São Tomé weekend, part 1

img_5087 Just back from a long weekend in São Tomé, very nice!  It’s only 90 minutes flight from Accra with TAP, and we had a great time. São Tomé and Príncipe is a Portuguese-speaking country off the northwestern coast of Gabon.  The two volcanic islands were discovered by the Portuguese in 1470 and became a base for slave trade, sugar cane, coffee and cocoa. São Tomé and Príncipe has been independent since 1975.

source: http://www.operationworld.org/saot

We had a very lazy weekend: we stayed at Mucumbli first, on the north west coast near Neves. Bungalows with terraces facing the sea, it was lovely waking up to the sound of waves and birds.  Wonderful grilled fish, very peaceful.

img_5094 It was a few degrees cooler than Accra,  with a nice sea breeze, so it was amazingly fresh. Nice change to be outdoors and not be sweating all the time!

20170429_130943 Driving through Neves. The blue CST booths are from the mobile phone company, and were all over. Lots of street food along the road, grilled maize and plantains.

20170429_131504Laundry drying on beach on the north coast: the goats left the laundry alone. interestingly, we saw fewer goats than in Ghana, but more stray dogs.


Neves is the home is Rosema, a local beer. Perfectly drinkable, especially with fresh grilled fish. No label on the bottle, you just know it’s Rosema.

20170429_133604After a couple days at Mucumbli (very nice!), we went east, to see another part of the island.


Day trip to the centre of the island: Monte Café, an old Portuguese plantation in Sao Tome and Principe. Very easy to organize a daytrip with a driver: north, centre, or south of island all possible. Plantations, waterfalls, beaches: all very acessible, easy place to be a tourist. We were more interested in coffee than beaches, but everyone says the south of São Tomé  is gorgeous.

After the independence of São Tomé and Príncipe, in 1975, most of the plantations closed, but Monte Café still produces coffee and has a coffee museum. We bought local coffee in the coffee shop, arabica beans rather dark roasted but good. We also brought back Claudio Corallo coffee and some mystery local coffee (cafe saboroso) from a Chinese shop downtown. Otherwise São Tomé is more known for cocoa.

More to follow in part 2!



Ghanaian Coffee Cake (adapted from food52)

vietnamese coffee cake

Coffee, cardamom and cake, who does not like that?  I had bought sweetened condensed milk with the thought of making the Vietnamese Coffee Cake on food 52, which looks amazing. Rave comments too. We had a brunch coming up with neighbours, so I made this the night before for post-brunch coffee.  Really, really good. I did tweak the recipe, as I thought it might be too sweet and wanted less butter, so amended recipe is below. However, you should try the original recipe, the cake there was higher and the sweet sauce far smoother and less lumpy than mine — wonderful flavours, though!

Ghanaian version of Vietnamese Coffee Cake  (less butter, less sugar, more yogurt)

  • 60 grams white sugar
  • 110 grams brown sugar
  • 60 grams butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams plain wheat flour
  • 3 heaping tbs whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 grammes instant coffee +1/2 tsp ground coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 300 grams plain Greek-style yogurt, full fat
  • 2 eggs

Cream butter and sugar, toss in eggs and yogurt, add rest and whisk briefly. Butter a 24 cm tin, pour in batter, bake at 180C for 35-40 minutes, until cake is springy and cake tester comes out clean. Yes, slightly brutal in method but I wanted to get this in the oven quickly so we could get back to watching Trapped, the brilliant Icelandic TV series. Snow, a murder, a small town cut off by a storm — highly recommended.

Cake sauce topping  (called brigadeiro, interesting, it is a Brazilian chocolate bonbon I think, the original recipe author is Brazilian)

  • 385 grams (one 14-ounce tin) sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee and a pinch of ground coffee
  • 25 grammes butter

Heat in a small pan carefully until it thickens. I added more coffee, so it took a while but suddenly came together (and caramelised a but, not intentional but rather nice). Very sweet, so I served it as optional with the cake slices, slightly warm, rather than pouring it over.

Accra yogurtNotes: The cake was moist, plenty sweet as it was and with a gorgeous coffee/cardamon flavour. Sometimes when I reduce butter and sugar my husband politely says “Well, it tastes healthy…..” Not the case here. The texture was rather like the Norwegian spice cake my mother makes, with surmelk (like kefir or buttermilk) which I must make soon. I might skip the sweet sauce next time, not really needed. 

Lots of yogurt in cake, thick Greek-style yogurt. Store-bought local yoghurt  is usually good here but sometimes there is a so-so pot and this was a good use for it. I am learning to make my own yogurt, which is interesting. Like sourdough, the results are slightly different every week but I am learning. 

Another reason the cake was quickly/brutally assembled was the discovery of yet another sealed box of flour with happily munching little black bugs.  The rice here often has small weevils in it, a bag of local Tema flour had moths exploding out (good  hard wheat flour, though), and even the expensive 00 flour we bought for making pasta has been a disappointment. Almost all the 00 bags we bought have had  “some extra protein” (as my mother calls unwanted bugs from her years abroad)  and I thought I had rotated them all through the freezer to kill them off. Oh no – one bag I forgot…… but I was not going to waste somewhat bug-infested 00 flour, though that may horrify you. So I measured out flour, sieved it VERY carefully, while dumping scurrying small bugs down the sink and trying to avoid escapees. Hopefully none made it into the cake………


Back from Dar es Salaam

20160525_175428.jpgI am just back from Dar es Salaam, a quick work trip to Tanzania. Lovely cool breezes, nothing like the sticky Accra climate, and such nice people. Miles of beaches, many new buildings; its gotten very modern since I was last there.

departure/arrival forms

Actually, it was less palm trees and Indian Ocean breezes, and more airport-hotel-meeting room-long days-airport, then hours of swatting mosquitos while waiting for the check-in to open for the 03:46 flight Dar-Addis-Accra (arrrgh) with plenty of time to full out departure/arrival forms. Where do all of these departure/arrival forms go? In some massive archive somewhere? Or do they get shredded eventually?

Later, a large group of people clutching plastic bags and puffy jackets showed up in Departures: families with small children, 85 people being shepherded by IOM staff in blue vests with clipboards: the families were refugee/migrants, migrating to the US and Canada, with what little possessions they had in large checkered plastic bundles. A few extra hours for me waiting on plastic airport chairs is really nothing too complain about, when you think about how these people are some of the lucky ones.

tinga tinga We stopped off at a market the last day, on our way to the airport – these are tinga tinga paintings. Still there! It’s a very local painting style from Dar, quite touristy but cute. I have some from twenty years ago, and they are still popular. No shopping for me though, enough stuff in my life already. What I DID buy in Dar es Salaam: coffee, Branston pickle , ground cinnamon, and Serengeti beer I optimistically thought I’d have time to enjoy. Not the case.  The Branston pickle is for my husband, he brought one jar to Accra and it’s getting very empty as we have not found it here yet. Now his cheese and pickle sandwiches are safe for a while longer!

branston pickle in Dar And of course, I bought coffee beans….. Tanzanian, Kenyan, and Ethiopian, most at the airport in Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa. The latter was full of cheap Chinese cigarettes and alcohol, but in tax-free shop number six I found freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee beans, very nice. We have been enjoying them for our morning cappuccini, you can really taste the difference in beans. No need to buy insanely expensive Italian espresso when there is more local coffee available, though Ghana may not be a coffee hotspot yet.

coffee beans And one little tin of Africafe, instant coffee for old time’s sake!