Category Archives: travel

Chilly Rome, and helkornbrød III

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A cat basking in December sunshine. We had ambled up the hill to meet friends from Accra at the farmers’ market on Via Passino, and a lovely sunny morning it was. Laden with biscuits (brutti ma buoni, neretti, cantucci)  we brought them back for a lunch of cacio e pepe ravioli from the pasta shop downstairs, with a market-bought lemon and fruit crumble for dessert. It’s been a very nice Roman day.

Garbatella

Walking back through the narrow streets of old Garbatella, on our way home. It is really odd, knowing that in twelve days I’ll be headed back to Accra again. Am I packing for three weeks there, or a year ? There is still no news on what 2018 brings, which is rather nerve-wracking. As usual, baking is calming and feels soothingly productive when most else is uncertain. Tonight we see friends, so this bread is coming along as our contribution. My husband is baking jollof-flavoured focaccia, so the kitchen is warm and toasty and smells divine.

Since I am only here for a few weeks, the pantry is low on seeds and flour types, so it’s variation III of helkornbrød, wholewheat bread with cracked wheat. Here are variations I and II. This time I also used overnight-soaked cracked wheat, but I added a pre-ferment overnight sponge for flavour.

Saturday potluck bread: helkornbrød III

The night before:
150 grammes of whole cracked wheat
250 grammes of water
Leave to soak over night in covered container, on counter in cool kitchen (17C) or in fridge.

Also the night before:
50 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
100 grammes coarse rye flour
100 grammes wholewheat flour
10 grammes fresh yeast, crumbled (or 5g dry yeast)
200 grammes water
Stir together. Leave over night in covered container, on counter in cool kitchen (17C) or in fridge.

Next day, in large bowl:
500 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
100 grammes wholewheat flour
15 grammes fresh yeast, crumbled (or 7.5g dry yeast)
250 grammes water
3 tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
+ the soaked cracked wheat with any leftover liquid
+ the overnight sponge

Stir it all together, mixing well and folding with spatula, you will see the structure develop. Moist, sticky dough but not wet: I was thinking of round loaves this time, hoping the dough would not collapse if baked free-form without tins, but still wanting a decent hydration. Very guess-timated here. Leave to rise until nicely doubled. Here it was left for four hours in the kitchen, while we went off for our market walk and had impromptu lunch guests, which was great.

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When our friends had left and the wine glasses were washed, I folded the dough vigorously in the bowl with a spatula for a few minutes, then split it in two and shaped two rounds, sitting on parchment paper. I covered these with a tea towel and let then rise again for an hour or so. I slashed them before baking and sprinkled both with some water right before they went into the hot oven. Bake at 225C for 45 minutes or so, depending on your oven, on lower rack.

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Off to dinner they go! These could maybe have had five more minutes in, but the jollof focaccia also needs baking. It sounds odd, but is really good for apertivi! Same Gabriele Bonci dough as usual. A very good weekend to all.

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Saturday: grocery run to Osu

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Another action-packed weekend in Accra  (ha……) with laundry and a grocery run to Osu, where the closest supermarket is. Here’s the fruit stand opposite Koala, at the top of Oxford Street, which has expanded and has a quite good selection. I still haven’t found the nearby lady with green zucchini.

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Uber-ing down Oxford Street: phone cards, sunglasses, football shirts, fabric, phone, cards, what do you need? With no car, and my deep dislike of haggling with taxi drivers (“It’s always 20 cedi to Osu!”), Uber makes it so easy to get around town.

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Oh no! Shoprite already has Christmas trees! And tinsel on all vertical areas! Well, we are still preparing to leave Accra in 4-5 weeks, though paperwork is pending, and our lease is cancelled, so we just needed milk (UHT or powdered…) and vegetables to help keep the pantry challenge going. It’s getting easier to find “Product of Ghana” vegetables in the supermarket, like beetroot, green beans, pumpkin, cabbage, chilis, eggplant. Nice, also as it is getting too hot for market shopping.

Accra street

Waiting for our ride home again: Though you cannot see it, the Shoprite guard in the yellow vest is trying to shoo out a hen with chicks who are under the grey car. The car driver is trying not to run over the chickens, who would refused to budge  – it all went well in the end.

Funeral

On the way home, we passed this funeral gathering (obvious from red and black tents) for a female professor. Funerals are often huge events here. The red and black are colours of mourning, whereas white and black are colours to celebrate someone’s life. Apparently the owner of the bakery next door just died, and they are starting a week to commemorate her from tomorrow: hence the white and black decorations.

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Sunday afternoon update: the week of commemorative celebrations has begun next door. Lots of people gathered under canopies, big turnout, with religious music and hymns on the sound system all day, interspersed by speeches and sermons. All very loud. Our friends in Tamale had a church next door, with services and music every night  – their windows kept neither mosquitoes nor shouted sermons no tinny gospel out, much more invasive, so we really cannot complain over one day of noise here. Normally we only hear fragments from the nearby churches and mosques on the wind. Time to make Thai chickpea curry with coconut meat and green beans.

Split pea and sweet potato soup, and plastic recycling

grilled plantain Accra

Grilled plantain, in Cantonments, Accra. We were heading to the airport and traffic was slow. The eight kilometers to Kotoka Airport can take fifteen minutes, or an hour and a half, you never quite know.  But I’d had  this pea soup for lunch, tasty and filling, which helps maintain patience. Normally I’d make split yellow pea soup with salt ham, or salt pork knuckle and maybe leeks, in a more Nordic style. But this was more what we had in the house, and it was good.

Split yellow pea soup with sweet potatoes

Split yellow peas: 2 cups soaked and cooked the day before
2 sweet potatoes: sliced and roasted
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Fresh ginger: about 3 cm, peeled and chopped
One onion: peeled and chopped
2 tsp powdered turmeric
1 litre vegetable stock

Fry up onion, garlic, ginger. Add sliced, roasted sweet potatoes. If you did not have time to roast them (I had leftovers from another dish), just chuck them in the pan with the onions and and let them soften a  bit. Then I added the split yellow peas, mine were already cooked for lasagna a couple days earlier. (Again, if you do not have cooked split peas on hand, just use split peas that you have soaked for a few hours, to cut down on cooking time.) Add the stock, and cook 15 min or so – longer if using uncooked sweet potatoes and uncooked split peas. Then blended it all with an immersion blender to a thick soup. Add more liquid if like it looser. Good soup to eat from a mug  (we did that while watching the French series The Bureau, so far very good), along with a slice of freshly baked and buttered bread.

So non-photogenic, I should have added a sprig  of something or a token swirl of yogurt….
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Accra often surprises me in good ways, like the cheerful garbage truck men. Here collecting from the bakery next door, which is very busy despite not being cheap. Fancy new cars line up to get breakfast, our street gets busy in the mornings. Many do burn rubbish  (I can smell some right now) and the Accra waste situation is challenging. There is a push by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to turn Accra into the cleanest city in the whole of Africa, we will see. At least Environment360 is doing inspirational work on recycling (mainly plastic) and education, which is great to see. Now I just need to get my plastic to a recycling point…..

Garbage truck Accra

There have been suggestions to ban plastic bags in Ghana, like Kenya recently did. It will come, I am sure. We bring cloth bags to the supermarket, to avoid coming home with eight yellow plastic Shoprite bags after each trip, though that is not so common here. We were told off only once for bringing our own bags (Marina Mall), but not since. Of course my carbon footprint is terrible (air travel), and I really should bring a fabric bag or paper bag to buy my eggs from the the corner shop (a sweet lady in a half-container shack) rather than as here, double-bagged in the thin black bags. Next time!

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