Tag Archives: food shopping

Coconut carrot cake, Stranger Things round two

Fante kenkey

Fante kenkey (fermented maize dumplings), steamed in plantain leaves. Ga kenkey is not dissimilar, but is salted and wrapped in corn husks (if I have not gotten them mixed up again….). There are some interesting fermented foods in Ghana. Kenkey can be stored unrefrigerated, is produced from local crops, and has probiotic properties. This was at my local corner shop in Accra, where I had gone to buy eggs.

local shop Accra

Groundnuts, toilet paper, biscuits, drinks: what do you need? I needed eggs.

buying eggs in Accra

We are still waiting for travel clearances for our return to Italy, so today I’ve defrosted the freezer and scrubbed the balcony, both sweat-dripping processes. Clothes and bookshelves are being given away, cupboards are emptied. Next weekend we might be moving all we have into three taxis and moving into an Airbnb, but everything is on standby, so I have just collapsed under the fan to watch “The Wedding Planner”. And yesterday, we finished the last four episodes of Stranger Things season two, with a friend, homemade pizza and this cake.

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It’s basically BBC Good Good Food’s Coconut carrot slices  which looks amazing. See link for recipe. But the recipe calls for 250g butter and 300g light muscovado sugar, which a) seems like an awful lot and b) we did not have. We are emptying the kitchen and making do with what we have. So I made it roughly following the recipe, but with only 100g butter and 100g sugar + 2 tbs honey, and it turned out just fine. The grilled coconut topping makes the cake really good, with a pinch of vanilla salt added.

Note: the recipe calls for 2 tsp mixed spice, which we did not have either, so I used cinnamon and allspice. Maybe 3 tsp next time, or fresher spices. The buttery coconut topping reminds me of Danish Drømmekage, which is on my to-make list. But looking at what is left in pantry and fridge, I think sticky toffee pudding is next, also to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Despite all being so uncertain about our move, we have to breathe a bit. 

The rest of Stranger Things was also excellent!

 

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Saturday: grocery run to Osu

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Another action-packed weekend in Accra  (ha……) with laundry and a grocery run to Osu, where the closest supermarket is. Here’s the fruit stand opposite Koala, at the top of Oxford Street, which has expanded and has a quite good selection. I still haven’t found the nearby lady with green zucchini.

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Uber-ing down Oxford Street: phone cards, sunglasses, football shirts, fabric, phone, cards, what do you need? With no car, and my deep dislike of haggling with taxi drivers (“It’s always 20 cedi to Osu!”), Uber makes it so easy to get around town.

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Oh no! Shoprite already has Christmas trees! And tinsel on all vertical areas! Well, we are still preparing to leave Accra in 4-5 weeks, though paperwork is pending, and our lease is cancelled, so we just needed milk (UHT or powdered…) and vegetables to help keep the pantry challenge going. It’s getting easier to find “Product of Ghana” vegetables in the supermarket, like beetroot, green beans, pumpkin, cabbage, chilis, eggplant. Nice, also as it is getting too hot for market shopping.

Accra street

Waiting for our ride home again: Though you cannot see it, the Shoprite guard in the yellow vest is trying to shoo out a hen with chicks who are under the grey car. The car driver is trying not to run over the chickens, who would refused to budge  – it all went well in the end.

Funeral

On the way home, we passed this funeral gathering (obvious from red and black tents) for a female professor. Funerals are often huge events here. The red and black are colours of mourning, whereas white and black are colours to celebrate someone’s life. Apparently the owner of the bakery next door just died, and they are starting a week to commemorate her from tomorrow: hence the white and black decorations.

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Sunday afternoon update: the week of commemorative celebrations has begun next door. Lots of people gathered under canopies, big turnout, with religious music and hymns on the sound system all day, interspersed by speeches and sermons. All very loud. Our friends in Tamale had a church next door, with services and music every night  – their windows kept neither mosquitoes nor shouted sermons no tinny gospel out, much more invasive, so we really cannot complain over one day of noise here. Normally we only hear fragments from the nearby churches and mosques on the wind. Time to make Thai chickpea curry with coconut meat and green beans.

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.