Tag Archives: sweet potato

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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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!