eat in my kitchen

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

Langostini al Cartoccio cooked in seawater

Langostini al Cartoccio

I’m sure I spent more time in the water than on land in the past few weeks. When I’m in Malta, I turn into a fish, I practically live in and from the sea. Crystal blue water, secluded bays, and hidden caves under limestone arches are my very own little Mediterranean paradise. And once I’m out of the water, there’s often the freshest seafood on my plate. Simplicity rules Malta’s summer cuisine, a whole fish or pink crustaceans from the grill seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and some parsley from the fields, tender octopus in an aromatic stew – great quality ingredients don’t need much to shine.

Although I enjoy visiting the islands’ villages on Malta and Gozo a lot, walking down the quiet alleys and stopping for a cappuccino or ice cream at one of the old cafés, if there’s a chance to put my goggles on and snorkel, you can be sure to find me in the water within a split second. In the first week, I went to my beloved Fomm ir-Riħ to sadly find the gravel beach considerably narrowed by clay swept down from the steep hill behind it. The sea was rough, so we didn’t even bother walking down the hidden track along the cliff face. We went to Sliema’s city beach instead and I finished the day with my obligatory sun-downer – a glass of Ricard at the Exiles bar. Sitting on the warm rocks and smelling the salty air – after a dip in the sea of course – is one of the best ways to end a day in the Mediterranean.

Another trip took us to Marsaskala, a seaside village that I never really gave the attention it deserves. It’s a very Maltese place, not many tourists, old houses, bars, and palm trees lined up along the promenade where the young and old meet after sunset. I had a Ftira sandwich for dinner, but before we dove into village life we discovered a beautiful rocky beach north of the Xrobb l-Għaġin Temple. It was so peaceful, the endless sea framed by chalk-white cliffs softly sliding into the water. We were alone there, my Maltese family, my man and I snorkeled and Mama tried to catch our dinner – without success.

On one of our trips to Gozo, I discovered a recipe that I’d love to share with you today. Noel, the excellent chef at his open-air restaurant at the deep Mgarr ix-Xini bay – which is a bit tough to find – cooked the sweetest langostini al cartoccio in seawater. He doesn’t have to go far, a few steps from his place he finds the cleanest Gozitan sea, always at hand to cook seafood in his preferred method: wrapped in a package, al cartoccio, with a splash of seawater, on the grill. Don’t worry if you don’t happen to live at the sea, just use normal water mixed with the best sea salt you can find, that’s what I did in my Maltese Mama’s kitchen. We got Maltese langostini, which are the sweetest I know. Noel’s crustaceans were a little smaller than ours and tastier, however, my fish monger only had the larger size. You just have to add some lemon wedges to the package and cook it on the grill for a few minutes (or in the oven). They cooked to perfection, with a gentle touch of the salted water. I used Gozitan salt, which I find not only subtle in saltiness, but also tastier than any other I’ve tried. Choose a good one, it’s worth it when you follow simple cooking.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Seawater cooked Langostini al Cartoccio from the Grill

You can cook the langostini on the grill or in the oven.

Serves 2

extra wide aluminium foil
medium langostini, fresh and uncooked, 8-10
sea salt 1 tablespoon
water, warm, 300ml / 1 1/4 cups
olive oil
organic lemon, cut into wedges, 1

Start the grill or preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

Lay 2 pieces of aluminium foil on top of each other, large enough to wrap the langostini.

Stir the salt into the warm water and let it sit until the salt dissolves. Or, if you happen to live close to the clean sea, use the same amount of fresh seawater.

Lay the langostini in the middle of the aluminium foil and fold up the sides. Add the salted water / seawater, a generous splash of olive oil, and the lemon wedges. Wrap the package and seal the ends well.

Cook the langostini for about 3-5 minutes on the grill (I closed the lid of the grill), or in the oven, until they are just done.

Serve immediately with fresh bread and, if you like, a glass of chilled white wine.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Think of Black Forest Torte and meringue pie, take out the heaviness of the whipped cream, and you have a rough idea of the taste of this opulent beauty. My Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie has all the nice features of the famous southern German coffee table classic, including dark chocolate, Kirsch Schnaps, and sweet summer cherries – it’s just lighter.

