Category Archives: Italy

Italian stopover: vongole, leeks and cannelini

Too much travelling the last few months, too little cooking. We just finished a lovely week off the Tuscan coast with friends. I am recovering from food poisoning  (never again samosas in Dar es Salaam…..) so ate little and cooked less, but this dish went down well. 

Italy is also in the grip of the heatwave named Lucifer. HOT here!

Same island every year, always wonderful. It seemed a bit quiet this year, the Italian economy must still be down. 

But we had a great week! Fresh fish and seafood from the fish truck, shouting Pesce Fresco each morning.

Vongole with leeks and cannelini

Bag of vongole (small clams)
Three cloves of garlic
Two leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
One medium tin of cannelini beans or other beans
Generous handful parsley, chopped
Two tbs olive oil
Splash of white wine or water, half a lemon if you have one 

Toast  or crusty bread to serve

Cataplana debut! I bought this in Lisbon in June, took it back to Accra, but decided this holiday was a good time to try it. Special pan for steaming shellfish, it clamps shut like a low level pressure cooker and worked really well. 

First: soak clams in water in sink for half an hour, removing any damaged ones or ones that do not close. 

Hear pan with a little oil and white wine or water, tip in handful of clams and steam 4-5 minutes with lid on. You will hear clams pop open. With a slotted spoon fish out done clams and do next batch, I did this in three batches so they were not crowded. 
Leaving liquid in pan, add sliced leeks and garlic and cook 2 or 3 minutes while you de-shell clams and remove any that did not open. Optional step, we were waiting for a lunch guest.  Then add drained beans, chopped parsley and clams and heat briefly through. Maybe half a lemon squeezed over? Serve with toast or crusty bread.

Happy holidays!

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Garbatella stopover in January

Garbatella in January

It’s been a busy few weeks: Christmas in Norway, back to Accra for New Year’s, now a two-week trip to Rome for work, and we head back to Accra this weekend. Unfortunately I picked up a bad cold in Norway, which turned into acute bronchitis. Denial and paracet only gets you so far, I discovered, though I tried! January is also harmattan season in Accra, with dry dusty winds from the Sahara making the city look foggy from dust, which did not help the coughing. So I have had some days sick in bed while in Rome, missing work, and am slowly recovering. Wonderful to be home in our own apartment (the friend of a friend staying here moved out while we are back). We felt the four earthquakes last Wednesday, spooky though no damage here.

Bar dei Cesaroni
 It is weird being back in Rome after 14 months in Accra. The bar up the hill still has good coffee,  tattered Roma signs and the grey parrot outside. Good coffee bars everywhere, lots of public buses! Romans may complain about AMA (rubbish collection), but AMA just collected our broken washing machine and and old armchair, free of charge. No open sewers, no chickens. Lots of people wearing black, and the cars look so small and new! Wonderful food — fresh salads, pizza margherita, mozzarella, rughetta, pasta amatriciana: it’s all been amazing.

Cheese at Garbatella farmers market ….and CHEESE! Real cheese!! Not just expensive plastic “Irish cheddar” from Shoprite. We bought cheese at the farmers’ market up the hill: pecorino stagionato, ricotta fresca con tartufo, carciocavallo affumicato, scamorza, more pecorino with walnuts, with pepper and with peperoncino, formaggio di capra, ricotta secca…….ahhhhhhh. Much of it vacuum packed, going back to Accra with us, and some it being enjoyed fresh now. Bliss.

Garbatella

Here in Garbatella we have an excellent pasta shop downstairs. We had a busy schedule to see friends for dinners most nights, but with me being sick, we had to cancel most and have been living off cheese, and fresh pasta: ravioli con pistachio, agnolotti (meat stuffing), ravioli all’ carbonara….  I am hoping to squeeze in ravioli con carciofi before we go. Every day the selection   changes slightly. Maybe I can get some fresh pasta Friday, and hope it survives the flight back.

Garbatella cat Random Garbatella cat enjoying January sunshine. My goodness, just going for a walk in a pretty neighbourhood seems such a luxury now.  Like being able to drink the tap water, or have an elevator. Internet fast enough to watch videos! Seeing friends and neighbours is lovely too.

Garbatella Via Passino, Garbatella. The pine trees look like they are leaning more than last year. There are changes since we were last here in July last year: the corner pub is now a tattoo parlour, and the ferramenta (hardware store) that closed is now a nail salon. The bar across the piazza that was renovating for ages opened last year and is still there, quite trendy – we went for a drink last summer, and there were actual hipsters there. But most things are reassuringly familiar, which nice. Nice if not too gentrified here, I love this neighbourhood.

We fly back to Accra this weekend, which will be nice too. Accra is great in a very different way, and I am really looking forward to Ghana mango and pineapple again, as well as seeing the wonderful people we know there too. Now we just need to think about what we pack in our 2×23 kilos of checked luggage each: cheese, pasta, more cheese, what else?

Marching in spirit today

In Rome this week, but bedridden with acute bronchitis, so unable to join the #womensmarch taking place at the Pantheon.

But I am following the marches online, and am with you in spirit. Friends are at the Womens Marches in Rome, in Oakland, in DC and in Oslo, Copenhagen, Geneva, London – wish I were there.

And in Geneva:

And in London