After almost a year in Accra, it’s gotten easier to know where to shop. Yes, we have tried the fish market in Tema, and big vegetable markets. There are various supermarkets: Shoprite is South African, good for basics and bread flour (when not out of stock for four months), and has fresh milk on Fridays (not that I have ever seen it). Koala is Lebanese, pricier but a good selection (fresh vegetables on Thursday!). Malcolm Plus has good Indian snacks. MaxMart is also Lebanese, it has a really good butcher, also good for bread flour and spices, and has some Waitrose Essentials items. We often shop at Marina Mall, which for some reason is #13 of things to do in Accra. Total mystery. But it has a reliable Lebanese supermarket, decent vegetables too, and our neighbour kindly gives us a ride there on the weekend, so we stock up on UHT milk and milk powder, lentils and flour, eggplant and basics. And luxuries, like some fizzy water for my husband – not easy to get here, but if it keeps him happy…… For fruit there are local stands around town, with bananas, pineapple, papaya, avocado, ground nuts and such. So we manage very well.
However, I must confess: we also manage well because we have been travelling in recent months. Italy in July: we came back laden with parmesan, pecorino, pizza cheese, pesto, pasta, olive oil, truffle salami, UHT whipping cream, Italian tuna, homemade apricot jam from a friend, rice crackers, homemade passata from another friend, guanciale and pancetta, sundries tomatoes, carnaroli rice…… When your checked luggage can be two suitcases of 23 kilos each (yes, also in economy), we make the most of it, and that was mainly hard to get food. I just pray the luggage is not delayed or lost.
A month later, we came back from holidays in the UK. Marmite, Branston pickle, large oats (for making granola), curry pastes and spice mixes, bread flour, Maltesers hot chocolate mix (why did I but that? it is TOO HOT to drink that here….), breakfast sausages, candied ginger, Angel Delight, crumpets, English cheeses (cheddar, brie with mushrooms and truffle, Red Leicester, Wensleydale, Shropshire, Stilton…….ahhhhhhh). So I have been a lazy cook recently, some days assembling from packets, which is nice on hot days.
Of course, coming back from this trip, KLM managed to leave one of our four cases behind in Amsterdam. No explanation. My suitcase did come a day later. It was rather chaotic at the airport, as the BA flight to Accra had left luggage for FIFTY passengers behind, and people were understandably not happy. As they do not deliver lost luggage here, you need to go to the airport, join the scrum and hope the luggage is intact. Thank goodness it was the one suitcase of ours with nothing refrigerated in it, not the one with cheese, or the four packets of English butter lovingly sealed in a box! (We can get butter here, it is just so expensive and not always fresh.)
However, there is great local produce available, and that we do enjoy. Papaya, pineapple, bananas, sweet potato, eggplant, cowpeas, cassava flour and gari, avocado and lovely local honey and cocoa…… Oh, and the cashew butter is delicious too. So we mix and match a bit, cooking Italian/Asian/Nordic with our suitcase-carried ingredients, but with local vegetables and a dash of shito (hot black pepper sauce). Or a pizza with sweet potato or pizza with jollof spices, pineapple fritters, or a groundnut semifreddo. No complaints here!
Well, I complain about the heat, but even that has not been bad. In July-August-September it cools down to 24C at night, and the days have been OK. Now the hot season is approaching, and some days it is hard to stay hydrated. We get our 20 litre bottles of water delivered, and always have cold water on hand, but a friend recommended this to get some variety.
Wash your pineapple well before slicing it. Save your pineapple offcuts (yes, peel and core). When you have a bagful of offcuts (we freeze ours between tea-making sessions), pop the lot in a pot and cover with water (here, filtered water, about one litre). Boil it up, turn off heat and leave to steep and slowly cool. Strain it, and pour it into a jug cool overnight and enjoy next day over ice. No sugar needed.
Variations: I added a bag of mint tea this time, and have also added ginger sometimes, or black tea, or lemon, or a cinnamon stick. Good to have something flavoured and refreshing!