My Maltese Mama Jenny was the first baker who introduced me to meringue pie, her formidable lemon meringue pie blew my mind. Although we have similar cakes in Germany, like a sponge cake layered with gooseberries and meringue, it doesn’t have the same qualities as a pie. It’s richer, a proper German torte. A pie, however, focuses on the fruit filling, there’s only a thin buttery short crust base holding all that lusciousness together. The wonderfully fluffy, airy meringue topping adds a very fine sweetness, wrapped in fragile crispiness. It works perfectly with sour rhubarb, a pink spring pie that became a popular recipe on the blog. I could have used the same formula for my plump black cherries, but I wanted a chocolate base. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I’m glad that I didn’t, it’s the perfect Schwarzwälder Kirsch Pie (the German name for black forest).

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

You’ll need a 23cm / 9″ shallow pie dish for this recipe.

Makes 1 pie

For the cherries

fresh sweet cherries, pitted,  about 550g / 1 1/4 pounds (about 4 cups pitted cherries)
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
Kirsch schnaps 3 tablespoons
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup

For the pastry

plain flour 160g / 1 1/4 cups
Dutch-process or natural unsweetened cocoa powder 50g / 2 ounces
granulated sugar 3 tablespoons
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
unsalted butter 120g / 1/2 cup
cold water 3 tablespoons

For the meringue

fresh organic egg whites 3
a pinch of fine sea salt
granulated sugar 80g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon

For the cherry filling, in a medium saucepan, heat the cherries, sugar, and cinnamon over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the sugar dissolved, stir in 2 tablespoons of the schnaps, close with a lid, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the cherries soften. Turn the heat down to low. Add 2 tablespoons of the liquid of the cherries to a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth, pour back into the saucepan, stirring constantly until well combined. If you’d like the schnaps to be more prominent, add 1 tablespoon of the spirit. Pour the cherries and all the liquid into a wide pan and let them cool completely.

For the pastry, in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly. Add the water and, using the hooks of the stand mixer, mix until combined. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 210°C / 410°F (conventional setting).

On a table or countertop, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll it into a circle, large enough to line a 23cm / 9″ shallow pie dish. Push the pastry into the dish, trim any excess dough off the rim with a knife, then prick the pastry all over with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes. Let the pastry cool completely before you assemble the pie.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg white and salt for 1 minute. Adding the sugar gradually, continue mixing for about 1-2 minutes or until stiff.

Preheat the oven to  210°C / 410°F (conventional setting).

Pour the cool cherries and all the liquid on top of the pastry. Scrape the stiff egg white on top, shape it to a dome and form little peaks with a knife to create an uneven surface. Bake for 7 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crisp. Let it sit for about 30 minutes before serving, the cherries need to set.

The pie tastes best on the 1st and 2nd day, however, you need to keep it in the fridge, which softens the pastry.

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

 

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Pie

Maltese Fennel & Coriander Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

A few weeks ago, I received a message from someone excitedly telling me that she visited my ‘fennel lady’ in Malta. I often wrote about this lovely farmer, on the blog and in my cookbook, and I can’t imagine cooking without her aromatic harvest anymore. Every Sunday, she spreads her fennel and coriander seeds on the wooden table at a tiny stand at the farmers’ market in Marsaxlokk, a picturesque fishermen’s village in the south of my beloved Mediterranean island. It seems like this is what she’s done all her life, picking and selling seeds, always with a happy smile on her tanned face. The person who wrote me the email did what I always do in summer: she bought bags of fragrant seeds to fill the spice box in her pantry.

Malta is the reason why fennel became so prominent in many of my recipes. It grows wild all over the islands, the plants dig their sturdy roots into every patch of soil they can find. I guess its abundance is one of the reasons why you can find fennel in many traditional dishes in Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine – and its wonderful sweet taste of course. If you visit the small local restaurants, you often find baked fennel potatoes as a side dish on the menu.

