Quick summer pasta with vegetables

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Toy animals in gorgeous local fabrics at the craft market. I’ll be traveling again soon, and really needed to clear out the vegetable drawer. I also have French classes two days after work now, very enjoyable but quick dinners are needed those nights. The stars had clearly aligned for a quick summer pasta with vegetables. This comes together in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti and get Stranger Things season 3 ready on Netflix.

Quick summer pasta with vegetables (serves 3)

300 grammes of spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
3-4 tbs olive oil
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 local yellow squash, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 small eggplant, chopped
salt, pepper
a couple slices of leftover prosciutto, sliced

grated parmesan (use vegetarian cheese for fully vegetarian meal)

Boil the pasta. Gently fry the squash in a large frying pan, then add aubergine pieces and cherry tomatoes (the tomatoes will release some juices which stops the aubergines from absorbing all the olive oil).  We added a little prosciutto, to help empty out the fridge shelves. Add some generous pinches of salt and a little pepper to taste. When pasta is ready, drain it and toss it all in the frying pan. Add grated parmesan, and enjoy.

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Not so pretty, but fast and very tasty. You could do this with other vegetables too. The grated parmesan does make a difference  in pulling the dish together. As usual, getting the pasta cooked but still a little al dente is needed, as it will absorb some moisture from the vegetables. I used tap water to boil the pasta, we have not heard of cholera outbreaks in Accra this rainy season yet. There is a polio outbreak in Tamale, though.

Did anyone see Conan O’Brien in Ghana in June?  Most odd to see images of him on Oxford Street. He also went to Kumasi.

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Easter Sunday loaves

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Easter weekend in Rome: we went to Tivoli, east of Rome for Easter lunch for friends and a walk in Villa Gregoriana. It’s a park in a ravine, with paths, waterfalls, and grottos. About an hour and a half to walk down and up, it was lovely and green. On Good Friday we’d headed to Marconi to get me a new espresso machine for Accra, which I brought back safely in my suitcase and have now used for excellent cappuccini. It is getting easier to get OK Ghanaian coffee in Accra, which helps  (though I mix it 50/50 with my Italian Lavazza).

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From our local Garbatella supermarket: How about a piglet head?  (We resisted.)

As usual I took advantage of the lower temperature  in Rome to bake bread without collapsing in a sweaty heap. Accra is really hot and humid this week, which slows life down. It’s too expensive to run A/C all the time, so we have fans strategically placed around the apartment and try to manage, saving A/C for the bedrooms at night. So a few days of lower temperatures in Rome where it was comfortable to cook were very appreciated. Plus seeing friends, having the first Aperol Spritz in a sunny piazza, going for walks in spring sunshine – all very nice.

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No-knead Easter Sunday bread  (this made 5 small loaves)

1200 grammes white what flour (here, 00)
350 grammes wholewheat flour
175 grammes quick-cooking oatmeal
125 grammes sunflower seeds
25 g fresh yeast (or 12 grammes dry yeast)
3 tsp sal
1.35 litre lukewarm water

Dissolve the fresh yeast in the water, then add everything else. I was using up what we  had of seeds and oatmeal but the ratios seemed OK. Mix everything well, fold and fold with a strong spatula. Cover bowl (I use a plastic shower cap) and leave it to double for a few hours at room temperature. I folded it again, then divided dough between five small parchment-lined bread tins. With bigger tins this might make 3 large loaves. Leave to double again, with a kitchen towel covering the tins. Heat oven to 220C and slash the tops with scissors right before loaves go in, so edges do not crack. Bake for 45 minutes or so, depending on your oven. For these, I tool the loaves out of the tins the last ten minutes to crisp up the base  a bit, as the dough is quite wet and it can otherwise end up a bit pale. (Lesson learned.) Cool on rack before slicing.

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Crumbly helkornbrød in Accra

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The Ghana cedi exchange rate to the US dollar has been going up and down this month, and prices are increasing. Since October, drinking water has gone up from 8 cedi for a 19.5 litre Voltic container to 10 cedis, 25% more. It’s only about 2 dollars delivered, affordable for us, but noticeable. At least the pineapples are still cheap (1.99 cedi is about 40 cents) and very good. Ghana pineapple is amazing, very sweet.

It is a quiet Sunday here, warm as usual, maybe 31C but only 70% humidity so quite manageable. I have baked bread and am waiting for the loaves to cool enough to slice, to be enjoyed with some of the French cheese I brought back. My husband is here, which is lovely, but my pantry challenge continues: what can I cook from the cupboard? We had cassoulet for dinner last night, from a tin but with white beans, Toulouse sausages and duck: just delicious. The Guardian has a whole store cupboard special this weekend,  presumably for pre-Brexit, and some of those look very tempting.

This is baked with fresh yeast, since my dry yeast has given up the ghost, and is quite a wet dough. My flour is also getting old, but this baked well enough. I only made two small loaves, so I can bake again later in the week and enjoy fresh bread again.

Crumbly Accra helkornbrød (with cracked wheat)

125 gr cracked wheat (about 200 ml)
250 ml water

500 ml cold water
12.5 gr fresh yeast (or 6-7 grammes dry yeast)
1 heaping tsp sugar
1 tbs sunflower oil
125 gr medium coarse rye flour
500 gr white wheat flour  (see notes: more recommended)
1 tsp salt

Boil water and cracked wheat for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Leave to cool until lukewarm.

In your baking bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add boiled cracked wheat, no draining (the water should be absorbed in cracked wheat). Add oil, sugar, salt, and flours. Stir well. This is a wet dough, too wet to knead. Cover and let rest until it doubles (a couple hours here), then fold again. Line two medium bread tins with baking parchment, and pour dough in. Cover and let rest until it doubles (half an hour here). Bake 50-60 minutes at 200C. Cool on rack before slicing.

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Notes: This was a very moist dough, so though I had planned to bake it 45 minutes, it needed another 10-15 minutes for the sides and base to crisp up. These were very crumbly loaves, as you see below, sliced while still warm but mainly due to dough: next time I’ll add more flour, maybe 150 grammes more? Good flavour though, and better structure next time.

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