Use it up banana bread with chocolate biscotti filling

Accra traffic

Flagstaff House through traffic yesterday: this is the presidential palace in Accra, renamed last year to Jubilee House. February is still a pantry challenge month for me, but I must confess, I am getting very bored of pasta variations and mystery soups from the freezer. Tonight we are watching Bohemian Rhapsody as Oscar countdown, so time for some cake. After defrosting the chest freezer yesterday, I had some frozen bananas, some cream cheese, and some damp chocolate biscotti. Those had I put in the freezer to save them from the ants, but they had become rather damp, though still edible. Hmmmm, maybe a banana cream pie with biscotti base? No, cream is really expensive in Accra, so banana bread it was. Cream cheese survives freezing but was also not improved, so I dolloped that in as well. The crème fraîche was well over best before date, but tasted fine.

I even did a freezer inventory while defrosting: lots of chicken, lots of parmesan and grana  padano, several bags of icy sliced leeks, some pesto and even some crumpets and muffins from Christmas. And Tuscan pâté from last July! This is a shared freezer between three of us, so we corralled each items into different bags, which should help navigate the frozen depths better.

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We are following the elections in Nigeria and Senegal this weekend. Ghana has elections late next year, and things are already heating up. NDC is the main opposition party, NPP is currently in power. Elections were  relatively peaceful in 2016, we hope that continues.

It is also still mango season! There is a lady with a fruit stand near our office, normally she makes fruit salad but I get a special mango-only order. Do I want a five, seven or eight cedi mango? (1 USD=5.27 cedi, from 3.8 cedi to the dollar when we arrived.) It is a small luxury, getting my takeway mango these weeks while mangoes are still good.

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Use it up banana bread with chocolate biscotti filling

60 gr butter softened
85 gr white sugar
2 medium eggs
240 g mashed bananas  (about 4 small ones), peeled
200 ml crème fraîche  (or 1/2 cup sour cream)
1 cup  plain white wheat flour
1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Filling:
120 gr chocolate biscotti, crumbled
100 gr cream cheese

Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs and whisk, then add mashed bananas and sour cream. Add dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, vanilla sugar and salt.

Pour half the batter in a loaf pan (buttered, with parchment paper in base). Crumble the chocolate biscotti over the batter, then spoon over the cream cheese. Finally, pour over the rest of the batter and smooth it out in loaf pan. Bake in the middle of the oven at 200C for 50 minutes. Test with a wooden cake test stick or chopstick that the cake is baked through (no raw batter if you poke through it). Cool for 15-20 minutes (well, it is 33C here, your kitchen is probably cooler), then turn the loaf out onto a cooking rack. Enjoy with the movie of your choice!

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Note: we have very sweet bananas here, so you might need more sugar.

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Fusilli with broccoli and prosciutto

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Back in Accra, where it is hot and sunny as usual. Here some handwoven baskets by the roadside, and it is always tempting to pick up another one.

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Need a broom or a rake? These are also available by the roadside. I was walking from Cantonments to Osu, on my way to the Chinese supermarket to buy fresh tofu and bok choi. Anyway, this month I am doing a pantry challenge and a no-shop month. Time to excavate the cupboards and the freezer, and to be a bit creative with what is on hand. I had some prosciutto from Rome, slightly out of date but still perfectly edible, so in it went, as a little luxury.

Fusilli with broccoli and prosciutto

One head of broccoli
1 tbs olive oil
One onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic
200 grammes prosciutto
400 grammes of pasta
Handful of grated parmesan

Cut the broccoli into florets and blanch them in salted boiling water until tender, maybe five minutes? Fish the broccoli out and boil the pasta in the same water. At the same time, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic. Then add the prosciutto, diced (scissors work well). When the pasta is done, toss it all together and serve with grated parmesan.

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If you have safe water, add a little starchy pasta boiling water to moisten the pasta before adding cheese. There is typhoid and cholera here, and I cooked this with tap water, so better to be safe.

Enjoy with season five of Alias: we have three episodes to go before the very end!

Tuscan weekend, and ceci cacio e pepe

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I was in Rome last month, and had a weekend in Tuscany with friends. Great company, excellent food, and a lovely time indeed. Just going to the local Coop was an experience: cheeses, wines, pici, ragu di cinghiale, fig jam with almonds, tozzetti……  We also stopped off at Nottola, where we bought wine.

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We took turns cooking,  and we made these ceci cacio e pepe one day as a side dish for lunch.  Super easy if you have tinned chickpeas and parmesan, olive oil salt and pepper. See Joy the Baker for the recipe: Cacio e Pepe Roasted Chickpeas

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Highly recommended!