When Leerdammer asked me if I’d like to create a recipe with their new Toast and Burger Cheese, I didn’t think twice. I love a good cheeseburger. I live in Berlin, a city where new burger joints pop up at every street corner like mushrooms. Although I like to try a new spot once in a while, I still have my favourite place when my meaty cravings creep over: The Bird. I always go for a perfectly cooked steak burger topped with a slice of Swiss cheese. However, in my own kitchen, I’m a little more experimental.

Leerdammer’s aromatic cheese tastes slightly sweet and it melts on top of a warm, juicy burger like butter. The cheese has a fine taste, but it’s not shy, it can easily take a generous amount of warming spices stirred into the burger mixture: fennel and coriander seeds, alongside lots of garlic, fresh parsley, and spicy black peppercorns crushed in a mortar. I felt inspired by the famous Maltese sausage, which is coarse, rough, and so tasty. It features all the spices that you can find in my burger. When it comes to flavour, Malta’s traditional sausage is one of the richest and most delicious I know. And what works in a sausage, can’t go wrong in a burger.

The burgers are bedded on a thinly sliced fennel bulb that adds freshness and crunch, a few red onion rings and arugula (rucola) instead of a lettuce leaf brings a sharp note. Usually, I prefer to buy my cheese in one piece, but when it comes to cheeseburgers, I don’t mind working with sliced dairy products. This way it looks like a proper American style burger, one with a Mediterranean make-over. You could pack the whole thing in a bun, but what about trying something new and layering it between two thick slices of toasted white bread? And instead of using the toaster, make use of the burgers’ buttery cooking juices and crisp the bread in the pan.

Thank you Leerdammer for inspiring me to make a Maltese cheeseburger toast. You can find more Toast & Burger recipes celebrating regional treats here.

Last year I created a few scrumptious sandwiches together with Leerdamer, here are some of my favourites:

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables
Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich
Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Makes 4 burgers

For the burgers

minced meat (beef and pork) 500g / 18 ounces
dry breadcrumbs 30g / scant 1/4 cup
organic egg 1
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, 1 medium bunch
fennel seeds 1 tablespoon
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
flaky sea salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
butter, to cook the burgers
olive oil, to cook the burgers

To assemble the burger toast

fresh white loaf, 8 thick slices
medium fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced, 1
medium red onion, cut into thin rings, 1
Leerdammer cheese (or another aromatic cheese that melts well) 4 slices
(I used Leerdammer’s ‘Herzhaft-Intensiv’ Toast & Burger cheese. If you prefer a smoky note, go for ‘Rauchig-Würzig’.)
arugula (rucola), a small handful
olive oil
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, for the topping (optional)

For the burgers, in a large bowl, using your hands or a stand mixer, mix and knead the minced meat, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, parsley, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, pepper, and salt until well combined. Shape the meat mixture into 4 thick burgers.

In a large, heavy pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and a generous splash of olive oil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the burgers, and, turning them 2-3 times, cook until medium rare. You might have to turn the heat down to medium after a few minutes if the burgers turn dark. This takes about 10 minutes. Add more oil if the pan becomes too dry.

Transfer the burgers to a plate (cover them with a lid), leaving the fat in the pan, and turn the heat up to high. Add the bread slices to the pan and toast each slice on just one side until golden and charred at the corners.

To assemble the burger, lay a slice of bread on a plate (toasted side facing down) and lay a few fennel slices and red onion rings on top. Arrange the warm burger and a slice of cheese on top, then finish it off with some more onion rings and a few rucola leaves. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some fennel seeds, and close the sandwich with a slice of bread (toasted side facing upwards). Squeeze and enjoy!

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Roast poultry is always a feast. Nothing beats a whole roast chicken, the skin golden and crisp, the meat succulent and tender. And when it comes to seasoning the chubby bird, there are no rules to obey. Sweet or sour, fruity or veggie-focused, spiced-up or plain, a chicken can deal with everything. Lemon butter sounds fresh, tastes fresh, and turned my chicken into a perfect summer lunch. Italian peaches lend juice and fruitiness, a little sweet, but not too much, and rosemary brings in woody tones. Seeing as we’re talking about feasting, there had to be wine on the table. The bird didn’t necessarily need it, but my mood called for a German Riesling, chilled, fresh, and fruity.

