eat in my kitchen

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

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

There’s a beautiful little take away restaurant close to my flat which offers the best Chickpea Falafel and Chicken Shawarma in town, and this is not just my opinion! This tiny place is called Salsabil and it’s run by a very nice guy from Tunis, we’ve known him for years and he always brings us a cup of hot tea as soon as he sees us, even if we’re just passing by! His food is honest and authentic, he doesn’t offer that many dishes but each of them is delicious. In summer, we like to sit outside at one of the tables on the pavement and the rest of the year we enjoy the cosiness inside. We sit on wooden benches opposite a photography of the old city walls of Tunis which always reminds me of the Silent City of Mdina in Malta. The light is dimmed and they usually play traditional Tunisian music, it feels a bit like a short holiday in one of the old towns of Tunisia! When it comes to the menu I follow a bit of a tradition, I always order some juicy Falafel in pita bread with different vegetables and sauces, some of their amazing hummus and a very aromatic parsley, tomato and onion salad.

Since I already wrote about my hummus recipe and I’m not experienced enough yet to make my own Falafel in my kitchen (but that will soon change!), I will share my tomato, parsley and mint salad to create a bit of a Salsabil atmosphere at home!

This fresh salad is also great for parties and barbecues!

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

For 2 people as a side dish you need

fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped, 40g / 1.5 ounces
large, ripe tomato, finely chopped, 1
fresh large mint leaves, finely chopped, 6
small red onion or shallot, finely chopped, 1
garlic, crushed, 1 small clove
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
white Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
salt and pepper

For the dressing, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dressing with the tomato and herbs and serve in a bowl.

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

Tzatziki in 2 variations

Tzatziki

When I find a bowl of Tzatzki in front of me at a Greek restaurant I could (almost) skip the main course. There are two other dishes that have the same effect on me, fresh, warm bread with salted butter and hummus with flat bread! There is something about the Greek dip which is so simple yet it makes me want to dip a piece of bread into it again and again. It’s like having a great cake in front of you that you just can’t stop eating until you realise half the cake is gone!

When we have a barbecue with our friends, we always start to nibble on some salads, my Tzatziki and bread while we’re waiting impatiently for the coal to settle. So often we get carried away with the creamy dip before the meat is even done! So no matter where I prepare this dip for friends and family, I always get requests for the recipe, every time I make it.

There are many ways to make a delicious Tzatziki, I’ve tried this dip made with Greek yoghurt, Alex, my Greek-German brother in law uses soured milk and I use quark. I mentioned it when I wrote about my German Cheesecake last Sunday, to me, low fat quark mixed with heavy cream makes the best Tzatziki. Although Alex chooses a different dairy product, he enjoys eating my “German-style” Tzatziki a lot! Another important point of the recipe is the right processing of the cucumber (preferably organic as they have the strongest taste). It has to be roughly grated and pressed between the hands to release some of the vegetable’s juices to achieve a more concentrated flavour and a better texture. It’s best to use fresh, moist garlic, my favourite is the young French garlic when it’s light green and purple, and the rest is a question of the right ratio according to your taste.

It’s my Sandwich Wednesday today and I didn’t want to leave out those of you who can’t get quark, so here are two Tzatziki recipes, one is made with yoghurt. Tzatziki is also great on potatoes grilled in foil at a barbecue!

Let’s get started, all you need is a fresh loaf of your favourite white bread and a big bowl of Tzatziki!

Tzatziki

 

Tzatziki

 Tzatziki

For 2-4 people you need

cucumber, preferably organic, roughly grated and squeezed between the hands, 80g / 3 ounces
(there should be around 60g / 2 ounces of cucumber left after you squeezed it)

Continue with version 1 or 2

Version 1

low fat quark 250g / 9 ounces
heavy cream 2 tablespoons plus more to taste
garlic, crushed, 1-2 big cloves
salt and pepper

Version 2

yoghurt 250g / 9 ounces
sour cream 4 heaped tablespoons
heavy cream 4 tablespoons plus more to taste
garlic, crushed, 1-2 big cloves
salt and pepper

Mix the cucumber with the ingredients of version 1 or 2, season with salt, pepper and garlic to taste and whip in more heavy cream if you prefer a more creamy texture.

Tzatziki

 

Tzatziki

La Ratte Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

A few weeks ago my boyfriend came up with a great chicken and red cabbage sandwich idea with an orange infused olive oil. He brushed the inside of the bread with this flavoured oil that we created by heating up a dish of olive oil and orange peel in the oven. The aromatic oil was wonderfully flavoured but the crisp citrus peel impressed me just as much! Since then I’ve used roast lemon and orange peel for my pasta, salads, couscous and risottos. The thin strips just need a few minutes to become golden crisps packed with flavour so it’s important to take them out at the right moment. If you leave them in the oven for too long, they become bitter, and this can happen within seconds!

I have many ideas in my head that feature both the wonderful oil and the crunchy strips, today’s recipe combines roast lemon peel with potatoes, parsley and black olives to make a warm salad, great for lunch or as a side dish. I use the lemon flavoured olive oil as a dressing and the peel as a crunchy topping. It just needed some flaky sea salt for seasoning and it was done! I often use the French La Ratte potatoes for for these kind of potato salads, their taste is nutty and buttery and the skin is very thin. I don’t even peel them, I just clean them with a vegetable brush and cut them in half when they are cooked.

Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

 

Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

La Ratte Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

For 2-4 people you need

olive oil 3 tablespoons
lemon peel, cut into pieces, 6 long strips

La Ratte potatoes, cooked, (unpeeled) and cut in half, 14
fresh parsley leaves, a handful
black olives 12
sea salt

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan-asssited oven).

Put the olive oil and lemon peel in a baking dish and cook for 6 minutes or until the peel is golden and crisp.

Spread the potatoes on plates and mix them with the lemon infused olive oil. Sprinkle them with parsley, olives, roast lemon peel and salt and serve either warm or cold.

Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

 

Potatoes with Roast Lemon Peel, Olives and Parsley

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

My Tart Tatin goes savory! Caramelized red onions, sweet and sour plums, aromatic thyme and chèvre replace the apples which I usually choose for this tart, and it’s great. This is the taste of late summer!

At the moment I can’t get enough of the combination of sweet, fruity and savory flavours. I’ve always been a big fan of it but I’m a bit obsessed with it right now (so much that my boyfriend already asked for a break). I mix mirabelles, plums, peaches, grapes or figs with saltimbocca, coarse sausages and chicken and I barely eat my cheese without one of my plum, rhubarb or apple chutneys (I will share my plum chutney recipe soon).

I love August and September in northern Europe, the transition to autumn. The light is magical and it’s the time to harvest all those wonderful fruits, to cook them and turn them into delicious dishes and colourful jams and chutneys for the colder months. That makes it so much easier to let go of summer!

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

 

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

For the tarte you need a 21cm / 8″ Tarte Tatin dish or frying pan which is ovenproof.

mild and soft chèvre 150g / 5.5 ounces

medium sized red onions, cut into 8 wedges each, 4
plums, quartered, 4-6
butter 2 tablespoons
olive oil 1 tablespoon
sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons
Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
thyme sprigs 6
salt and pepper

For the shortcrust

plain flour 130g / 4.5 ounces
butter, cold, 75g / 3 ounces
egg yolk 1
salt 1/8 teaspoon
cold water 1 1/2 tablespoons

For the shortcrust, combine the flour 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 quickly work the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolk and the water, continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F.

In a pan (or Tarte Tatin dish), heat the butter with the sugar and oil until it starts to caramelize. Add the onions, arrange them in a circle and cook them for 7 minutes on medium heat. Turn them gently and cook them for another 7 minutes. Mind that they don’t burn, they should become golden brown. Tuck the plum wedges in between the onions and cook for 2 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.

Roll out the dough, big enough to cover the pan and lay it on top of the onions tucking the edges down the sides. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown. When the tarte is done, place a large heat resistant plate on top and turn the pan carefully upside down, keep in mind that it’s very hot!

Serve the Tart Tatin with a big slice of chèvre.

