Roast pumpkin lasagna with yellow peas

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On my way to work: parts of Accra are very modern. And yes, the taxis and trotros (minibus taxis) here generally have religious text on the back window, like above. You might see BLESSED, JUDGMENT DAY, THE DEVIL IS A LIAR, or BE HUMBLE. Friday we had a massive rainstorm, plenty of time in traffic to read window slogans.

After three months of cooler weather (under 28C) here in Accra, the heat is coming back. Phew. After a grocery run to Marina Mall (for cheapest UHT milk) by Uber yesterday  morning, I was already feeling woozy from the heat. And it’s not even that hot yet…. Still, I am really happy I spent the last weekends sorting through cupboards and closets so most of that is done before we move. Risengrynsgrøt (Norwegian rice porridge) is now spluttering away in the slow cooker, and chickpeas are soaking for tomorrow. We are working our way through the food left: lots of pulses, seeds and mystery ice-crusted boxes in the freezer. So far it is still a fun challenge: buy fresh vegetables and fruit, soak and cook a batch of beans/lentils/cowpeas in the slowcooker, and see what we can cook. Last weekend it was a dried split yellow peas, which ended up in soup and this lasagna.


Roast pumpkin lasagna with split yellow peas

500g pumpkin
2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce:
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stick of celery
3 cloves of garlic
1 vegetarian stock cube
1 cup of split yellow peas, soaked overnight and cooked
Roast pumpkin
Enough water to make sauce loose enough to spread: 1/2 litre or so

Make 1/2 litre of bechamel sauce:
50g plain flour
50g butter
500ml milk
salt, pepper
pinch of nutmeg

10-12 dry lasagna sheets
300g of grated cheese (I used defrosted scarmorza and cheddar)

Night before: soak the split yellow peas, if using. The ones I have take ages to cook even when soaked, despite the package saying soaking not needed. Lentils would be fine too. I try to eat meat-free most of the week, so we have a big stash of pulses. The first year of our mortgage we were so broke, and ate so much beans and lentils…. it is a real luxury to be eating this way by choice, not of necessity.

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Cut the pumpkin into 2 cm slices. Drizzle with oil, and roast in a foil-lined tin at 200C for 25 min or so, until soft. (Shoprite had local pumpkin already peeled,  a nice shortcut. I chopped and roasted the pumpkin the night before, when we were making pizza and the oven was on anyway. Stored in fridge overnight once cool.)

Cook split yellow peas: drain soaking water, covert with water and cook until soft. Then drain. (Mine stayed slightly crunchy, so I blitzed them with immersion blender to speed up cooking.)

Make pumpkin sauce: Sauté chopped onion and garlic, add cooked split yellow peas and roast pumpkin. Cook 20 min or so. Salt and pepper to taste. With immersion blender, blend until relatively smooth. You’ll need to add some water to make it loose enough to spread.

Make bechamel sauce: melt butter, stir in flour, then whisk in milk and bring to boil while stirring, until sauce thickens and is smooth. Stir in 2/3 of the grated cheese, stir until melted.

Assemble lasagna: Grease a roasting tin lightly. Spread a layer of pumpkin sauce on base, then a layer of dry lasagna sheets, then a layer of bechamel sauce, with a handful of grated cheese. Keep layering, finish with bechamel and cheese. Bake for 40 mins at 200C.

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Very un-photogenic, but tasty (all that cheese helped, use less if you prefer.) Also made this week:

Today: Norwegian Christmas dinner with ribbe, surkål, kålrabistappe, raspeballer, flatbrød, tyttebærsyltetøy, akevitt, riskrem. Perfect in the heat! Not really, but the freezer seems to take forever to empty,  so big steps needed. Eight weeks left until we move, but I am waiting to see the paperwork before I start giving away cutlery, plates, bookshelves, clothes and such. Not much clutter here, except in the Corner of Doom (things to use up in kitchen). Paella spices? We’ll soak some of that dried salted cod, and make fishcakes and a fishy saffron rice dish. Oodles of sesame seeds and tahini? Tahini cookies coming up. Maybe a chickpea pumpkin curry tomorrow, we shall see. A good Sunday to all.

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Pantry challenge

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My sister tells me this is called a haul on Snapchat: taking a photo of your shopping spree. Probably not much cheddar in most of those 😉  Traveling back to Accra, we generally have two suitcases, mainly stuffed with food. Here, things I brought back from the UK in July. Broccoli, fresh celery, nectarines, spreadable butter, BBC Good Food, hummus……

There are several big supermarkets in Accra (Shoprite, Maxmart, Marina Mall) and some smaller ones, South African or Lebanese, and between them I have generally been impressed over what can be found.  Even fresh tofu and bok choi at the Chinese shop in Osu. But look at this:
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44 GHC  (that is ten USD…) for a cold Starbucks coffee, as above: who is paying money like that? The minimum wage in Ghana is 8.80 cedi/day, about 2 USD. Interesting that there is a market for these. Or 19 USD for a pint of Haagen Dazs that has probably been defrosted and frozen a couple times? We get used to ice-encrusted icecream here, but usually stick to the local FanMilk icecream, very different price range.

