Tag Archives: chickpeas

Power cuts, and sweet potato stew with cowpeas and dawadawa

Yesterday morning at six, we woke to a power cut. Not unusual, there have been power cuts on and off all week. After ten minutes, the power came back — the compound generator — but then electrical items started to spark and pop. And smoke. The landlord blames a power surge from ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana), but we think it was a generator switch issue, since the generator was on by then and we should have been off-grid. Oh well. Internet router burner out, USB charger burnt out, converters gone. We are making do with borrowed bit and interim Internet, it could have been worse. Fortunately we have surge protectors for most items.

Thank goodness we do have a generator! The power has been out in parts of Accra since yesterday morning: 39 hours and still counting. Our generator is running low in fuel, a neighbour just said, so best to cook early just in case.

Plenty of people complaining on Twitter. No electricity means no running water, no fans against mosquitos, no phone charging, food spoiling. And now there is a storm with heavy rain. Good weather to write about sweet potato stew, though!

Dawadawa is fermented locusts bean, used in West African cuisine, with many reported benefits. It smells like fish sauce, quite pungent, and I used it instead of a stock cube. Interesting flavour. I was making a sweet potato stew, with black chickpeas and cowpeas. However, as I peeled the sweet potato, it was clear there would be far less sweet potato than expected, due to the many  little worms the peeling revealed. Sorry if you this make you squeamish, this is such non-Pinterest friendly cooking! I was not going to throw this all away. I am not throwing away food, and most of this could be salvaged. There is famine  in South Sudan. I just cut off the wormy bits, to keep this vegetarian. I was going to use peanut butter, but as mine had sugar in it I swapped to cashew butter at the last minute. There are some delicious groundnut soups here, this is just bit lighter.

Sweet potato, cowpea and cashew butter soup

1 tbs sunflower oil
200 grammes unsweetened cashew nut paste (or peanut butter)
1 large onion, peeled
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbs tomato paste
1 litre water
1 tsp dawadawa (or a stock cube)
750  grammes of sweet potato, peeled
500 grammes cooked cowpeas and black chickpeas (whatever you have of pulses)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat cashew nut paste gently for a few minutes. About a cup is fine, I was just emptying a jar. Make sure it does not burn., stir now and then. The nut paste will become more liquid, and will release oil. In the interim, chop your onion, garlic, and ginger. Add this to the warm nut paste, with spices and tomato paste. Then I moved this to my slow cooker, with a litre of hot water, and cooked it for a couple hours on high. Not so much that the sweet potato went soft. At the end, I added the cooked cowpeas and black chickpeas, salt and pepper.


It was nice! We had it as is one day, and with mograbieh (giant Lebanese couscous) and cheese the next day. And four portions went in the freezer, as backup for our vegetarian friend. Or lunch for me!



Heatwave and failed chickpea meringues

IMG_4061Now that the worst of the summer heatwave seems to be subsiding here in Rome, life is improving. I might actually cook something soon, after weeks of proscuitto e melone,  caprese salad, Greek salad, anything that did not require cooking. What I have been enjoying are the articles in the Rome news about the heatwave. Like this: Il criminologo e gli effetti del caldo, where a criminologist advised us to avoid places with many people, as the aggressive tendencies increase with rising temperatures. Of particular interest were the dietary recommendations for a heatwave, in another article. Eat fruit and veg, of course, avoid mayonnaise, but drink warm or tepid beverages rather than iced drinks, as iced drinks may create alterations of the mucus of the stomach. I daringly continue to drink iced tea and iced coffee, wondering what havoc I may be causing internally.

giglio magnets

We had a few days by the sea, at Isola del Giglio in Tuscany, sharing a holiday flat with friends again, with a limited but OK holiday kitchen. One person was allergic to eggs, to I thought this was the perfect time to make vegan meringues with chickpea brine (also called aquafaba, trendy this summer). I have been reading about them, and optimistically packed my hand mixer to try. Indeed, the chickpea brine and sugar whisked up amazingly! whipping chickpea meringue

The chickpeas themselves we heated with some raw-el-hanout spice mix and olive oil, and sprinkled over a green salad.