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

 

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

 

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

 

Red Onion and Plum Tart Tatin with Chèvre

My German Cheesecake with Red Currants

Cheesecake

This cheesecake calls for Quark, the famous German cheese which is neither like ricotta, nor cottage cheese or fromage blanc although it’s often compared to them. Quark is unique, it’s soft, white and fresh with a slightly sour taste, it feels a bit more dry and thicker than yoghurt and although the texture is similar to ricotta it’s less heavy. Quark is great for cheesecakes, strudel or Danish pastry or as a savory dip on dark bread, mixed with linseed oil and fresh radish or cucumber. I also use it for my Tzatziki although my Greek-German brother in law doesn’t agree on that at all, but he still loves it when I make it for him! I will share that recipe with you next week, then you can judge yourself!

Back to the sweets, this recipe has been with me for as long as I can remember. My mother used to bake it for us, and I still eat it as passionately as I did then. This cake isn’t as heavy as a New York cheesecake, the base is made of a crumbly shortcrust and the topping is fluffy, light and lemony. Sometimes I add raisins soaked in brandy but this has to wait for now, it will come later when it gets a bit colder. For now, I keep it fresh and add a few sweet and sour red currants on top.

I know that in some places of the world it’s hard or almost impossible to get quark and although I try to write about recipes with ingredients that are easily accessible, there is no alternative for this fresh cheese. You can’t use ricotta (at least I’ve never tried it with this recope) or cream cheese, you just get this fluffy cheesecake result when you use quark.

Cheesecake

 

Cheesecake

 German Cheesecake with Red Currants

This recipe is measured for a 30cm / 12″ springform pan. The one that I use is 26cm / 10″, so I bake some of the leftover cheese filling in a small baking dish and scope it out with a spoon when it’s still warm and fresh out of the oven, it’s delicious!

 

Fo the topping

red currants, a big handful

 

For the short crust base

plain flour 250g / 9 ounces
sugar 50g / 2 ounces
a pinch of salt
cold butter 125g / 4.5 ounces
organic egg 1

Combine the flour with the sugar and salt. Cut the butter into the flour with a knife until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and work the butter into the flour until combined (there shouldn’t be any lumps of butter left). Add the egg and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

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

Roll out the dough between cling film, big enough to come up 2/3 of the rim of the springform pan. Line the pan with the flat pastry, prick it with a fork and blind-bake in the hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden. 

 

For the cheese topping

quark (low fat) 750g / 26.5 ounces
organic eggs 5
cornstarch 80g / 3 ounces
baking powder 1 teaspoon
sugar 150g / 5.5 ounces
milk 125ml / 4.5 ounces
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of fresh vanilla

Turn the oven down to 175°C / 350°F.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt for a few seconds, add 50g of sugar and continue beating until stiff.

Mix the quark, egg yolks, cornstarch, baking powder, 100g / 3.5 ounces of sugar, the vanilla and lemon zest until well combined and creamy. Mix in the milk and gently fold in the stiff egg whites with a wooden spoon.

Fill the cheese mixture in the springform pan on top of the baked short crust, if there’s too much of it fill the remaining mixture into a separate baking dish. Bake for 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let it cool in the springform for 10 minutes before you take it out. Serve warm or cold with red currants.

Cheesecake

 

Cheesecake

 

Cheesecake

 

Cheesecake

Crisp Celery and Blue Cheese

Celery and Blue Cheese

Crisp celery, aromatic blue cheese, cream cheese and crushed black peppercorns, that’s all you need for this little antipasto snack!

I used Fourme d’Ambert, one of the oldest French cheeses from the Auvergne region. It has a strong taste and a creamy texture which blends perfectly into the creamy dip for the stuffing. Sometimes I replace it with Stilton, its rich aroma goes very well with this recipe. Although my chosen vegetable, crunchy fresh celery stalks also have a strong and unique taste, I didn’t want the cheese to be too overpowering so I mixed it with some mild and milky cream cheese. You could also use Gorgonzola but in that case I would mix it with mascarpone instead of cream cheese, it’s a great combination, also on bread! The roughly crushed pepper adds some spiciness which makes the snack complete.

For 8 stuffed celery stalks, I mixed 50g / 2 ounces of Fourme d’Ambert with 1o0g / 3.5 ounces of cream cheese (depending on the blue cheese you might need some more or less) and spread it into the thick parts of the vegetable. I ground some black peppercorns roughly in a mortar to finish it off!

Celery and Blue Cheese

 

Celery and Blue Cheese

 

Celery and Blue Cheese

White Vineyard Peach Jam

White Peach Jam

The separation between a breakfast or dinner person doesn’t exist with me, I am both! I can’t function without my (late) breakfast and I don’t want to end my day without a nice dinner. Although I don’t start my day with a table full of bread, cheese, vegetables, jam, fruits and coffee early in the morning, I enjoy this treat at around eleven. Over the years I found that this is the best time for me to start eating, before that I just enjoy my big mug of green Sencha tea with lemon. Every day, that’s my rhythm! I don’t believe in universal eating rules, our bodies are unique, our personalities are and so are our eating habits. A vegan diet might work perfectly for one person but others feel the need to eat meat, or dairy products. It’s best to listen to what your body tells you, if a certain food leaves you with a bad feeling or makes you tired, chuck it out. A slice of bread with butter calms me down and makes me feel good. This is definitely food that makes me happy, and at breakfast, I like to spread it with my homemade jam.

I have a big selection of jams in my pantry, jars filled with strawberries, tangerines, different kinds of orange and plum jam, blackberry jam and now there is a new one! I stocked up on peach jam which I made with white, flat vineyard (or galaxy) peaches. This jam is like honey, very peachy and aromatic, not thick and stiff but smooth and a bit runny with chunky pieces of fruits. You could also use yellow peaches but I find the white more intense in flavour and that’s what a good jam needs, apart from very ripe fruits!

White Peach Jam

 

White Peach Jam

White Vineyard Peach Jam

When you cook jam you should always use a tall pot to prevent the jam from boiling over. The fruits will be two to three times as high when they’ve reached boiling point! My pot is 24cm / 9.5″ high and 20cm / 8″ wide.

For 3-4 medium sized jars you need

white, flat vineyard (or galaxy) peaches 1kg/ 2 1/4 pounds
granulated sugar 600g / 1 1/4 pounds
juice of 1/2 big lemon
a pinch of salt

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 5 minutes. Dunk the rims of the jars in spirit and wash out the lids, wash the ladle (you will use to fill the jars) with the alcohol as well. If you can get a thick foil (thicker than cling film), cut out 3-4 circles roughly the size of the jars and put into the spirit as well.

Put the fruits, sugar, lemon and salt in a pot and bring to the boil, stirring with a long wooden spoon every now and then. When the boiling point is reached (you should see quite a few bubbles coming up), let the jam boil for 20 minutes, carefully stirring a couple times (without burning your hand, hence the long spoon!).

Take the pot off the heat and fill the prepared jars with the sterilized ladle almost to the top. Cover with the circles of foil and close tightly immediately. Let the jam sit for a day (or even better for a month) before you put it on your breakfast table and store the jars in your pantry.

White Peach Jam

 

White Peach Jam

 

White Peach Jam

 

White Peach Jam

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Balsamic Mirabelles

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

This meal combines two wonderful dishes, Saltimbocca alla Romana and mirabelle compote! Both are very high on my list of summer favourites.

Let’s start with the “Roman schnitzel”, the saltimbocca, or Salt’ im bocca! in the Roman dialect. It means Jump in the mouth! and that’s how I feel when I have a plate of these little escalopes in front of me. The combination of veal, smoky, salty prosciutto and aromatic sage is so perfect that the first bite of it explains why this dish became so famous all over the world! There are different approaches to the preparation, some like to roll them, fold them just once or keep them flat like a schnitzel. This is how I prefer them, but the composition of the three flavours, veal, prosciutto and sage, always stays the same. Some recipes recommend Coppa di Parma but my favourite is thinly cut Tyrolean prosciutto with the right balance of smokiness and saltiness.

