Monthly Archives: May 2018

Reunion banana cake with pistachio cream

IMG_20180526_194324.jpg A friend is back in Accra after almost two years, and came for dinner last night. We sat on the balcony with cold beer, chatting and catching up. It was great. It was cool and breezy, as this is one of the two rainy seasons, and windy enough to keep  mosquitos at bay. This was dessert: a cake to use some over-ripe bananas, some leftover yoghurt from Indian takeway, and a reason to use up more crema di pistacchio brought from Rome: imagine a sweet spread like nutella, but with pistachios rather than hazelnuts and cocoa. So no spices, and more cake than banana bread. It was very nice, both with and without pistachio cream.

Friday was also African Union Day, a public holiday here in Ghana. It is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity.  I walked to work, and passed the AU monument where they were setting up for some of the festivities of the day.

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Next week I’ll go see our seamstress, to see what she has made: shorts for my husband, dress and skirt for me, all in local fabrics. That should be fun. Now, back to the cake!

Banana cake:
50 grammes butter, softened
125 grammes white sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla sugar
3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (mine were 137 grammes peeled)
175 ml yoghurt
280 grammes white wheat flour  (I think: to be honest, I forgot to take notes….)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Whisk everything together. Line base of a small baking tin (20×30 cm) with baking parchment, tip batter in. and bake at 180C for 25 minutes or so, until cake is golden and spring to the touch. I usually test with a wooden skewer. Maybe a pinch of salt on top next time.

 

 

 

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Curried coconut lentil soup with flatbread

img_20180520_1157591Accra is pretty safe, we tell newcomers. Not like Juba or Jo’burg or other rougher places where friends live. I can Uber around town, or go shopping alone, and am generally more worried about malaria than mugging. We live in a nice gated compound, with 24 hour security, as recommended, and just got burglar bars installed on the kitchen side. Unemployment is high, and there has been more crime this year: cars held up at traffic lights, people mugged in daylight, a series of forex robberies and an increase in home invasions – quite a few of which have happened in the gated communities. I am happy the burglar bars are in place.

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Fortunately the only invasion we have had in the new apartment has been ants. They are hungry and tenacious (even dried chickpeas are not safe) and various dry goods have been unceremoniously chucked into the new deep freezer to kill off the invaders. More ant-proof containers are in place, and the kitchen shelves are dusted down with ant powder. All quiet on the ant front this week. Just in case, I am having a pantry challenge this month, using up stockpiled food in shelves and freezer, so it was time for curried lentil soup, which has been lunch everyday this week.

Curried coconut lentil soup

* 1 cup dried lentils (I used green lentils, rinsed and picked over)
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
* 3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
* 2 green bell peppers, diced
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tbs curry powder
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tsp salt
* pinch of red pepper flakes
* 1 tsp turmeric, if you have it
* 1 tin diced tomatoes (400 grammes)
* 1 tin coconut milk 400 grammes) – save a splash for a decorative swirl if you remember
* 1 litre vegetable stock (I used stock cubes)
* salt and pepper to taste
Optional: soak lentils for a couple hours first (just too save cooking time on a hot day).

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic and spices, and fry a couple more minutes. If you only have curry powder, that would be fine. Add tinned tomatoes, lentils, stock and coconut milk. Cook gently until lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so. (Longer is using dry lentils, maybe ten minutes of using tinned lentils.)

Note: Also might be nice in soup: fresh ginger, mustard seeds, coriander seeds: see what you have and what you like.

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Flatbreads for soup (made 4 small ones)
250 grammes flour
4 grammes fresh yeast (or 2 grammes dry yeast)
½ tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
175 ml water
1 tbs oil

To brush:
20 grammes melted butter
pinch of salt

Mix the dough, let it rise an hour or so. Heat the oven to 250C, with the baking sheet in the oven, Divide the dough in four and let it rest a few minutes, then roll out four naan. Bake on parchment paper on the hot baking sheet for five minutes or so, until golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

Enjoy with a mug of hot soup (browsing look at royal wedding dresses and hats optional).

A thank-you carrot cake with lime icing

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Having a third year in Ghana was not planned, but I am managing. There are many good aspects about working here, but for many of us, having your spouse a continent away is really not easy.  My husband just left Accra after a visit; suddenly the weekends are very long and quiet again, and I am rather sad. This is untenable.

One thing that did cheer me up this week was seeing my husbands new permit for Ghana issued, which means much less paperwork for future stays. The file was misplaced in a ministry office for a couple weeks, and time was getting very short. It looked like another round of requesting a visa and more money on flights to try another time, but the papers were finally located, and his passport came back with permit themday before his flight. Phew! This is a small cake for the colleagues who helped with this. Adapted from BBC Good Food’s Yummy scrummy carrot cake, which looks lovely, minus what I did not have (oranges, raisins…). The recipe also did not have a cream cheese frosting, which meant it might be more transportable in 31C.

A thank-you carrot cake with lime icing

170 grammes light brown sugar
110 grammes sunflower oil
40 grammes soft butter (as I ran out of oil….)
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
130 grammes grated carrot
175 grammes plain wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

For the frosting
* 150g icing sugar
* 1-2 tsp lime cordial  (BBC recipe calls for orange juice, but lime cordial was perfect)

Heat the oven to 180C. Line the base and sides of an 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Beat sugar, oil and eggs into a mixing bowl briefly. Tip in grated carrots, flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Whisk this together, then pour batter into tin. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until  the cake feels firm and springy when you press it.  Cool on a wire rack. (If in Accra, cool it on a wire rack, wrapped in a kitchen towel, and keep an eye out for hungry ants while it cools. The top of our new chest freezer seems the safest space so far.)

For the icing: I had no oranges, but did have Ghanaian lime cordial, and half a jam jar of icing sugar, so that would have to do. I brought the icing and cordial to the office, whisked it in a coffee cup, drizzled the lime icing over the cake, and delivered the cake as a thank you. Hey presto!

A taxi view: Melon truck. And hurra for 17. mai to all Norwegians tomorrow.

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