At the moment I can enjoy the best strawberries, their juices are like a honey-sweet nectar, so satisfying that you could just nibble them as they are, pure and without any distracting addition. I have done that excessively but now it’s time to get a bit playful with this summery fruit.
As summer is nearing, I like to simplify my recipes, less ingredients, less work but still the ultimate enjoyment while I’m sitting at the open window with a glass of pinky rosé wine in front of me and someone nice to chat with. Now is the time for easy, light nibbles, like good bread and cheese, fresh herbs, raw fruits and vegetables, and aromatic olive oil – pure, natural tastes.
When my mother was here a couple weeks ago, I did some recipe tasting for my book. All those different dishes and flavours in my kitchen called for a break for my taste buds when I had some time off. I felt like a juicy ciabatta sandwich, so I whipped some chèvre with a little lime zest, spread it voluptuously on the oily bread and covered this picture of a perfect summer sandwich with strawberries and fresh basil. Before I tried the first bite, I wasn’t sure if the combination of cheese and citrus would be a bit much, but there was no need to worry, they are a perfect match. And when I offered it to my mother, who isn’t as obsessed with citrus as I am, she liked it, to my surprise, just as much as I did!
Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Ciabatta Sandwich with Basil
For 6 open sandwiches you need
fresh ciabatta bread 6 small slices
fresh chèvre (or any other soft goat cheese) 200g / 7oz
heavy cream 4 tablespoons
lime zest 1/4 teaspoon, plus a little more for the topping
strawberries, quartered, 150g / 5 1/4oz, plus 6 fruits cut in half for the topping
fresh basil leaves a small handful, for the topping
Whisk the chèvre, heavy cream and lime and adjust to taste. Add more cream if necessary, the texture should be smooth and thick. Divide the cheese between the bread, top with strawberries (quartered plus 1 fruit cut in half for each slice) and sprinkle with lime zest and basil. Enjoy!
After a long discussion in the kitchen with my (Maltese!) boyfriend, I have to accept that my recipe is not a traditional Maltese timpana – but it tastes just as good, even my man agreed with that!
Timpana is a Mediterranean dish which is very popular in Malta and also in Italy. It’s penne or macaroni pasta mixed with Bolognese sauce baked in a pastry shell – basically a pasta pie. My version, however, left out the meat sauce. I cooked a concentrated red sauce with fresh tomatoes and lots of basil instead and sautéed zucchini and aubergine slices until golden and juicy. So, here’s the blatant difference, I piled the tomato basil pasta with layers of the sliced vegetables and parmesan in a buttery pastry shell, which, to me, justifies calling this dish Timpana. But sometimes opinions about food differ, especially when it comes to tradition recipes.
Obviously I ate my first Timpana in Malta, bought from one of the tiny bakeries you find at almost ever street corner in the towns and villages. They sell this pasta dish cut into large squares along trays full of buttery Pastizzi and rich ricotta filled Qassata. It’s a street food lunch classic on the island. When I ate a piece of this hearty dish for first time, I didn’t quite understand the concept of wrapping pasta in crisp short crust. But after years of enjoying at least 1 or 2 pasta pies during my stay in the South I got used to this tradition bite by bite. It just makes you feel good, it’s delicious comfort food that combines the best of a pie with lighter comfort of fruity penne. I must admit that I prefer the addition of vegetables, the Bolognese sauce makes it a bit too rich and heavy for my taste. But I won’t argue about that ever again, especially not with a Maltese person!
Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Zucchini and Aubergine
For a 20 1/2cm / 8″ pie (a loose bottom spring form works best) you need
For the filling
penne pasta 250g / 9oz
medium sized tomatoes, chopped, 6 (about 650g / 1 1/2 pounds)
fresh garlic (preferably spring garlic) 1 clove
tomato pasta (Kunserva) 1 tablespoon
Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
fresh basil, thinly sliced, about 12 large leaves
medium sized zucchini, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 2 (about 380g / 13 1/2oz)
medium sized aubergine, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 1 (about 270g / 9 1/2oz)
parmesan, freshly grated, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon for the topping
Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, they should have bite. Let the penne cool.
