Flatbread with sunflower seeds, and with zaatar

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A wall on the edge of Osu, spotted while heading home after getting groceries. Often  walls will have “Don’t urinate here”, as public urination is very common in Accra. Not all households have toilet facilities. A 2017 WaterAid report says 85.7% of the Ghanaian populace do not have access to decent toilets in their homes and are forced to use mainly unhygienic public toilets or resort to open defecation, which increases risk of cholera. Next to downtown Accra with flashy modern buildings, Uber, organic vegetable orders by whatsapp, air conditioned supermarkets and glossy coffee bars, there is still the “normal”  reality for many. The government still has vision of a clean Accra by 2020, but there is a long way to go.

Anyway, on to a happier topic, written from our gated compound apartment with multiple toilets  (so privileged….. not taken for granted. We pay for the housing, not our employer.) Friends came for lunch and I threw together some flatbread to go with antipasto.

Flatbread with sunflower seeds, and with zaatar

600 ml lukewarm water
10 g fresh yeast   (or 5 gr dry yeast)
200 g coarse rye flour
580 g white wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar

Topping for baking: sunflower seeds, zaatar, olive oil, salt

Stir the yeast in the water until it mostly dissolves. Add the rest except toppings, and fold a few times. It will be quite sticky, but should not be runny: this depends a bit in your flour too. I used rye flour as I had some at hand, but you could use wholewheat or all white flour if you want. Cover the bowl (I use a plastic hotel shower cap) and leave it to rest for a few hours. In Accra at 27C I left it four hours, in cooler places it can rest overnight. I was counting down to lunch and this rose just fine.

Tip the dough out and divide in two parts. Do not knead it, but try to stretch it out on parchment paper to approximate rectangles to fit two baking trays.  It will be sticky.

Heat the oven to 250C with baking tray inside. Flatbread with sunflower seeds: brush a little olive oil ob the top of the dough rectangle,and sprinkle some sunflower seeds and cracked salt on top. For the flatbread with zaatar, I mixed olive oil (maybe 1/3 cup) with 2 tbs zaatar in a small bowl, then brushed that on the other dough. Let it rest 20-30 minutes. Slide the baking parchment with dough onto the hot baking tray, and bake 12-13 minutes or so until baked through and golden. Cool a bit before slicing.

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Not so pretty but tasty, especially with a nice South African wine. I sliced them into small rectangles for serving. The one with zaatar probably could have used even more olive oil, it looks a little burnt but was very nice. The wind blew a wine glass into the bread basket, which did not improve the taste, but most was salvaged.

And yes, we acknowledged that this Italian lunch was a bubble of privilege, a little time-out, and that sometimes it is a very strange life here, far away from family and our own homes, though with some good friends. Some days it is hard to see if some parts of development work are making enough of a difference, other days it is clear and meaningful. A Canadian friend just told me about The Story of the Hummingbird, as told by the Kenyan environmental activist, women’s rights advocate, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai. Really lovely: We must do what we can.

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Just spotted in town: an information stand for the Accra toilet campaign. 1100 GHS is about 233 USD.

Curried coconut lentil soup with flatbread

img_20180520_1157591Accra is pretty safe, we tell newcomers. Not like Juba or Jo’burg or other rougher places where friends live. I can Uber around town, or go shopping alone, and am generally more worried about malaria than mugging. We live in a nice gated compound, with 24 hour security, as recommended, and just got burglar bars installed on the kitchen side. Unemployment is high, and there has been more crime this year: cars held up at traffic lights, people mugged in daylight, a series of forex robberies and an increase in home invasions – quite a few of which have happened in the gated communities. I am happy the burglar bars are in place.

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Fortunately the only invasion we have had in the new apartment has been ants. They are hungry and tenacious (even dried chickpeas are not safe) and various dry goods have been unceremoniously chucked into the new deep freezer to kill off the invaders. More ant-proof containers are in place, and the kitchen shelves are dusted down with ant powder. All quiet on the ant front this week. Just in case, I am having a pantry challenge this month, using up stockpiled food in shelves and freezer, so it was time for curried lentil soup, which has been lunch everyday this week.

