Italian seaside and ricotta tart with nectarines

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Off to Isola del Giglio for the annual beach holiday: lazy cappuccini at the bar, morning swim, lunch in the garden, relaxing in the shade, afternoon swim, apertivi and Aperol Spritz, and a great dinner with friends. Rinse and repeat: an excellent week of doing very little.

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Rome had been hot: not an African heat, as the papers claim, but warm enough to make sleeping difficult. A week of sleeping with sea breezes and waves (and the occasional Italian live bar music from across the bay) was perfect.Some nights we went out for dinner, some nights we cooked in: BBQ, pasta con vongole in seawater (one part seawater to four parts fresh water, we discovered last year that 1:2 was far too salty.) I really enjoyed being in a kitchen with a view and a cool breeze, not sweating in an Accra kitchen. One day I made ricotta tarts with nectarines, one gluten free tart and one regular, basically the same but one with gluten free pastry and gluten free flour.

Ricotta tarts with nectarines

One package of ready made puff pastry (pasta sfoglia)
450 gr fresh ricotta
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs flour
3-4 peaches, sliced into wedges

This was in an old gas-heated oven, which chars things from below so I did not blind-bake the pastry. Use pie dishes of about 24 cm, line with parchment paper if not included with bought pastry. Mix ricotta, whisked eggs, flour and sugar and pour into pastry shell. Add wedges of nectarines (or apricot halves, peaches, cherries: whatever you have.) Bake at 180-200C for 45 min or so, until filling is set. Cool and enjoy.

Note: I should have used electric grill to make the top a little golden – tasted great though.

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Ricotta, coffee and cocoa tart

Acra

The temperatures are creeping up in Accra, but I have been walking to work (a very sweaty couple of kilometers). There is always something new to see, like these rubbish bins. They appeared this summer, but now have sponsorship banners. I confess, I am dubious when I see  politicians promising to make Accra Africa’s cleanest city, but this is a step in the right direction.

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Coconut water on offer.

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Anyway, I had ricotta stashed in the fridge, and really needed to make room for a flatmate coming back with a brussel sprout stash for Thanksgiving. With a lunch invitation pending, I thought – aha! Time for a ricotta tart! I had bookmarked this Crostata with ricotta, coffee, and Sambuca from the always delightful Rowena at Rubber Slippers In Italy. She had made hers following the Casatella Terracinese from Polenta e Baccala, an excellent blog recommendation. This is a humble homage to them both, without the anise liqueur that should be included. I only had amaro,  and I was not sure how that would go with cocoa. The cocoa powder was Ghanaian, and excellent quality. Bake this the day before serving, if you have time.

Ricotta, coffee and cocoa tart
Pasta frolla base: I had shop-bought sweet shortcrust pastry crust from Rome, or try this one from Polenta e Baccala.

For the filling:
500 g ricotta
150 g white sugar
2 eggs
50 ml strong black coffee
1.5 tbs cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coffee

Whisk eggs and sugar, stir in cold coffee, cinnamon, cocoa and coffee, until smooth.

Roll out your pastry: I had a 26 cm pie dish, and keep a little aside for lattice stripes on top. My commercial pasta frolla was in baking parchment, very easy to roll out into the pie dish. Otherwise roll it out carefully and pour in filling. It will rise while baking. Add some decorative pastry lattice stripes. Bake at 180C for  40 minutes, on the lower part of   your oven. Cool tart overnight, and serve with  dusting of icing sugar (this also helps hide shoddy pastry lattice).

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The tart wilted quickly in the humid Accra heat, so the icing sugar dusting is vanishing, but it was very good. Please do try the original recipe for Casatella Terracinese at Polenta e Baccala. I will definitely make that one day, with anise liqeuer.

Spaghetti with zucchini, ricotta and chicken sausage

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Thanks to travelling, I had zucchini again. They can be found in Accra, but as those were imported and cost 17 cedi each (USD 3.45), they are just too expensive for me. This was an impromptu dinner, a cross between pasta con ricotta e salsiccia and spaghetti tossed with fried zucchini, garlic and cheese. A friend had chicken sausage, so we added that and hey presto, dinner!

Spaghetti with zucchini, ricotta and chicken sausage

300 gr spaghetti
2 tbs good olive oil
3-4 chicken sausages  (or other meaty sausage you like)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 zucchini, sliced into medallions  (not too thick)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of chili flakes

to serve:
250 gr ricotta

Boil the pasta in salted water. In a large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the sausages. I like to squeeze the meat out of the sausage casings, into bite-sized pieces. The chicken sausage was not very greasy so I added olive oil. Add chopped garlic. Once the sausage starts to be cooked through, add the sliced zucchini to the pan and continue to fry until they are cooked through. Add a little salt and pepper, and some chilli flakes. If you have some leftover wine, a splash would be nice.

Drain the pasta, keeping a little cooking water, then put it back in the pot off the heat. Spoon in ricotta, and stir through the zucchini and sausage. Add a little starchy pasta cooking water if it looks dry. Serve with grated pasta.

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And from Accra: the ex-Ghana Airways plane which is now a restaurant was painted white over the summer.

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