If you love wine, here’s a little experiment for the next time you open a bottle: choose a good bootle of white or red wine and pour it into three to five different wine glasses. You can also go for champagne, if you’re in the mood for bubbles, but take your time and consciously taste the wine, its complex tones and colours, revealed by the dimensions of each glass, its shape, volume, height, and curves. If you have three glasses, you’ll taste three variations of the same wine.

My mother – who loves wine at least as much as she loves food – introduced me to this kind of wine tasting in my early twenties. She has a huge crystal glass collection handmade by 260 year old glass maker Riedel, not only for white, red, and sparkling wine, but also for different regional wine and grapes. The taller Bordeaux glass, the rounder Burgundy that opens at the mouth, the elegantly shaped Syrah glass, they all bring out the best, the typical characteristics of these wines. That doesn’t mean that a fine Chablis can’t be enjoyed out of a glass that was made for a Riesling, but it might miss certain nuances that give it the final touch, the magic that goes beyond words.

After my first lesson in the art of wine glasses, I decided to follow my Mama’s food steps and invest in a basic collection, my first machine-blown Riedel glasses. My budget was a bit more limited than my mother’s, I focussed on shapes that work well for various grape varieties. Riedel’s Rheingau glass, for example, is quite an allrounder, it flatters crisp and fruity whites like my beloved German Grauburgunder (pinot gris), but I also found out that a bubbly Crémant d’Alsace doesn’t mind this shape either – in case a Champagne glass isn’t at hand. When it comes to the reds, I’m a fan of body, weight, and depth. The classic Bordeaux shape goes quite well with a few of my favourite wines. These wine glasses were the start of my ever growing collection, which also led to ever growing kitchen shelves, but that’s another story.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Falling for wine glasses is a passion, it makes sense once you start investing in finer wines. A glass collection grows and changes every year, like a wine collection, there will be losses and new additions. It’s alive, like the wines that they’re filled with. It’s always sad to lose a precious glass, but it’s also so exciting to see a new shape added to the shelf.

When Riedel asked me, if I’d like to try out their new Fatto A Mano range, handmade at their headquarters in Kufstein in the western Austrian province of Tyrol, I could already hear my mother’s ecstatic voice. Fatto A Mano is a beautiful collection, thin and light at the top, tall and elegant, and it introduces a new feature. Inspired by the Venetian tradition of glass making, a coloured handmade stem is the base of each glass of this collection. The bowl, however, sitting on top, is machine-blown and then fused with the stem, a process developed by Riedel. The colour scheme, including bold yellow, red, blue, and green, and more minimal black and white, adds fun to the table. The art of wine making is a science, but the art of wine drinking is first and foremost a pleasure that allows us the luxury to relax and let go, to taste and just smile at life.

Setting up the table for a dinner party or a weekend lunch feast with friends – especially now, in summer – doesn’t need to follow strict rules anymore. We play with the arrangement and mix and match tableware, colours, shapes, and materials. Whatever mood I’m in, the food I choose, but also the way I lay out my table, reflects how I feel. The table is the stage for the feast, where we gather with the ones we love to enjoy a few hours of good food and wine, of closeness and conversation.

Thank you, Riedel, for introducing me to your artful Fatto A Mano collection. It has already created quite a few hours of pleasure at our table – for me and my friends.

In the pictures you see the Riedel Riesling glasses from the new Fatto A Mano range, the stemless Viognier / Chardonnay glasses from The O Wine Tumbler collection, which I used for water, and the perfectly shaped round-bellied Marne wine decanter.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

You can use leftover meat, sauce, and fruit to stir into warm pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Serves 2-3

unsalted butter 60g / 4 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 75ml / 1/3 cup
whole free-range or organic chicken, about 1.5kg / 3.3 pounds, 1
flaky sea salt
ground pepper
medium sprigs fresh rosemary 6
large lemon, cut into 8 wedges, 1
large, not too soft peaches, cut into 8 wedges each, 3

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (convection setting or Rotitherm setting, if available).