To me, late summer is the time for fruits, peaches, plums, figs, berries and mirabelles. Sometimes I cook some carrot slices to serve with my saltimbocca, still crunchy and sweetened with honey and basil. However, at this time of the year I prefer fruit for some of my savory dishes, like sweet mirabelles ripened under the sun of Tuscany. When we used to go on holiday close to Florence as a child, I fell in love with a mirabelle tree next to the house and its tasty crop! I could eat buckets of them!

They’re at the peak of their season at the moment and I buy them every week as long as I can get them at the market. I love them, when they are ripe and golden they are sweeter than plums, a bit like honey. They make a wonderful compote too. I cook them for just 1 minute as I don’t like to turn them into a mousse, I leave them chunky. I refine the compote with some Balsamic vinegar and a little cinnamon, it’s delicious together with the saltimbocca!

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

 

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Balsamic Mirabelles 

For 2 people you need

veal escalopes, 300g / 10.5 ounces, each about 100g / 3.5 ounces
Tyrolean prosciutto or Coppa di Parma, 3 thin slices big enough to cover the escalopes
sage leaves 15
plain flour
olive oil
butter 2 tablespoon
marsala or vermouth to deglaze the meat
pepper

Place the escalopes between clingfilm and flatten them with your fist until they are around 5mm / 1/4″ thick and season lightly with pepper (no salt as the prosciutto adds enough saltiness). Dust one side with flour, put 3 sage leaves on the other side and cover them with a slice of prosciutto, pressing it onto the meat.

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter and fry the escalopes (start with the side with the prosciutto) together with the remaining sage leaves for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes on each side on high-medium temperature. Move the meat and sage to a plate, add 1 tablespoon of butter and a splash of the marsala, simmer the sauce for 30 seconds and take off the heat.

Serve the escalopes with the sauce, crisp sage and mirabelle compote.

 

For the mirabelle compote

mirabelle, pitted, 250g /
Balsamic vinegar 2 teaspoons
sugar 1/4 teaspoon
a pinch of cinnamon
water 3 teaspoons

In a sauce pan, bring the ingredients to the boil, close with a lid and cook for 1 minute medium heat. Season with vinegar, sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

 

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

 

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

 

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

 

Saltimbocca alla Romana with Mirabelle

Sainte-Maure Chèvre, Rosemary Oil and Olive Sandwich

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

When I picked up another amazing sourdough bread from Malin’s kitchen of The Bread Exchange  -  this time with fragrant rosemary –  I had a clear scene in my head. Imagine a relaxed evening in late August, the air is already a little bit crisp and damp as autumn is nearing and you’re sitting outside in your garden or close to the open kitchen window. The sky is glowing in all shades of purple and pink, you’re cosy, wrapped in a cardigan, thinking about all your wonderful holiday memories. You have a glass of wine in front of you on the table and a pretty little snack which reminds you of all the wonderful flavours of summer. Think of a sandwich made with woody rosemary, fragrant olive oil, black olives and aromatic French goat cheese, like the fine Sainte-Maure de Touraine Chèvre, and some sweet cherry tomatoes on the side! It’s so easy to feel good with the right food and the right mood and it’s so easy to create this kind of treat, all you need are excellent ingredients!

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

When we started our eat in my kitchen x The Bread Exchange sandwich series last month, I mentioned how extraordinarily good Malin’s bread is, its taste, texture and smell offers all you could possibly ask for in a sourdough bread. For my last sandwich creation I got a turmeric loaf from her, this time she pulled an aromatic rosemary bread out of her oven. It was so tempting, I stood in her kitchen together with Simone, another trader (I mentioned that Malin doesn’t sell her bread, you have to trade with her) and I had this warm bread in my hands. The air was filled with the woody smell of rosemary and I couldn’t have a single bite of it, I had to wait to make my Wednesday sandwich first. I had to go home, prepare everything and take the pictures, I had to be patient and I didn’t feel like waiting at all! I think Simone felt sorry for me, she pulled out her loaf of bread from its brown paper bag and offered me a slice. Simone loves good food, design and photography and shares it with the world on her beautiful Instagram account (instagram.com/fraeuleinsonntag)!

If you would like to trade with Malin, just leave a comment here and she will get in touch with you! You can pre-order a signed special edition of Malin’s beautiful and inspiring book The Bread Exchange here (release date is the 1st November 2014)!

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

 

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

Sainte-Maure Chèvre, Rosemary Oil  and Olive Sandwich

For 4 sandwiches you need

the best loaf of sourdough bread you can get, cut into thick slices
Sainte-Maure de Touraine Chèvre (or another soft, aromatic goat cheese), around 120g / 4.5 ounces
olive oil 2 tablespoons
rosemary, finely chopped, 2 tablespoons
a pinch of salt
a pinch of sugar
black olives (preferably Kalamata olives), pitted and thinly sliced, 10

Mix the olive oil, rosemary, salt and sugar. Spread slices of goat cheese on the bread and sprinkle with rosemary oil and olives – enjoy!

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

 

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

 

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

 

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

 

Chevre and Rosemary Oil Sandwich with Olives

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

When I see juicy strips of grilled bell pepper on an antipasti platter, colourful in red, orange and yellow, I can barely stop myself from eating all of them (which is unfortunate for my antipasti platter companion). I love this balanced taste of sweet and smokey, it’s addictive! There are many ways to do this, some prefer to grill the fruit cut in half, some say you should cook it whole in one piece. Peeling the skin off can be a bit fiddly but it’s manageable, there are many suggestions to make this part easier. The latest I heard was to put the grilled bell pepper in a plastic bag and shake it to get rid of the skin although I’ve never tried it myself.

This is how I grill and peel bell pepper, how I’ve done it for years and it works perfectly: I put the whole fruit in a baking dish under the grill, turning it as soon as one side gets dark (meaning partly black). When the skin is dark and burst all around, after about 25 minutes, I open the oven, take out the dish and lay a wet kitchen cloth or paper towel over the bell peppers to cover them completely. I wait just a few seconds as they should stay warm and moist for this process. Then, I take out one pepper after the other and pull the skin off with a knife. If you leave them to cool without the moisture it’s impossible to peel them without damaging the flesh.

Sometimes I grill a big batch of bell peppers, I cut them in thick strips and keep them covered in olive oil in the fridge for days. Apart from the fact that it is a convenient (and healthy) nibble, it’s perfect for an antipasti platter at one of our dinner parties, as a salad or to make sandwiches. This time I grilled only three peppers and marinated them in garlic infused olive oil and fresh thyme. They didn’t last very long!

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

For 2-4 people you need

bell peppers (red, orange or yellow) 3
olive oil 3 tablespoons
garlic, cut into thin slices, 1 big clove
thyme sprigs 8

In a sauce pan, warm up the olive oil and garlic for 3 minutes on a medium-low heat to infuse the oil, the garlic shouldn’t change colour.

Put the bell peppers in a baking dish under the grill and turn them as soon as one side gets dark and starts to burst. I turned them twice, after 10 minutes on each side, I cooked the third side for only 5 minutes. Take the baking dish out and cover with a wet kitchen cloth or paper towel immediately. Wait for 10 seconds, take out one pepper and peel it with a knife. Keep in mind that they are still hot, especially the inside! Cut the peeled fruit in half, take out the seeds and cut the bell pepper into strips.

Pour the olive oil over the bell peppers and sprinkle with the garlic and thyme sprigs (or just the leaves if the sprigs are hard and woody). You can season it with salt and pepper but I left it pure.

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

 

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

 

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

 

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto with Capers, Anchovies and Lemon

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto

This pesto is so rich in unbeatably strong aromas, velvety black olives, fresh parsley, salty capers and anchovies, spicy onions and garlic and some lemon juice and mustard to finish it off! It resembles the Provençal tapenade but the parsley and onions give it a lighter and fresher touch, it makes this dish feel Italian. It’s great with pasta but also as a spread on crunchy grilled bruschetta. Although I’m not the biggest fan of raw onions I must say that they make sense in this recipe, they add more of a sharp spiciness than an overpowering taste of onions which is quite often the case when this uncooked vegetable is involved.

This is another one of those convenient pantry/ fridge/ balcony dishes, made with ingredients that I always find in these three places! My mother used to make a similar pesto with pasta, I played around with it over the years, added a few flavours until it became this recipe. You could also add some sun-dried tomatoes, chop in some fresh tomatoes or replace the parsley with basil. That’s what I love about pesto, it can follow your mood and kitchen stock!