Curried coconut lentil soup

* 1 cup dried lentils (I used green lentils, rinsed and picked over)
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
* 3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
* 2 green bell peppers, diced
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tbs curry powder
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tsp salt
* pinch of red pepper flakes
* 1 tsp turmeric, if you have it
* 1 tin diced tomatoes (400 grammes)
* 1 tin coconut milk 400 grammes) – save a splash for a decorative swirl if you remember
* 1 litre vegetable stock (I used stock cubes)
* salt and pepper to taste
Optional: soak lentils for a couple hours first (just too save cooking time on a hot day).

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic and spices, and fry a couple more minutes. If you only have curry powder, that would be fine. Add tinned tomatoes, lentils, stock and coconut milk. Cook gently until lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so. (Longer is using dry lentils, maybe ten minutes of using tinned lentils.)

Note: Also might be nice in soup: fresh ginger, mustard seeds, coriander seeds: see what you have and what you like.

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Flatbreads for soup (made 4 small ones)
250 grammes flour
4 grammes fresh yeast (or 2 grammes dry yeast)
½ tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
175 ml water
1 tbs oil

To brush:
20 grammes melted butter
pinch of salt

Mix the dough, let it rise an hour or so. Heat the oven to 250C, with the baking sheet in the oven, Divide the dough in four and let it rest a few minutes, then roll out four naan. Bake on parchment paper on the hot baking sheet for five minutes or so, until golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

Enjoy with a mug of hot soup (browsing look at royal wedding dresses and hats optional).

Crisp seeded flatbreads

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Just a couple days to go, and not a Christmas cookie baked, which is absolutely fine. Normally as a good Norwegian I should have seven kinds of Christmas cookies baked by now, but this year I am ignoring the “shoulds” and opted to just make these crip seeded flatbreads, some to give away and some for us (lots of holiday drinks coming up.) Very easy to make if you need a last minute gift, or just enjoy them yourself. These are delicious with cheese or hummus (prosecco or mulled wine optional…)

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Crisp seeded flatbreads
Adapted from Food in Jars : Homemade Crackers

2 cups flour, a mix of what you have
(I made one batch with 1 cup plain flour + 1/2 cup rye flour + 1/2 cup flour; and one with 1.5 cup plain flour and 1/2 cup polenta. It is a very forgiving recipe.)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup water

Topping: 2-3 teaspoons, mixing a couple seeds and spices you have and like, for example, sesame seeds, cracked pepper, flax seeds, fennel seeds, sumac, poppy seeds, rosemary, smoked salt.

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Heat the oven to 225C/ 450F. Mix flours, water, salt and olive oil until you have a nice lump of dough. Let it rest for a few minutes. Then divide the dough in two, and roll it out, as if you were rolling out a thin pizza base. You may need a little flour. I roll it out straight onto baking paper.

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Sprinkle with a little water, then top with seed or spice mixture of your choice. Plain coarse salt and pepper is great too. I usually sprinkle a little more water on, then run a fork lightly over the dough to make the seeds adhere. Otherwise they fall off a bit too soon and can be messy when eating them. See what works for you.

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Just before it goes into the oven, slice the dough into strips or squares. As in the original recipe, a pizza cutter is very handy for this. Bake at 225C/ 450F for 10-12 minutes. Important: watch the trays the last few minutes, they change from a tad pale to slightly burned faster than you would think……

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Cool on a rack, break carefully apart and enjoy! These keep well for a month, are very inexpensive to make, and are nice as a gift, for when unexpected guests pop by, or just for yourself after post-work drinks when you cannot be bother to cook a proper dinner: cheese and flatbreads might be just what you fancy. Happy continued relaxing holiday countdown to all!
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