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and pour into a medium baking dish, large enough to fit the chicken in. Whisk in the lemon juice, then transfer the chicken to the baking dish and toss in the lemon butter until coated on all sides. Season the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out and lay 2 sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken. Arrange the remaining rosemary, lemon and peach wedges around the bird. Roast, spooning the juices from the pan over the chicken every 15 minutes,  for 45-55 minutes or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of a chicken thigh with a skewer. Turn on the broiler (grill) for a few minutes or until the chicken skin starts sizzling, mind that it doesn’t burn. Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.

Carve the chicken and serve with the peaches and baguette to dip into the juices – and with a glass of chilled Riesling of course.

If you’re looking for a starter, or a dish to accompany the roast chicken for an easy lunch or brunch, try my leek, tomato, and thyme quiche or basil ricotta and tomato quiche.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

Camembert and Pear Challah

A lot of cracking and aching was going on in the oven while I watched my camembert, pear, and thyme challah bake. At one point I got worried that my braided bread was going to explode. It rose and expanded on all sides, it looked more like a challah pancake than the elegant breaded loaf I had in mind. Maybe I filled the single yeast dough strings a bit too generously with ripe – and stinky – cheese and chopped crisp fruit, but I had a feeling that the recipe needed it. So I trusted, which is always the only sensible thing a baker can do when the object of attention doesn’t perform as expected.

To my surprise, it worked out in the end and the shape still reminded me of a Hefezopf – the German name for challah. I used my classic plain challah recipe and replaced the sugar with honey. It’s common in Germany to use butter and milk for this kind of bread, instead of water and vegetable oil, which you usually find in traditional challah recipes. I like the added richness coming from the dairy products, I find it tastier. Seeing as the fruit and cheese bring in even more juice and moistness, I could have made the dough a bit drier, added more flour to help it keep its shape. But the final texture was so nice, soft and spongy, that I’d rather accept the pancake-look than ending up with a dry Hefezopf.

If you don’t feel like camembert, you can also go for any other aromatic cheese that melts well. I already have a raclette challah in mind, next time. And I’m sure that apricots or peaches would also do a pretty good job instead of the pear. So feel free to experiment, but keep in mind, the juicier the fruit, the more it’ll soften your dough.

This challah is a perfect picnic, brunch, or Saturday lunch treat, preferably accompanied by fresh fruits, wine, and a selection of cheese and prosciutto. A green salad with juicy tomatoes also goes very well with it.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

When I baked my challah, it was a very hot day. So the butter in the dough literarily melted in my hands and turned braiding into a fiddly task. The single braids stretched quicker than I reacted, I was too slow. If you also happen to go for this recipe on a day with high temperatures, to avoid stress and frustration, try to work quickly when you braid the loaf. Keep the braids a bit shorter to begin with, due to the filling they’ll expand in length.

Makes 1 large challah

honey 2 tablespoons
butter, melted, 100g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
milk, lukewarm, 150ml / 2/3 cup
organic eggs 2
plain flour 520-550g / 4 cups – 4 cups plus 4 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon

For the filling

aged camembert, cooled and cut into thin strips (it’ll be a mess if it’s too soft), 250g / 9 ounces
medium to large firm pear, cored and cut into tiny cubes, 1
fresh thyme and a little rosemary (the needles, chopped), a large handful

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
water 1 tablespoon

Stir the honey into the hot melted butter and whisk until combined, let it cool until it’s lukewarm. Add the milk and eggs and whisk, the mixture should be lukewarm.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the milk-butter mixture to the flour mixture and mix for about 5 minutes or until well combined and smooth. If it’s too soft and sticky, add a little (!) more flour. Continue kneading and punching with your hands for about 3-5 minutes or until you have a soft and silky ball of dough. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C (100°F) warm oven, for 60-70 minutes or until almost doubled in size. If it’s a hot summer day, you can let the dough rise at room temperature (that’s what I did this time).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

When the dough is puffy and almost doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. Divide into 3 parts and roll them into longish, but not too thin sausage sausage shapes (see picture above). Flatten each piece of dough until it’s roughly 7.5 cm / 3″ wide. Divide the camembert, pear, and herbs between the 3 pieces of dough and spread, leaving a little rim all around the filling. Fold over each piece of dough, roll it gently, and seal the overlapping side and ends well. The filling should be completely wrapped inside the dough.

