May Day, fave and pecorino

img_20200501_122742_4It’s May Day, a long weekend here and the end of week eight of lockdown. From Monday we can go for walks, which will be wonderful. Quite a few people are ambling around already, it is definitely getting livelier in Rome by the day. The traditional primo maggio concertone (big concert) will be online tonight, spring is definitely here. I’ve seen locals out in T-shirts, there is fresh asparagus and soon strawberries.  We got a veg box delivered yesterday from L’Alveare, which had lots of fave fresche (fava beans, or broad beans.) Time for a traditional first of May lunch, fave e pecorino. Ideally eaten after a trip to the countryside, with a glass of crisp cold white wine.

img_20200501_123435_0

No countryside this year, but we peeled the fresh fava beans sitting in the kitchen, listening to bird song. The ones on the left have the outer layer removed, maybe not needed as these are very fresh, but we have plenty. We also have plenty of time this spring. I was sorting cookbooks today (they ALL spark joy) and will pull out some less used ones to experiment with, esepcially now that we know how to shop online. The shops are well-stocked, I am just trying to avoid closed spaces. I’ll try more It looks like I’ll be working for home for a few more months, so I’m thinking about how to set up a less temporary workspace. On Tuesday my boxes arrive from Accra, so I’ll deal with that first. It will get hot in Rome soon enough, but nothing compared to the heat and relentless humidity of Accra.

img_20200501_124400_8

No pecorino cheese, but we had fresh, crumbly robiola and cheese with walnuts with our fave, with flatbread left over from a Persian dinner (Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime, and Smoked aubergines with garlic, both highly recommended. Standing on the balcony today, seeing people jog by and walk their dogs and randomly (!) bump into friends, albeit with masks and at a distance, there is a good feeling that this too shall pass. I hope the same holds true also for you.

Househunting, and harmattan orzo salad with tuna, celery and black beans

IMG_20180113_143419

Yes, it’s another grain + tuna + veg + pulse salad — last week’s farro salad leftovers were three lunches for me, very convenient. I was lucky to find a rented room for two months with super nice colleagues, but they are moving house within Accra sometime in February.  However, they may very kindly take me with them, so I am doing my best to be a considerate flatmate in my old age, and we have started househunting together. Interesting to see how the market has changed since I arrived in 2015: more places available, but many are still rather expensive: 2500 – 4500 USD for three bedrooms, sometimes unfurnished. We shall see.

All my kitchenware is packed away in bags in a spare room, so I am very lucky also to have access to a well-equipped kitchen here. Thinking of another sweaty move across Accra soon, there is definitely a need to use up any heavy tins, which is usually not a factor in my mealplanning. Another year in Accra was not foreseen, and being apart from my husband is very hard, so it is extremely tempting to sink into despondency and the stash of post-Christmas chocolate. To keep morale up, I am trying to eat properly and exercise a bit, and see friends, so this repeat salad is a small step in that direction.

20180108_071231.jpg

Ah, harmattan: dusty dry weeks in Accra. There has been sun and increasing humidity the last days, so maybe harmattan is ending early this year.

Harmattan orzo salad with tuna, celery and black beans
Orzo (pearl barley): about 1.5 cups  (soaked one hour)
One tin black beans, drained and rinsed (or lentils, other beans or chickpeas)
2 small tins tuna in olive oil
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 small green bellpeppers (produce of Ghana)
Half an onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

I soaked the orzo for a an hour, covered with water room temperature, then boiled it 15 minutes or so.  We have drinking water delivered in handy 19.5 litre containers, but I have gotten more relaxed about using tap water for cooking. The most common water-borne diseases in Ghana are typhoid, cholera and dysentery….. but [touch wood] so far it seems to be OK for cooking as long as water boils at least ten minutes.  

Cook the soaked orzo in salted water (like you would cook pasta) until it is al dente but not not crunchy, 15 minutes or so. The packet said 25 minutes when unsoaked. You could use other grains for this as well, or rice.  It will be softer than boiled farro. Drain off cooking water. While still warm, crumble over the tuna. Here I added in the olive oil in the tuna tins, as it was decent quality, otherwise if you are using tuna in water or blander sunflower oil, you might want to drain the tuna first and add a couple tablespoons of good olive oil with the tuna to the warm grains. Add in drained beans and chopped veg. Salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_20180113_144050

I’ve been reading UK food magazines from Christmas holidays today, and taking notes for what I could make with what we can access easily here. Sweet potato curry, lentil soups, falafel wraps, spinach fritatta……  The Guardian has also had some great vegan recipes this month, to be explored.  Enjoy your weekend!

 

New year, new kitchen: farro salad with borlotti beans, tuna and celery

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-04 at 16.34.52
Happy New Year! After a month in Rome, then Christmas holidays, I am back in Accra. Hazy and dry here, with the harmattan (a trade wind) cloaking the city in dust. Here, Oxford Street. The skies are hazy and humidity is low. The move to Rome is not happening yet, and I am back alone for now, which has been miserable. With nowhere to live, and temporary accommodation so expensive here, at least I was fortunate to have found a rented room for two months. (The office here was not expecting me back either, I had no desk when I came back….) So this week after work I’ve been sorting out basics: food, sheets, and trying to get into a less demoralized mindset. It is really hard with my husband back in Europe, due to upcoming work for him, as we thought we’d both be back. Whatsapp helps, even on on intermittent wifi. Last night he made pizza in London, and I made farro salad with borlotti beans, tuna and celery.
20180106_181938.jpg
And I thought my old kitchen had terrible lighting…….

It’s actually a pretty decent kitchen in the new flat, despite the small marauding ants, and I have stuffed my fridge shelf with food brought along post-Christmas: Norwegian caviar tubes, apple jelly and goat cheese; English butter and cheddar (hence the half-eaten quesadilla in photo); a wedge of Christmas cake from my mother-in-law. I also had some Italian tins stashed away, hence this salad. Farro is an old kind of wheat, quite chewy after cooking, and nice in salads. I do not like cooking just for myself, but cannot live on instant soup the next two months either…. This is more assembly than cooking, really.

Farro salad with borlotti beans, tuna and celery
Farro: about 1.5 cups  (soaked four hours)
One tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
2 small tins tuna in olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
Half an onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

I soaked the farro for a few hours, covered with water in the fridge; it is not really necessary, but as there is a gas cooker here and I am not sure how much gas is left in the canister, soaking saves a bit of cooking time. This will also be lunch for a couple days this week.

Cook the soaked farro in salted water (like you would cook pasta) until it is al dente but not not crunchy, maybe 20 minutes or so? You could use other grains for this as well, or rice.  Drain off cooking water. While still warm, crumble over the tuna. Here I added in the olive oil in the tuna tins, as it was decent quality, otherwise if you are using tuna in water or blander sunflower oil you might want to drain the tuna first and add a couple tablespoons of good olive oil with the tuna to the warm farro.

Separately, drain and rinse the tin of beans, and chop up half an onion and the celery (here: Waitrose essentials celery, carefully brought from London…). Once the farro has cooled a bit, toss it all together and add some salt and pepper if you think it needs some. It will keep nicely in the fridge for a few days. I may add some feta or halloumi to liven it up for a later lunch.

And now I had better post this before the seventh wifi crash of the morning!
20180106_183111.jpg

PS yes, there is probably a solution for improving the wifi connection here, otherwise I will go get a data bundle and a mifi device. Thank goodness for  downloaded podcasts and ebooks.