Pre-move chickpea burgers with feta (deconstructed…)

downtown Accra

A food stall in Accra: you might find ground nuts, bananas, drinks, chopped fruit, plantain chips, ready-made porridge in a plastic bag, bread rolls with peanut butter or chocolate spread …. the selection can be impressive, and can change through the day. I bought eggs here. Mobile vendors push handcarts with meat pies or Fan-Yo icecream sachets (not bad), honking a bicycle horn which is very much part of the soundscape of Accra. So are the chickens, even downtown. You might meet someone pulling a cart of fresh coconuts: fresh coconut water is easily available here, they chop off the tops with a machete and hand the coconut to you with a straw. A colleague buys a couple coconuts and pours the coconut water into a bottle for more ease of transport. I’ve been wondering whether there is any coconut meat in these green coconuts, to be explored: might be nice for a sweetpotato curry I have in mind.

I’m moving next weekend from the temporary accommodation to a new flat here in Accra, with the same two friends, which will be nice. I am looking forward to unpacking various bags and boxes, packed three months ago: where is the bread knife, and the French press? Two months of filter coffee carefully drained through paper towel is enough (a luxury problem, I know, I an not quite desperate enough to drink Nescafe) Time to use up ingredients again, as the kitchen is being packed up for the move, so these deconstructed chickpea burgers with feta were assembled.

Chickpea burgers with feta (very crumbly…)

700 grammes cooked chickpeas (about two tins worth)
2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery, if you have it
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 small fresh chili peppers, if you have it (or 2 tsp cayenne pepper)
200 grammes of feta
2 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Breadcrumbs to bind these, maybe 1/3 cup? (I intended to add this but did not have any breadcrumbs, and skipped this – which may why the finished burgers were so crumbly….)
Sunflower oil to fry

To serve: Thai sweet chilli sauce

Mash the chickpeas (mine were cooked the week before and frozen, if so defrost well before.) I used an immersion blender, slow going until I added eggs and chopped vegetables. Add peeled and chopped onions, garlic, chili pepper and the grated carrot. Crumble in the feta. Add pepper if needed, not too much salt as the feta will be salty too. Shape this mix with your hands to ten burgers or so, heat oil in a frying pan and fry the burgers on both sides until slightly golden. Serve with sweet Thai chilli sauce.

Note: If you have breadcrumbs or oatmeal, and add that to mixture with a splash of milk, it might help stop these from being so crumbly.  Grilling them in the oven (on both sides) might also work.

Home-made bread rolls to go with them. Very nice! You can see the chickpea burger is not holding its shape well, though flavour was great. Reheated well next day for lunch.




That which shall not be named

This was a recent success/disaster of sorts: a UK food magazine recipe for “Chicken, greens and coconut quinoa salad”. I made it with chickpeas, quinoa, cucumber and the coconut-lemon dressing, and it was absolutely delicious. However, I used local raw spinach, and suffered the consequences for days…… I’d had spinach a few days before, and was really pleased to get some fresh greens. But no, wrong choice. Even after washing the spinach in iodine solution, rinsing it in clean water, and patting the leaves dry,  something lingered that had me ill and sprinting to the toilet for days. Not great, when your office sometimes has an unreliable water supply and you cannot just go home.

“Everyone loses weight in Africa!” said a doctor to me, cheerfully, before I moved to Accra. I am not a thin person, and she wanted me to lose some kilos, which I promptly did on arrival. “You look great!” said colleagues on my first trip back,  as I was slightly tanned and eight kilos thinner. Well, I said drily, “…..that is what six weeks of diarrhea will do to you…..” Life improved considerably once we got an apartment and started cooking for ourselves again, and many of those kilos crept comfortably back on again. Still, random bouts of mystery stomach bugs still strike: hand sanitizers only get you so far.

On holidays in Crete once three of us got food poisoning right before our flight back. Dodgy lamb kebab, we think. None of us had loperamide or anything useful, so I crawled to the closest pharmacy in the small village, and as I spoke no Greek, I had to mime something along the lines of “vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, going on plane, HELP”.  She gave me charcoal tablets and something that eventually worked (enough) and since then, I never travel without some digestive emergency medications. Generally you do want things to (ahem) run their course, not concrete your innards, but sometimes Immodium can get you functional enough to get on that next flight.

Back home I would generally not say much about suffering from toilet-related issues, maybe just admit to feeling a bit under the weather. Here, though, it is amazing how you get used to discussing digestive issues with friends.  “Is it normal, to, err……..?” newcomers will ask, timidly. “YES. Perfectly normal. What did you eat? Do you need some rehydration salts?” “Try plain rice, nothing fried. Otherwise I have some Cipro upstairs, and I know a pharmacy that will deliver to your house.” (See also Things Expat Workers Like #57: Talking about poop.)  We discuss where to eat out with the least chance of getting ill, restaurants with very nice or really terrible toilets, de-worming tablets, street food vendor hygiene and the open defecation problem in Accra. At least I have access to a clean toilet.

There are some vegetable growers here using cleaner water, and it is perfectly possible to eat vegetables here safely, if cleaned well, peeled and/or cooked. No more raw spinach for  me, though!

Banana oatmeal pancakes


In honour of Shrove Tuesday, which is on February 13th this year: pancakes!  These were also a pre-travel, clear out fridge cooking effort (not much of an effort, really). I must confess, I do not particularly like bananas, but will eat them in banana bread and pancakes.  Freshly made pancakes with jam? Excellent start to the day! It really should be fastelavnsboller, Norwegian Shrovetide buns filled with whipped cream, but given the massive cost of whipping cream in Accra, this is close enough!

Banana oatmeal pancakes

2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
2 small eggs
50 ml milk
1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
pinch of cinnamon
1/2  cup plain all-purpose wheat flour
butter to fry pancakes

Mix everything, beat with a fork until smooth. I had small sweet Accra bananas and small eggs, you might need more or less milk and flour depending on batter consistency. I made this the night before, and left batter in fridge so I could have pancakes when waking up with minimum effort.

Heat your frying pan, add a little butter and fry pancakes until golden and cooked through. Serve warm with jam (also very nice with Biscoff).


Note: these were veering towards hockey puck firmness, after the batter sat in fridge overnight. Another small egg or a splash of milk might have lightened them. Very tasty though, and it made about 8-9 of these, so this will be another breakfast as well.  Last time I added sesame seeds to the pancakes, which was a good addition.

As another house move is coming up soon, my pantry is mainly in boxes or given away, but I am looking forward to unpacking in March and restocking at Relish (flax/sesame/chia seeds) and the Great Wall Supermarket (mirin, bok choi, rice noodles, soy sauce, good fresh tofu). Accra is OK for certain items, if you know here to go and can afford them. I just heard that Saagar (Indian shop in Osu) has frozen paneer, so that is also on my list. Given that it will be a shared kitchen, some discipline will needed for what can actually fit. Still, it will be nice to soon cook and not wonder which box the thyme/chili flakes/Worcester sauce/etc are stashed away in.