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto

 

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto with Capers, Anchovies and Lemon

For 3-4 people you need

linguine or spaghetti, cooked al dente, 300-400g / 10.5-14 ounces
black (preferably Kalamata) olives 15
parsley, the leaves of a medium sized bunch, leave out a few leaves, roughly chopped, for the topping
anchovies, rinsed and dried, 2
capers 1 tablespoon
shallot 15g / 1/2 ounce
garlic, 2 cloves
pine nuts 15g / 1/2 ounce
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
mustard 1/8 teaspoon plus more to taste
olive oil 50ml / 1 3/4 ounces
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar for the topping

Mix the ingredients in a food processor, it should be a smooth paste. Season with lemon juice and mustard to taste.

Serve the pasta with the pesto on warm, big plates, sprinkled with black pepper and parsley.

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto

 

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto

 

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto

 

Black Olive and Parsley Pesto

meet in your kitchen | Cristina’s crunchy Gooseberry Crumble

Gooseberry Crumble

It was mid July, a few days before I changed my Berlin kitchen for the one in the Mediterranean, when I got an unexpected  message from Cristina. She said she would be in Berlin for a few days and asked if I would like to bake together with her. She is a very close friend of my Maltese sister Emma, both of them love to bake and I have seen the two girls working on delicious cake and cookie creations quite a few times. Whenever I met Cristina in the kitchen we used to talk about German food as her mother is from the south of Germany and her cooking is influenced by both the Maltese and the German cuisine.

Emma and Cristina became friends on a film set a few years ago, they were booked for a few scenes in a big film production on the island and they bonded straight away. They are both exceptional beauties, so it didn’t take too long for them to become well known models in Malta, and against all clichés, their friendship managed to survive this business.

Gooseberry Crumble

I was happy that Cristina got in touch to meet for a baking session, a meet in your kitchen changed to a meet in my kitchen! We decided to go for a fruity crumble. She suggested an apple crumble but in the end we went for gooseberries, they are in season at the moment and she had never tried these tart little berries before. I bought very ripe red berries as they are less sour than the green ones, I didn’t want to shock her too much with her first gooseberry experience! She loved them and they were a perfect addition to her cinnamony crumbles, juicy and fruity at the bottom and crunchy on top!

While we were baking and chatting in the kitchen, I asked her a few questions about her modelling, her studies and her recent travels to Marrakesh. Cristina just finished her bachelor of Science in Earth Systems, the past years of studying influenced her consciousness about environmental issues and affected her lifestyle strongly.

Gooseberry Crumble

Cristina’s Gooseberry Crumble

gooseberries, cut in half, 500g / 1 pound
plain flour 300g / 10.5 ounces
Demerara sugar 175g / 6 ounces plus 2 scant tablespoons for the berries
butter, at room temperature, 200g / 7 ounces
ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F and butter a 20cm / 8″ baking dish.

Combine the flour and sugar, add the butter and mix with your fingers until you have a crumbly mixture.

Put the gooseberries in the baking dish and mix with 2 tablespoons of sugar mixed with the cinnamon. Spread the crumbles on top of the berries and bake for 45 minutes, turn the oven up to 200°C / 390°F and bake for further 15 minutes or until the crumbles are golden brown.

Gooseberry Crumble

 

Gooseberry Crumble

You live in Malta, your father is Maltese but your mother is from the south of Germany. How did these two cultures influence your life and personality?

I don’t really feel closer to one or the other. Actually I do feel like I am properly half Maltese and half German. I feel inspired by both cultures, I tend to cook more Mediterranean when it comes to savory food. When we’re in Germany I really enjoy how green it is and I spend more time outside in the countryside than I would in Malta.

What are your favourites from the Maltese and German cuisine?

From the Maltese cuisine, I love the typical Maltese Ftira bread with its filling (no fish). This is the food I really miss when I’m abroad, as the type of bread is so unique. From the German cuisine it would have to be the typical German dish called Milchreis.

What did you miss the most about Maltese food when you lived in Berlin? What did you discover here that you reallly enjoyed?

The Ftira. I love that in Germany, in Berlin in particular, there are little bakeries at every corner. I have a sweet tooth, so I love buying all kinds of pastries and cakes.

What was the first dish you cooked or baked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

I don’t remember, but my family makes quite a big deal about birthdays. Every year, we all bake a special birthday cake for each other and take time in finding the perfect cake to bake and also work a lot on the decoration and make sure each cake looks different from one we had already done.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Malta?

I like places that promote fresh foods, preferably healthy ones also. The view and setting of the restaurant is also important. One of my favorite go to places for lunch, dinner or just any snack is Mint, in Sliema. They offer daily fresh options (and vegetarian ones too) and display their menu for the day in large refrigerators, so that people can see before hand what the food looks like. I recently also discovered the farmers market, where you can buy all sorts of local and fresh fruit and veg, straight from the farmer himself!

You’ve just finished your bachelor of Science in Earth Systems, can you explain what this is about? How did your studies effect your daily live and your environmental consciousness?

My course is an environmental based subject, which includes studying different branches of the environment, such as biodiversity, geology or hydrology. The course really changed how I think about a lot of things in our world. Apart from the obvious things such as being more environmentally aware, I am starting to reduce what I purchase, in terms of where things are produced, what I eat etc.

I know that you love to travel and you’ve just come back from Morocco, what were your strongest impressions? Did you make any new culinary discoveries?

Morocco was a wonderful place and very different to what I imagined. In the large cities, the people are not as conservative as you might think, and most citizens are super friendly. With regards to food, I felt that in the main cities such as Marrakesh, there was not much variation, particularly for vegetarian dishes. They mostly served couscous, vegetable tagine or omlettes. All meals however were always colourful in appearance  and accompanied by a mix of olives and flat bread.

Besides being at university during the past few years, you also became a successful model. What do you like and what do you dislike about this job?

I just do some modelling in Malta as a hobby, and an easy way to make money rather than a job.  Its fun to dress up for a while and play a different character, but I’m not someone that likes to spend time and money on clothes or new accessories. The industry also creates a large demand on animal trade, in particular furs or jewellery made from (for example) rhino horn. I am completely against this, and would refuse to model such items.

What or who inspired you to become an environmentalist?

The course I studied opened my eyes to the problems in our world, but I would say that it originated from my childhood. When I was young (and still now) our family outings always consited of a lot of outdoor activites, such as hikes or picnics in the countryside. When we visit Germany, we always go skiing in winter time and hike different mountains or cycle by lakes during summer time. The school I went to was also situated in a very green part of Malta and a lot of our activities consisted of interacting outside with the environment.  This really influenced me.

What did you choose to share on eat in my kitchen and why?

I chose an apple crumble, which Meike interestingly suggested to make a goosberry crumble since the fruit is now in season. I actually came up with this recipe with a friend of mine when we were living in Berlin. We tweaked it so that it would really be ours, and we found it so delicious from the first bite. The streusel, or crumble, is really crisp and just the right texture to complement the slightly softened and flavoured fruit underneath.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

It would have to be Ina Garten from the cooking show Barefoot Contessa. I watch all of her cooking shows and have her recipe books.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

A nice quiche with grilled vegetables, pasta salad with vegetables and crunchy apples and a strawberry cheesecake.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

My mother used to make pasta with sugar for us sometimes. When I have it now it just really reminds me of when I was younger. Something I would always have an appetite for now are my homemade brownies with nuts and white chocolate topping. Once I ate a whole portion in one day!

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I like cooking with others if they know how to cook. It’s not so much fun with people who don’t really know how to cook or who are not really in the mood.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Improvised!

Which meal would you never cook again?

Once I cooked a chocolate coffee cake and I must have put too much coffee in. Since then the cake put me off coffee.

Thank you Cristina!