To braid the bread, work quickly, as the dough stretches. Lay the ends of the dough rolls on top of each other at one end and braid them tightly. If they become too long and thin, squeeze them together a little. Bend both ends of the bread under the loaf and quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 40-50 minutes or until fluffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional setting).

For the glaze, whisk the egg yolk and water and brush the top of the challah. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and spongy. When you knock on the challah’s bottom, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting the bread into thick slices.

The challah tastes best on the 1st day.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

The temperature’s high, the brightest blue is painted all over the sky, and my kitchen countertops are piled with berries and stone fruits. Strawberries, raspberries, the first red currents, peaches and apricots – I’m in fruit heaven. And soon I’ll be back in Malta, where figs, naspli (also known as loquat fruit or Maltese plum), and bajtra (prickly pear) will be added to the table. I adore summer, I love its richness and lusciousness, the vast variety of colourful produce that inspires me every time I go to the farmers’ market. A handful of ingredients perfectly ripened under the warm sun turn the most minimal dish into a regal meal. Or a simple sponge cake sandwiched with a creamy filling and seasonal fruit. Is there a better way to feast and celebrate summer than with a Peach Ricotta Torte?

When I was a child, my mother introduced my sister and me to a beautiful Sunday afternoon tradition. We’d pick a recipe, for cake or waffles, chat and bake, and listen to classical music. When our work was done, we’d get cozy on the sofa (in winter) or set up our teatime table in the garden. One of my culinary summer highlights is my mother’s sponge torte with whipped cream and strawberries. It’s almost too pretty to eat. And my uplifted summer mood called for a revival of our little tradition. Instead of German Rührkuchen – a sponge cake made with butter, which my mother bakes – I went for a lighter fat-free sponge, made with lots of beaten egg white. It’s soft and airy, not filling at all, which explains why the two of us ate almost the whole cake in one day.

Malta was my inspiration when I thought about the filling: I chose the lemon-ricotta filling for Maltese cannoli from my book. Lighter than whipped cream, it has a slightly sour touch, perfect for a summer torte. My cake only had one layer of ricotta, but feel free to double the amount and also use it as a topping – in case you aim for a richer cake-sandwich. A little icing sugar to finish it off was just right for me.

White soft and juicy vineyard peaches (also known as doughnut peaches) added the right amount of sweetness, red currants to decorate the cake brought a sharp note to the palate. Stroll over the farmers’ market and grab whatever fruit pleases your eyes and taste. Just try to balance out sweet and sour – that’s what a fruity summer torte is all about.

More fruity summer sponge cake and swiss roll inspiration:

Blueberry Victoria Sponge Cake

Cheesecake Swiss Roll with Mascarpone and Blackberries

Bittersweet Chocolate and Orange Sponge Cake

Blueberry Lemon Swiss Roll

Strawberry White Chocolate Breakfast Cake

Blackberry Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

Strawberry Cream Roll

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Makes 1 20.5cm / 8″ cake

For the ricotta filling
Double the amount for the filling if you also want to use it to spread it on top of the cake.

fresh ricotta, drained, 250g / 9 ounces
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
freshly grated lemon zest 2 teaspoons
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2

For the sponge cake

organic eggs, separated, 4
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
granulated sugar, divided in half, 150g / 3/4 cup
freshly grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1/2
plain flour, sieved, 160g / 1 1/4 cups

The fruit

ripe white vineyard peaches or doughnut peaches, with or without skin, cut into very thin wedges, 3 plus 1 peach cut into thicker wedges, for the topping
red currents and raspberries, for the topping, a handful

icing sugar, for the topping, in case you don’t double the ricotta to also use it for the topping

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional setting). Butter a 20.5cm / 8″ springform pan and line it with parchment paper.

For the ricotta filling, in a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds until creamy and transfer to the fridge.

For the sponge cake, in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg white and salt for 1 minute. Add half the sugar (75g) and continue whisking for about 7 minutes or until very stiff and glossy.

In a clean bowl, using a stand mixer, beat the eggs yolks, the remaining sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds for about 2 minutes or until light yellow and creamy.

