eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Fennel

Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Fennel

A while ago, I cooked a fragrant pan full of crisp and golden fennel potatoes for us. I used fennel seeds and the vegetable’s thinly sliced bulb for this recipe, it was so good that I promised myself that I would use this combination for pasta one day. It took more than 3 months but it’s finally on our plates and my feeling was right, it works equally well with both.

The crisp vegetable adds a fresh touch to this dish, its distinct flavor is softer than the seeds, it’s almost citrussy. The seeds however add a warming depth, I roast them in a little olive oil to enhance their fragrant aroma and turn them into crunchy bites. You just have to be careful not to burn them, they taste bitter if they become too dark.

It was a quick one, all in all this meal only took 10 minutes to prepare. Once you throw the pasta into the boiling water you only need 3 minutes to cook the fennel before you mix everything with flaky sea salt and coarsely crushed pepper. It’s the perfect busy weekday or lazy weekend dinner!

Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Fennel

Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Fennel

For 2 people you need

spaghetti 100g / 3 1/2oz
fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar, 1 1/2 tablespoon
olive oil
medium sized fennel bulb, cut in half and the stalk cut off, very thinly sliced, 1
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large heavy pan and cook the fennel seeds on medium heat for about 1 minute (they shouldn’t get dark!). Pull the pan off the heat, take the seeds out with a spoon and set them aside. Put the pan back on the heat and add the sliced fennel, sauté on medium heat for about 2-3 minute, the slices should be between al dente and soft. Stir in the spaghetti, fennel seeds and a splash of olive oil and season with sea salt and crushed pepper to taste, serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Fennel

 

Spaghetti with Pan Roasted Fennel

 

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Cakey Red Currant and Oat Cookies

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To eat fruits right from a bush or tree is one of the most satisfying culinary experiences I know. A couple years ago, I went for a walk through Buskett Garden nearby Dingli in Malta with my boyfriend and his mother. We strolled along a little stream lined with mulberry bushes, fig and pomegranate trees. At one point we couldn’t stop ourselves picking a few of the giant berries and ripe figs bursting in the hot afternoon sun. The honey sweet juices dripped of our fingers and we could only smile, overwhelmed by such peace, it felt like the Garden of Eden.

My granny Lisa’s garden used to put me in the same mood, set in the north of Europe it offered a completely different scene. Lined with dark fir trees on one side and the most beautiful cherry tree on the other, where I used to sit on a swing after I picked its sweet fruits right from the branches. One of her neighbors used to grow red currants on little bushes, every year they were gifted with luscious produce. The branches were so packed with berries that the bushes looked bright red at one point in early summer, sprinkled with a few green dots from the leaves. Luckily, the owner planted the bushes so close to my granny’s garden that they grew through the fence. He also didn’t mind me sitting there in the grass, stuffing my mouth with one handful of these red berries after the other.

In the city, I miss out on this experience which is a pity. I have to buy the fruits by the boxes but the results that come out of my kitchen after I used them for my sweet treats are as satisfying and ease my sorrows. Today’s wonderfully cakey red currant and oat cookies did a great job. They feel like little cakes, not crunchy at all, but rather juicy. Their soft texture combined with the nutty oats, mashed banana and sweet and sour fruits made me forget about hand-picked harvests and anything else!

You could also use blueberries for this recipes if you can’t find red currants.

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

 Cakey Red Currant and Oat Cookies

For about 26 cookies you need

plain flour 200g / 7oz / 1 1/2 cups
rolled oats 150g / 1 2/3 cups
salt 1 teaspoon
baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
baking powder 3/4 teaspoon
butter (soft) 170g / 6oz
granulated sugar 200g / 7oz / 1 cup
ripe banana, mashed, 1 (about 100g / 3 1/2oz)
organic egg 1
pinch of vanilla (scraped from the pod)
red currants (or blueberries), ripe but not soft, 200g / 7oz

