Liberation Day in Italy: “Bella Ciao” and chocolate cake

chocolate cake

It’s April 25th, Liberation Day in Italy. At 3PM people were out on their balconies singing “Bella Ciao”  – the link below is from the Palladium building here in Garbatella.

I think people were singing all over Italy. Lots of flags and cheering.

E le genti che passeranno
O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
E le genti che passeranno
Mi diranno: “Che bel fior”

From a friend: the Italian Air Force was also out today.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-25 at 15.23.55

I made a cake today, as some yoghurt needed to be used up. Quite light and fluffy, not too sweet.

Chocolate cake with cocoa and yoghurt
125 gr butter, melted and a little cooled
300 gr white sugar
3 medium eggs
450 ml dl plain yoghurt   (I had three small 150 ml containers to use up)
50 ml milk   (as it looked a little stiff)
350g white wheat flour (I used 00)
4 heaping tbs cocoa powder (dark unsweetened kind, rather old)
2 sachets instant coffee (4 gr) (if you have some)
2 tbs baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
generous pinch salt

Melt butter. Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy, then stir in everything else and mix. Bake in parchment-lined tray (I used 20×30 cm) at 200 for 30-40 minutes until cake is done (is risen, stops wobbling when touched and a wooden chopstick inserted comes out dry.) Cool cake.

125 gr butter
3 heaping tbs cocoa powder
90 g dark chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 sachets instant coffee (4 gr), or generous splash of strong coffee
275 gr icing sugar
1 tbs sugar syrup (I was making some, otherwise just use a little more icing sugar)
a couple splashes of milk to make it spreadable

Melt butter with chocolate. Whisk rest in until it is shiny and smooth. Spread on cake when cake is cool. You might want it sweeter, this is quite dark. Top with sugar sprinkles.


I failed to wait: friends were out for a walk in the sunny afternoon, with their police declarations ready, and were walking by our house. I hastily spread the frosting on the hot cake, and sliced off a third of the cake for them. We had a socially distanced hello and handover. Wrapped in tinfoil the cake was still quite hot, and collapsed a bit, but great to have a chance to share! After seven weeks (?) of lockdown it will be so nice to see friends again next month, we hope.

Lockdown day 17, and all is well


It is lockdown day 17 here in Rome, and all is well. A cold weather from Russia brought night temperatures to almost zero, so I rescued my plants and seedlings from the  balcony for a night inside. We hope to be out of lockdown well before these produce anything. We have plenty of food and are safe, just worries about those who are not. With strict instructions to stay inside and police reminders on loudspeakers it is very very quiet on the streets below. Food shopping is allowed, and the shops here in Garbatella are well stocked, I am told. I went out last Thursday for milk and found it quite scary, with all the people in masks in line, but it is really good to see the new government decrees followed so well by most.


Coming from post-WW2 parents and from deep countryside with miles to shops, I keep a well-stocked pantry. In my first weeks in Rome last month after moving back from Accra, it was pure entertainment to look at local supermarkets. So, what have we been eating? Lots of Guardian recipes and comfort food. So far, so good.

1. Shop-bought on-sale polpettone repieno with funghi porcini e scamorza (like a meatloaf roll, stuffed with cheese and mushrooms); served with mashed potatoes and cabbage ramen salad
2. Leftovers: Polpettone repieno; mashed potatoes and cabbage ramen salad
3. Lasagne radicchio e salsiccia (no recipe but we did as instructed“…clean the radicchio and let it dry in a pan with a drizzle of oil and a clove of garlic. Do the same with the sausage. Then add the lasagna alternating layers of pasta with radicchio, slices of smoked scamorza cheese, pieces of sausage and spoons of bechamel. Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes and serve.“)
4. Vegetable Asian stir-fry with noodles  (just random veg, soy sauce)
5. Asian veg leftovers with couscous, plus Ottolenghi sesame crusted feta with honey  (with lemon juice not fresh lemons, really good!
6. Sous vide steak, polenta with truffles  (I had been out with police declaration to get my  long overdue mammogram, all clear so this was a celebration. Also an excuse for my husband to try his fancy sous vide kit.)
7. Ottolenghi ultimate tray-bake ragu  with spaghetti (This is vegetarian, with lentils, mushrooms and really tasty. It makes a huge portion so we had leftovers and froze the rest.)
8. Leftover polenta, fried up with extra pecorino cheese (and good wine on the side).
9. More from The Guardian:  Vegetarian chilli with roasted squash and black beans (another huge pot, we used pumpkin and soaked black beans the night before. We added a wizened eggplant, and the dish was really delicious with sour cream on the side. Yes, in the four years I was away the supermarket here now stock sour cream and creme fraiche! )
10. Leftover vegetarian ragu with pasta
11. Cheese, salami and wine  (some days you just do not want to cook)
12. Fried rice with broccoli, egg and soy sauce  (to rescue a sad head of fresh broccoli)
13. Vegetarian ragu lasagne  (we do like our leftovers and carbs)
14. BBC Pumpkin sage bacon pasta (see below, very light and simple. I had the rest of a farmers market pumpkin to use up)
15. Cheesy quesadillas with refried black beans
16. BBC slow cooker Chicken, bacon & potato stew with extra pumpkin added. (We had home-cured bacon of sorts in freezer. Skipped the buttermilk and used normal potatoes.)
17.  Leftover chicken stew from yesterday.  And probably a slice of  frozen IKEA Dajm cake.

Not sure what we will have next, but we are fine. I hope you all are too. I’ll be trying some online food deliveries soon, the big shops have no slots available but my Facebook feed has lots of food has now from smaller food companies so I am happy to support those. Just waiting on a big vegetable delivery now. Good recipe suggestions are welcome!  Stay safe!

On lockdown in Rome


Yes, back in Rome and on lockdown here. Andrà  tutto bene = everything will be fine. We hope. This is day 7, all fine with us so far.

I came back to Accra from Christmas holidays and suddenly heard I was being transferred to Rome, which was great news. After four years in Accra, it was hard to leave friends there, but I packed up my life there and came back to Rome early February.  Fresh vegetables, wearing clothes with sleeves, endless fast Internet, seeing my husband: I had reverse culture shock, but in a good way. By then covid-19 was gearing up, but nobody here expected it to be so terrible so quickly. Rome is not bad yet, but Lombardy and Northern Italy are grim.

Last Monday, on 9 March the government of Italy imposed a national quarantine due to covid-19. Movement is restricted except for necessity, work, and health circumstances.  Everything is closed except for grocery stores and pharmacies and essential services. For everine else, #iorestoacasa : I stay home. I am lucky, and can work from home. Other people here being laid off.


We can leave the house to buy food and for health reasons, otherwise everyone is asked to stay home, as a matter of civic duty, to limit contagion and to not burden the overwhelmed health system. It’s amazing to see Italians rallying and respecting this. There are flags and banners. In photo above a family is power walking on the roof terrace (they also have a skipping rope, good idea.) Every night at 6PM people sing from their balconies to boost morale. It is amazing.

It is petrifying seeing the news elsewhere.  Italy did the right thing. It’s good to be prepared. Stay safe.