Tag Archives: living in Accra

What a week…… and baking helkornbrød

Ministries, Accra
This has been quite a week. We were due to move from Accra to Rome by now, but clearances are still pending. We had cancelled our Accra lease, as all was meant to be on track, so we found ourselves with no flat and no idea how long the delay might be. One week? Six months? Accra landlords like longer leases. Impossible to house-hunt with no time-frame, also when you have two cubic meters of stuff to lug around. Fans, office chair, sheets, pots and pans: most of our Accra things will be given away, but not if there are more delays in the move.

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Last Sunday, we thus packed what we had in bags, and bought my husband a one-way ticket to Rome. Fridge and pantry contents were given away to friends, guards and compound cleaner: pasta, flour, jams… squid ink, frozen cheese, mint syrup for coffee, soba noodles, weird condiments… it all went. The fridge was given to my driver. Monday, we moved our things by taxi trips to a kind friend’s place, temporarily. Insanely sweaty experience in Accra. But we had heard that I had a short-term mission to Rome, which was amazing  news. Tuesday, we moved into a hotel. On Wednesday, my husband flew to Rome and I followed on Thursday.

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On Saturday I woke up to this. No chickens or coconuts, but Rome in cool November sunshine, 12C today. I do like Accra, but it is wonderful to be back in Garbatella, even if it is just a temporary visit. We have a small flat here with most of our stuff. As we were last here in the summer, and I just arrived here in open-toed sandals, I have been excavating my winter clothes today and looking for shoes, sweaters, anything warm and not spangly Italian beach holiday-wear.  And I baked!

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Several friends have borrowed the flat here in Rome, so there are odd remnants in the cupboards: some rice, several boxes of chamomile tea, stock cubes, half a bag of pasta. Plus cracked wheat and rye flour I left two years ago, so we popped to the local supermarket for yeast and vegetables and I baked two loaves of bread this afternoon. Recipe off the Norwegian cracked wheat bag.

Whole cracked wheat bread

150 grammes whole cracked wheat
200 grammes water
2 tsp salt
* This should be mixed and soaked 8-15 hours. I cheated and just boiled water and tipped in cracked wheat, and let it soak 20 min. Then added to dough.

650 grammes plain white wheat flour
100 grammes wholewheat flour
100 grammes coarse rye flour  (I didn’t have fine rye flour)
600 ml tepid water
50 grammes fresh yeast
50 grammes vegetable oil

Mix ingredients, knead 4-7 minutes. (I could knead without dripping with sweat! My goodness!)  Cover and leave to rise 45 minutes. (I left it two hours in a cool kitchen, bowl covered with a hotel shower cap.) Shape and split dough between two load tins. Leave to rise an hour or so, then bake at 225C on lower shelf in oven for 45 min. If you take it out of tin, and tap base, it will sound hollow. Cool on rack before slicing. Or eat it while still steamingly hot, with salted butter, as we did.

bread

 

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Use-it-up Stranger Things jam muffins

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Accra is getting hotter, too hot too do much in the afternoons, even under the fan. Not sweat-dripping November levels yet, but tiring. We only run the A/C at night to sleep, as electricity is expensive, so the weekend afternoons are getting increasingly slow. There is only so much pre-move tidying and sorting one can do, also as we are not sure we are living three weeks from now. Time for a break: a friend is coming over this afternoon for a Stranger Things marathon, so I just baked jam muffins.

These are of the baking genre my husband politely describes as “healthy tasting”,  meaning they would be better with more sugar and butter. But they will do just fine as dessert, after a late lunch of an improvised stockfish and saffron carnaroli rice dish with bell peppers and chorizo. Maybe some of my precious frozen celery from Oxford? We are still doing our pantry challenge, and so far still eating very well.