Set the oven to 180°C / 360°F (fan-assisted oven) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, oats, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar until fluffy with an electric mixer. Add the banana, egg and vanilla and continue mixing until well combined. Stir in the dry mixture with a spoon until you have a lumpy dough (with a bit of flour left here and there). Gently fold in the red currants (leave out a small handful of berries), use 2 tablespoons and don’t mix more than 4-5 times. Try not to damage the berries too much, you want their juices to stay inside their skin. For each cookie, drop a tablespoon full of dough on the lined baking sheet, leave enough space in between them as they will expand in the oven. Flatten them softly with a fork (just a little) and gently push the remaining red currants into the dough. Bake in the oven for about 13 minutes or until golden, they will be quite soft. Take them out and let them cool on the tray for a few minutes before you transfer them onto a wire rack. The texture is nicest on the first day as they soften in a cookie box, but the taste was just as good the next day.

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

 

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

 

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

 

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

 

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Spicy Roast Beef and Rhubarb Chutney Sandwich

Roastbeef and Rhubarb Chutney Sandwich

Amazing news: eat in my kitchen is Yahoo Food’s ‘Blogger of the Week’!! Click here to take a peek in my kitchen and read the interview with the wonderful Rachel Tepper about sweets and plans in life!

Distracted by this excitement, I felt a bit indecisive in the kitchen, an unusual state of mind for me especially when it’s about my Sandwich Wednesdays. To come up with a yummy new creation between two slices of bread every week has been one of the easier tasks since I started eat in my kitchen.

Sandwich recipes come to me quite naturally, luckily, I don’t have to think much about it. And it would have been the same this week if I hadn’t gotten the stubborn idea stuck in my head that I wanted to empty an open jar of my spicy rhubarb chutney (amongst a few other jars) and use it for a sandwich. I was hardheaded and that always blocks my creativity. Soon we’ll be in Malta and our apartment will be in the hands of a trusted friend while we’re away, including our fridge which I’m aiming to empty completely and to have in a sparkly and spotless state by the day of our departure.

So, the chutney had to go and a sandwich had to be made. Pastrami seemed perfect but the quality at the store didn’t convince me. When I spotted roast beef, freshly cut, bright pink on the inside with a spiced crust my chutney sandwich was saved. Still at the market, I threw some fresh chili peppers and a rustic French loaf into the basket and off I went. The first bite confirmed my suspicions, the beef and spicy rhubarb are a match made in heaven!

This recipe has been featured by Food52, you find my rhubarb chutney recipe here!

Roastbeef and Rhubarb Chutney Sandwich

 Spicy Roast Beef and Rhubarb Chutney Sandwich

For 2 sandwiches you need

rustic white bread 4 slices
roast beef, thinly cut, 8 slices
rhubarb chutney (or any other fruity chutney) 2-4 teaspoons, to taste
rucola leaves (rocket), a small handful
fresh red chili pepper, without seeds and thinly sliced, 1/2
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
olive oil, for the bread

Brush the bottom slice of bread with a little olive oil, arrange the rucola and roast beef on top and sprinkle with chutney, chili pepper and crushed pepper. Close your sandwich and enjoy!

Roastbeef and Rhubarb Chutney Sandwich

 

Roastbeef and Rhubarb Chutney Sandwich

 

Roastbeef and Rhubarb Chutney Sandwich

 

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Raw Asparagus Salad with Pear, Orange Blossom and Pecorino

Asparagus Salad with Pear, Orange Blossom and Pecorino

I had lots of asparagus in my kitchen this year but, unfortunately, no time to try many raw recipes. I needed green and white asparagus for new recipes for my cookbook which I’m very happy with. Since late March, a quick combination of Asparagus with Balsamic Bacon and a Tortilla joined the eat in my kitchen recipe collection but there was no salad with the raw green stalks, that changed last week.

My Mediterranean version with tomatoes and Parmesan inspired by my mother introduced me to the pleasures of raw asparagus for the first time, followed by a Nordic salad with hardboiled egg, lemon yoghurt dressing and chives. This year, I felt like a fruity take on this dish, thinly sliced green asparagus with honey sweet white peaches, young pecorino and a refreshing dressing made with freshly squeezed orange juice and orange blossom water. Enjoyed with a glass of chilled rosé and a crunchy loaf of rustic French bread I didn’t even mind that the cool temperatures couldn’t keep up with this summery dish.

