Monthly Archives: January 2018

What to make for dinner? Fiskeboller med hvit saus

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I have an old Norwegian cookbook from the late sixties, “Hva skal vi ha til middag?” What shall we have for dinner? It’s a basic cookbook, and I was reminded of that as I sweatily dragged four boxes of books from storage to my bedroom the other day. Most of our books are back in Rome, as humidity and dust are hard on books. Ten-twelve cookbooks came along to Accra. There are a couple from Nigella, a Simon Hopkinson, the wonderful first Rachel Roddy. But the cookbooks are in a box I have not found yet, so this month I am looking in my food cupboard, online bookmarks and a few precious UK food magazines for inspiration. There is no perfect meal planning, but cooking helps boost morale. Having some ideas at hand does help, also so there is a packed lunch ready for workdays. I am trying out Google Keep for collecting ideas:

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Half the time ingredients are not available here, but still excellent inspiration. The uppercase abbreviations are reminders of where the recipe is, like OL=Olive magazine or BM=bookmark, for Nigel Slater’s baked pumpkin and spiced chickpeas recipe – which looks amazing. I have not found lemongrass and lime, so I might try a ras el hanout variation for the chickpeas instead. We shall see. Tonight is definitely fiskeboller med hvit saus, Norwegian tinned fish balls in white sauce, served with boiled potatoes and raw grated carrots. And a sprinkling of curry powder! Very retro, but that is a well-travelled tin that is not going on a third housemove. One could make fiskeboller from  scratch, but the tinned ones are normally used.

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Take one tin……

Fiskeboller med hvit saus  (source: TINE)
8 potatoes  (or 4 very large ones, halved)
4 carrots
2 tbs butter
3 tbs all-purpose wheat flour
250 ml stock from the tin of fiskeboller
100 ml milk
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tin of fiskeboller  (Norwegian fish balls: like dumplings, boiled, not fried)

To serve: Sprinkle of curry powder

  1. Wash the potatoes and boil under done, 20-30 minutes.
  2. Make white sauce: melt the butter on low heat, add flour and stir well. It will look fry. Pour in stock drained from the tin of fiskeboller, a bit at a time, keep stirring until it is smooth. Add milk and bring to slow boil for a few minutes, so it thickens. Season the sauce  with salt, pepper and nutmeg (taste it!). Add more milk if the sauce is too thick, and stir well so it does not burn.
  3. Carefully add the fiskeboller to the sauce and heat gently so they are warm through before serving.
  4.  Serve with boiled potatoes, raw grated carrot and a sprinkle of curry powder on the fiskeboller and potatoes.

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Note: Wonderful lighting, and such a photogenic dish! Leftovers now packed for three lunches, and two of us had dinner with this. In the TINE recipe the carrots are boiled, but I like them grated raw with this.

PS The coffee pod note at the end of the list above is because I really miss my morning cappuccino, normally magically appearing bedside at 0615, but the barista (my husband) is currently a continent away. The French press is in a box somewhere. Coffee capsules are not ideal, but I am contemplating getting a coffee pod machine for the weekends…. if coffee capsules can be found outside the Nespresso shop at Marina Mall. Still looking. Has anyone tried the refillable coffee capsules? Less waste would be good.

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Norwegian waffles for flatmates

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My mother sent this picture from Norway. Snow, winter, family, winter sports on TV: it all seems very far away when it is a sweaty 32C here in Accra. The harmattan seems to be over, the skies are clearer and it is a relief to not have the dust creeping in. I am still househunting with current flatmates, there are possibilities for potential 3-bedroom flats  (though so expensive….). I never thought I’d be flat-sharing again at my age, but it does saves money, which will go towards flights back to see my husband. And the flatmates are very nice, so yesterday I made waffles for breakfast. Most of my things are still packed away in boxes,  pending the next house move in February, but I did excavate my Norwegian waffle iron. Bare essentials! It was also a pre-Accra gift from my mother. As she says, you can find eggs, flour and milk most places in the world, which means you can make warm cardamon-scented waffles like these, and that makes a temporary place feel more like home.

To quote My Little Norway, which also has several waffle recipes:

Waffles are a Norwegian tradition. Not a week goes by in a Norwegian home without a waffle being eaten. Unlike the Belgium waffles, Norwegian waffles are large, soft and fluffy and fit pefectly folded in your hand. Soured milk is a usual ingredient however, it can be replaced by fresh milk. Cardamum, a common spice used in Norway, is not typically used in basic recipes but can add extra flavour. The toppings are simple but yummy: slices of Norwegian brown cheese, a spread of sour cream and jam or just a sprinkling of sugar.