Gooseberry Crumble

 

Gooseberry Crumble

 

Gooseberry Crumble

 

Gooseberry Crumble

 

Gooseberry Crumble

Espresso Ricotta Mousse with Ouzo and Bittersweet Chocolate

Coffee Ricotta Mousse

The past few weeks felt like living in ricotta heaven! If some places are called the land of milk and honey, Malta would be the land of ricotta and honey! Sweet and savory, you taste it in pies like Qassatat or Pastizzi, tarts, cakes like Cassata Siciliana or with pasta, there is an endless variety in the use of this delicious dairy product on the island. One might think that after a month of savoring all these delicacies I might need a break, but that’s not the case at all. Now that I’m back home, I miss it already!

So, to ease my culinary longings, I came up with a dessert that satisfies my needs when I’m in the mood for ricotta, coffee ricotta mousse with Ouzo! It lifts you up like a Tiramisu, the espresso, sugar and anisette are the right kick after a long dinner. The ricotta makes it smooth and velvety and gives it a milky touch. I sprinkled some bittersweet chocolate on top, the perfect finish, visually and in flavours!

This dessert is perfect for a dinner with friends, it only takes a few minutes to whip the ingredients together. You can prepare the mousse either in advance and keep it in the fridge or eat it straight away if the ricotta is chilled enough like I did.

Coffee Ricotta Mousse

 

Coffee Ricotta Mousse

 Espresso Ricotta Mousse with Ouzo and Bittersweet Chocolate

For 4 portions you need

chilled ricotta, drained, 250g / 9 ounces
instant espresso powder 1 1/2 teaspoons
grainy espresso powder (for the espresso maker) 1 teaspoon
sugar 3 tablespoons
Ouzo 2 tablespoons
bittersweet chocolate, grated, 4 teaspoons, for topping

Whip the ingredients until well combined, add sugar to taste and fill the mousse in whiskey glasses. Serve immediately sprinkled with chocolate or keep in the fridge and add the chocolate just before serving.

Coffee Ricotta Mousse

 

Coffee Ricotta Mousse

 

Coffee Ricotta Mousse

Rabbit Stew, Fenkata and my beloved Valletta – my last post from Malta

Fenkata

My last Malta post celebrates a wonderful dish and an amazing city, both represent this island and what I love about it! Let’s start with the food, the famous Fenkata (Fenek biz-zalza) which is the island’s national dish! This meal is usually savored in a big group of friends and family at a big table, a whole rabbit (or a few), marinated and stewed in wine. The meat is cooked with aromatic spices and herbs and served in its aromatic sauce with pasta or potatoes. I’m sure that there are as many recipes for this meal as there are families on the island!

A Fenkata is fun to cook together with your guests, it’s a celebration of the time we spend together with the ones we love, it’s about enjoying life, food and wine together. We usually cook the rabbit in red wine, but white wine works as well, sometimes we add olives, capers and parsley. This time we kept it pure and simple and added just a few carrots, tomatoes, some onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. The meat was tender and the sauce was fantastic, rich in flavours and slightly thickened by the vegetables. We enjoyed our Fenkata together with our friends and family, with some pasta and a big smile on our faces!

Fenkata

And now it’s time to tell you more about my favourite city, my beloved Valletta, Malta’s capital! I love its graceful architecture, the tall buildings made of the island’s typical limestone, the facades opened with wooden balconies, painted in dark green, blue, red or white. They line the main roads densely, Republic Street, Old Bakery Street and Merchant Street which snuggle into the city’s hills like snakes, before they stop in front of the dark blue sea, at Fort St. Elmo. The atmosphere is magical, unique, it’s busy during the day and realaxed at night, that’s when I love it the most. When I visit Valletta to shop or to linger in the streets, I like to stop at Prego Café & Bar or Caffe Cordina for a cappuccino and some sweets, both are old family businesses. Prego is in a quiet side street, South Street, it’s very popular with locals, especially in the morning or around noon. It opened in 1946 and today it’s run by the brothers Giorgio, Joe and their cousin Carmelo. The coffee is exquisite, imported from Sicily, the minimal furniture didn’t change since the sixties which adds a beautiful nostalgic charm to this place.

One of our most frequently visited restaurants in Valletta is Legligin where Chris cooks delicious Maltese tapas and offers a great selection of wines (I love the local Syrah which he produces with one of his friends). Il Horza restaurant is famous for its meat dishes and Michael’s for fish but at the moment he hosts Aziamendi100 at his place until October, a temporary restaurant by the Basque 3 Michelin star chef Eneko Atxa. Nenu, the Artisan Baker makes a nice Maltese Ftira pizza but I’m particularly fond of their traditional coffee made with spices and their wonderful desserts. I can recommend the Maltese bread pudding which isn’t as good as Joanna’s but still very good, the trifle and the Mqaret (pastry filled with dates).

If you want to learn more about life in Valletta you should visit Casa Rocca Piccola, a beautiful private 16th century palazzo with a big collection of antique furniture and artworks. Nicholas de Piro, the owner, is a member of Malta’s aristocracy, he lives with his family in some of the more than 50 rooms of this grand building but opened most of them to the public.

Another very special Valletta experience is the Sunday morning service at the Baroque St John’s Co-Cathedral. The intimate mass is held in Latin accompanied by a great choir. The cathedral’s museum shows some of Caravaggio’s master pieces, like the Beheading of St John the Baptist, the artist lived and worked in Malta from 1607-08.

If you like Jazz music, don’t miss Bridge Bar‘s Friday night concerts! A nice crowd of  people sits outside on the stairs under a big pink Bougainvillea listening to the music and enjoying the atmosphere with a glass of wine!

Now, it’s time for my Berlin kitchen agin, time to say good bye to my Maltese summer, to my big Maltese family, Jenny’s kitchen, the sea, my vegetable man Leli and all the others who make every stay on the island so special. It’s a thankful good bye!

Fenkata

 

Fenkata

 Fenkata, a Maltese Rabbit Stew

The rabbit is best when it’s marinated in red wine for about 8 hours.

For 4 hungry people you need

a whole rabbit, with innards, cut into 8 pieces, 1
dry red wine 0,75l / 1.5 pints
carrots, cut into big pieces, 3
big onion, cut in half and into slices, 1
garlic, cut in half, 8 cloves
large tomatoes, quartered, 3
bay leaf 1
fresh thyme, a small bunch
olive oil
plain flour
sugar about 1/2 teaspoon
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, marinate the rabbit in half of the wine for about 8 hours. Keep the wine, take the meat out, dry with kitchen roll, dust the rabbit pieces lightly with flour and season with salt.

In a casserole dish, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the rabbit for a few minutes until golden brown on all sides. Take out the meat and set aside. Add the innards and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic, onion and carrots and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Deglaze with a splash of red wine, add the tomatoes, the meat and the rest of the wine (from the marinade and the bottle). Add the bay leaf and thyme, close with a lid and cook for one hour on medium-low heat. When the meat is tender, take it out and set aside. Sieve the sauce, put it back into the casserole dish, season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste and add the meat (either on the bones or boned, as you prefer).

Serve with spaghetti or potatoes.

Fenkata

 

Fenkata

 

Fenkata

 

Fenkata

 

Fenkata

Basil and Mint Lemonade and organic farming on the island

Basil and Mint Lemonade

My Maltese brother Alex has been telling me about his own juices, lemonades and non-alcoholic cocktail creations for months and when I saw him in the kitchen, chopping herbs and fruits, crushing ice cubes and working on new colourful compositions every few days, I asked him if he would like to come up with a refreshing lemonade recipe for eat in my kitchen.

It was a hot afternoon and I had just come back home from my visit to a farm in Bahrija. I had a peppermint plant in my hand which I got from Peppi Gauci who runs the Bahrija Oasis farm and Alex decided to mix a chilled basil and mint lemonade for me. It was delicious, not too sweet, fresh, lemony and with strong herbal flavours! You should try this recipe on one of these hot August afternoons, you just need to mix everything in a blender and within a few seconds you’ll have a drink ready to revitalise your senses!

