Tag Archives: slow cooker

Power cuts, and sweet potato stew with cowpeas and dawadawa

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Yesterday morning at six, we woke to a power cut. Not unusual, there have been power cuts on and off all week. After ten minutes, the power came back — the compound generator — but then electrical items started to spark and pop. And smoke. The landlord blames a power surge from ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana), but we think it was a generator switch issue, since the generator was on by then and we should have been off-grid. Oh well. Internet router burner out, USB charger burnt out, converters gone. We are making do with borrowed bit and interim Internet, it could have been worse. Fortunately we have surge protectors for most items.

Thank goodness we do have a generator! The power has been out in parts of Accra since yesterday morning: 39 hours and still counting. Our generator is running low in fuel, a neighbour just said, so best to cook early just in case.

Plenty of people complaining on Twitter. No electricity means no running water, no fans against mosquitos, no phone charging, food spoiling. And now there is a storm with heavy rain. Good weather to write about sweet potato stew, though!

Dawadawa is fermented locusts bean, used in West African cuisine, with many reported benefits. It smells like fish sauce, quite pungent, and I used it instead of a stock cube. Interesting flavour. I was making a sweet potato stew, with black chickpeas and cowpeas. However, as I peeled the sweet potato, it was clear there would be far less sweet potato than expected, due to the many  little worms the peeling revealed. Sorry if you this make you squeamish, this is such non-Pinterest friendly cooking! I was not going to throw this all away. I am not throwing away food, and most of this could be salvaged. There is famine  in South Sudan. I just cut off the wormy bits, to keep this vegetarian. I was going to use peanut butter, but as mine had sugar in it I swapped to cashew butter at the last minute. There are some delicious groundnut soups here, this is just bit lighter.

Sweet potato, cowpea and cashew butter soup

1 tbs sunflower oil
200 grammes unsweetened cashew nut paste (or peanut butter)
1 large onion, peeled
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbs tomato paste
1 litre water
1 tsp dawadawa (or a stock cube)
750  grammes of sweet potato, peeled
500 grammes cooked cowpeas and black chickpeas (whatever you have of pulses)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat cashew nut paste gently for a few minutes. About a cup is fine, I was just emptying a jar. Make sure it does not burn., stir now and then. The nut paste will become more liquid, and will release oil. In the interim, chop your onion, garlic, and ginger. Add this to the warm nut paste, with spices and tomato paste. Then I moved this to my slow cooker, with a litre of hot water, and cooked it for a couple hours on high. Not so much that the sweet potato went soft. At the end, I added the cooked cowpeas and black chickpeas, salt and pepper.

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It was nice! We had it as is one day, and with mograbieh (giant Lebanese couscous) and cheese the next day. And four portions went in the freezer, as backup for our vegetarian friend. Or lunch for me!

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Sweet potato and lentil soup

Accra fruit and veg

While we always come back to Accra with suitcases stuffed with food hard to find here, there are lots of wonderful food items here too. Cassava, mango, pineapple, red onions, avocado, eggplant and green bell peppers, and  yes – sweet potato. On Sundays I’ll often make soup for next week’s lunches. In Rome it was fridgestrone – whatever vegetables needed using up at the end of the week. Here in Accra, sweet potatoes are often the base, with onions, some pulses,  and various spices, all simmering in the slow cooker.

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Sweet potato and lentil soup

3 onions
6 cloves of garlic
3 tsp fennel seeds
9 cm fresh ginger, peeled
2 tbs oil
1.5 litre vegetable stock
1 kilo sweet potato, diced
200 grammes red lentils
4 tbs coconut milk powder
salt, pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a frying on. Peel and hope the onions, and fry them gently for a few minutes. Add fennel seeds. Chop the fresh ginger coarsely, and add to the frying pan for a few minutes more.

Meanwhile, peel, then coarsely chop the sweet potatoes. I use a hand blender to finish the soup after cooking, so was not too worried about chopping evenly. Put the sweet potatoes in the slow cooker, with vegetable stock, onion/ginger/fennel seeds, and the red lentils. I had soaked the red lentils for a couple hours first, totally optional. Cook in slow cooker on high for a few hours, or in a stovetop pot if you prefer (maybe 45 minutes). When the sweet potatoes and lentils are soft, blend until smooth using a stick blender. Stir in the coconut milk powder (or coconut milk if you have that). Check the seasoning and serve.

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Not so Pinterest-worthy but tasty!

Neighbours, and chicken curry with pineapple and coconut milk

wp-1479558855684.jpgOur balcony overlooks the neighbouring garden, which belongs to a bakery. There is always something going on: laundry to hang out, feeding time for the dogs (doghouse on left), amazing smells of cakes or chicken roasting, or like this Saturday, palm tree pruning. A small brown puppy gets let out now and then, otherwise we never see the dogs. There is often a radio playing music, which we hear faintly, and people chatting while working under trees on the right. Some days we hear the thwack-thwack of chicken being chopped, probably for their jollof rice takeaways. Very tasty.

Accra neighboursAnother day they pruned the big tree on the left, which really opened up the view to the next lot. We’d heard the low house on the left is boy’s quarters, which our compound does not have: living quarters for household staff. We could always hear music, chickens, kids playing and people talking there, but now we suddenly see them. Most have very tidy yards. Days like today, I’ll be hanging out laundry, as the lady in the yellow skirt does next door. She seems to like to sit in her front step, as I do on the balcony until it gets too hot. It’s already 32C mid-morning in the shade, we can feel the hot season approaching. It is a little odd, living in a compound with electrical fences and a pool and privileged comfort, when you see your neighbours managing with very little. They have tap water, but that may not be safe to drink. Many in Ghana still lack access to potable water, and the most prevalent water-borne diseases here are typhoid, cholera and dysentery. There is a cholera outbreak in Cape Coast now, though no deaths yet, thank goodness.

Another neighbour just popped by. We are having a small BBQ tomorrow with neighbours on this side of the fence, and he dropped off sliced beef from his Lebanese butcher so we can prepare it for tomorrow. “Wash it, layer it with sliced onions, garlic and vinegar, and leave it overnight to rest.” We shall do as instructed. I’m making risgrøt for tonight (Norwegian rice porridge) so we can bring riskrem as dessert for the BBQ, made with cold rice porridge mixed with whipped cream, served with red currant sauce. I’ll try making it in the slow cooker, to avoid dissolving in a sweaty heap while stirring it on the stovetop for 40-50 minutes. I’ll never complain about Ferragosto heat in Rome again!

Speaking of slow cookers, here is a tasty (though not so photogenic) recent dinner. We love the slow cooker — it is perfect in the heat, and hopefully more energy efficient than stovetop cooking.

Slow cooker coconut chicken curry with pineapple

2 medium chicken breasts
One onion, peeled
Four cloves garlic, peeled
a small knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (or use powdered ginger)
4 small peppers (we used local green peppers as red/yellow ones are too expensive here, otherwise I’d use red)
A tin of coconut milk (we used coconut milk powder and mixed it up, 350 ml or so)
About 300 ml of stock
5 tsp medium curry powder, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp chili flakes

Cooked rice to serve with it

Chop your chicken, and fry it lightly in a frying pan. (Probably not needed, but for hygiene reasons I wanted to make sure the chicken was well-cooked.) Put chicken, onion, garlic and ginger in the slow cooker. Pout in stock and coconut milk, and cook on high for 2-3 hours. If it looks very wet, a little desiccated coconut can help firm up the curry. Taste and add salt, pepper and more curry powder if it’s a bit bland. We added chili flakes as well at the end, to give it it a bit more kick. Flavours are deeper the next day.

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