Tag Archives: sweet potato

Power cuts, and sweet potato stew with cowpeas and dawadawa

20170218_131805.jpg
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.

20170218_163021.jpg

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!

20170218_180444.jpg

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.

wp-1479558829747.jpg

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.

wp-1468178532360.jpg

Not so Pinterest-worthy but tasty!

Sweet potato soup with ginger, coconut milk and yellow lentils

wp-1477223605486.jpg

A new investment in Accra was our slow cooker. Nothing fancy, but it is perfect for hot days (which is most of the year). We like to cook from scratch, and have made ragu for polenta, chickpea curry, lots of soup, Moroccan stews…. On Sundays I usually make yoghurt for the next week, and some sort of slow cooker dish so lunch is sorted for the next few days. We like to cook from scratch, and have made ragu for polenta, chickpea curry, lots of soup, Moroccan stews….  This time, the sweet potatoes looked good, we had fresh ginger, so soup it was.

Sweet potato soup with ginger, coconut milk and yellow lentils, made in slow cooker

  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground lemongrass (optional)
  • 3 inches fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1.2 kilo or so of sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 140 grammes yellow lentils
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 4 tbs coconut milk powder + 200 ml water (or half a can of coconut milk)
  • Salt to taste  (1 tsp for me)

Sunday morning: soak the lentils in a cup of water, and go back to bed to listen to the Kermode/Mayo film podcast on BBC. Yes, these split yellow lentils should not need soaking, but these lentils do — possibly old? Yours might not.

Later that morning: In a frying pan, heat the oil and gently cook the onion, cumin, coriander, lemongrass and ginger, until the onion is softened. Peel the sweet potato – I had one very large one. Ask your husband to chop the sweet potato, which he does without complaint. This is the white-fleshed kind.

I have a slow cooker, which I love, so I tossed it all in there: sweet potatoes, stock, onions and spices, and slightly soaked lentils. Cook on high for 4 hours or so, until the lentils and sweet potato have softened.. If you do not have a slow cooker, this can easily be done on the stovetop in a covered pot (maybe 45 minutes or so?) Take out a cup or so of cubed sweet potato and keep it aside for texture. With an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. At this stage, I added salt and decided to add some coconut milk, as it was a bit thick but needed more flavour. Add the cubed sweet potato back to the pot.

wp-1477236782193.jpg

Enjoy!