Asparagus Salad with Pear, Orange Blossom and Pecorino

 Raw Asparagus Salad with Pear, Orange Blossom and Pecorino

For 2 you need

The asparagus should be very fresh and not woody.

raw green asparagus, the bottom cut off and the lower part peeled if necessary, about 10 stalks
flat white Donut (or Saturn) peaches, sliced thinly, 2
young Pecorino (or Parmesan), sliced thinly, about 50g / 1 3/4oz

For the dressing

olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 2 tablespoons
quality orange blossom water (preferably organic) 2 teaspoons
a pinch of sugar (or honey)
salt and pepper

Cut the asparagus’ heads off and in half, cut the stalks into slim slices, this works best with a mandolin or cheese slicer. Arrange the asparagus and peaches on plates. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and season to taste, sprinkle over the salad and finish it off with the Pecorino.

Asparagus Salad with Pear, Orange Blossom and Pecorino

 

Asparagus Salad with Pear, Orange Blossom and Pecorino

 

Asparagus Salad with Pear, Orange Blossom and Pecorino

 

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Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart – my best cake ever!

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

According to my boyfriend, this is the best cake I have ever made. However, although I feel flattered by this compliment, his statement should be handled with care. Overwhelmed by a homemade sweet treat, he tends towards such passionate judgements, it wasn’t the first time. But I have to agree, it was an extremely good cake!

Let’s start with the base, the buttery short crust was crisp and slightly flaky, exactly how I love it. I also used this pastry for my Raspberry and Blueberry Tart with Bavarian Cream, it’s a classic for summer tarts. Fruit was next, apricots cut in half sprinkled with a little sugar to help them release their juices without taking away their natural fresh and sour sweetness. They were still in pieces when I took the tart our of the oven, soft but not mushy like a compote. For the cinnamon crumbles, I used the recipe from my old kitchen friend, my beloved rhubarb (or plum or apple!) crumble cake. The flavour of the spice is strong enough to stand up to the apricots, the crumbles stay beautifully in shape and you can taste that they are made with plenty of butter, they are pure crunchy bliss. Luckily, I made two cakes from the start, I had a strong feeling that this was going to be a luscious feast, but I didn’t expect that we would empty the pans so quick, it was insane. Slice after slice we just continued telling each other how delicious this tart is and all of a sudden it was all gone!

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

 

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

One of my tart pans has a loose bottom which helps to cut out slices, it also worked in the other pan, just a few crumbs fell off but it still looked pretty.

For 2 tarts in 23cm / 9″ tart pans you need

apricots, cut in half and pitted, 1kg / 2 1/4 pounds / about 20 fruits
sugar 2 tablespoons

For the short crust base

flour 390g / 14oz / 3 cups
sugar 100g / 3 1/2oz / 1/2 cup
salt 1/4 teaspoon
butter, cold, 200g / 7oz
organic egg yolks 3
water 2 tablespoons

Combine the flour with the sugar and salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolks and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form 2 thick discs, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top/ bottom heat).

Roll out the dough between cling film and line your tart pans with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and blind-bake in the hot oven for 12 minutes. Melt the butter for the crumbles while the tarts are in the oven (see recipe below).

Take the pans out of the oven, arrange the apricots (cut side up) in circles on top of the pastry, sprinkle each tart with 1 tablespoon of sugar and prepare the crumbles immediately.

 

For the crumbles / The tart

plain flour 200g / 7oz / 1 1/2 cups (you might need more if the crumbles are too sticky)
sugar 130g / 4 1/2oz / 2/3 cup
vanilla, scraped, 1/4 pod
cinnamon 2 teaspoons
butter, melted, 125g / 4 1/2oz (you might need more if the crumbles are too fine)

Have some extra flour and butter to melt close at hand so that you can add some immediately if necessary.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour the melted butter on top and mix quickly with the hooks of your mixer, stop as soon as it crumbles. If the crumbles are too moist and sticky add a little more flour (1-2 tablespoons). If they are too fine and don’t form bigger crumbles add more melted butter.

