Making tomato sauce

imageFresh tomatoes from Agbogbloshie Market: the supermarkets here seemed to have a lot of Dutch tomatoes, so I was so happy to go to the market and see a better selection of local tomatoes. Passata is expensive, and the pre-made pasta sauces seem to be oddly flavoured, so time to make some basic tomato sauce for pasta and pizza. Agbogbloshie is better known as the digital dumping ground in Accra, but there is also a older large fresh produce market there.

After washing the tomatoes well, I chopped them up, slow-cooked them with onions, a bit of garlic, and salt and pepper. The tomatoes should have been soaked in disinfectant first, as the tap water is not clean here (cholera, typhoid….), but I figured a couple hours of slow cooking would help.


Voila!I was thinking of Rachel Roddy’s tomato sauce and the plan was to make a smoother tomato sauce like passata, but when almost all of your kitchen tools are in transit, including the food mill, funnel and storage containers, one improvises.  This became a slow-cooked, very tasty (though unblended) tomato sauce, ladled up with an espresso cup into little water bottles for freezing. All set for pizza or pasta.

image We are lucky to have a proper kitchen here, and this move to Ghana is certainly teaching us to be more selective about what we need. The selection of kitchen tools in shops is better than expected, though anything imported is expensive. While waiting for our small set of boxes from Rome, we bought pots, pans, plates, a chopping board, and three kitchen knives. It will be nice to have the food mill, a kettle, the Norwegian waffle iron from my mother (a little luxury!), and I miss baking, but we are managing fine. Cooking again makes it feel more like home.


Improvised aubergine and almond rigatoni

Living in Rome, you might think we stroll to the market in the morning, lovingly selecting the perfect vegetables for dinner. Well, that is often true on the weekend, but weekdays I swing by the Egyptian fruttivendolo on my way home, and buy something from the cheaper section outside. One euro a kilo, slightly battered: last time I bought aubergines, to make Nigel Slater’s Grilled Eggplant with Creamed Feta. Delicious! We oven-roasted the aubergines, grilled would have been even better. Great with the feta and yoghurt. But we had lots of roasted aubergines left the next day, so what to do with it? Roll it with ricotta, bake it with cheese, hmmmm? There were also some wrinky cherry tomatoes lurking in the fridge, and I fancied pasta, so I tossed in some almonds and hoped for the best.

This is my humble Fiesta Friday 35 offering this week: a humble weeknight pasta dish, but quick to make, and tasty enough to serve friends. Thanks as always to our hosts: this week, Angie, Prudy and Naina. I already have my eye on those tasty apples pies, mmmmmm…..

Improvised aubergine and almond rigatoni
One red onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
250 grammes cherry tomatoes
400 grammes leftover sliced roast aubergines
50 grammed unblanched almonds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
400 grammes rigatoni, or pasta of your choice
Optional: grated parmesan, and basil to garnish

Put your water for pasta on the boil, and cook pasta while you prep the sauce. In another pot or pan, gently fry the chopped onion in the olive oil until it softens. Halve the cherry tomatoes, then tip them in with the onion and let them cook for a few minutes.

In the meanwhile, using a food processor (or excellent knife skills), roughly chop the almonds. Add the slices of roast aubergine to the food processor with the almonds, and chop roughly. Now, tip in the tomatoes and onion, and process until it is smoother but not enturely homogenous. You should still feel the slightly gritty almond buts. Add salt and pepper to taste. It may not look pretty, but see how you like the flavours..


Drain pasta, ladle sauce over, and enjoy! Add parmesan if you like (we do) and basil leaf for garnish if you have some.


Notes: I had seen a recipe for aubergine walnut pasta, with hard boiled egg yolks and tomato sauce, but was too hungry to boil eggs as well. I would have added sage, but the sage on our balcony died in the August heat and has not yet been replaced. With in-laws arriving in two weeks, reviving the balcony boxes is a project for this weekend. That, making sure we have enough tea bags to make endless cups of builder’s tea, and scrubbing the kitchen. “They will not mind!” says my husband, but I do. You could make this with less tomatoes and add olive oil, but we wanted to keep this light. More fresh basil could be nice too. A great weekend to all!
Fiesta Friday

Caprese salad, with summer on the wane


Today I saw the first pumpkin in the fruit and veg shop, a definite sign that summer is on the wane. Not that you would know from the weather, it was 28C again today and a slightly sticky walk back from the metro. Schools are starting up, and shops are re- opening after the summer holidays, including the pasta shop downstairs, finally open again. I do fancy pasta, but I was too hot to contemplate cooking anything, so a caprese it would be. Getting tomatoes, I saw the orange pumpkin wedges in plastic bags, next to the till and the vertiginous piles of fresh grapes. Zucca! Pumpkin, already!

Here I have been thrilled about the temperature dropping a bit, though you can still go out without a jacket. The nights are cooler, which is blissful, and suddenly the buses (still iregular) are busy again. Still, I am not sure I am ready for the Roman summer to be over just yet, I want a few more enjoyable weeks of sun and wearing pastels and eating watermelon. Seeing the pumpkin wedges reminded me of autumn, of spicy soups, of needing to wear socks again. No, definitely not ready for that after months in sandals. Autumn means there will be rain, and more bus strikes, as well as being time for the long, argumentative, mosquito-ridden meeting of our building’s tenants. No, a little more summer tranquility would be much more preferable.

By now I was hot, but home. Time for a quick cold shower, while my lovely husband assembled a caprese salad. Isn’t that pretty? No recipe needed: just a few fresh tomatoes, some good mozarella, a few basil leaves. Salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil. Just the perfect summer food, for a lovely September summer evening.