Tag Archives: salad

Househunting, and harmattan orzo salad with tuna, celery and black beans

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Yes, it’s another grain + tuna + veg + pulse salad — last week’s farro salad leftovers were three lunches for me, very convenient. I was lucky to find a rented room for two months with super nice colleagues, but they are moving house within Accra sometime in February.  However, they may very kindly take me with them, so I am doing my best to be a considerate flatmate in my old age, and we have started househunting together. Interesting to see how the market has changed since I arrived in 2015: more places available, but many are still rather expensive: 2500 – 4500 USD for three bedrooms, sometimes unfurnished. We shall see.

All my kitchenware is packed away in bags in a spare room, so I am very lucky also to have access to a well-equipped kitchen here. Thinking of another sweaty move across Accra soon, there is definitely a need to use up any heavy tins, which is usually not a factor in my mealplanning. Another year in Accra was not foreseen, and being apart from my husband is very hard, so it is extremely tempting to sink into despondency and the stash of post-Christmas chocolate. To keep morale up, I am trying to eat properly and exercise a bit, and see friends, so this repeat salad is a small step in that direction.

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Ah, harmattan: dusty dry weeks in Accra. There has been sun and increasing humidity the last days, so maybe harmattan is ending early this year.

Harmattan orzo salad with tuna, celery and black beans
Orzo (pearl barley): about 1.5 cups  (soaked one hour)
One tin black beans, drained and rinsed (or lentils, other beans or chickpeas)
2 small tins tuna in olive oil
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 small green bellpeppers (produce of Ghana)
Half an onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

I soaked the orzo for a an hour, covered with water room temperature, then boiled it 15 minutes or so.  We have drinking water delivered in handy 19.5 litre containers, but I have gotten more relaxed about using tap water for cooking. The most common water-borne diseases in Ghana are typhoid, cholera and dysentery….. but [touch wood] so far it seems to be OK for cooking as long as water boils at least ten minutes.  

Cook the soaked orzo in salted water (like you would cook pasta) until it is al dente but not not crunchy, 15 minutes or so. The packet said 25 minutes when unsoaked. You could use other grains for this as well, or rice.  It will be softer than boiled farro. Drain off cooking water. While still warm, crumble over the tuna. Here I added in the olive oil in the tuna tins, as it was decent quality, otherwise if you are using tuna in water or blander sunflower oil, you might want to drain the tuna first and add a couple tablespoons of good olive oil with the tuna to the warm grains. Add in drained beans and chopped veg. Salt and pepper to taste.

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I’ve been reading UK food magazines from Christmas holidays today, and taking notes for what I could make with what we can access easily here. Sweet potato curry, lentil soups, falafel wraps, spinach fritatta……  The Guardian has also had some great vegan recipes this month, to be explored.  Enjoy your weekend!

 

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New year, new kitchen: farro salad with borlotti beans, tuna and celery

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Happy New Year! After a month in Rome, then Christmas holidays, I am back in Accra. Hazy and dry here, with the harmattan (a trade wind) cloaking the city in dust. Here, Oxford Street. The skies are hazy and humidity is low. The move to Rome is not happening yet, and I am back alone for now, which has been miserable. With nowhere to live, and temporary accommodation so expensive here, at least I was fortunate to have found a rented room for two months. (The office here was not expecting me back either, I had no desk when I came back….) So this week after work I’ve been sorting out basics: food, sheets, and trying to get into a less demoralized mindset. It is really hard with my husband back in Europe, due to upcoming work for him, as we thought we’d both be back. Whatsapp helps, even on on intermittent wifi. Last night he made pizza in London, and I made farro salad with borlotti beans, tuna and celery.
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And I thought my old kitchen had terrible lighting…….