Spread quickly on top of the apricots, if you have bigger lumps of crumbles you may have to separate them with your fingers. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes or until the pastry base and crumbles are golden brown. The fruits should start to release their juices, they will soften while the tart cools. You can serve the cakes with ice cream or whipped cream for tea time in the garden (or on your balcony) but we didn’t even have that – which allowed us to eat more of the tart!

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

 

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

 

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

 

Apricot Cinnamon Crumble Tart

 

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Fennel Burger and Elderflower Onion Sandwich with Gruyère

Fennel Burger and Elderflower Onion Sandwich

If two passionate cooks are in a relationship you need a well thought-out kitchen plan. My boyfriend and I have a great passion for cooking, we love to experiment with recipes and ingredients but it just doesn’t work at the same time. A cook is a leader and therefore needs total command in the kitchen to guarantee successful results. So many, many years ago we made a wise decision: depending on the recipe, one of us takes over control and has the last word when it comes to the important decisions, and the other one just assists. It works perfectly, no discussions and no arguments as long as we stick to the plan and don’t get in each other’s way.

Luckily, we love the same cuisine, Mediterranean and North European comfort dishes. The preparations are always quite relaxed and most of the time very satisfying at table. While chopping and cooking, there is often wine, cheese and olives involved to nibble and chill, I’ve mentioned it so often, it’s definitely my favourite way to end a day. However, life would be boring, if two people had the same approach in the kitchen and we’re definitely two absolutely different personalities. We find inspiration in different ingredients, flavours and combinations. My man likes it a bit more crazy, wild and experimental when he takes over the kitchen. He often combines flavours which seem too far apart to my mind, but the results are delicious and that’s what counts.

A few days ago he came up with the genius idea to deglaze onions with elderflower syrup, it was fantastic! And to make it even better, he placed them on top of juicy fennel burgers. So, you need to know, when he uses our fennel seeds from Malta, he measures them by the tablespoon and not the teaspoon, the aroma is strong and present in this recipe and pure bliss in combination with the elderflower onion’s smoky sweetness. There was also a thin layer of melted Gruyère cheese in between and at that point I knew I would have to share this recipe with you! I loved it!

Fennel Burger and Elderflower Onion Sandwich

 Fennel Burger and Elderflower Onion Sandwich with Gruyère

For 8 burgers (or 4 hungry people) you need

For the sandwiches

medium sized onions, cut in half and thinly sliced, 3-4
butter 1-2 tablespoons
elderflower syrup, about 6 teaspoons, to taste
salt and pepper

rustic white buns, cut in half, 8
crunchy lettuce, 8-16 small leaves
Gruyère cheese, 8-16 slices

For the burgers

minced beef 1 kg / 2 1/4 pounds
dry breadcrumbs 80g / 1/2 cup / 3oz
organic eggs 2
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, 2 tablespoons
salt 3 teaspoons
pepper
butter 1-2 tablespoons
olive oil

Start with the onions and fry the burgers at the end, you want them to be hot enough to melt the cheese.

In a heavy pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and fry the onions for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown and soft. Add more butter if they dry out. When they are done, turn up the heat and deglaze with a splash of elderflower syrup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, take off the heat and set the pan aside.

Mix the ingredients for the burgers in a large bowl (with your hands or the hooks of an electric mixer) and form 8 thick burgers with wet hands. Heat a generous splash of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a heavy pan and fry the burgers on medium-high heat for 1 minute on each side, turn down the heat to medium-low and continue frying until they are golden brown, add more butter if necessary. The cooking time depends on how well done you like them, cut a burger in half to check the inside. Once they are done, lay 1-2 slices of cheese on top of each warm burger immediately.

Arrange 1-2 slices of lettuce on the bottom half of each bun, lay the burgers with the cheese on top and finish with the onions. Close the buns and enjoy!

