Split pea and sweet potato soup, and plastic recycling

grilled plantain Accra

Grilled plantain, in Cantonments, Accra. We were heading to the airport and traffic was slow. The eight kilometers to Kotoka Airport can take fifteen minutes, or an hour and a half, you never quite know.  But I’d had  this pea soup for lunch, tasty and filling, which helps maintain patience. Normally I’d make split yellow pea soup with salt ham, or salt pork knuckle and maybe leeks, in a more Nordic style. But this was more what we had in the house, and it was good.

Split yellow pea soup with sweet potatoes

Split yellow peas: 2 cups soaked and cooked the day before
2 sweet potatoes: sliced and roasted
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Fresh ginger: about 3 cm, peeled and chopped
One onion: peeled and chopped
2 tsp powdered turmeric
1 litre vegetable stock

Fry up onion, garlic, ginger. Add sliced, roasted sweet potatoes. If you did not have time to roast them (I had leftovers from another dish), just chuck them in the pan with the onions and and let them soften a  bit. Then I added the split yellow peas, mine were already cooked for lasagna a couple days earlier. (Again, if you do not have cooked split peas on hand, just use split peas that you have soaked for a few hours, to cut down on cooking time.) Add the stock, and cook 15 min or so – longer if using uncooked sweet potatoes and uncooked split peas. Then blended it all with an immersion blender to a thick soup. Add more liquid if like it looser. Good soup to eat from a mug  (we did that while watching the French series The Bureau, so far very good), along with a slice of freshly baked and buttered bread.

So non-photogenic, I should have added a sprig  of something or a token swirl of yogurt….

Accra often surprises me in good ways, like the cheerful garbage truck men. Here collecting from the bakery next door, which is very busy despite not being cheap. Fancy new cars line up to get breakfast, our street gets busy in the mornings. Many do burn rubbish  (I can smell some right now) and the Accra waste situation is challenging. There is a push by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to turn Accra into the cleanest city in the whole of Africa, we will see. At least Environment360 is doing inspirational work on recycling (mainly plastic) and education, which is great to see. Now I just need to get my plastic to a recycling point…..

Garbage truck Accra

There have been suggestions to ban plastic bags in Ghana, like Kenya recently did. It will come, I am sure. We bring cloth bags to the supermarket, to avoid coming home with eight yellow plastic Shoprite bags after each trip, though that is not so common here. We were told off only once for bringing our own bags (Marina Mall), but not since. Of course my carbon footprint is terrible (air travel), and I really should bring a fabric bag or paper bag to buy my eggs from the the corner shop (a sweet lady in a half-container shack) rather than as here, double-bagged in the thin black bags. Next time!



Preparing ertestuing (mushy peas) and pinnekjøtt


Many traditional Norwegian dishes may not be pretty, but most are very tasty. Today we had a Norwegian post-holiday dinner of pinnekjøtt: salted dried sheep ribs. Like dried salted cod for bacalao, but made with lamb ribs. These were also smoked. It’s a Western Norway Christmas dish, which has gotten quite popular in other parts of Norway as well. Still, I am quite sure we are the only people in Rome having this dinner tonight! I bought these in Norway in December, and these were also smoked. It’s hardy peasant food that keeps for ages, and is really tasty.  Pinnekjøtt translates to stick meat, as this should be steamed over birch sticks.

On the plate above: at six o’clock, pinnekjøtt. Then, potato,  surkål (like sauerkraut, but not fermented), and  mashed swede (kålrotstappe), to which I added a few carrots to make it milder. Finally, ertestuing (mushy peas) and in the centre, some lingonberry jam. All served with Norwegian juleøl (Christmas beer, carried back after the holidays) and Christmas akevitt. The akevitt went to Spain with us for Christmas, and we forgot to drink it, so it was high time to enjoy some. For dessert, I had made the NYT Lemon Bars With Olive Oil and Sea Salt. Very nice!

