Calamari and potato stew

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Working with home is busier than expected, not the long days with leisurely lunches I had imagined. I go from online meeting to spreadsheets to next online meeting, and often it is my husband doing the cooking on weekdays. But this time I stepped up. Our veg box arrived from L’Alveare, along with eggs, rabbit and calamari, and the next day I dug out a wine-stained recipe for Ligurian stew with seppie (cuttlefish) and potatoes. This is very simple, but needs a bit of time, so it is perfect to assemble and leave simmering while you have a Zoom drink with a friend.

Getting a five kilo veg box is interesting, and so far it has been fun to work out what to cook. It’s all from within 50-70 km of Rome. We had fresh fava beans, carrots, salad, green tomatoes, and lots of fennel. We made pickled fennel and fennel pasta bake with lemony breadcrumbs, both which were delicious. Now we have cicoria, brocoletti and spinach jostling for space in the veg drawer, along with Roman zucchini, so maybe a green spring risotto will appear in the next days. Maybe also zucchine a scapece, fried zucchini slices dressed in oil, vinegar, garlic and mint? So many possibilities! It’s a little overwhelming after four years in Ghana with more limited vegetable options. It’s also so nice to have access to all my cookbooks. Like old T-shirts: if I do not use them now, I never will, so it’s time to use them or pass them on.

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The original recipe calls for seppie, but I used calamari, with more potatoes, and it was lovely. This is for two people, with a little left for lunch the next day.

Calamari and potato stew

500 gr calamari, cleaned
500 gr potatoes, peeled
4 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic
parsley
generous pinch of dried chili flakes
small glass of dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt

If you have a cast iron pot, use that — something with a heavy lid is best, or a very tight-fitting lid. Heat the oil, and gently fry garlic and chili flakes (or chopped fresh chili , if you have it).  Slice calamari into strips and add to pan with parsley (dry, or fresh chopped). Pour in white wine, cook on low heat for 25 min or so. I enjoyed more of the white wine on a call with a friend in Chicago.  Now, chop the peeled potatoes and add them to the pot, keeping the heavy lid on – you do not want the steam to escape. Relax while the stew continues to simmer with lid on for another 20-25 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked but not falling apart. You might need a little stock or wine if it looks dry, this did not need extra liquid. Salt and serve.

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Not quite a seaside lunch at Fiumicino, but it was really good! I really appreciate being safe in Rome, and hope that phase 2 of our lockdown here goes well.  There may be a second wave of infections following the partial lifting of restrictions. There have definitely been a lot more people out since Easter but most Romans have been incredibly disciplined. We have no family here, and cannot see friends yet, so thank goodness for good Internet. It’s a tough time for many small businesses, and we do not know what the summer will bring. I am crossing fingers for continued calm and safe days for all.

Shrimp risotto in Norway

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From a small island in Tuscany to a small island in Norway: Utsira, well known for listeners of the BBC Shipping Forecast. We are here for a family holiday, a nice respite from the heat of Rome with rain and wind and some very nice days. It is a small island, great for birdwatching and with about 200 residents. Lovely trails to walk, though very wet this week.

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Nordvikvågen, the north end where you can see the ferry has arrived. Excellent connections to Haugesund. Lots of tourist information here, in several languages. Utsira has lots of interesting street art as well, and people are very nice. Highly recommended.

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Anyway, we’d had some excellent fresh sjøkreps for lunch, bought at the very well-stocked grocery store in the south end of the island. These are also called scampi, Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn or langoustine. We volunteered to make risotto for dinner, using the sjøkreps shells to make stock. My parents wanted some shrimp in as well, so I peeled those and threw the heads in the stock pot as well, with a little celery. It simmered for an hour so, then I sieved it through kitchen roll to get the grit out. Just use fish stock if that is easier (I buy fish stock cubes when I am in Norway).

Shrimp risotto for a rainy day

Knob of butter (I made do with rapeseed oil)
One onion, peeled and finely chopped
Three sticks of celery, finely chopped
One cup of risotto rice (I had brought Vialone Nano)
Half a glass of white wine
One litre of seafood stock, just on the boil
Chopped celery leaves
Chopped chives, a generous handful
A cup of peeled shrimp
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of dried chili

Have two pots ready, one to make the risotto in and one for to keep the stock just on the boil. Melt the butter in pot #2, add onion and celery and cook a couple minutes. Add dry rice and let it toast gently with the onion and celery. Add wine. Keep stirring gently. Now start ladling in the hot stock, one ladle at a time. Once that has been absorbed, add another ladle: keep going for 20-25 minutes. Risotto is not complicated, it just takes patience and attention, and a lot of stirring. Nice to do in a holiday kitchen with the windows getting steamy, rain beating against the window and English football on the radio (for my husband).

You’ll be able to feel the rice getting to the right consistency, not too soft but not al dente either. Add the chopped celery leaves and chives, and when it is almost done stir in the shrimp and taste: does it need salt and pepper? Serve and enjoy.

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Sunday linguine with shrimp

An Italian friend was visiting Accra, and offered to come over and cook Sunday lunch. It was delicious! He had bought the shrimp that morning at the fish market in Jamestown. I am counting down to Italian summer holidays by the sea, so this was perfect. I do moan about the lack of fresh seafood in Accra, being on the coast and in Gulf of Guinea as we are, but it does exist: getting fresh shrimp just takes a bit of detective work and effort.

Sunday linguine with shrimp

50 ml olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of chili flakes
1 kg fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
7 or 8 medium plum tomatoes, diced

Pinch of salt
500 grammes dry linguine

To serve: Small handful chopped fresh parsley

Put the pasta water on and start the pasta. Heat the olive oil and sauté the chopped garlic. Tip in the diced tomatoes. Finally, let the shrimp cook gently in the tomato sauce for just a few minutes. Toss sauce and linguine, and serve at once, with a bit of fresh parsley and cold white wine.


Note: the tomatoes seem to have vanished into the pasta, but it was delicious!