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

In the past few weeks I went to two farms in Malta which have completely different visions and approaches to farming. One of them is Bahrija Oasis which is a bio dynamic farm with organic produce (although not certified organic). Bahrija is part of the Permaculture Research Foundation Malta project, a holistic design philosophy which aims to create “community eco-systems in which plants, animals and human beings, and all forms of ecological diversity interact to produce a prolific, ecologically-sound and regenerative system that can support itself and life indefinitely”. The idea is to provide all we need to live, like food, water, shelter, energy and health consistent with the Earth’s natural balanced ecosystems, symbiotic and synergistic. This project brings together likeminded people with interests in green issues, ecological designers and students and the Bahrija Oasis provides the ground and platform for this work.

Eleven years ago Peppi got the land from his family and it wasn’t cultivated at all at that point, just rocks, some weeds and steep hills, but over the years he managed to establish a working permaculture project. He changed the dry and arid landscape into a fertile farm, a biotope with a much greater biodiversity producing organic crops such as sprouts, herbs, seeds, medical plants and vegetables. Many students and volunteers visit the farm to learn more about sustainability, eco-education, wildlife and permaculture at the workshops hosted at the farm. If you’re interested, just visit permaculturemalta.org and ask Peppi about the workshops!

To get to the farm, we had to walk along a little stream covered with tall bamboo for  about 10 minutes. This water is home to the very rare, endemic Maltese freshwater crab, Qabru. Their population is declining steadily and we were lucky to find one  in the shallow water looking at us!

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

My second visit brought me to a beautiful place in Ahrax in Mellieha which is owned by Louis Cini (you can see his farm in the last 10 pictures). It’s been in his family’s hands for generations and his concept is completely different. It’s a certified organic farm producing a great selection of wonderful fruit and vegetables. Organic farming isn’t as established in Malta as it is in northern Europe but Louis is one of the pioneers. His fields produce some of the best grapes, figs and tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. He also grows sweetcorn, various kinds of lettuce, cabbage and marrows and much more, this farm looks as peaceful and welcoming as Louis’ smile!

What made this visit very special to me, apart from meeting Louis, was being able to see the old rooms at the back of the farm which are no longer used and where his relatives used to live. Louis decided to leave them untouched, in the exact way they looked when his uncle who was the last to live there, passed away. It felt like traveling in time, to see the old furniture, the small, very basic kitchen working without electricity in the olden days, colourful enamel cookware in shelves that have been rusting for years, battled boots from the times of war, manual farming tools under piles of dust, quilts and pillows, photographs eaten away by time, by the wind and the salty air. Louis told me to take pictures, and I took many but at first I wasn’t sure if I should show them. It felt like such an intimate insight in someone’s life who isn’t even here but Louis encouraged me, he feels proud to share his family’s heritage. This is what life in the Mediterranean looked like 100 years ago, nothing changed in these rooms, this is a great gift!

Basil and Mint Lemonade

Basil and Mint Lemonade  

For 500ml / 1 pint of lemonade you need

fresh big basil leaves 10
fresh mint leaves 20
water or soda water, chilled, 500ml / 1 pint
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 big lemon
sugar 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
ice cubes for serving

Put the ingredients in a blender and mix well. Fill the lemonade in big glasses with ice cubes.

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

This is Louis Cini’s beautiful farm in Mellieha:

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

Grilled Bell Pepper and Zucchini Sandwich with Basil

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

My Maltese summer is coming to an end and the next couple of posts will be the last ones from the islands, on Saturday I will continue writing from my Berlin kitchen again! Till then I will share a few more of the special places that I have fallen in love with over the years. I will tell you about some of my favourite spots which I haven’t mentioned yet and tease you with a few more photos of my beloved Mediterranean sea!

Before I start my list I will show you my perfect summer sandwich, a sourdough bun soaked with lemon oil and filled with grilled green bell pepper and slices of zucchini. I sprinkled the smokey vegetables with some fresh basil leaves, flaky sea salt and crushed black peppercorns to add a little spiciness. The bell pepper and zucchini are at the peak of their season at the moment, full of ripe green flavours! The composition was so light and juicy, almost fruity, I could have eaten two of them!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

I promised to tell you a bit more about Gozo, so this would be a typical, perfect day on Malta’s sister island:

We leave Malta on the ferry very early in the morning and reach Mgarr harbour after only 25 minutes as the channel between the islands is just 6km (4 miles) wide. I always spend the journey on the top deck in the front of the boat as the view is stunning! When we arrive we drive straight to our apartment or farm house which doesn’t take too long as Gozo is just 14 x 7 km (9 x 4 miles)!

We often start our day with a cappuccino, a couple pastizzi and a piece of chocolate fudge cake at Bellusa in the capital Victoria (also known as Rabat). Joe Bugeja runs this café at the main piazza, he took over from his father who opened this pretty little place in 1960 and since then you can see him at the café taking care of the orders every day.

Gozo is one of the best places for diving and snorkeling in the Mediterranean, some people even say in the whole world, so we spend lots of time under water. These are a few of my favourite spots:

Dewjra (we like to snorkel right next to the Blue Hole, here you can see the most beautiful blue, sparkling, deep and endlessly)
Wied il Ghasri
Ta’ Cenc / Il Kantra
Qbajjar Bay
San Blas

For lunch or dinner we like to order pizza or Maltese Ftira at Maxokk Bakery, a take away bakery with an oven that is more than 100 years old! This family run business is famous for baking the best pizza on the islands. You should always give in your orders a few hours in advance (maxokkbakery.com)! We often enjoy the pizza at sunset right above the San Blas Bay on a bench in a little park.

My favourite restaurant on the island is on a beach, at Mgarr ix-Xini, it’s called Rew Rew. Noel, the owner, is famous for his delicious fish and seafood dishes. Normally, the restaurants opens just for lunch but unfortunately, it’s closed this summer due to filming taking place in the bay. For dinner, I can recommend Tmun in Mgarr, Tatita’s in San Lawrence and Oleander in Xaghra and for my last pastis on the island I love to sit on the balcony of  Gleneagles Bar in Mgarr, right at the harbour!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 Grilled Bell Pepper and Zucchini Sandwich with Basil

For 2 big sandwiches you need

crusty sourdough buns, cut in half, 2
green bell pepper, cut into thick slices, 1
medium sized zucchini, cut into slices, 1
fresh basil leaves 8
olive oil 6 tablespoons plus more for the vegetables
freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Brush the bell pepper and zucchini with olive oil and grill until golden brown.

Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice and brush the inside of the buns with it. Spread the grilled zucchini slices, bell pepper and basil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper, close the bun and enjoy!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

meet in your kitchen | Golden Calamari with Chorizo and the Meridiana Wine Estate

Meridiana

The “kitchen” I visited for today’s meet in your kitchen feature creates the completion of every fine meal, wine! When I thought about all the culinary places I wanted to visit and write about during my time in Malta I knew that a vineyard would definitely be one of them. My choice was easily made as for years I’ve enjoyed Meridiana’s wines, a winery that lifted the quality and the international image of Maltese wine to another level. Their Isis made from Chardonnay grapes is one of my favourite white wines and the Fenici Red is a beautiful, velvety red wine made of Syrah and Merlot, just the thought of it makes me wish I had another bottle of it in the house!

Meridiana is a boutique winery, all the grapes used for the nine different labels grow on Maltese ground. The production only reaches 140,000 bottles a year, most of their wines are sold out before the following vintage’s release. Unfortunately, only a few countries are lucky to be on the wine estate’s export list and Germany isn’t one of them. I bought a few bottles after my visit and I will definitely have some shipped to my own kitchen for a little taste of Malta in my glass when I feel like.

Meridiana

Compared to Italian or French wine estates, Meridiana’s history is relatively young. In 1985, a Bordeaux oenologist convinced Mark Miceli-Farrugia that Malta’s climate and soil offered all a high quality wine needs, a produce that didn’t exist on the market at that point. Two years later, Meridiana Wine Estate was established but it took another 8 years and lots of patience and persistence to be rewarded with the first harvest of a limited quantity of red and white wine between 1995/96. During those first ten years, Meridiana experimented with various kinds of grapes and acquired a 19-hectare site in Malta’s agricultural heartland below the city of Mdina. The partnership with one of the oldest winemaking families in the world helped the young winemakers to fulfill their vision. Marchese Piero Antinori joined in in 1992 and brought in his family’s experience in winemaking gained over hundreds of years all over the world (Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Winemakers Guild of Florence in 1385).