Use-it-up Stranger Things jam muffins

3/4 cup wheat cake flour
1/2 cup wholemeal wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp sugar)
1/4 tsp salt

1 small banana, peeled and mashed
1 tbs peanut butter
1 tbs golden syrup
1/4 c milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tbs chia seeds + 3 tbs water   (as I was low on eggs)

1/2 cup jam of your choice: a teaspoon per muffin

Heat the oven to 180C. Get your muffin tin ready with paper liners. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl, except the jam. Stir it all together, do not overmix. Dollop a generous teaspoon in each muffin tin liner, then a teaspoon of jam, then more batter on top. Never mind if some jam is showing, it will be fine. Bake at 180C in middle of the oven for 25 minutes or so. These did not get very golden on top, but I used a cake tester to make sure they were baked through and springy. And we ate one straight from the cooling rack, just to be sure. I may dust these with icing sugar before serving, or heat them a bit and serve with salted butter. Mmmmmm……

Note: If using chia seeds as en egg replacement: they should be ground before soaking, but I just could not be bothered to clean the coffee grinder, so I soaked them whole, about five minutes. The muffins would probably have better structure if I had used ground chia meal.

Jams used: pear and coffee, and apple and Campari It is true, condiments and jams take ages to use up, so this was a great way to get hen into circulation. Chia seeds are easy to find in Accra, I go to Relish in Osu (Akai House) for seeds like sunflower, flax and chia. That makes bread baking and muesli making so much more interesting.

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More interesting things: the wonderful local fabrics in Ghana. I will be stocking up on more  before we move, the colours are lovely and cheerful.

Time to get lunch going and the A/C on, since we have a guest coming over! Anyone else watching Stranger Things?

Life in limbo: chocolate pudding

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Well, we thought were leaving Accra mid-November….. but travel clearances are taking their time, so life is in limbo right now. As we were assured all was on track, we gave notice on our flat, and the lease runs out in two weeks. I am taking deep breaths and reminding myself that I do have a job next month, somewhere, that we have our health and this will be resolved. Still, this is stressing me out to no end. Short term accommodation is hard to find here, and expensive, and right now we do not know if the delay will be days, weeks or months.

The Guardian had a great article today, which resonated with me also in times of uncertainty: “Cooking is perfect to empty your brain of bad men and the things they do

…. Crisp but floury potatoes, and slow-cooked lamb, tender and almost melting off the bone, are like the safety of a friend’s hug. Cooking is sorcery. Some days we desperately need its magic.

Exactly.  World news is depressing, stories of sexual harassment keep coming, and are only too believable. My challenges are small, but some days I just want to curl up in the sofa and watch Gilmore Girls. Well, when all else fails, there is still cooking. I am still emptying fridge, freezer and food stocks, in case by some miracle we move in the next 20 days, and/or if we move to a rented room somewhere. Que sera, sera. Let there be chocolate pudding……….

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I started with Smitten Kitchen’s Best chocolate pudding, because her recipes are the best. The plan was to use evaporated milk and Italian Hulala UHT whipping cream, as in photo above, but  Iwas too distracted to remember that, as I was watching the YouTube Yacht Rock series on my laptop at the same time, which is very funny….. So the pudding was all done with milk powder. The chocolate was Guatemalan, as we are lucky enough to have a friend who works in cocoa. Not enough chocolate left, so I used up the last of our Ghanaian cocoa as well. Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world, after Côte d’Ivoire, and we get excellent cocoa here.

Use-it-up chocolate pudding

30 grammes cornstarch
120 grams icing sugar  (we are low on regular sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
700 ml whole milk (I used powdered milk & water)
1 tbs vanilla sugar (Norwegian – just use 1/2 tsp vanilla extract if easier to find)
95 gr bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
65 gr unsweetened Ghana cocoa (last of package, you could use a bit less)
Optional: sugar sprinkles on top

Combine the cornstarch, powdered milk, icing sugar and salt in a medium saucepan, Whisk in the water/milk, and bring to low boil. Add chocolate and cocoa powder, stir well so all is melted and mixed in. After ten minutes or so it will thicken: taste to see how you like flavour and texture. I added an extra pinch of vanilla salt at this stage. Also added: sugar sprinkles on top, as we in are the “everything must go” stage of pre-moving. Cool and eat: this makes at least six servings, even for stressed people, as it was very dark and chocolate-y.

Piling up items to ship or give away: there is a classifieds section here in Accra where people sell all kinds of things due to house moves: furniture, used shoes, kitchenware, toys… I never thought I might be one of them, but if we have to store stuff with friends while we are in temporary lodgings, much more will be shedded. Most just given away, I think, it might also help for good karma for the move.

And to remind myself to keep this in perspective: another neighbour died, as we could see from the red and black funeral drapings on their gate. We have a lot to be grateful for, so I will keep breathing, waiting and maybe have some more chocolate pudding….