Fennel Burger and Elderflower Onion Sandwich

 

Fennel Burger and Elderflower Onion Sandwich

 

Fennel Burger and Elderflower Onion Sandwich

 

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Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise and Basil

Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

I’ve never been a big fan of mayonnaise but this recipe changed everything, now I’m hooked on it! Mix this dip with a little tahini, juice and the zest of a lemon to lighten up it’s rather heavy qualities and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

When it comes to mayonnaise, I’ve always been quite picky. The ones from the store are not an option for me at all, at least I’ve never found a good one. I always make my own from scratch like I learned from my mother, with good olive oil and fresh organic egg yolks. When it’s mixed with crushed garlic, like the Spanish Aïoli, I can actually enjoy it a lot, especially when I have a fresh loaf of bread at hand.

So a few days ago I decided to make a fresh salad of greens, crunchy beans and peas quickly blanched until al dente. When I thought about the dressing I started to play around with different recipes in my mind. We had just received a culinary gift from a friend of ours who just got back to Berlin after a quick visit to his family in Israel. He brought a huge jar of delicious tahini to my kitchen which I usually turn into Hummus right away, but not this time. I mixed a spoonful of it with lemony and garlicky mayonnaise to top my summery salad sprinkled with spring onions and basil, it was more than delish!

Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

 

Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

You could whisk the mayonnaise by hand but I use a stick mixer and a small mug which guarantees a thick and creamy result.

For 2 as a lunch or 4 as a side dish you need

green beans, the ends snipped off, 550g / 1 1/4 pounds
peas, fresh or frozen, 140g / 5oz
salt and pepper
olive oil 1 tablespoon
small spring onion, cut into slim rings, 1
fresh basil, about 12 leaves

For the mayonnaise

garlic, crushed, 1 clove
freshly squeezed lemon juice 4 teaspoons
fresh organic egg yolks 2
quality olive oil 75ml / 1/3 cup
salt
tahini 1 tablespoon
lemon zest 2-3 teaspoons

In a large pot, blanch the peas in boiling salted water for 1 minute, take them out with a slotted ladle, rinse with cold water for a few seconds and drain. Use the same water, bring it to the boil and blanch the beans for 4-5 minutes or until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water. In a bowl, mix the beans and peas with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and then arrange on plates.

For the mayonnaise, mix the garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. Drop 2 egg yolks into a mug which should be just big enough for a stick mixer to fit in it. Pour 1/4 of the oil onto the egg yolks and start mixing with the stick mixer immediately, add more oil and the lemon garlic mixture, a little at a time, mixing constantly. When the dip is thick and creamy (after a few seconds) season with salt and whisk in the tahini and 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest, season to taste. On the plates, spread a few dollops of the mayonnaise on top of the greens and sprinkle with spring onion, basil and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

 

Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

 

Green Beans and Peas with Tahini Lemon Mayonnaise

 

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Blackberry Garden Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

My mother’s garden is set in the soft green hills of the countryside, it’s surrounded by high bushes and trees, spruce, birch and pine. The lush lawn winds around a curved patch of rhododendron that leads to a little pond covered with the most majestic blossoms of water lilies gently laying on top of waxy leaves. This was once the home to a school of glowing goldfish which, sadly, was discovered by a grey heron one summer. It had all started with two fish which I gave my mother as a birthday present many years ago, they must have really liked each other as it wasn’t long before their population grew rapidly. We enjoyed them a lot, it was such a perfect picturesque garden scene. I used to sit next to the roses growing at the stone steps at the water looking at the bright red fish swimming through their kingdom. But nature had a different plan.

The beauty of this garden, its peace and vastness, makes it one of my favourite places in the world. To see my mother working in her vegetable garden which is spread out on a higher level, to watch her picking weeds and choosing our dinner, is such a beautiful picture that I will always carry with me. We discuss the meal and she often teaches me the plants’ names which I, unfortunately, tend to forget most of the time. And there’s one thing that makes a day out there complete to perfection, a simple, scrumptious garden cake! Nothing too extravagant, a pound cake is always best, with some fresh fruits (preferably from my mother’s garden) and a luscious frosting, like my blackberry cake with lemon mascarpone. It’s simple enough to eat it with your fingers while enjoying your garden on a sunny afternoon, but then there’s the creamy icing which gives it a Sunday tea time touch. It combines everything a good cake needs in my eyes, the recipe is based on my apple cinnamon breakfast cake but the dark fresh berries turn it into a proper summer cake.