I spent a few wonderful hours on the estate with Karl Chetcuti, my knowledgable host, who showed us around the fermentation tanks, the cellar filled with old oak barrels and we tasted some wines which we hadn’t tried yet. We spoke so much about wine but also about the best places to buy fish, restaurants, bakeries and our favourite butchers. Before we left, Karl mentioned his favourite recipe for calamari, fried in rings and served with spicy chorizo on the side. On one of the following nights, we opened a bottle of chilled Isis and took his advice. We threw a few calamari in hot garlicky oil and ate them with thinly sliced chorizo, it’s a great combination of spice and sea!

If you would like to visit Meridiana and learn more about winemaking just get in touch with Karl at meridiana.com.mt!

Meridiana

Golden Calamari with Chorizo

For 2 people you need

big calamari tubes, cut into slices, 4
chorizo, very thinly sliced, 70g / 2.5 ounces
plain flour
garlic, quartered, 1 big clove
olive oil
lemon 1/2

optional
small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, 1

On a large plate, dust the calamari with flour, they should be coated with a thin layer.

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil with the garlic. Add the calamari and fry for 2 minutes, stirring gently. Don’t overcook them or they will become hard.

Arrange the chorizo and fried calamari on a large plate (and the optional slices of fennel), sprinkle the rings with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice and serve with a glass of chilled, fruity white wine.

Meridiana

 

Meridiana

 

Meridiana

 

Meridiana

 

Meridiana

 

Meridiana

 

Meridiana

 

Meridiana

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil and Sea Salt

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

The hot afternoon air is filled with the sweet fragrance of fennel, Buzbiez in Maltese, mixed with the earthy smell of the rocky, red soil and wild thyme, this is the addictive smell of Malta’s countryside! The ground is burst open by the sun and covered with twiggy plants, growing like sticks and crowned with golden umbels which carry the tasty fennel seeds which I love to use so much in my cooking. When we drive down some of the lonely narrow streets I touch the fennel with my hands as they grow so close to the asphalt that it feels like they want to take back their territory. Sometimes we jump into the car to drive around in these desolate parts of the island, to find a new hidden spot to snorkel or to stop somewhere in the middle of the soft hills and listen to the silence surrounded by the beautiful scent of fennel, thyme and sea air!

I always buy my fennel seeds in Malta, from a very sweet lady at the Sunday market in Marsaxlokk. I got used to the little seed’s taste which is so sweet, strong and unique here, I’ve never found tastier fennel anywhere else! It’s great to infuse olive oil for pasta, to cover the skin of roast poultry or to flavour potatoes. There is a popular Maltese dish, oven potatoes cooked with onions and fennel seeds in white wine, it’s often served as a side dish in restaurants with fish. It tastes so good that it doesn’t need anything else with it, we often eat it on it’s own and enjoy the aromatic potatoes.

Sometimes I feel the need to eat potatoes, my body just calls for them, so I decided to make my Mediterranean mashed potatoes which I  chop with a knife while I pour olive oil into the chunky mixture. Normally, I just season them with sea salt but this time I infused the olive oil with my aromatic fennel seeds from Marsaxlokk!

When we go to Marsaxlokk we like to stop at Delimara to snorkel and dive off the cliffs. The sea is beautiful here, crystal clear, in different shades of blue and turquoise! The bay is surrounded by white rocks and steep cliffs that look like abstract sculptures created by nature! One of the next bays, St. Peter’s Pool, is just as stunning!

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil and Sea Salt

For 2 people you need

big potatoes, cooked and peeled, warm, 3
olive oil 5 tablespoons
fennel seeds, lightly pressed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
sea salt

In a sauce pan, warm up the olive oil and fennel seeds for 3 minutes on low heat.

Chop the warm potatoes with a knife into small chunks while pouring the fennel oil into the lumpy mixture. Season with salt to taste.

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

meet in your kitchen | Arnold, the Beekeeper and Peaches filled with Honey Basil Ricotta

Arnold Grech

Last summer, I read Arnold Grech’s name on a jar of golden Maltese honey for the first time. I had visited Antoine Vella, one of the last artisan weavers on the island who makes beautiful carpets with traditional patterns. He is one of Arnold’s close friends and he had suffered from allergy problems for years. His friend, the beekeeper advised him to take a spoonful of honey collected from the area where he lives twice a day. Since that day the weaver has been cured and there is always a jar of honey to be found next to his weaving loom!

A year has passed and finally I find myself at Arnold Grech’s house to talk about bee keeping. Everybody I asked recommended him to learn more about bees and the island’s delicious honey! Malta is supposed to have its name derived from the Greek word for honey, meli, the ancient Greeks called the island Melite (meaning honey-sweet) and later, the Romans called it Melita. Malta has always been famous for its production of a unique honey due to its endemic species of bees, which also led to its nickname, the land of honey!

Arnold Grech

 

Arnold Grech

I looked forward to meeting Arnold and to listen to the man with 65 years of beekeeping experience, he is known to produce some of the island’s best honeys! When we met the first time to drive up to one of his apiaries in the north, a pinched nerve got in our way and we had to change our plans. I interviewed Arnold at his bed-side as he couldn’t move at all. We spoke for hours and I was fascinated by his stories, his knowledge and passion. He told me so much about his beloved bees that it was hard for me to wait until we could finally drive up to Mellieha where many of his colonies of bees live at the moment. One of the many stories which amused all of us when we imagined the scene was the mating of the bees. When the Queen leaves the hive to mate, she makes a shrill noise to inform the drones (the male bees) that she is ready. She leaves the hive, followed by hundreds of male bees, accelerating constantly until there is just one drone left which can keep up with her. She tests him further by speeding up a bit more to make sure that he’s the right one. When her choice is made he’s allowed to dock onto her!

So finally the day had come, Arnold felt much better and we met in his “honey kitchen”, his apiary in Mellieha which looks like a place in heaven! It’s right under the famous Red Tower which was built in 1649, the sparkling Mellieha bay lies to the east and the Ghadira Natural Reserve spreads to the south and west. I learnt so much about the bees, the colony’s organization, the different honey flows and much more! Arnold keeps his bees in a few apiaries, he produces his own honey but he is also the island’s main Queen (bee) breeder which he sells to other beekeepers. He makes various kinds of exquisite honey throughout the year and we didn’t leave him without taking a couple of them home with us, Wild Thyme and Orange Blossom honey. If you would like to buy Arnold Grech’s honey, please contact him at garnold@onvol.net.

There is a high demand for Maltese honey, its unique taste and quality made it very popular, in and outside Malta. You should only buy the island’s honey from trusted beekeepers as there isn’t always Maltese honey in a jar when it’s written on it. This is a  problem that occurs in every country that creates a high quality product with a limited production. If you’re unsure about a certain honey’s origin, just get in touch with Arnold who has been an agriculture consultant in Malta for decades and who knows Malta’s honey producers and their production like no one else! When we went to Gozo, he told us to visit one of his students in Gozo, Joey Xuereb. He has a beautiful apiary right at the harbor in Mgarr and sells delicious honey as well!

One the many recipes I tried with Orange Blossom Honey are Peaches filled with Honey Ricotta and Basil – just divine! Fittingly, a bee decided to have a taste as soon as I served them in the garden!

Arnold Grech

Peaches filled with Honey Ricotta and Basil

For 4 people you need

ripe peaches, cut in half and pitted, 4
ricotta, drained, 250g / 9 ounces
flowery honey, such as orange blossom, 2 tablespoons plus more to taste
basil leaves, cut into thin slices, 8

Whisk the ricotta and honey, sweeten with honey to taste and fill a tablespoonful into each peach half. Sprinkle with the basil and, if you like, pour a little more honey on top.

Arnold Grech

When and how did you become a bee keeper?

I had to sit for a competitive Grammar School examination way back in 1950. I used to visit my uncle who was a bachelor, frequently. On hearing that I had to study hard for this examination, he told me that if I passed on my first attempt, he would give me a colony of bees. He had three colonies in his garden. Each one was housed in an Earthenware pottery jar. After successfully passing the exam, my uncle kept his word and put one of the three colonies of bees he had at my disposal. I used to go to his house so that together we see the bees. And from then on I never looked back.