On a chopping board, rub and press the chopped garlic under the blade of a large knife with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until you have a smooth paste. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes until thick. Stir in the basil and season to taste, make sure that the basil comes through quite strong. Let the sauce cool completely before you mix it with the cooked pasta.
In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the sliced zucchini on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Cook them in batches, they should be spread out in the pan and not on top of each other. Season with salt and pepper and set them aside to cool. Heat a generous splash of olive oil and sauté the sliced aubergine in the same pan. They will need a little more oil (you’ll have to add some in between batches) and they will also need to cook a bit longer, they should be golden brown, soft and juicy. Season to taste and set them aside to cool.
For the glaze
organic egg yolk 1
milk 1 tablespoon
a pinch of salt
Combine the flour with the salt. Cut the butter into the flour with a knife until there are just little pieces left. Continue with your fingers and quickly rub the butter into the flour. Add the eggs and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form 2 discs, dividing them roughly 2:1, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top/ bottom heat).
Whisk the egg yolk, milk and salt for the glaze.
Take the dough out of the freezer and roll out both discs between cling film, the bigger piece (about 32cm / 12 1/2″) for the bottom and the smaller one as the lid for the pie.
Line the bottom and sides of the spring form pan. Spread 1/3 of the pasta mixed with the tomato sauce on top of the pastry, sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan and cover with a layer of aubergine (let the slices overlap a little). Continue with a second layer of pasta (1/3), sprinkle with parmesan (1/3) and cover with the zucchini. Finish with the remaining pasta, cheese and vegetables (if there are some left). Close with the smaller pastry lid and gently push the rim with your fingers to seal the pie. Brush the top with the egg glaze and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the cheese.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes before you turn the heat down to 175°C / 350°F and bake for another 50 minutes or until the pie is golden and baked through. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before you cut it into pieces.
This has been my rhubarb week! I bought too many stalks for my rhubarb and leek gratin on Monday, their colourful beauty was just too tempting and I ended up grabbing (and buying) as much as I could fit in my hands. So the green and red pile on my marble top called for a compote, or even better, a pie!
I felt inspired by Jenny’s fabulous lemon meringue pie, the recipe is from my sweet Maltese mama. I often praised the addictive qualities of my boyfriend’s mother’s sweet creation. This lady is also one of the biggest rhubarb fans I know, every time we visit her in Malta we have to take a few jars of compote to stock up her pantry. She just loves it! So I dedicate this dish to her: a wonderful pie made of a crumbly short crust, topped with the fruitiest, cinnamony rhubarb curd you can imagine, finished with a voluptuous layer of sweet meringue. I like her lemony pie a lot but I learned that rhubarb lifts it onto another level, at least for my taste. It’s such a fruity, sour and slightly sweet and buttery composition. Next time we go to Malta, which will be soon, I decided that I have to make it for Jenny. She’ll be over the moon!
A short note: The curd in the cool pie will be a bit more set than you see in the pictures, I cut it too early – guided by my impatient appetite!
Rhubarb Meringue Pie
For a 23cm / 9″ pie(in a shallow pie plate) you need
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter quickly into the flour until combined. Add the water and continue mixing with the hooks of an electric mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Set the oven to 210°C / 410°F (top/ bottom heat).
Roll out the dough between cling film and line your baking dish with the flat pastry. Prick it with a fork and blind-bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Let it cool completely.
For the rhubarb curd
First you make a rhubarb compote which you then turn into a curd.
rhubarb, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 650g / 5 cups / 1 1/2 pounds
sugar 150g / 3/4 cup / 5 1/4oz for the compote, plus 2 tablespoons for the curd
cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
water 75ml / 1/3 cup for the curd, plus 1 tablespoon for the compote
butter 1 tablespoon
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup / 1oz
pinch of salt
organic egg yolks, beaten, 3
For the compote, heat the rhubarb, 150g (3/4cups) of sugar, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of water in a large pot on medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes (open, without a lid). Take off the heat and stir in the butter.
