Tag Archives: soup

Curried coconut lentil soup with flatbread

img_20180520_1157591Accra is pretty safe, we tell newcomers. Not like Juba or Jo’burg or other rougher places where friends live. I can Uber around town, or go shopping alone, and am generally more worried about malaria than mugging. We live in a nice gated compound, with 24 hour security, as recommended, and just got burglar bars installed on the kitchen side. Unemployment is high, and there has been more crime this year: cars held up at traffic lights, people mugged in daylight, a series of forex robberies and an increase in home invasions – quite a few of which have happened in the gated communities. I am happy the burglar bars are in place.

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Fortunately the only invasion we have had in the new apartment has been ants. They are hungry and tenacious (even dried chickpeas are not safe) and various dry goods have been unceremoniously chucked into the new deep freezer to kill off the invaders. More ant-proof containers are in place, and the kitchen shelves are dusted down with ant powder. All quiet on the ant front this week. Just in case, I am having a pantry challenge this month, using up stockpiled food in shelves and freezer, so it was time for curried lentil soup, which has been lunch everyday this week.

Curried coconut lentil soup

* 1 cup dried lentils (I used green lentils, rinsed and picked over)
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
* 3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
* 2 green bell peppers, diced
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tbs curry powder
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tsp salt
* pinch of red pepper flakes
* 1 tsp turmeric, if you have it
* 1 tin diced tomatoes (400 grammes)
* 1 tin coconut milk 400 grammes) – save a splash for a decorative swirl if you remember
* 1 litre vegetable stock (I used stock cubes)
* salt and pepper to taste
Optional: soak lentils for a couple hours first (just too save cooking time on a hot day).

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic and spices, and fry a couple more minutes. If you only have curry powder, that would be fine. Add tinned tomatoes, lentils, stock and coconut milk. Cook gently until lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so. (Longer is using dry lentils, maybe ten minutes of using tinned lentils.)

Note: Also might be nice in soup: fresh ginger, mustard seeds, coriander seeds: see what you have and what you like.

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Flatbreads for soup (made 4 small ones)
250 grammes flour
4 grammes fresh yeast (or 2 grammes dry yeast)
½ tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
175 ml water
1 tbs oil

To brush:
20 grammes melted butter
pinch of salt

Mix the dough, let it rise an hour or so. Heat the oven to 250C, with the baking sheet in the oven, Divide the dough in four and let it rest a few minutes, then roll out four naan. Bake on parchment paper on the hot baking sheet for five minutes or so, until golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

Enjoy with a mug of hot soup (browsing look at royal wedding dresses and hats optional).

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Pre-travel roast beetroot soup with quinoa

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Phew, third shower of the day and it’s only early afternoon….. Accra is getting stickier, about 32C and only 67% humidity, not really that bad. We hear Tamale (in the north) still has heavy harmattan, so we cannot really complain. This morning I’ve moved all my last things out of my friend’s storage room (boy’s quarters…. tiny), so my rented room is now a Jenga-like stack of kitchen tools, dismantled floor fans and suitcases.  I’m off to Rome for work next week, and had a plethora of vegetables in the fridge, so this roast beetroot soup with quinoa was concocted while schlepping bits of an office chair, a table top and legs, an increasingly rickety drying rack and more through the flat.

I have been flathunting in Accra with two colleagues, and we may now have found a nice flat. Discussions are still ongoing regarding burglar bars and lease agreement, but we are crossing our fingers for a move later this month. I gave away most of my moving boxes to friends last year so will be moving again in bags and baskets, and am just hoping that bed linens and clothes have not gotten too moldy since November. We shall see.

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Really, you could make some variation on this with most root vegetables…. This is just what I had to use up before traveling. I try to buy local produce here, and was vaguely thinking of a beetroot risotto with feta, but soup is what these beetroots ended up in. Most of the soup will end up in the freezer so I have lunch ready for a few days when I am back in Accra, which might also be our moving week. After three months living out of suitcases, it will be very nice to actually unpack again.

Roast beetroot soup with quinoa and red rice

1 kg peeled beets, quartered  (about 2 pounds)
1 large diced potato, quartered
3 carrots, peeled (mine were wizened but fine for soup)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 clove garlic, peeled but whole
1 tbs olive oil

4 stalks celery, diced (last of my precious post-Christmas UK celery)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbs olive oil

2 litres vegetable stock (here, from two stock cubes)
1/3 cup quinoa
1/3 cup red rice
2 tsp parsley
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat the oven to 220C. Line a baking sheet sheet with baking parchment or aluminum foil. Spread out the vegetables, drizzle over some olive oil and let the vegetables roast until soft when pierced with a sharp knife.  I left them in about 35 minutes, then turned off oven and left them in another 15 minutes or so.

In the meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a big saucepan, and gently fry the celery and bell peppers until soft. Then tip in the roast vegetables, 2 litres of vegetable stock and blend well with an immersion blender if you have one. Then add the quinoa and red rice (or plain rice, or lentils, whatever you feel like adding for a bit more body) and spices, and bring the soup to the boil. Cook until quinoa and rice are soft, 25 minutes or so. Taste and see if you want to add more spices, salt or pepper.

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It was very nice! Quite thick, good flavours and a little crunch from the quinoa. Maybe some feta on top as well? It was a generous pot of soup, so six portions are now cooling and destined for the freezer, and there is plenty left for this weekend as well. Enjoy your weekend!

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….
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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!

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