Spaghetti with broccoli and leek

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Happy New Year! Back in Accra, where it is harmattan season, with the dry and dusty northeasterly trade winds blowing from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. It is also the end of the Year of Return, Ghana 2019 which is an initiative of the government of Ghana is intended to encourage African diasporans to come to Africa (specifically Ghana) to settle and invest in the continent. The year 2019 is symbolic as it commemorates 400 years since the first enslaved Africans touched down in Jamestown, Virginia in the United States. (source: wikipedia)

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There are gift-wrapped cars along Independence Road, with diaspora welcome messages like this:

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And SO many lights and decorations this year in Accra this year! There are also posters for the planned new National Cathedral of Ghana, which they must still be fundraising for as it’s a 100 million dollar project. You’d think sanitation and clean water would be a better investment, but from the photos it does look beautiful.

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Building walls have gone up at the AU roundabout, where Independence meets Castle Road, with lots of glossy posters of what is planned (the brown building below at 3 o’clock). Looks like Gamel Abdul Nasser Ave would be closed right before Castle Road.

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Lovely advent holidays with family in Norway (risgrøt, pinnekjøtt, ribbe, pepperkaker) and Christmas in London with the in-laws (Christmas pudding, crackers, paper hats, Gavin and Stacey Christmas special on TV.) As usual I am not sure where I’ll be working this year, am waiting to hear if I am moving from Accra or not soon, but this time I am surprisingly chill about it. After some family health scares, I am just happy that most of the family is in good health. Time to start cooking again and get on with life.

Spaghetti with broccoli and leek

2 small heads broccoli, broken into florets
1 leek, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 salted anchovies
splash of olive oil
salt
pinch of chili flakes
250 grammes spaghetti
dried ricotta cheese

Cook the broccoli florets in salted boiling water until tender (save cooking water for pasta). Gently fry garlic in olive oil with anchovies and leek. It will not taste fishy, anchovies just provides an umami kick. With a slotted spoon scoop out broccoli and move it to the frying pan, then boil spaghetti in the broccoli water. While that is cooking, gently mash the broccoli in the frying pan with a little chiili flakes and salt. You might want to add a little starchy pasta water to loosen it. Drain pasta, stir it all together in frying pan and top with dried ricotta.

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Note: I actually used frozen raw leek, as I am trying to empty our chest freezer so we can sell it, so I just tipped the leek in in with the broccoli. As it had been frozen, the leek did not need much cooking.

Note 2: I was inspired by a recipe for Orechiette Pasta with Broccoli from the Accra Embassy Cookbook 2015. The recipe suggests using grated pecorino or dried sheep ricotta, and ends saying ” ….Serve it hot in a bowl. No Parmesan in this recipe, better no cheese at all than Parmesan, if you don’t have one of the above mentioned cheeses.”  Wonderful.

Quick summer pasta with vegetables

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Toy animals in gorgeous local fabrics at the craft market. I’ll be traveling again soon, and really needed to clear out the vegetable drawer. I also have French classes two days after work now, very enjoyable but quick dinners are needed those nights. The stars had clearly aligned for a quick summer pasta with vegetables. This comes together in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti and get Stranger Things season 3 ready on Netflix.

Quick summer pasta with vegetables (serves 3)

300 grammes of spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
3-4 tbs olive oil
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 local yellow squash, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 small eggplant, chopped
salt, pepper
a couple slices of leftover prosciutto, sliced

grated parmesan (use vegetarian cheese for fully vegetarian meal)

Boil the pasta. Gently fry the squash in a large frying pan, then add aubergine pieces and cherry tomatoes (the tomatoes will release some juices which stops the aubergines from absorbing all the olive oil).  We added a little prosciutto, to help empty out the fridge shelves. Add some generous pinches of salt and a little pepper to taste. When pasta is ready, drain it and toss it all in the frying pan. Add grated parmesan, and enjoy.

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Not so pretty, but fast and very tasty. You could do this with other vegetables too. The grated parmesan does make a difference  in pulling the dish together. As usual, getting the pasta cooked but still a little al dente is needed, as it will absorb some moisture from the vegetables. I used tap water to boil the pasta, we have not heard of cholera outbreaks in Accra this rainy season yet. There is a polio outbreak in Tamale, though.

Did anyone see Conan O’Brien in Ghana in June?  Most odd to see images of him on Oxford Street. He also went to Kumasi.

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Accra and water sachets

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Water sachets: you see these everywhere in Accra. 20-30 cedi for one, about 5 cents, often the cheapest way to get water around town. You bite off the corner, and drink. The sachets are made of  high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a non-biodegradable material. Street vendors have big bowls with water sachets, and you see them being delivered around town, like on this small truck here. Many households do not have regular basic water and sanitation services.

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Once used, sachet wrappers are often discarded on streets and in gutters, creating an environmental sanitation problem. Walking to work, I often pass these chickens foraging among burnt rubbish and water discarded water sachets. Not as bad as some areas, like Agbogbloshie, but not optimal. (Note: Accra is also glossy new buildings, lovely people, modern shops and trendy restaurants, this is just a more ground-level post, after two weeks of walking a lot.)

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In the rainy season Accra sometimes floods, partially due to the gutters being clogged with dirt, debris and plastic waste. Then it rains, the waste washes out to sea, and becomes a problem for fishermen and marine life. Accra beaches are generally pretty grim. The city is trying to improve the situation, but a ban on plastics like Rwanda and Kenya seems far away. And people still need access to clean drinking water.

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The water is mean to be clean, and fortunately most water sachet producers maintain acceptable quality levels. Last week we were warned about the risk of a cholera outbreak, due to the rainy season and poor sanitary conditions, and that both piped water sources and sachet may not be safe for drinking and should be boiled. I am lucky that I can afford to have drinking water delivered to my flat, big 20 litre containers. I still use tap water for cooking pasta and such, I just make sure the water boils for a minute or two before I add the food. Many Accra inhabitants do not have that luxury.

Fortunately Trashy Bags does some great work in using discarded water sachets, which are otherwise often just discarded. Highly recommended. There is some plastic recycling here, but mainly hard plastic waste.

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Tro-tro (minibus taxi) of the week: less religion, more American imagery.