Vegan meringues

Liquid from one 15-ounce can of chickpeas
3/4 heaping cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (to take the chickpea taste off)

Whisk until airy and stiff, bake at 250C on baking parchment. All fine so far. Unfortunately I had forgotten how unforgiving the holiday oven was: open gas flames, licking at the tray from below, which soon scorched the meringues. Still edible: we salvaged these not entirely black on the base, and served them as a do-it-yourself summer dessert: halves of fresh apricots, with cold vanilla yoghurt spooned over, and caramelised vegan meringue shards crumbled over the top.

burned meringuesDefinitely to be tried again, maybe next time with more sugar and longer whisking, and an oven with more all-over heat. This should be possible to conquer, and I love the idea of an egg-free pavlova.

Wishful meal planning, and chickpeas and fennel with grilled halloumi

Chickpeas fennel halloumiI had seen Chickpea and Fennel ‘Risotto’ on Real Simple Food this spring, and had it on my to-try list all summer. I don’t know about you, but I am a wishful meal-planner. I admire people who map out their meals for the month, but prefer more flexibilty. Some days the fruttivendolo has a great shiny pile of eggplant, or beautiful little cherry tomatoes, so that is what we eat. Some days we are knackered and just cannot face cooking, so dinner is pizza, or cheese and biscuits. Other days cooking something fragrant and slightly complicated is the perfect stress reliever; you just never know. What I cannot face is coming home hungry and having to then go shopping, so here’s my system. It’s more of an idea list than a meal plan: on a monthly calendar, I note down things I might feel like cooking the next few weeks. Some from cookbooks, some from blogs and my to-try bookmarks, some from mystery jars in the cupboard that are expiring, plus whatever is in in season.

20131005-204203.jpgFrom the monthly idea overview, I’ll make a shortlist for the week, and make sure we have ingredients for 4-5 of them. (That would be the Post-its with crossed out dishes we actually cooked). Some dishes are carried over from month to month, until Italian seasonality forces me to admit defeat and that a dish like Pork with fresh apricots will have to wait until apricots appear next year.

A friend of mine is slightly infamous for going on holiday with massive and densely packed suitcases, as she likes having a wide selection of outfits throughout the holiday. She always does dress impeccably. Me, I can travel with some T-shirts, knickers and toothbrush, and am not known for any sense of style. However, my kitchen is my Bat Cave, full of jars, ingredients and vegetables, ready for most cooking adventures at short notice. After all, you don’t always know what you’ll be in the mood for. Pasta, vegetables, rice? Italian, Moroccan, vaguely Asian? None of that, but still not sure what you fancy?

Ingredients for Chickpeas fennel halloumiThis was one of those nights. Home late, husband on the verge of a cold (otherwise we usually cook dinner together), too hungry for anything complicated. I thought of that chickpea fennel dish which had been on the to-try list for months, and thought – hmmm, maybe something like that, but not with parmesan, and with more veg. I could add the leftover green beans lurking in the fridge some days? And serve it with the precious halloumi (really hard to find in Rome)? Alas, the green beans were moldy (food waste, shame) but I tossed in what I had.

Sautéed chickpeas, celery and fennel with grilled halloumi

One small head of fennel, chopped
One stick of celery, chopped (green leaves and all)
One teaspoon olive oil
One chopped clove of garlic
One tin chickpeas, drained
Pinch of salt
Pinch of dried thyme
200 grammes halloumi, sliced
Some sprigs of fresh basil

I used one teaspoon garlic-infused oil, left over from making garlic confit. I am trying to cook more low-fat, so this was done quickly over high heat, relatively dry. Sauté the chopped fennel and celery quickly, including the leafy bits, until cooked but still with a bit of a bite. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and toss that in, with a pinch of salt, and thyne if you like that. In the meanwhile, heat a small frying pan to quite hot and dry-fry the halloumi slices quickly until golden, no need to add butter or oil. Flip halloumi and fry on other side.

Assemble the sautéed chickpeas, fennel and celery on a plate. Top with golden halloumi slices and a little fresh chopped basil. There you are, a delicious dinner in less than ten minutes! And Chickpea and Fennel ‘Risotto’ stays on the to-try list a bit longer, as that sounds too good to miss.
Chickpeas fennel halloumi
Are you a kung-fu master of planning meals, or do you prefer to wing it? What works best for you?