Fusilli with zucchini and goat ricotta

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What to cook? On a hot Roman summer day, it can be a challenge. This day it was easy: we had some fresh goat ricotta that needed to be used, the fridge was full of vegetables, and for once I made lunch. Generally with me working from home, it’s been really busy, even five months in. Teleworking is not the relaxed days of bread baking and coffee drinking I might have imagined, though I really should be better at taking breaks. My patient  husband has thus been the star chef, sorting lunch and dinner most days, but occasionally I step in.

Fusilli with zucchini and goat ricotta

300-400 g of fusilli or other pasta
2 tbs olive oil
6 small Roman zucchini, sliced into small coins
1 clove garlic, chopped
a few fresh basil leaves if you have them
300 g nice ricotta
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the pasta. Gently fry the zucchini and garlic. Here we used Roman zucchini (they are pale green, grooved), but use what you have. When pasta is done, drain the pasta and put it back in the pot with the vegetables. Then spoon in the ricotta and stir briefly to mix. Eat while listening to someone shouting below in the piazza (it was double parking.)

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Double parking is generally not an issue right now. It’s almost Ferragosto (15 August, peak holiday time), so many people have left for holidays and it is getting very quiet in our neighborhood. A lot of shops have closed until early September. It’s still cooling down at night, so no complaints after my sweaty years in Accra. Have a nice weekend!

Note: any leftovers of this pasta is nice cold the next day too, much to the horror of an Italian friend who cannot abide “cold food that should be warm”. He is not a fan of leftovers in general.

A walk! And spaghetti with zucchini and basil

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Already late June! We are out of lockdown in Rome, there are green figs and huge watermelons and lots of cherries in the fruit and veg shops. I can see the hipster bar across the piazza is busy (it has outdoor seating) and it is so nice to hear voices in the streets again. I am still wary so we are not out much, and only with masks, but getting a takeaway pizza after three months was amazing.  It is really great to start seeing a few friends now and then, while maintaining distance. We are all still working from home, going better than expected. Our cloth mask collection is growing.

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Today we actually left our neighbourhood Garbatella for the first time since March, and walked across the river to Marconi to pick up something at a shop. Lots of people out, almost all with masks, but it feels like life is a little more normal. People out on bicycles with their kids, others were chatting on the sidewalks, with patient dogs waiting on leashes, enjoying the lovely sunny weather. So many shops had SALDI signs (sales). It’s a tough time for businesses.

Home again: What to have for lunch? We had lots of leftovers in the fridge, including the fabulous Ottolenghi mushroom lentil ragu,  which we had the other night on spaghetti, but that ragu will feature in a vegetarian moussaka tonight. Yes, a friend is coming for dinner! It is SO NICE to talk to someone in person and not via a computer. We will have drinks on the condominium rooftop terrace, then dinner, all maintaining fresh air and distance.

Anyway, we needed lunch, soon. UK football has started again this weekend, they are playing with empty stadiums but showing games online (with crowd noise dubbed in, it is really odd). This is a big deal for my husband (UK club season ticket holder), who has been doing most of the cooking this spring. So I promised to assemble something. The lone zucchini in the veg drawer, one box of leftover cold spaghetti, hey presto!

Spaghetti with zucchini and basil
2 tbs olive oil
1 zucchini  (if you have 2, even better)
1 clove garlic
leftover spaghetti, about two portions (or cook 180gr dry pasta)
salt, pepper
5-6 basil leaves, torn
parmesan to serve

Wash the zucchini, slice in two lengthwise then slice it into thin half moons. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan, toss in the zucchini and fry at medium to high heat, not so hot that anything burns but so the zucchini cooks and some get a little golden. Add chopped garlic, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. If you have basil, a few leaves town and added in is great. Once the zucchini has a little colour, add the leftover cold spaghetti  (or pasta of your choice) and keep heating this in the frying pan until it is all hot. Move the pasta and zucchini around so it all gets warm without any zucchini bits burning. Grate some parmesan and voila, lunch in six minutes, just in time for the football game.

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Hope you are all still doing well!

Spaghetti with broccoli and leek

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Happy New Year! Back in Accra, where it is harmattan season, with the dry and dusty northeasterly trade winds blowing from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. It is also the end of the Year of Return, Ghana 2019 which is an initiative of the government of Ghana is intended to encourage African diasporans to come to Africa (specifically Ghana) to settle and invest in the continent. The year 2019 is symbolic as it commemorates 400 years since the first enslaved Africans touched down in Jamestown, Virginia in the United States. (source: wikipedia)

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There are gift-wrapped cars along Independence Road, with diaspora welcome messages like this:

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And SO many lights and decorations this year in Accra this year! There are also posters for the planned new National Cathedral of Ghana, which they must still be fundraising for as it’s a 100 million dollar project. You’d think sanitation and clean water would be a better investment, but from the photos it does look beautiful.

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Building walls have gone up at the AU roundabout, where Independence meets Castle Road, with lots of glossy posters of what is planned (the brown building below at 3 o’clock). Looks like Gamel Abdul Nasser Ave would be closed right before Castle Road.

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Lovely advent holidays with family in Norway (risgrøt, pinnekjøtt, ribbe, pepperkaker) and Christmas in London with the in-laws (Christmas pudding, crackers, paper hats, Gavin and Stacey Christmas special on TV.) As usual I am not sure where I’ll be working this year, am waiting to hear if I am moving from Accra or not soon, but this time I am surprisingly chill about it. After some family health scares, I am just happy that most of the family is in good health. Time to start cooking again and get on with life.

Spaghetti with broccoli and leek

2 small heads broccoli, broken into florets
1 leek, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 salted anchovies
splash of olive oil
salt
pinch of chili flakes
250 grammes spaghetti
dried ricotta cheese

Cook the broccoli florets in salted boiling water until tender (save cooking water for pasta). Gently fry garlic in olive oil with anchovies and leek. It will not taste fishy, anchovies just provides an umami kick. With a slotted spoon scoop out broccoli and move it to the frying pan, then boil spaghetti in the broccoli water. While that is cooking, gently mash the broccoli in the frying pan with a little chiili flakes and salt. You might want to add a little starchy pasta water to loosen it. Drain pasta, stir it all together in frying pan and top with dried ricotta.

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Note: I actually used frozen raw leek, as I am trying to empty our chest freezer so we can sell it, so I just tipped the leek in in with the broccoli. As it had been frozen, the leek did not need much cooking.

Note 2: I was inspired by a recipe for Orechiette Pasta with Broccoli from the Accra Embassy Cookbook 2015. The recipe suggests using grated pecorino or dried sheep ricotta, and ends saying ” ….Serve it hot in a bowl. No Parmesan in this recipe, better no cheese at all than Parmesan, if you don’t have one of the above mentioned cheeses.”  Wonderful.