Ants, and After Eight brownies

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Trendy Accra: we have had the wax print festival, the Chale Wote street art festival, there are so many art events and concerts. Now I see fashion week is approaching. There are some very cool designers here, though I tend to wear more fair trade batik on sale. We spotted this at Accra Mall last weekend: rather fabulous.

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Back at home there is less glamour: an ant invasion, with flatmate discussions ensuing about using ant spray in the kitchen vs using practicing basic kitchen hygiene with ant powder as backup (my preferred option). If you feed the ants, they will come: there are always some ants around, but leaving food scraps out or not rinsing the rubbish bin after emptying when needed are just invitations for a teeming trail of happy ants making a beeline for the food source. You spray, they simply reroute.  So now we still had hundred of ants enjoying themselves, plus pesticide resides on the clean dishes………  I am certainly not an easygoing person to share a kitchen with at the best of times, but we did have a prior general discussion about not using ant spray near food or dishes. There are interesting cultural differences sometimes when you share a living space.  Oh well. We talked, the bin was rinsed out, an ant powder intervention followed, the dishes rewashed, and the ants retreated. Nothing today. There are always ants around in Accra, but the odd ant scouting is very different from a street party, it is perfectly manageable if they are not encouraged (and fed).

Enough complaining. Another joy in Accra is protecting your food not just from ants, but from heat and humidity. Salt clumps, spices go solid, while nuts and seeds go rancid. We’d been given a box of After Eight, which proceeded to melt through the tin and leak through, as it was not in the fridge (THAT was a fun sugary ant party, I tell you.)  Time for a rescue operation: After Eight brownies, just in time for a pizza and Netflix night (“The Set Up”). I do have one precious packet of Toro brownie mix just brought from Norway, but I am saving that so this time it was baking from scratch.

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Peeling them out, one by one………  This was like a Swedish kladdkaka, amalgamated from several recipes based on what I had. Good chance to use up some old dark chocolate as well, mainly Ghanaian (Ghana is a major cocoa producer).

After Eight brownies

275 grammes dark chocolate, broken into pieces
275 grammes salted butter
200 grammes soft brown sugar  (I had golden brown sugar)
pinch of salt
4 medium eggs
150 grammes plain white wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder
1 box of 200 rather decrepit After Eight mints
some pinches of salt to sprinkle on batter

Melt butter and chocolate on gentle heat. Cool slightly. Whisk in sugar, salt, flour, baking powder, eggs and cocoa powder: it will look like a delightfully buttery dark sludge. Heat oven to 180C. Line a baking dish of 20×30 cm with baking parchment. Pour half the batter into baking dish, then add a layer of tiles of After Eight, right across the tin. Then add rest of batter. Sprinkle some pinches of salt on top of batter. Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes, depending on your oven and how fudgy you like your brownies. It’s very buttery, and with the middle layer it can be hard to know the right time.  I use a chopstick at present,  took it out at 25 min when it did not jiggle when moved, and the top looked crinkly and done. Very dense, and lots of leftovers in fridge, mmmmm……

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PS this is actually rather funny: I looked up Toro brownie mix (it is a classic), and their website says “……TORO Brownies serveres ofte i kakestykker med et melisdryss over.”  Which means: These are often served in pieces [of cake] with a dusting of powdered sugar over. However, this Norwegian food webshop for expats says  “TORO Brownies are often served in pieces of cake with a melancholy over.”  Not quite sure what to make of that, it seems terrible even for machine translation (and a little poetic, if you were a homesick Norwegian).

Filo tart with zucchini and smoked cheese

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Our for a walk in North Ridge, we met some of our old neighbourhood goats. It’s still pleasantly cool, lovely to be able to walk without immediately dripping with sweat. Weekend mornings the streets are relatively quiet, many of the small shops are closed, and we can walk quietly, with an occasional honk from passing taxis. The goats were observed near +233 jazz club, where there is also a flat area used as a football training pitch.

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Here they sell lottery tickets or phone scratch cards? Not sure. Anyway, I am back in Accra for three weeks between trips. Traveling so much does disrupt cooking routines, like making sure there are fresh vegetables you feel like cooking with, but not accumulating food that will not keep until you are back. Here, I realized I had three packets of filo pastry, some precious zucchini and some scamorza (smoked cheese), so this was thrown together for a quick dinner.

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Filo tart with zucchini and smoked cheese

Filo pastry: I  used three oven-tray sized sheets, and froze the rest
3 tbs melted butter
3 zucchini, sliced in thin half moons
1 yellow onion
salt, pepper
250 grammes scamorza (smoked cheese), or another meltable cheese of your choice

Line oven tray with baking parchment or a silicon mat. Heat oven to 220C. Unfold two sheets of filo pastry on baking sheet, and brush top one with melted butter. Lay third filo pastry sheet on top, and brush with last melted butter. Chop the zucchini once lengthwise, then slice into half moons. Scatter the zucchini evenly across pastry. Chop the peeled onion, and scatter this across tray as well. Add some generous pinches of black pepper and salt. Chop or grate the cheese, spread it on top of zucchinis and onions, then bake at 220C until cheese is melted and golden. Use scissors to cut.

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Tro-tro (minibus taxi) of the week: Doctor Jesus.

doctor jesus

 

More Accra snapshots

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Oh, the joy of the rainy season! Amazing what a few degrees temperature drop means in terms of ambling around town actually being pleasant. Rather than Ubering, I have been walking and exploring new streets in our area of Accra.

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Walking to Osu one day: goats! Small but glossy. I have a work trip coming up and wanted to get some Ghanaian chocolate as gifts for the hosts: Niche has a new multipack, good for sharing.  I was quite pleased to see this new coffee in Shoprite: still robusta coffee, but the packaging is very Accra, with the the Jamestown lighthouse. Definitely need to get some to try. 37 cedi is about … 7 USD.

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New street explored, new food place to try when open.

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Food for the soul as well: they do like religious events here. Prophets, apostles: there are always posters for past and upcoming encounters.

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Some modern skyline for you, at the African Union roundabout.

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And some outfits in the gorgeous local fabric: here, you can wear this every day. The longer I am here, the colorful my wardrobe gets.

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