In case you fancy some salty rustic goodness, here is what to do.

Buy your packet or two of pinnekjøtt in your closest Norwegian supermarket, where it is usually available in December. Carry it it back with your Christmas presents, and spend the next month muttering over how it is taking most of  the space in the fridge. The  night before you will cook it, remember to soak the ribs in cold water overnight, changing water once (the packaging will tell you about this.) This rehydrates the meat and makes it less salty. Put the juleøl in the fridge to cool.

The next day: In a large pot, build a grid with your birch sticks by criss-crossing the sticks in the bottom of the pot, or use a metal steamer basket.


Fill the pot with water to the top, but not over the grid. Add the ribs and cover allowing the meat to steam for 2 – 3 hours on low heat. Add add water now and then so the pot does not go dry. I put something heavy on the lid to keep steam inside. When the meat falls off the bone, it is done. Popping them in the oven under the grill for five minutes or so just before serving will crisp the ribs up nicely.

In the interim, boil potatoes, prepare surkål and kålrotstappe, and ertestuing. Some of these are available in easily made packets, if you are in Norway. Being Rome, I made these mushy peas from scratch, which is actually quite easy.


Preparing ertestuing (mushy peas) for pinnekjøtt

500 grammes dried green peas (split peas will cook faster, if you can get them)
enough water to cover peas
2 tbs flour
200 ml milk
2-3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

These peas were split green peas, and not meant to need soaking, but I soaked them for some hours just in case. Drain off soaking water, and add enough water to cover the peas. Cook on low heat for an hour or so; a little more water might be needed. When the peas are getting soft, stir the flour into cold milk, and whisk this into the peas to thicken it slightly. Add salt and a little sugar to taste. It will thicken more as it stands.

If you have leftover pinnekjøtt, potatoes etc, this makes just amazing shepherds pie the next day.

Dessert was these NYT Lemon Bars With Olive Oil and Sea Salt. Highly recommended! Quite easy to make, a shortbread base with homemade lemon curd.

imageHelp in last-minute icing sugar sifting from the youngest guest.
Lemon bars

Easy peasy pasta e piselli

It had been raining all day, and I came home cold, tired and hungry. Rome does not deal well with heavy rain: drains get blocked, roads flood, transport becomes even more erratic, and the news is full of how many metres the Tevere (river) has risen. Very tempting to pop up the road for takeway pizza, but it was bucketing down. So pasta e piselli it was, pasta with peas, and we were eating within fifteen minutes. Simple and very tasty. Tinned peas is just fine here.

Pasta e piselli (pasta with peas)

200 grammes small pasta (I used ditalini)
One yellow onion
One tsp olive oil
One tin of peas, not drained
A quarter of vegetable stock cube
One tbs tomato paste
A little pepper
To serve, optional: grated parmesan

Get your pasta water boiling, and start your pasta. Small pasta is traditional for this. The dish is like pasta e ceci, very simple. In the interim, heat the olive oil. Chop the onion, and gently fry it for a few minutes until it softens. Tip in the tin of peas, without draining it. Crumble a quarter of a stock cube, and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Heat through for a couple minutes, I covered it with a lid while waiting for pasta. If you want the dish more liquid, just add a little of the starchy boiling pasta water.


Drain pasta when done (this ditalini took nine minutes), tip it back in the pan and toss it with the peas and onion. Grind a little black pepper over. Serve with grated parmesan (or skip it to make this a vegetarian dish).


Notes: Not pretty, but perfect comfort food on a rainy evening. When I get hungry, I get cranky fast….. But this was quick to make, and really satisfying and tasty; we had two bowls each. You could use frozen peas, or add mushrooms, garlic, or pancetta, or make it more soupy, depending on how you like it. This simple version was very nice indeed! Also, quite inexpensive, so we will get our pizza da portare via another night.

PS An excellent update on the rain here from “You Can Take The Girl Out Of Bradford” yesterday: When it rains in Rome. Part 2.