Bay seasoning, celery salt, hazelnut flavoured coffee, harissa, taco seasoning, chow mein mix, ranch dressing powder, scone mix and butterscotch baking chips….. the latter now finally being used.

Now back from lunch with the Canadians and lengthy post-election discussions. There are loud  shouts from the neighbours, Egypt are playing Ghana in a World Cup qualifier and Egypt are winning.