Monthly Archives: October 2017

Use-it-up Stranger Things jam muffins

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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.

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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?

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Life in limbo: chocolate pudding

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Well, we thought were leaving Accra mid-November….. but travel clearances are taking their time, so life is in limbo right now. As we were assured all was on track, we gave notice on our flat, and the lease runs out in two weeks. I am taking deep breaths and reminding myself that I do have a job next month, somewhere, that we have our health and this will be resolved. Still, this is stressing me out to no end. Short term accommodation is hard to find here, and expensive, and right now we do not know if the delay will be days, weeks or months.

The Guardian had a great article today, which resonated with me also in times of uncertainty: “Cooking is perfect to empty your brain of bad men and the things they do

…. Crisp but floury potatoes, and slow-cooked lamb, tender and almost melting off the bone, are like the safety of a friend’s hug. Cooking is sorcery. Some days we desperately need its magic.

Exactly.  World news is depressing, stories of sexual harassment keep coming, and are only too believable. My challenges are small, but some days I just want to curl up in the sofa and watch Gilmore Girls. Well, when all else fails, there is still cooking. I am still emptying fridge, freezer and food stocks, in case by some miracle we move in the next 20 days, and/or if we move to a rented room somewhere. Que sera, sera. Let there be chocolate pudding……….

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I started with Smitten Kitchen’s Best chocolate pudding, because her recipes are the best. The plan was to use evaporated milk and Italian Hulala UHT whipping cream, as in photo above, but  Iwas too distracted to remember that, as I was watching the YouTube Yacht Rock series on my laptop at the same time, which is very funny….. So the pudding was all done with milk powder. The chocolate was Guatemalan, as we are lucky enough to have a friend who works in cocoa. Not enough chocolate left, so I used up the last of our Ghanaian cocoa as well. Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world, after Côte d’Ivoire, and we get excellent cocoa here.

Use-it-up chocolate pudding

30 grammes cornstarch
120 grams icing sugar  (we are low on regular sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
700 ml whole milk (I used powdered milk & water)
1 tbs vanilla sugar (Norwegian – just use 1/2 tsp vanilla extract if easier to find)
95 gr bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
65 gr unsweetened Ghana cocoa (last of package, you could use a bit less)
Optional: sugar sprinkles on top

Combine the cornstarch, powdered milk, icing sugar and salt in a medium saucepan, Whisk in the water/milk, and bring to low boil. Add chocolate and cocoa powder, stir well so all is melted and mixed in. After ten minutes or so it will thicken: taste to see how you like flavour and texture. I added an extra pinch of vanilla salt at this stage. Also added: sugar sprinkles on top, as we in are the “everything must go” stage of pre-moving. Cool and eat: this makes at least six servings, even for stressed people, as it was very dark and chocolate-y.

Piling up items to ship or give away: there is a classifieds section here in Accra where people sell all kinds of things due to house moves: furniture, used shoes, kitchenware, toys… I never thought I might be one of them, but if we have to store stuff with friends while we are in temporary lodgings, much more will be shedded. Most just given away, I think, it might also help for good karma for the move.

And to remind myself to keep this in perspective: another neighbour died, as we could see from the red and black funeral drapings on their gate. We have a lot to be grateful for, so I will keep breathing, waiting and maybe have some more chocolate pudding….

Saturday: grocery run to Osu

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Another action-packed weekend in Accra  (ha……) with laundry and a grocery run to Osu, where the closest supermarket is. Here’s the fruit stand opposite Koala, at the top of Oxford Street, which has expanded and has a quite good selection. I still haven’t found the nearby lady with green zucchini.

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Uber-ing down Oxford Street: phone cards, sunglasses, football shirts, fabric, phone, cards, what do you need? With no car, and my deep dislike of haggling with taxi drivers (“It’s always 20 cedi to Osu!”), Uber makes it so easy to get around town.

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Oh no! Shoprite already has Christmas trees! And tinsel on all vertical areas! Well, we are still preparing to leave Accra in 4-5 weeks, though paperwork is pending, and our lease is cancelled, so we just needed milk (UHT or powdered…) and vegetables to help keep the pantry challenge going. It’s getting easier to find “Product of Ghana” vegetables in the supermarket, like beetroot, green beans, pumpkin, cabbage, chilis, eggplant. Nice, also as it is getting too hot for market shopping.

Accra street

Waiting for our ride home again: Though you cannot see it, the Shoprite guard in the yellow vest is trying to shoo out a hen with chicks who are under the grey car. The car driver is trying not to run over the chickens, who would refused to budge  – it all went well in the end.

Funeral

On the way home, we passed this funeral gathering (obvious from red and black tents) for a female professor. Funerals are often huge events here. The red and black are colours of mourning, whereas white and black are colours to celebrate someone’s life. Apparently the owner of the bakery next door just died, and they are starting a week to commemorate her from tomorrow: hence the white and black decorations.

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Sunday afternoon update: the week of commemorative celebrations has begun next door. Lots of people gathered under canopies, big turnout, with religious music and hymns on the sound system all day, interspersed by speeches and sermons. All very loud. Our friends in Tamale had a church next door, with services and music every night  – their windows kept neither mosquitoes nor shouted sermons no tinny gospel out, much more invasive, so we really cannot complain over one day of noise here. Normally we only hear fragments from the nearby churches and mosques on the wind. Time to make Thai chickpea curry with coconut meat and green beans.