Gently fold the stiff egg white into the egg yolk mixture, it should be almost combined. Then fold in the sieved flour, stir gently until relatively smooth and combined. Don’t overmix it and don’t worry if there are a few smaller pieces of egg white left here and there, however, there shouldn’t be any flour left.

Scrape the batter into the lined springform pan and even out the surface a little. Bake for about 20-23 minutes or until light golden and spongy. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the sponge cake cool in the springform pan for about 10 minutes before you take it out and transfer it to a cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper from the cake; let it cool completely before you cut the sponge cake and assemble the torte.

When the cake is completely cool, using a sharp large knife, cut the cake in half horizontally. Spread the cold ricotta filling on the bottom half of the cake (if you doubled the amount of the filling, only use half the ricotta). Spread the thinner peach wedges in circles on top of the ricotta and gently push them into the filling. Lay the top of the sponge cake on top of the peaches. Either dust with icing sugar or, if you doubled the ricotta, spread the remaining ricotta filling on top of the cake. Decorate with the thicker peach wedges, raspberries, and red currants.

Serve immediately or keep the torte in the fridge, it tastes best on the first and second day. Take the torte out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before serving and dust with additional icing sugar, if necessary.

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

 

Peach and Ricotta Summer Sponge Torte

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers from my cookbook & a short trip to Malta

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Old cities and beaches, seafood and wine! When Condé Nast Traveler asked me to take over their Instagram Stories last weekend and share some of my favourite spots in Malta, I immediately booked the flights. There’s no way I would miss a chance to visit my second home!

I’m in the Mediterranean for just a few days at the moment, but it’s enough time to visit my personal hot spots. An early morning boat ride starting in Sliema took me to Valletta to enjoy my first espresso of the day at the beautifully old fashioned Prego Caffe on the capital’s narrow South Street. It’s a beloved morning ritual of many locals, nibbling on buttery breakfast pastizzi filled with ricotta surrounded by the café’s original 60’s decor. A quick visit to the Baroque Saint Francis of Assisi Church (1607) and then I strolled through the streets – one of the most relaxing things I can imagine. If it had been a Sunday, I would have gone to St. John’s Co-Cathedral‘s early morning mass, which is held in Latin accompanied by the most heavenly sounding choir.

On the way to my next destination, Casa Rocca Piccola, I stopped by at the peaceful Lower Barakka Gardens. This place always manages to overwhelm me with its stunning views over The Grand Harbour and The Three Cities – and its almost meditative atmosphere. Frances de Piro was so kind to show me around the 400 year old private Valletta palace Casa Rocca Piccola, where she lives together with her husband, the 9th Marquis de Piro who’s a Knight of Malta, and their family. Many of the private rooms can be visited during guided tours and are a must see for everybody who loves art, history, and architecture.

My man joined me for lunch, which turned into a little feast at Scoglitti right at the sea at the Marsamxett Harbour facing Sliema. Pasta with Maltese prawns, swordfish from the grill, and a bottle of Meridiana Wine Estate‘s fruity white. Maltese Mqaret filled with dates for dessert and we were ready for a nap. Only the thought of an afternoon swim in Malta’s deep blue waters could stop us from having a siesta. We chose the secluded Delimara bay, limestone rocks and crystal-clear turquoise sea are the best conditions for a good snorkeling trip.

My perfect day in Malta wouldn’t be complete without having dinner at Legligin, my favourite restaurant in Valletta offering the most delicious Maltese tapas cooked by our friend Chris. And if it’s a Friday night, you can stroll over to Bridge Bar for their weekly open air Jazz concerts. Sitting on red cushions on the capital’s ancient stairs in front of the bar, sipping on a glass of pastis, and listening to good music make me ask myself why I should ever leave the Mediterranean (sorry Berlin).

As a part of the Instagram takeover, I also shared a recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen cookbook on Condé Nast Traveler‘s website. It’s a Maltese classic: stuffed bell peppers. Stuffed vegetables are a staple in every Maltese home. Tomato, zucchini, eggplant, pepper are filled with meat, seafood, or other vegetables and turned into the coziest treat to please a large Mediterranean family’s appetite. In my version, which you can find below, I go for green peppers cooked al dente – I don’t like them too soft and soggy – stuffed with white fish like cod, tiny zucchini cubes, tomatoes, and parsley refined with a shot of vermouth.