For the curd, whisk 75ml (1/3 cup) water, the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of sugar and salt and add to the hot rhubarb. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes on medium-high heat, stir once in a while. Take 1 tablespoon of this mixture and whisk into the beaten egg yolks, pour the egg-compote mixture back into the pot with the rhubarb. Bring to the boil, stir constantly and cook for half a minute. Take the pot off the heat, pour the curd into a bowl and let it cool completely. You could place the bowl on cooling pads to speed up the process.
For the meringue
egg whites 3
sugar 80g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon / 2 3/4oz
pinch of salt
Beat the egg whites with the salt, adding the sugar gradually while beating, until the white is stiff.
Set the oven to 210°C / 410°F (top/ bottom heat).
Pour the cool rhubarb curd on top of the pastry and finish it off with the stiff egg whites, you can 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 cutting for the curd to set. The pie still tastes great the next day (after keeping it in the fridge) but it won’t look as pretty.
Molly lives in North Dakota and I live in Berlin, there are more than 7000km (4000 miles) between us and this would be reason enough to accept that there’s no way to meet her in her kitchen for a spontaneous kitchen chat, as this is the idea behind my meet in your kitchen features. But the way this girl cooks and bakes is irresistible! Her inspiring recipes, which she has shared on her gorgeous blog my name is yeh for 6 years and the way she talks about her life on a farm after years of living in New York made me rethink the importance of a physical meeting in real life.
Every time I read one of Molly’s posts, when I see the pictures of such innocent creations as her Funfetti Cake, the cutest Pony Cake (a rosemary vanilla cake with blackberries and mascarpone) or her Pumpkin Cake and Semifreddo Push Pops, I feellike someone has put me right into another world.I turn into a little girl, pressing my face against the window of a candy store to get a glimpse of all the magic that happens on the other side – in Molly’s kitchen. Just look at her Gingerbread Farm, a replica of the actual farm where she lives with her husband, there’s no way one can’t be touched by this masterpiece! Her husband called her a lunatic during the process, but I love her for her determination when it comes to her unique creations – sweet and savory. There’s an unabashed ease in her recipes, infectious fun in her language and a pure honesty in her photography which makes her one of my favourite women in the blog world.
Molly studied percussion at The Juillard School in New York and is on tour with David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s opera Dog Days at the moment. She’ll perform in LA in June, so if you happen to be in California, don’t miss the chance to see her playing live (you can find the dates on her blog)!
After chatting via email, reading her interview and seeing the images of her delicious ricotta, bacon and egg sandwich which she made for eat in my kitchen, I know that we’ll definitely have to meet in the real world one day, either in Berlin, North Dakota or in Malta!
It’s Molly’s birthday this Friday and it became a tradition to eat a great (she says fatty) sandwich on her special day and I’m sure that there’s also a special Molly Yeh cake to go with it, have a great one Molly!
Ricotta, bacon, and egg sandwich
It’s my birthday week! And every year on my birthday, I eat a fatty breakfast sandwich. This one gets a nice creaminess from ricotta, and while it’s a fairly simple recipe, it is absolutely next-level when it’s made with the freshest, best ingredients.
For each sandwich, you will need
thick cut bacon 2 slices
large egg 1
fresh whole grain bread 2 thick slices
coarse salt and black pepper
a smear of ricotta
In a skillet, cook your bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon but keep the fat in the pan. Crack your egg in and cook it to desired doneness in the bacon fat. Set it aside. Grill the bread in the bacon fat (if the skillet dries up, add a little butter to the pan), salt and pepper both sides of the bread. Remove it from heat. Spread the ricotta on one slice of bread, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, top it with the bacon, place the egg on top, season the egg a bit with salt and pepper, and then place the other slice of bread on top. Enjoy!
You started sharing your life and recipes on your blog my name is yeh in 2009. Did the way you document parts of your life change over the past 6 years?
