Sweet potato soup with ginger, coconut milk and yellow lentils

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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.

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Enjoy!

 

 

Making sweet potato pizza

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While many of you are struggling with snow (I hope you are OK over there), here in Accra it is still 32-33 degrees C. The harmattan with its dry dusty wind is ending, and humidity is creeping up steadily. Electricity is still an issue: we had a 59% price hike in the cost of electricity in December, which actually became a 69% increase as they added on 10% extra for infrastructure improvements, like street lights (those are not yet observed much in our area). So turning the oven on is actually quite expensive, the metre drops 15 cedis or so (about 4 USD) even if the oven is  not on long. Still, it is worth it for my husband’s Friday night pizza!

We have a short holiday coming coming up, and need to pre-load the electricity credit so the fridge stays on while we are away. We had better go top up the meter card again; at least we can afford it. The increased costs are tough for many here, and the unions were out demonstrating last week about the increased utility prices (also gas and fun have gone up), so prices are going up noticeably for food, transport and such.

Anyway, back to pizza…….. I had bought some sweet potatoes, which are nice but not the yellow kind I expected. These are white, and turn grey when sliced. My husband made his usual slow-rising pizza dough, which is accelerated in the heat here. From a previous pizza post:

Pizza dough  (Bonci style)

This is a Gabriele Bonci dough recipe, his pizza is amazing! See video here on how he handles the dough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKotvbfWdU4   It is in Italian, but just look at his technique and that beautiful dough.

500 grammes plain wheat flour (we used strong bread flour, though 0 is recommended)
20 grammes olive oil
3.5 grammes dry yeast
350 grammes water

Later: 10 grammes salt.
2-3 tbs oil, to oil the baking parchment

Mix, leave for an hour, then add salt. Leave dough to rise 6-7 hours at room temperature (Accra 32C, leave it longer if your kitchen is cold). You can also leave it overnight in the fridge, 24 hours there is recommended. It will rise and become wonderfully gloopy and elastic. It needs to be handled carefully, to keep the air bubbles in the dough. No rolling pins here. My husband uses oiled baking parchment, pre-heats the oven tray and slides the dough over using the parchment. The dough is just poured out, then eased out using fingers to stretch into a rectangle. You want to keep the air bubbles, so gentle is the way to go.

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Making pizza with sweet potato topping:
A few fresh tomatoes, chopped
Enough grated cheese to cover the pizza lightly
One onion, sliced thinly
One large sweet potato, sliced and boiled
To serve: chopped chives

I boiled the sweet potato slices first, as they were very hard. In the interim, a few tomatoes were chopped and scattered over dough for moisture. When you have the dough stretched out: top with sweet potato slices and grated cheese. We have sad plastic cheese here, and it is so expensive! 20-28 cedis for 200 grammes of tasteless “cheddar” (4-5 USD). We tried the plastic mozzarella found at Shoprite, which is cheese, of sorts, and OK for pizza. (Yes, over-privileged foreigner right here….) Then bake at 250C until done (8-12 minutes? Depends on your oven) and enjoy! It was actually quite nice, especially with fresh chives sprinkled on top.

sweet potato pizza

The cheese situation may have room for improvement, but we figure we might as well explore what’s available locally, and enjoy some of that while we are here. Lots of yam, plantains, okra, stews, and porridges, and lovely fruit, so I’ll try not to complain too much!

Sweet potato brownies with chestnut flour

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Between visitors, a quick trip to Norway and fighting a cold, my vegetable drawer has been neglected. Time to stock up on pumpkin and chestnuts, leeks and potatoes, and to use up my last two sweet potatoes. Fiesta Friday was passing me by, but how could I miss the big birthday shebang? Happy birthday Angie at The Novice Gardener! So I made these brownies today, dark and sticky, in honour of her birthday fiesta.

Sweet potato brownies with chestnut flour

250 grammes mashed and cooled sweet potato (1-2 medium sweet potatoes)
3 eggs
1 tbs honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs sunflower oil

80 grammes chestnut flour
3 tbs cocoa powder (for baking)
1 tsp baking powder

65 grammes dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
25 grammes butterscotch bits, optional
1/2 tsp vanilla salt (or plain salt)

For serving: icing sugar for dusting, optional

Whisk the eggs, then add honey, oil and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients, then add chopped chocolate, salt and butterscotch bits, if using them. Do not overmix. Line a small baking tray (20×30 cm) with baking parchment. Bake at 180C for 25 minutes, until dry on top but still squidgy inside. Cool, and dust with a little icing sugar before serving.

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Notes: If you do not have leftover sweet potato, cook your sweet potato (oven, microwave or steamed on stovetop). I peeled and steamed these, then mashed them. I was aiming for a very dark kladdkaka texture, the gooey Swedish chocolate cake. It is not very sweet. You might want this sweeter, just add more honey or sugar for that. I had some chestnut flour, so used that, but plain flour would work too. I might try this again with a little chili pepper, or black pepper. Very nice with a cup of tea and last week’s Downton Abbey. Happy FF39 to all!

Fiesta Friday