Monthly Archives: August 2018

Flatbread with sunflower seeds, and with zaatar

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A wall on the edge of Osu, spotted while heading home after getting groceries. Often  walls will have “Don’t urinate here”, as public urination is very common in Accra. Not all households have toilet facilities. A 2017 WaterAid report says 85.7% of the Ghanaian populace do not have access to decent toilets in their homes and are forced to use mainly unhygienic public toilets or resort to open defecation, which increases risk of cholera. Next to downtown Accra with flashy modern buildings, Uber, organic vegetable orders by whatsapp, air conditioned supermarkets and glossy coffee bars, there is still the “normal”  reality for many. The government still has vision of a clean Accra by 2020, but there is a long way to go.

Anyway, on to a happier topic, written from our gated compound apartment with multiple toilets  (so privileged….. not taken for granted. We pay for the housing, not our employer.) Friends came for lunch and I threw together some flatbread to go with antipasto.

Flatbread with sunflower seeds, and with zaatar

600 ml lukewarm water
10 g fresh yeast   (or 5 gr dry yeast)
200 g coarse rye flour
580 g white wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar

Topping for baking: sunflower seeds, zaatar, olive oil, salt

Stir the yeast in the water until it mostly dissolves. Add the rest except toppings, and fold a few times. It will be quite sticky, but should not be runny: this depends a bit in your flour too. I used rye flour as I had some at hand, but you could use wholewheat or all white flour if you want. Cover the bowl (I use a plastic hotel shower cap) and leave it to rest for a few hours. In Accra at 27C I left it four hours, in cooler places it can rest overnight. I was counting down to lunch and this rose just fine.

Tip the dough out and divide in two parts. Do not knead it, but try to stretch it out on parchment paper to approximate rectangles to fit two baking trays.  It will be sticky.

Heat the oven to 250C with baking tray inside. Flatbread with sunflower seeds: brush a little olive oil ob the top of the dough rectangle,and sprinkle some sunflower seeds and cracked salt on top. For the flatbread with zaatar, I mixed olive oil (maybe 1/3 cup) with 2 tbs zaatar in a small bowl, then brushed that on the other dough. Let it rest 20-30 minutes. Slide the baking parchment with dough onto the hot baking tray, and bake 12-13 minutes or so until baked through and golden. Cool a bit before slicing.

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Not so pretty but tasty, especially with a nice South African wine. I sliced them into small rectangles for serving. The one with zaatar probably could have used even more olive oil, it looks a little burnt but was very nice. The wind blew a wine glass into the bread basket, which did not improve the taste, but most was salvaged.

And yes, we acknowledged that this Italian lunch was a bubble of privilege, a little time-out, and that sometimes it is a very strange life here, far away from family and our own homes, though with some good friends. Some days it is hard to see if some parts of development work are making enough of a difference, other days it is clear and meaningful. A Canadian friend just told me about The Story of the Hummingbird, as told by the Kenyan environmental activist, women’s rights advocate, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai. Really lovely: We must do what we can.

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Just spotted in town: an information stand for the Accra toilet campaign. 1100 GHS is about 233 USD.

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Ricotta cake with plum and peach

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A new and improved coconut stand spotted in Accra! Normally coconuts are sold from a flatbed hand-pulled cart, like the one below at Danquah Circle. When you buy it, the top is slashed off and you get your fresh coconut, ready to drink (often with a straw).

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Here’s a cake made for a Sunday lunch: more post-holiday baking. This is a light ricotta cake with plum and peach. It’s based on this Raspberry-Ricotta Cake from Epicurious, which looks lovely, but less sweet, and with fresh fruit and some crushed amaretti biscuits thrown in.

Ricotta cake with plum and peach

70 g crashed hard amaretti biscuits, like these

4 medium eggs (or 3 large)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup ricotta (250 grammes)

2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

115 grammes softened butter
1.5 cup chopped fresh plums and peaches  (about 1 of each, depending on size).

Heat oven to 180C, and line a 24 cm cake tin with parchment paper. Rub a little butter on the internal sides of pan.