Oooh yeah, there are some really horrific and embarrassing posts. Don’t look in my archives, just don’t.
Your father is a musician at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and you often travelled with him when he was on tour. Was he your biggest inspiration to study percussion at The Juillard School in New York?
He was definitely one of the biggest inspirations! Both of my parents really encouraged me to follow my love of hitting things (usually my mom’s pots and pans) and channel it into music. I think I really fell hard for classical music when I joined a youth orchestra near my hometown, and then going to Juilliard was my goal throughout high school. I loved training with the musicians there, being in New York, and having the same legendary ear training teacher that my dad had when he was a student there. She once called me by his name because we sat in the same spot, just 30 years apart.
At the moment you’re on tour with David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s operaDog Days. What fascinates you about being on tour?
Being on tour is one of my favorite ways to travel because I’m not in full-time vacation mode, but I’m still on an adventure and I can explore when I’m not working. Being in full-time vacation mode makes me go a little bonkers after a few days (is that weird?), but on tour I can work a little, play a little, and just live my regular life but in a different city. I call it a work-cation. It’s so much fun.
You’re from Chicago, you’ve lived in New York and now your life takes place on a farm in North Dakota. What do you miss the most about city life, what do you prefer about your life now?
I miss the food, my friends, and the music scenes, but the quality of life on the farm is what’s going to keep me from ever moving back. It’s so energizing that I feel like I can get every piece of work done that I want to, and the small town community here is really wonderful. If I had moved here in an age when we didn’t have the internet—to Facetime with my friends, live stream concerts, lookup copycat recipes for my favorite dishes from New York restaurants—it might have been a slightly different story. Just slightly.
You made Norwegian Lefse flatbread together with The New York Times food critic Sam Sifton in your kitchen, a traditional recipe from your husband’s family. How did your partner’s Norwegian roots influence your cooking?
It’s SO FASCINATING! There are so many Norwegian and Upper Midwest dishes that I’m learning about that are so great. Lefse is one of them. Hotdish is another. A lot of the new dishes that I’m learning are hearty, comforting meals that are perfect for the long winters here, and that type of food has always been my favorite. There is not a single unit of spiciness in sight, so my tolerance for spicy food has plummeted, but other than that, I’m so excited to be learning about all of these new dishes, and I love putting my spins on them, whether it’s adding flavors inspired by my roots or subbing in newer trendier ingredients like kale and ramps.
How did living on a farm change your kitchen activities?
I have a much bigger kitchen now, and more time. So I just do a lot more in the kitchen. And we also live outside of the range for delivery men, so there’s a lot more planning in advance to be done. We also have a garden and a rhubarb patch and an apple tree and we’ll be getting chickens soon, and all that jazz.
You combine Jewish and Chinese roots which your unique recipe creations often bring to light. What do you like about bringing these two culinary styles together?
They go really well together! Both cuisines pack a lot of carbs and comfort, and I grew up on both of them equally, so there’s a lot of nostalgia mixed in as well.
Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?
My mom! Also all of my blogger friends.
How do you develop new recipes?
Sometimes I just figure out what I like and do it. Other times, if it’s a newer-to-me food or technique, I read everything that I can about that food and talk to people about it. I examine a lot of different recipes for that particular food, make notes of which aspects of certain recipes I like best, and then I start testing. I test a bunch and make sure every step and ingredient is as logical and as simplified as it can be, while still trying to maintain a delicious outcome.
What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?
Probably microwaving hot dogs with cheese on them.
What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in New York and around your farm in North Dakota?
Whenever I go to New York, I must go to Hummus Place, Breads Bakery, Brooklyn Larder, and pretty much any pizza place. In North Dakota, there are a few great local places, like our town bakery, Dakota Harvest, and our town natural food market, Amazing Grains. I also love our pizza place, where you can order any pizza as nachos.
You share a sandwich recipe on eat in my kitchen. What was the best sandwich you ever ate and where?