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

 

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

For a 24cm x 10,5cm / 9.5″ x 4″  loaf tin you need

plain flour 130g / 1 cup / 4 1/2oz
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup /1oz
baking powder 1 heaped teaspoon
a pinch of salt
butter (at room temperature) 160g / 2/3 cups / 5 1/2oz
sugar 100g / 1/2 cup / 3 1/2oz
organic eggs 3
blackberries 250g / 9oz

For the lemon frosting

mascarpone 230g / 1 cup / 8oz
icing sugar 55g / 1/2 cup / 2oz
heavy cream 90ml / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon
lemon zest 3 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon for the topping
lemon juice 3 teaspoons

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (fan assisted oven) and butter the loaf tin.

Whisk the ingredients for the frosting and adjust to taste and desired texture. Fill in a bowl and keep in the fridge. This is enough frosting to cover the cake on its top and sides.

Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue mixing for a few minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy. Mix in the dry mixture until well combined. Pour half the dough into the buttered form and arrange a layer of 7-10 blackberries cut in half on top, if the berries are small you’ll need 14-20. Set the remaining berries aside. Pour the remaining dough on top of the berries, spread it out evenly and bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden on top. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool for a few minutes before you take it out of the tin and lay it on a wire rack. When it’s completely cool, spread the frosting voluptuously over the top (and sides if you like), garnish with a few berries and lemon zest and serve with the remaining fresh blackberries.

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

 

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

 

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

 

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Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

Many summers ago, I spent a few wonderful weeks at the Côte d’Azur with my aunt, uncle and cousins. We stayed at a beautiful house in the middle of the green hills around Grasse, a picturesque town which is also called the world’s capital of perfume. I think I wrote about this trip last year but after almost 500 posts I’m losing track! Never mind, I often sat with the girls of the family, my aunt and two cousins, at the pool in the garden. It was a little French paradise with all kinds of flowers, lavender, jasmine and roses turned this place into the most fragrant oasis. We had our girl chats, chilled, swam and ate, a perfect holiday!

Although I won’t go to the French Riviera next month but to Malta (which I look forward to with growing excitement!), I had our peaceful Grasse garden scene in mind when I came up with today’s sandwich. Imagine sitting on the fresh grass, feeling the warm morning air on your skin and the smell of a million flowers around you. You wear a summery dress and enjoy the quiet peace of the early hours of the day which is only interrupted when you take a big bite of this crunchy grilled baguette sandwich topped with chèvre, cherry tomatoes, olives, garlic, thyme and pecorino (I’m sorry, I had no French substitute at hand). Doesn’t this sound just right?

Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

 

Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

 Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

As a lunch for two you need

rustic French baguette (around 25cm / 10″), cut in half, 1
olive oil 2 tablespoons
chèvre (preferably Sainte-Maure de Touraine), very thinly sliced, 70g / 2 1/2oz
cherry tomatoes, cut in half, about 6
black olives 6
garlic, thinly sliced, 1 clove
fresh thyme leaves, from a small handful of sprigs
pecorino (or any other aromatic hard cheese), freshly grated, 2 generous tablespoons
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Set the oven to 220°C / 430°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the bottom half of the baguette on the lined tray, brush the bread with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread the chèvre and then the tomatoes and olives on top. Sprinkle with the remaining olive oil, thyme, garlic, pepper and pecorino. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are soft. You can also bake the top half of the baguette for the last few minutes. When it’s done, sprinkle with a little fresh thyme, season with salt (if necessary) and enjoy!

Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

 

Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

 

Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

 

Grilled Tomato, Chèvre and Thyme Baguette Sandwich

 

grilledtomatochevrebaguettesandwich13

 

grilledtomatochevrebaguettesandwich11

Mediterranean Roast Vegetables with Tomatoes, Feta and Basil

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

The secret behind this scrumptious Mediterranean pan lies in the separate cooking of the vegetables. First, I sautéed sliced zucchini until golden but with bite, and then I cooked a large handful of aubergine and bell pepper chopped into tiny cubes. The small size let them release a little more of their juices in the hot pan, within minutes they turn into a chunky stew. Mixed with the zucchini, it just needed a bit of salt and pepper and it was done.