It’s actually a pretty decent kitchen in the new flat, despite the small marauding ants, and I have stuffed my fridge shelf with food brought along post-Christmas: Norwegian caviar tubes, apple jelly and goat cheese; English butter and cheddar (hence the half-eaten quesadilla in photo); a wedge of Christmas cake from my mother-in-law. I also had some Italian tins stashed away, hence this salad. Farro is an old kind of wheat, quite chewy after cooking, and nice in salads. I do not like cooking just for myself, but cannot live on instant soup the next two months either…. This is more assembly than cooking, really.

Farro salad with borlotti beans, tuna and celery
Farro: about 1.5 cups  (soaked four hours)
One tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
2 small tins tuna in olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
Half an onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

I soaked the farro for a few hours, covered with water in the fridge; it is not really necessary, but as there is a gas cooker here and I am not sure how much gas is left in the canister, soaking saves a bit of cooking time. This will also be lunch for a couple days this week.

Cook the soaked farro in salted water (like you would cook pasta) until it is al dente but not not crunchy, maybe 20 minutes or so? You could use other grains for this as well, or rice.  Drain off cooking water. While still warm, crumble over the tuna. Here I added in the olive oil in the tuna tins, as it was decent quality, otherwise if you are using tuna in water or blander sunflower oil you might want to drain the tuna first and add a couple tablespoons of good olive oil with the tuna to the warm farro.

Separately, drain and rinse the tin of beans, and chop up half an onion and the celery (here: Waitrose essentials celery, carefully brought from London…). Once the farro has cooled a bit, toss it all together and add some salt and pepper if you think it needs some. It will keep nicely in the fridge for a few days. I may add some feta or halloumi to liven it up for a later lunch.

And now I had better post this before the seventh wifi crash of the morning!
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PS yes, there is probably a solution for improving the wifi connection here, otherwise I will go get a data bundle and a mifi device. Thank goodness for  downloaded podcasts and ebooks.

Quinoa salad with chopped veg and grilled halloumi

Quinoa

Happy New Year to all! It is lovely to be home in Rome again, recovering from holiday food and enjoying actual daylight again. Norway in December is very dark….. So, home again but what to cook? I found myself craving something light, vegetarian and crunchy, and thought of the Food52 article advocating A Grain, A Green, A Bean as a basic formula, recommended reading! So I improvised this from what was in the fridge last night, andit was very nice indeed.

Quinoa salad with chopped veg and grilled halloumi

215 grammes quinoa
2 small green bell peppers
A large stalk of celery
Handful fresh parsley
1 red onion
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
50 grammes blanched almonds
250 grammes halloumi
Salt and pepper
Optional: drizzle of balsamic vinegar syrup

quinoa with halloumi

The ratio for cooking this quinoa was roughly 1:2 for quinoa: water volume, 10-15 minutes. So start by measuring out quinoa, then double that volume of water. (This amount was rather arbitrary, it was the content of the small glass jar in which the quinoa was stored, but the amount worked well.) Bring the water to the boil, then add the quinoa and leave to cook until it is fluffy and the water is absorbed.

chopped veg

In the meanwhile, chop whatever vegetables you want to add in. I added mine raw, though roast veg could be nice too. After the holidays I just fancied something fresh and crunchy. Dice bell peppers, onion, celery, parsley. Drain and rinse the tinned beans (those were cooked). I added almonds for extra texture, and chopped those coarsely as well.

By now the quinoa was getting fluffy, but needed a few more minutes. And we had halloumi in the house! it is quite hard to find in Rome, but is so squeakingly satisfying in a salad. So I chopped the precious block of halloumi into wedges, and fried them quickly in a hot dry frying pan until they were a nice golden brown. We chopped those up to top the salad.

Quinoa with veg

Spoon the cooked quinoa (still warm) into a large bowl, and stir in all the waiting ingredients: bell peppers, onion, celery, parsley, beans, and almonds. Taste: this was nice, but was still missing something, so we added more salt and pepper and tasted again. Still not quite right, so we drizzled some balsamic vinegar glaze on, which brought the flavours nicely together. Top with grilled halloumi, and enjoy!

quinoa with halloumi and balsamico

Also excellent the next day for lunch! Anyone else have a good impromptu dish to recommend?