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.

Shrimp risotto in Norway

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From a small island in Tuscany to a small island in Norway: Utsira, well known for listeners of the BBC Shipping Forecast. We are here for a family holiday, a nice respite from the heat of Rome with rain and wind and some very nice days. It is a small island, great for birdwatching and with about 200 residents. Lovely trails to walk, though very wet this week.

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Nordvikvågen, the north end where you can see the ferry has arrived. Excellent connections to Haugesund. Lots of tourist information here, in several languages. Utsira has lots of interesting street art as well, and people are very nice. Highly recommended.

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Anyway, we’d had some excellent fresh sjøkreps for lunch, bought at the very well-stocked grocery store in the south end of the island. These are also called scampi, Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn or langoustine. We volunteered to make risotto for dinner, using the sjøkreps shells to make stock. My parents wanted some shrimp in as well, so I peeled those and threw the heads in the stock pot as well, with a little celery. It simmered for an hour so, then I sieved it through kitchen roll to get the grit out. Just use fish stock if that is easier (I buy fish stock cubes when I am in Norway).

Shrimp risotto for a rainy day

Knob of butter (I made do with rapeseed oil)
One onion, peeled and finely chopped
Three sticks of celery, finely chopped
One cup of risotto rice (I had brought Vialone Nano)
Half a glass of white wine
One litre of seafood stock, just on the boil
Chopped celery leaves
Chopped chives, a generous handful
A cup of peeled shrimp
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of dried chili

Have two pots ready, one to make the risotto in and one for to keep the stock just on the boil. Melt the butter in pot #2, add onion and celery and cook a couple minutes. Add dry rice and let it toast gently with the onion and celery. Add wine. Keep stirring gently. Now start ladling in the hot stock, one ladle at a time. Once that has been absorbed, add another ladle: keep going for 20-25 minutes. Risotto is not complicated, it just takes patience and attention, and a lot of stirring. Nice to do in a holiday kitchen with the windows getting steamy, rain beating against the window and English football on the radio (for my husband).

You’ll be able to feel the rice getting to the right consistency, not too soft but not al dente either. Add the chopped celery leaves and chives, and when it is almost done stir in the shrimp and taste: does it need salt and pepper? Serve and enjoy.

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More Accra snapshots

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Oh, the joy of the rainy season! Amazing what a few degrees temperature drop means in terms of ambling around town actually being pleasant. Rather than Ubering, I have been walking and exploring new streets in our area of Accra.

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Walking to Osu one day: goats! Small but glossy. I have a work trip coming up and wanted to get some Ghanaian chocolate as gifts for the hosts: Niche has a new multipack, good for sharing.  I was quite pleased to see this new coffee in Shoprite: still robusta coffee, but the packaging is very Accra, with the the Jamestown lighthouse. Definitely need to get some to try. 37 cedi is about … 7 USD.

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New street explored, new food place to try when open.

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Food for the soul as well: they do like religious events here. Prophets, apostles: there are always posters for past and upcoming encounters.

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Some modern skyline for you, at the African Union roundabout.

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And some outfits in the gorgeous local fabric: here, you can wear this every day. The longer I am here, the colorful my wardrobe gets.

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