If you can’t travel at the moment, just cook a dish that reminds you of your favourite holiday spot, close your eyes, and you’ll almost be there.

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers with Cod, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

from Eat In My Kitchen, To cook, to bake, to eat, and to treat

Serves 4

4 to 5 medium green bell peppers
Olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
510g / 18 ounces cod fillet (or any firm, white fish, such as monkfish or grouper), preferably 1 thick center piece
Fine sea salt
Ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
340g / 12 ounces zucchini, cut into very small cubes
60ml / ¼ cup dry white vermouth, like Noilly Prat, or dry white wine
1 medium tomato, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for garnish

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Scrape out and discard the seeds and fibers, then rinse the peppers and set aside.

In a heavy pan, large enough to fit the fish, heat a generous splash of olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat. Sear the fish, turning once, for 1 to 3 minutes per side or until golden and flaky—mind that you don’t overcook it. Remove from the heat, break the fish into chunks, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in a little more olive oil, add the zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes or until soft. Add the vermouth and cook, stirring and letting the alcohol burn off, for about 10 seconds. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the tomato and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To combine the filling, spread half the zucchini-tomato mixture on a large plate, lay the fish on top, and finish with the remaining vegetables. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Season the inside of the bell peppers with salt and pepper. Using a large spoon, generously stuff the peppers with the zucchini-cod mixture without pushing on the filling too much. If you have leftover filling, stuff the fifth bell pepper. Place the tops on the peppers and place them in a baking dish. Add a splash of water to cover the bottom of the dish and bake for about 25 minutes or until the bell peppers are al dente and the tops turn dark. Take the peppers out of the oven, sprinkle with more parsley, and serve warm.

Malta

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

A Summery Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

A Tuscan Panzanella salad had been on my mind for weeks, I could clearly picture the colourful composition: Dark red cherries, crunchy bacon, crisp arugula (rucola), and chunks of spongy ciabatta dripping with olive oil and thick Balsamico vinegar and then sprinkled with woody rosemary. I was just waiting for the fruits to arrive at my Turkish vegetable shop around the corner.

Unfortunately, the day I planned to throw the salad together, my trusted vegetable man didn’t have cherries and – what worried me even more – the weather was dull and grey. The first problem was easily solved, I replaced sweet cherries with even juicier strawberries, blueberries, and figs, which made the whole thing even more mushy and luscious. It tasted great, but the soggy look made it rather difficult to catch a pretty picture. Even more so as they just put scaffolding in front of my kitchen window, which means the light situation in this room is far from ideal.

In these moments I always know why I love food so much and why photography, sometimes, drives me crazy. Food either tastes good or it doesn’t, of course it should look appetizing, but I believe what tastes good also looks good. But photography has its own rules and mysteries, to be able to capture a dish’s yumminess in a picture, the conditions need to be right, especially the light. So please, when you look at the pictures in today’s post, think of summery-sweet fruit juices, porky saltiness crisped in the pan, the freshness of green leaves, and the confidence of Mediterranean rosemary. Buon appetito!

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Serves 2-4

For the dressing

olive oil 3 tablespoons
Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
white Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
fresh rosemary, very finely chopped, about 2 teaspoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For the Panzanella

olive oil
bacon 4 slices
arugula (rucola) or mixed lettuce leaves, torn, a large handful
ciabatta or rustic white loaf, cut into chunks, 2 large handfuls
strawberries, cut in half, a handful
blueberries, a handful
figs, quartered, 2

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Panzanella, heat a small splash of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes on both sides until crispy and golden brown. Take the bacon out of the pan, let it cool for a few minutes, and break into large pieces.

In a large bowl, spread the greens and lay the chunks of bread on top. Arrange the fruits and bacon on top of the bread and pour the dressing all over the Panzanella. Serve immediately, preferably for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white or rosé wine, and think of your next holiday.

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

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