You could easily leave it at that but I was after a colourful pan full of fresh flavours. In summer, I like the combination of cooked and raw vegetables, so my pan got a crunchy topping with cherry tomatoes, milky feta chunks and fresh basil leaves. All the wonderful aromas of a Mediterranean garden on a plate! There are a million variations of this dish, you could top it with lemon ricotta (instead of the feta cheese) and make a moussaka, mix in some spaghetti for a richer meal or cook all the ingredients in the oven, like my vegetable casserole. So many options, so many warm months and ripe and tasty vegetables ahead of us. Kitchen life is just great at this time of year!

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

Mediterranean Roast Vegetables with Tomatoes, Feta and Basil

For a lunch for 2 you need

zucchini, sliced thinly, about 200g / 7oz
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
aubergine, cut into tiny cubes, about 200g / 7oz
medium sized bell pepper (colour of your choice), cut into tiny cubes, 1
cherry tomatoes, cut in half, 8
feta cheese, broken into chunks, about 100g / 3 1/2oz
fresh basil leaves 10

Heat a slash of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the zucchini on medium-high heat until golden brown with a little bite. Season with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a plate and set a side.

Put the pan back on the heat, pour in a splash of olive oil, stir in the garlic and let it turn golden (not brown!) for about 1 minute. Add the aubergine and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and sauté until golden and soft. Take the pan off the heat, mix in the zucchini and tomatoes and season to taste. Stir in the feta and basil and serve immediately, or as a warm salad, with fresh ciabatta bread.

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

mediterraneanvegfeta9

French Breakfast: Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

An unexpected change of plans led to the most delicious French breakfast: thin crêpes with salted butter caramel! And the only reason why we could enjoy this treat was because I failed miserably at another recipe, a complete kitchen failure.

I tried to remake the popular galettes caramel au beurre salé from the Mont Staint Michel region in Normandy which I indulge in with the greatest pleasure whenever I can get hold of them. It’s a simple shortcrust cookie with a buttery hint of salted caramel. I didn’t expect it to be such a big deal, I had a clear idea of the texture, I did some research of course and then I got started. My kitchen activities began with the preparation of the crème caramel au beurre salé, a thick and luscious salted caramel cream which turned out really nice. At that point, I was still absolutely happy with the result and I continued mixing the dough for the cookies with great confidence but it went downhill from there! When I took the galettes out of the oven I had to face the disappointing truth, my adaptation of the delicate French caramel cookie was too thick and not crunchy and crisp at all. Although the butter caramel was only supposed to be mixed into the dough, I tried to save my creation by topping the baked cookies with a generous dollop of my tasty crème caramel but it was hopeless. I gave up, which doesn’t happen very often.

To overcome my culinary disappointment, I took the caramel filled jar out of the fridge and enjoyed a spoonful of it to make amends for the complete disaster. It helped right away, my inspiration came back and reminded me of another French classic, thin breakfast crêpes would be perfect with my delicious caramel. It was so good that I almost forgot about my unpleasant incident, we savoured and emptied the plates down to the last crêpe.

I haven’t completely given up on my French caramel cookies but I think I could do with some help: if you are experienced in the cuisine de la Normandie and familiar with galettes caramel au beurre salé and if you know about a satisfying recipe, I’d be more than thankful if you got in touch to bring this kitchen story to a successful ending!

And some more news at the end: I was interviewed by Yahoo Food, they asked me to take over their Instagram this weekend to share a little forecast of the delicious food I’ll be eating in Malta next month. For the interview, click here, and here you can follow me on Yahoo Food’s Instagram.

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

 

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

For about 20 crêpes (for 4-6 people) you need

For the salted butter caramel – crème caramel au beurre salé

You won’t need all the caramel for the crêpes, you can keep the leftovers in a jar in the fridge and use it for ice cream and cakes.

heavy cream 200ml / 3/4 cups and 3 tablespoons
icing sugar, sieved, 175g / 1 3/4cups
butter (unsalted) 90g / 3 1/4oz /1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon
(if you use salted butter you can leave out the fleur de sel)
fleur de sel 1/3 teaspoon, to taste

In a sauce pan, warm up the cream, take it off the heat before it starts boiling.