How many colonies of bees do you keep and how often do you visit them?

The numbers of colonies of bees fluctuate from time to time. I am the main Queen (ed. queen bee) breeder of the Islands of Malta. I rear Apis mellifera ruttneri queen bees only, the Maltese honey bee. Today, there are many beekeepers who import Apis mellifera sicula from Sicily. Having ten months of sunshine and good weather, plus two months of mild winter, I take advantage and keep rearing Queen honey bees throughout the year. This is coupled with eight honey flows in a continuous honey season beginning from 1st September and finishing on the 31st of August the year after. The honey flows occur in October – carob trees, then in December asphodel. In January the bees forage on borage flowers and in February it’s red clover. In March, we have white thistle and in April orange blossom. From the last week of May and all June it is wild thyme.The last honey flow would be eucalyptus in late August and September.

At present I have 183 colonies and some 38 Virgin Queens in the mating period. This year I have already reared 600 Queen bees. More than half of my Queens are normally requeened after the second year. And some of my customers are understanding the tricks of lessening swarming in the apiary. In European countries this could be done after the third year, since they have a shorter period for honey flows.

You have called the bees “your drug”, what about them fascinates you so much? What did you learn from them?

During the last 50 years (I’ve been keeping bees for the last 65 years) I’ve been studying beekeeping in Israel, England, Spain, Switzerland and Tunisia. I have won all these scholarships through CHIEME. I have also studied Apitherapy on a personal basis. Together with Prof. Walter Sheppard of the Washington State University, Prof. Maria Arias of Sao Paolo, Brazil, I carried a study (DNA) on the Maltese honey bee i.e. Apis mellifera ruttneri. We gave it the name of a German scientist who worked on many a DNA of honey bees. Today, I can say that I have studied a wide sphere of beekeeping in European and North African countries.

As I have already stated, our beekeeping season is stretched throughout the year. Nowadays, when a honey flow is nearing, I prepare to move a number of colonies of bees to the area. Already set with Supers on (where the honey nectar is stored), the only inspection takes place three days after moving them. Then, according to the progress of the flowering period, another inspection takes place fifteen days later. What fascinates me is the way they build the comb. From experience I know how to introduce new foundation in the right time. Bees do not produce beeswax if there is no honey flow on. You can also help the colony in increasing the amount of nectar collected.

I do not use chemicals to treat Varroa jacobsoni (ed. a disease). Today we know that apart from Varroa jacobsoni there is Varroa destructor which is immune to certain chemicals. I use drone brood. A Queen, in her first year, does not lay drone eggs. By keeping a couple of old Queens, you can produce sets of unsealed drone brood which one can distribute to 1st year Queens. As usual, before the brood is sealed the varroa mite enters the cell to meet the larva. Both are sealed in. When the larvae are nearing to emerge from the thin cocoon (after 24 days), I take them off without bees and see the varroa is killed. Thus saving money and I get a better crop -organic.

Another thing which really fascinates me, is the way they accept irregular spacing in Supers which I make and how they keep expanding on the same comb. Thirdly, I can create a situation in the brood chamber where the Queen increases her laying powers and arrives earlier in her top numbers of eggs (worker bees) by four to five weeks before the honey flow. This is done on a work phase of 28 weeks beginning from the 1st week in October to March. The end results in a peak of flying bees before the honey flow in April (orange blossom) and wild thyme (June). From the bees you have seen in Mellieha (ed. where Arnold keeps some of his colonies, in the north of Malta), I estimated that the crop is nearing 200 kg (400 pounds).

Could you give a short description of the cycle of a bees life and the inner workings of a colony?

The Queen bee is an egg laying machine. The drone supplies the goods when needed in case of a Virgin Queen. The worker bees do all the rest. The worker bee, in her first three days after emerging from the cocoon, cleans the empty cells preparing them for the Queen to lay. In the following three days, having developed a gland in its head, the bee prepares and feeds what is called the bee-milk. In the next three to five days, the worker bees will be supplying the Queen with royal jelly. After the 11th day, they can produce beeswax, through thin pockets beneath the abdomen. On the 16th day, they begin guard duties at the entrance of the hive. They begin practicing their way to and from the hive by making orientation flights until on the 21st day they begin foraging. These bees follow scouts which had left the hive before to find new pastures. When these scouts arrive home fully laden with nectar and pollen, they do not drop their goods in cells and leave the hive to bring back more. They begin going on a pattern on the comb challenging new foragers to follow. As these new recruits are identified they are given a taste of the goods. Then they keep following her to get more information, where the new source is situated, if this is in front or behind the hive, how far it is by means of the shaking of the abdomen and by using the sun as their compass to find their way back (ed. this is called the dancing of the honey bees).

Search for “Dancing of the honey bees” on the internet to get a detailed scientific description of theses scouts and their way forward.

What is the biggest threat for bees today? What do you think we must change about how we treat our environment?

There are many factors which are threatening bees worldwide. In Malta, one factor is the rearing of undervalued Queen bees. Other beekeepers are importing Queen bees from Sicily which is a different race/ species from the Maltese one, with a different orientation.

Beekeepers don’t settle for bee’s honey flows but need more. Stress takes over and the end result would be diseased due to stress. They are feeding bees early in the season whilst normally Queen bees are left to lay during the year, according to the honey flows. They also tend to keep the bees without medication when they need it, so they get weak and are attacked by stronger colonies robbing their honey and spreading diseases. In Malta, insecticides are controlled and spraying in fields is controlled too.

What are your favourites in the Maltese cuisine?

My favorite dishes are cooking rabbit in different ways and using honey to get a better blend and aroma. I also prefer to have white fleshed fish such as grouper and sea bass and tuna. Again cooking in different styles, especially steamed, I only use honey, sauces are optional. Spices are rare in my cooking.

What is your feeling about the state of home food culture in Malta today? What has changed over the past 5, 10 or 20 years?

Home cooking was the best as it was 20 or 30 years ago, I’m still doing it today. As a matter of fact you don’t see me using milk, yoghurt and such items in my cooking. Plain and simple is the best.

What was the first dish you cooked or baked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

I have been cooking since I was eleven. Being the elder child in a family of ten, you have to put your hands in to help. My first dish was fried pork and chips.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Malta?

I am not a fan of eating out. But there is a time when I feel having a go at either Michael (Michael’s in Valletta, he is called Il Re del Pesce), known for his exceptional cooking of fresh fish, or Il Gillieru, Tony Cremona, in St Paul’s Bay.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

I have already spoken about my choice, definitely it’s Michael.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

By time, you increase your experiences and add to your list. When I was a bachelor, I used to catch pilot fish and cook for another 20 or 30 bachelors. We used to meet in one’s house and I would cook grilled pilot fish with a special tomato uncooked sauce – the Maltese way.

Thank you Arnold!

Arnold Grech

 

Arnold Grech

 

Arnold Grech

 

Arnold Grech

 

Arnold Grech

 

Arnold Grech

Crisp Whitebait with Parsley

Golden Whitebait with Parsley

This was one of our first lunches when we arrived in Malta, but I had forgotten about it: golden fried whitebait sprinkled with parsley! For years I didn’t touch this dish as I didn’t like the idea of frying little fish in one piece until I tried it in a Portuguese restaurant and I loved it. That dinner changed my mind!

The fish has a fine taste, like the sea, so it shouldn’t be mixed with too many flavours. I like to cook a big batch of them and serve them on a big plate, with a salad and a glass of white wine on the side. This is perfect as an easy lunch and it brings a Mediterranean feeling to the table! Close your eyes, smell the aroma of the cooked fish and imagine that you’re sitting in a restaurant close to the sea!

When I cook whitebait (a big handful), I like to dust them lightly with flour, dip them in a beaten egg and fry them in 1 tablespoon of butter mixed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. They just need 3-4 minutes in the pan to turn golden brown and crisp. I sprinkle them with a heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley and a tiny bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice, that’s it!

Golden Whitebait with Parsley

 

Golden Whitebait with Parsley

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