Tag Archives: pasta

Dental fears, and Blue cheese pasta with almonds

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I would like to be as calm as this lizard, but am failing…. This weekend I had made popcorn, and thought at first a bit of broken kernel was stuck in my tooth. Then, after craning my neck to look in mirrors and making my long-suffering husband peer in, I had to face it: something has broken off one of my top molars. Chipped tooth? Cracked filling? I do not know, and am trying not to gingerly probe the jagged edge. Nobody likes going to the dentist (apologies to any dental readers out there). I do have a very nice dentist, but he is a continent away, and I will not be back there until July. So I will urgently need to find a good dentist in Accra: any suggestions?

Googling tooth injuries and dentists in Accra did not help. One quote: “Unfortunately Ghana, like most developing countries, is not blessed with a numerous supply of dentists. World Health Organisation data shows that in 2008 Ghana had only 148 dentists, which is equivalent to 0.06 dentists per 10,000 people.” What do people do? However, most of those dentists are in Accra, and some clinics look very modern, so I am lucky indeed to not be upcountry – and that I have health insurance, and the resources to get this fixed. Tomorrow I will ask colleagues for referrals and get this looked at in the next days. In the interim, soft food and frequent brushing of teeth!

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Blue cheese pasta with almonds  (actually, no almonds for me, so none in picture…..)

400 grammes dry pasta
100 grammes blue cheese with mascarpone
Handful of chopped almonds
A little grated pepper

Cook the pasta in salted water, duration as indicated on packet. Roughly chop the cheese. Drain pasta when done, keeping a little pasta water aside. Then strain, and crumble the cheese into the hot pasta, with a little hot pasta cooking water to loosen the cheese. Maybe 1/3 cup?  The cheese will melt in and coat the pasta. Sprinkle over the chopped almonds, and serve.

Notes: no, the blue cheese with mascarpone was not purchased locally. Blue cheese but mild, great in pasta.

Update 1: Thanks to colleagues and word of mouth (haha…), I found three recommended dentists, so I went to one today. Nice modern dental clinic, gentle staff. I have a brand new replacement filling, and a huge sense of relief! I can chew again! Really good to know of a good dentist, a long taxi ride away but not requiring a flight.

Update 2: What happens when there is such a shortage of qualified dentists, from local news:
3 Fake dentists arrested for practising for more than 15yrs. Rather frightening.

Yesterday it rained, for the first time in three months. It is apparently the end of the harmattan, the dusty dry winds from the Sahel, and there were sudden winds and a massive downpour. It was temporaily cool! It has been really dry, hopefully the rains are coming in time to help the farming sector.

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Pasta con le sarde (sardines and wild fennel)

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I confess, my week of being home alone and eating badly has continued. Ramen noodles, cheese and crackers, take-away pizza; yesterday dinner was fish-fingers and Häagen-Dazs while watching “Reality Bites”. Lots of guilty pleasures. Still, by now I am really looking forward to my husband getting back from London tomorrow and me cooking from scratch again. In honour of that, here is a dish from the archives: pasta con le sarde (sardines and wild fennel). I love wild fennel, and this is a great dish I make when I find wild fennel in the market (or bring it back from Palermo.)
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Pasta con le sarde (sardines and wild fennel)

300-400 grammes spaghetti
One white onion, chopped
1 tbs olive oil
300 grammes sardines, filleted
Five anchovy fillets
Spash of white wine, optional
A generous bunch of finoccio selvatico (fresh wild fennel)
50 grammes pine nuts
75 grammes sultanas or raisins
Salt and pepper
To serve: a handful of toasted breadcrumbs

Wash the wild fennel, removing any brown bits and cut off the lowest part and roots. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and gently fry the chopped onion. Add the sardines (yes, with tail – we get them in the frozen food shop filleted like this) and the anchovy fillets, with a little white wine if you have some. Cover and cook gently for 7-8 minutes. Add half the fennel to the pan with the onion and sardines. Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta. Add pasta and the rest of the fennel to the boiling water, and cook until pasta is al dente.

20130705-214022.jpgDrain off the water, then pour pasta (with fennel) into the sauce. Add pine nuts and sultanas, toss, and serve with a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs.
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I am not sure what I will be cooking the next few days, but pumpkin risotto for sure, maybe a potato-leek soup, or something with cauliflower. Maybe melanzane alla parmigiana? Salmon with miso and sesame? The gas company is coming tomorrow to change our very old gas counter, so I have taken the afternoon off to wait for for them. Hopefully there will be time to also go stock up on vegetables and get some real food in the fridge again (not just jam, wine, pickled herring and mystery chutneys). Also, my husband will get home! Yeah!

Improvised aubergine and almond rigatoni

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Living in Rome, you might think we stroll to the market in the morning, lovingly selecting the perfect vegetables for dinner. Well, that is often true on the weekend, but weekdays I swing by the Egyptian fruttivendolo on my way home, and buy something from the cheaper section outside. One euro a kilo, slightly battered: last time I bought aubergines, to make Nigel Slater’s Grilled Eggplant with Creamed Feta. Delicious! We oven-roasted the aubergines, grilled would have been even better. Great with the feta and yoghurt. But we had lots of roasted aubergines left the next day, so what to do with it? Roll it with ricotta, bake it with cheese, hmmmm? There were also some wrinky cherry tomatoes lurking in the fridge, and I fancied pasta, so I tossed in some almonds and hoped for the best.

This is my humble Fiesta Friday 35 offering this week: a humble weeknight pasta dish, but quick to make, and tasty enough to serve friends. Thanks as always to our hosts: this week, Angie, Prudy and Naina. I already have my eye on those tasty apples pies, mmmmmm…..

Improvised aubergine and almond rigatoni
One red onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
250 grammes cherry tomatoes
400 grammes leftover sliced roast aubergines
50 grammed unblanched almonds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
400 grammes rigatoni, or pasta of your choice
Optional: grated parmesan, and basil to garnish

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Put your water for pasta on the boil, and cook pasta while you prep the sauce. In another pot or pan, gently fry the chopped onion in the olive oil until it softens. Halve the cherry tomatoes, then tip them in with the onion and let them cook for a few minutes.

In the meanwhile, using a food processor (or excellent knife skills), roughly chop the almonds. Add the slices of roast aubergine to the food processor with the almonds, and chop roughly. Now, tip in the tomatoes and onion, and process until it is smoother but not enturely homogenous. You should still feel the slightly gritty almond buts. Add salt and pepper to taste. It may not look pretty, but see how you like the flavours..

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Drain pasta, ladle sauce over, and enjoy! Add parmesan if you like (we do) and basil leaf for garnish if you have some.

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Notes: I had seen a recipe for aubergine walnut pasta, with hard boiled egg yolks and tomato sauce, but was too hungry to boil eggs as well. I would have added sage, but the sage on our balcony died in the August heat and has not yet been replaced. With in-laws arriving in two weeks, reviving the balcony boxes is a project for this weekend. That, making sure we have enough tea bags to make endless cups of builder’s tea, and scrubbing the kitchen. “They will not mind!” says my husband, but I do. You could make this with less tomatoes and add olive oil, but we wanted to keep this light. More fresh basil could be nice too. A great weekend to all!
Fiesta Friday