Whisk eggs and sugar, then add ricotta and vanilla, then soft butter. Whisk in flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt gently.  Now you have a light but quite buttery batter. Pour half into tin, then top with half the chopped fruit and half the crushed amaretti.  Pour over the rest of the batter, then the rest of the chopped fruit and the other half of the crushed amaretti.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. This one baked for 55 minutes. Cool on rack before slicing into wedges. I wrapped it with a tea towel to keep the ants at bay, which was successful.

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This is halfway through adding batter to pan: batter, then chopped plums and peaches, then half the crushed amaretti biscuits. I don’t have one of it actually baked, but it was delicious!  We enjoyed it at lunch, and the leftovers kept well.

Note: I’ve been re-reading Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: True Stories from a War Zone, published 2004 but still very good.

Sunday lunch: pasta with broccolo romanesco and salsiccia

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Weekends in Accra can be very busy, or very long. I find it very quiet when my husband is not here, but have gotten back into reading and knitting (oh, so exciting). And cooking, of course. Cooking for myself is something I know I should embrace with more gusto, but it is much more fun to cook for others. Fortunately there are friends who are great company and who like to eat, so here is a recent Sunday lunch. I’d brought down a broccolo romanesco, that beautiful vegetable. How to best enjoy it?

Pasta with broccolo romanesco and salsiccia

One head of broccolo romanesco, about the same weight as your dry pasta
3 cloves garlic
splash of olive oil
4 Italian pork sausages
pinch of chilli flakes
splash of white wine
500 grammes short pasta of your choice
grated parmesan or grana padano

Wash the broccolo romanesco, and cut it into florets. I took off the coarsest part of the core, and tossed the rest in. Boil them in salted water until tender, 8 minutes or so depending on the size of the pieces. You’ll want it quite tender. Take the broccolo out and keep it aside, but SAVE the hot broccolo water, as you will boil the pasta in it.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic. Squeeze the sausage meat from its casings and fry it with the garlic until cooked through and crumbly.  Add a splash of white wine, and a pinch of peperoncino (chilli flakes). Add the broccolo and gently mash the bigger pieces, so they almost become sauce, it should be moist. You can prepare this in advance and then go have a glass of white and some antipasto. Accra has been lovely and cool (26C, so we sat outside).

When about ten minutes away from eating : bring the broccolo water to the boil again (yes, it will be green)  and tip the pasta in, with a little more salt. Cook the pasta to al dente and keep a cup or so of the starchy pasta water aside when draining it. That will go in with the salsiccia and broccolo when it is tossed with the pasta, to loosen it a bit. Salt and pepper to taste. Add grated cheese generously and enjoy!

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Note: you can definitely make this without the salsiccia, just with the broccolo and grated cheese. Very nice with, though. I’m down to eating meat 1-2 times a month here, so it needs to be good. This pasta served for with two small leftover boxes  for me. I’d made a pizza with broccolo romanesco and salsiccia in the past, also very nice. The grana padano block of cheese lives in the freezer, and is very easy to grate even when frozen. 

It was an excellent afternoon: South African white wine, Roman salami, fresh flatbreads and ricotta di capra con tartufo, then this pasta and grilled radicchio, and a plum/peach cake with ricotta. And good conversation, of course. It was nice to share the bounty after traveling. Now I’ll be debating what I can cook with more locally sourced materials. Availability of Ghana-grown vegetables is getting much better, so I am thinking of a rotolo stuffed pasta dish with greens and tomatoes. Maybe for the next lunch?

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PS why would someone bring pasta from Italy? Because it is expensive here! 9.99 cedi for Barilla is not bad (1.8 euro, 2.1 USD). However, I haven’t bought Barilla pasta since their chairman’s homophobic remarks in 2013. Apparently that has since improved, so I may reconsider to see how it compares to the West African Tasty Tom pasta. I’ve seen a few recipe for jollof spaghetti here (Nigerian) and here (Ghanaian – with canned beef, urrrgh) so that will be a future dish to try.