In a medium sized pot, melt the sugar on medium heat until golden brown and liquid, it will take a few minutes. Mind that it doesn’t burn. Slowly pour the warm cream into the caramel, be careful as it will bubble up and rise. Keep the heat on medium, add the butter and salt and and whisk gently until the caramel and butter melt and the mixture is even, it will take a few minutes again. Take the pan off the heat, season with salt to taste and set aside.

 

For the crêpes

plain flour, sieved, 260g / 9 1/4oz / 2 cups
sugar 50g / 1 3/4oz / 1/4 cup
a pinch of salt
organic eggs 4
milk 1/2l / 2 cups and 1 tablespoon
butter, to fry the crêpes

Mix the ingredients for the crêpes to a smooth dough (with an electric mixer) and let the batter sit for 10 minutes.

In a heavy (or non-stick) pan, heat half a teaspoon of butter. Pour in a ladle of the dough, holding the pan in your hand and turning it so that the dough spreads evenly and very thinly. The temperature should be on medium-high, the crêpes won’t need more than 1 minute on each side once the heat is set right. When the crêpe is slightly golden on both sides, take the pan off the heat (or spread the crêpe on a large plate) and sprinkle with a little of the caramel. The taste is quite strong, so start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more to taste. Fold it twice and continue with the next batch. You should always melt 1/2 -1 teaspoon of butter in the pan before you fry the next crêpe. Enjoy warm and sprinkle with more caramel and a pinch of fleur de sel on the plates. Strawberries go very well with it!

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

 

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

 

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

 

Crêpes Caramel au Beurre Salé

Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

It happened at one of our traditional Sunday pizza nights, we had the glorious idea to drizzle fennel oil over our cheesy salami, aubergine composition and the result was even better than we had expected. I had bought a rather simple salami for this cosy sofa dinner, it was organic but without the addition of any outstanding herbs or spices, just the pure, distinct flavour of the dried sausage.

So we started playing around with the ingredients, as every Sunday when it comes to topping our pizza. I cut an eggplant into very thin slices and took out the sauce pan to warm up a splash of olive oil with a teaspoon of my Maltese fennel seeds, Buzbiez in Maltese. I bought them last summer from a lady at the market in Marsaxlokk. Soon, the jar will get refilled when we go back to our Mediterranean island in a month, just the thought of it puts a big smile on my face! Back to the oil, I let the spice spread its aroma on the heat until the seeds started sizzling, it’s important to watch them as they shouldn’t get dark, when they burn, they taste bitter. When I ate the first bite of the baked pizza I knew that this combination would have to be translated into a sandwich. And here it is: thin slices of aubergine sautéed in a pan, topped with Italian salami and sprinkled with fennel oil and fresh oregano. Wonderful!

Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

 

Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

 Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

For 2 sandwiches you need

white, rustic buns, cut in half, 2
medium sized aubergine, sliced very thinly, 1 (about 18 slices)
(the thickness should be just before see-through, if they are too thin, they’ll burn)
olive oil
salt and pepper
fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
salami, preferably Italian (like salame al finochietto), 6-8 very thin slices (of a medium sized salami)
fresh oregano leaves, about 2 tablespoons

Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté the sliced aubergine in batches on medium heat until golden brown on both sides. Spread them evenly, they shouldn’t lay on top of each other. Mind that you’ll have to add some more olive oil when you turn them around and watch them well as they can burn within seconds. Lay on kitchen paper to remove excess oil, season with salt and pepper and set them aside when they’re done.

In a sauce pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the fennel seeds. Take the pan off the heat as soon as the seeds start sizzling and mind that they don’t burn.

Brush the bottom side of a bun with the infused oil, lay about 6 slices of sautéed aubergine on top and continue with about 3-4 slices of salami. Sprinkle with the roasted fennel seeds and a little of the oil, finish it off with the fresh oregano leaves and close the bun. Enjoy!

Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

 

Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

 

Sautéed Aubergine and Salami Sandwich with Fennel Oil and fresh Oregano

 

auberginesalamioreganosandwich8

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