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Norwegian waffles

4 medium eggs
500 ml milk (I used milk powder + water)
400 ml all-purpose wheat flour
Optional: a handful of oatmeal
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
100 grammes melted butter

Whisk eggs and milk. Then whisk in the dry ingredents. Finally, add the melted butter (cool a bit before adding to batter). Let batter rest 30 minutes at least. I made mine the night before as it was for breakfast the next day, and left it in the fridge. You may need to add more flour or more milk until the batter consistency is about right. Heat your waffle iron, it may need a bit of butter to avoid sticking, but these did not. My waffle iron beeps when they are done, which makes it very easy. Otherwise, let them cook until golden (but do not peek too early or they will collapse), then flick them out with a knife (without scratching the iron.)  Let them cool slightly on a cooking rack. Serve the waffles cut into single waffle hearts or double ones, nicely presented on a plate, with jam for each person to add as needed.

This is finger food, normally not eaten at breakfast or with cutlery, but served afternoon or evening, along with coffee.  (Arctic Grub explains this very well in 10 Things You May Not Know About Norwegian Waffles and even includes a vegan waffle recipe, which looks delicious.)

I do have a precious block of Norwegian brown cheese in the fridge, and will break that out for future waffles. Normally I’d make at least a litre of waffle batter, so there are leftovers, and I might try this Tine waffle recipe doubled next time.  Waffles do bring happiness!

Househunting, and harmattan orzo salad with tuna, celery and black beans

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Yes, it’s another grain + tuna + veg + pulse salad — last week’s farro salad leftovers were three lunches for me, very convenient. I was lucky to find a rented room for two months with super nice colleagues, but they are moving house within Accra sometime in February.  However, they may very kindly take me with them, so I am doing my best to be a considerate flatmate in my old age, and we have started househunting together. Interesting to see how the market has changed since I arrived in 2015: more places available, but many are still rather expensive: 2500 – 4500 USD for three bedrooms, sometimes unfurnished. We shall see.

All my kitchenware is packed away in bags in a spare room, so I am very lucky also to have access to a well-equipped kitchen here. Thinking of another sweaty move across Accra soon, there is definitely a need to use up any heavy tins, which is usually not a factor in my mealplanning. Another year in Accra was not foreseen, and being apart from my husband is very hard, so it is extremely tempting to sink into despondency and the stash of post-Christmas chocolate. To keep morale up, I am trying to eat properly and exercise a bit, and see friends, so this repeat salad is a small step in that direction.

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Ah, harmattan: dusty dry weeks in Accra. There has been sun and increasing humidity the last days, so maybe harmattan is ending early this year.

Harmattan orzo salad with tuna, celery and black beans
Orzo (pearl barley): about 1.5 cups  (soaked one hour)
One tin black beans, drained and rinsed (or lentils, other beans or chickpeas)
2 small tins tuna in olive oil
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 small green bellpeppers (produce of Ghana)
Half an onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

I soaked the orzo for a an hour, covered with water room temperature, then boiled it 15 minutes or so.  We have drinking water delivered in handy 19.5 litre containers, but I have gotten more relaxed about using tap water for cooking. The most common water-borne diseases in Ghana are typhoid, cholera and dysentery….. but [touch wood] so far it seems to be OK for cooking as long as water boils at least ten minutes.  

Cook the soaked orzo in salted water (like you would cook pasta) until it is al dente but not not crunchy, 15 minutes or so. The packet said 25 minutes when unsoaked. You could use other grains for this as well, or rice.  It will be softer than boiled farro. Drain off cooking water. While still warm, crumble over the tuna. Here I added in the olive oil in the tuna tins, as it was decent quality, otherwise if you are using tuna in water or blander sunflower oil, you might want to drain the tuna first and add a couple tablespoons of good olive oil with the tuna to the warm grains. Add in drained beans and chopped veg. Salt and pepper to taste.

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I’ve been reading UK food magazines from Christmas holidays today, and taking notes for what I could make with what we can access easily here. Sweet potato curry, lentil soups, falafel wraps, spinach fritatta……  The Guardian has also had some great vegan recipes this month, to be explored.  Enjoy your weekend!