Availability of groceries here in Accra has been surprisingly good. Some things are just hard to get, mediocre quality (oh, that mystery olive oil….), items suffering from heat,  or just very expensive (11 USD for broccoli, for example). We do get good local green bell peppers, sweet potato, aubergine, and cabbage. Anyway, we always bring back food, since we generally have the luggage space. Also brought back: books, inflatable mattresses for the pool, and replacement electronics for all the things that have been burnt out. There are fewer weevils in UK-bought Scottish porridge oats, and better cheese that does not cost a fortune. Items like Norwegian apple jelly, brown goat cheese or homemade blueberry jam are just lovely luxuries.

But we are due to move soon! Our two years in Ghana are due to end mid-November. I cannot believe how quickly this has gone. I am still enjoying our life here, and have been so fortunate to have this experience. The weather has also been cool for almost three months, weirdly fresh since early June, so not dripping with sweat every day makes it hard to think of leaving.

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But come November, we are due to move back to Rome. So now I am sorting through cupboards, taking advantage of the cool spell to pile up things to give away (plates, cutlery, that unused salad spinner, my precious rolls of baking parchment, clothes) and we are whittling down the food stocks. Dried beans from Portugal, lots of pulses bought here, spices and mystery jars of sauces and jams. So most cooking these days is driven by the Corner of Doom, which this week has not been bad:

  • Homemade pizza with South African BBQ sauce and onions
  • Peri peri black bean stew
  • Tomato risotto with dried funghi porcini and chorizo
  • Lentil shepherd’s pie
  • Frozen banana smoothies with chia seeds
  • Self saucing mocha chocolate pudding from Ruby Tandoh
  • Steamed puddings with jam, BBC

The chocolate pudding was dessert last night and was lovely.  Future plans include excavating the fridge and freezer too, which will mean meals like this:

  • Laksa curry with klippfisk (dried salted cod)
  • Lots of beans and lentils: stews, soups, curries, salads
  • A Norwegian Christmas dinner with gløgg, ribbe, surkål, akevitt

Italian rice flour, lots of jam, Ghanaian cassava flour, polenta, half a bottle of Pimms…… and all that frozen cheese…. I’ll see what can be done. Maybe Pimms jellies/granita for dessert next week? Not sure what to do with all the older dried spices, like mustard powder, fenugreek, oregano but we’ll work through them. Some things can be given away, like that precious jar of capers, but older/expired/opened things…. No, good to have a pantry challenge, to see what we can do with them.

Sorting though drawers and shelves is also a good distraction from thinking about what it will be like living in Rome again. Amazing in many ways: closer to friends and family, good vegetables, no regular diarrhoea (sorry, but a normal topic here), the miserably humid climate, shoes that go moldy. Less of being the highly visible and presumably very wealthy foreigner and always having taxis overcharge (thank goodness for Uber) or being asked by strangers: ” What do you have for me?”  Or wondering how far Ghana still has to go in terms of development. Or being able to call home without the line dropping and dropping.

But I will miss the incredibly friendly people, especially outside Accra. Not just a cliché. I’ll miss friends and colleagues, lunchtime discussions about talking in tongues or the difference between Ga and Fante kenkey, or the process of slaughtering and sharing a cow for Eid al-Adha. (No, the blood is not used.) I’ll miss the free range chickens and goats in our neighborhood, the wonderful fruit, and the pool downstairs. We’re not living like locals here, we have a washing machine and can sleep with A/C at night: I appreciate how privileged we are. Pizza at Alliance Francaise, sometimes with live music of varying quality. Meeting friends at the weekend craft markets, like at the Goethe Institute, and enjoying the luxury of a five cedi bagel there. It’s a good life here for us, and still an experience I appreciate. Now, what to do with a tin of evaporated milk…..?

Inside note: we hear that the pizzaiolo from Alliance Francaise has moved to the restaurant Salvatore since June, allegedly due to a dispute over mozzarella quality. Makes perfect sense.

 

Northern Ghanaian hiphop

Maccasio T shirtMy friends in Tamale are down south for the weekend, and look what one brought! It’s a Maccasio T shirt! When I was up in Tamale two weeks ago, we were caught up in the parade (“floating”) for his record launch. Hugely enthusiastic crowds. To quote: Sherif Abdul Majeed, (born April 6, 1995) known by his stage name Maccasio, is a Dagbani language Ghanaian afropop, hip pop and Hiplife musical artiste.]He is a musician from the Kingdom of Dagbon, in the Northern Region of Ghana.”

The lyrics to Ninsala are interestuing: see the video, subtitled in English. Trust in God, not human beings.

Another northern artist is Fancy Gadam. Here is a clip where he is singing Maccasio’s Too Big, or here a video for “All Eyes on Me“, or “Concrete”. In Dagbani, I think, aside from the refrain. Catchy, though.

Here in Accra we hear more Shatta Wale, Stonebwoy, Sarkodie and other dancehall/hop hop artists, at least based on what I hear in taxis and Ubers. No new Taylor Swift heard on radio here yet. There is a lot of religious/evangelical music, some older pop, some country — and lots of dancehall/reggae.

Enjoy your Sunday: here the water just came back (hurray!) so laundry and showers can commence. Whoohoo!