Every time I eat a good bagel and lox, my eyes roll to the back of my head and it’s the greatest thing ever.
If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?
Josh Scherer, probably. It would be whatever his lunatic mind came up with at the moment.
You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?
Mac and cheese.
What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?
Mac and cheese.
Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?
Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?
Planned. I LOVE planning meals.
Which meal would you never cook again?
I ruined a batch of mini frittatas last weekend, so that.
For weeks I have been thinking about combining leek and rhubarb in a gratin, the sourness of the fruity stalk and the onion’s distinct spiciness seemed like a special match. Weeks and many other recipes have past, but I finally found the time to sit down and think about the right composition to make this duo work.
At first, I started off with a pinch of cardamom, this spice adds a nice warming touch, but something was still missing. I took a quick look at my herb garden in front of my bedroom window, that’s the place where I keep all my little pots at the moment. The plants spread a mesmerizing smell in the afternoon sun and filled the air with the nicest aroma of rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, chervil and lovage. I started to pick some thyme leaves but realised it would be too strong for my gratin, rosemary and its woody taste was the missing link in my composition, it made it complete!
Rhubarb and Leek Gratin with Rosemary
For 2 as a snack or 4 as a side dish you need
leek, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 6cm / 2 1/2″ pieces, 250g / 1/2 pound
rhubarb, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 6cm / 2 1/2″ pieces, 250g / 1/2 pound
a pinch of ground cardamom
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh rosemary needles, chopped, for the topping
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top / bottom heat) and oil the bottom of a baking dish.
Arrange the leek and rhubarb in circles in the baking dish and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, cardamom and a little sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and soft. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and season to taste.
My mother doesn’t have a sweet tooth at all, we are complete opposites when it comes to cakes and dessert. I have no problem scarfing down a quarter of a cake on my own, and she’s happy with a slice so thin that I wouldn’t even bother cutting it. We look very much alike, we share the same birthday month and we both love to make a daily feast out of our lives, but our sweet preferences couldn’t be further apart.
So when she visited us last week, there weren’t many sweet treats on our culinary schedule but when I put my blueberry lemon swiss roll on the table, she impressed me. I was prepared to cut impossibly thin slices for her but, to my surprise, she got hooked on the roll. Usually, I’m the one who takes the last piece of a cake, my reputation is well known in my family when it comes to sweets, my appetite is insatiable. You can offer me the most extensive meal but even if I have to struggle towards the end, there’s always space for a well sized dessert. But this time, the last piece wasn’t for me, my mother asked for it and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this moment.
I must admit that my swiss roll was tempting on many levels, the spongy cake is absolutely heavenly, light, fluffy but structured, refined with lots of lemon zest. The blueberries added a juicy crunchiness but the cream filling was the actual star that made the whole composition complete. I whipped the cream with a little sugar and cardamom which creates an addictive deliciousness in combination with the lemony roll. The three of us loved it so much that this huge roll didn’t even last 24 hours!
organic eggs 4
sugar 70g/ 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons for the whipped cream and 2-4 tablespoons for the sprinkling
a pinch of salt
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
plain flour 70g / 1/2 cup
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup
blueberries 250g / 1/2 pound
(keep 6 berries as decoration)
whipping cream 220g / 1 cup
ground cardamom 1/2 teaspoon
icing sugar to dust the roll
Set the oven to 220°C (top / bottom heat) and line a baking sheet (minimum 30 x 30cm / 12 x 12″) with parchment paper.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt for a few seconds before you add half the sugar, continue beating until stiff.
Mix the egg yolks, lemon zest and the remaining sugar with an electric mixer until thick and creamy. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolks with a wooden spoon. Sieve and combine the flour and cornstarch and fold gently into the egg mixture. Spread the dough on the lined baking sheet (30 x 30cm / 12 x 12″) and bake in the middle of the oven for 6 minutes or until golden and spongy.
Sprinkle a kitchen towel with 2-4 tablespoons of sugar and flip the warm sponge onto the towel. Peel off the parchment paper and carefully roll the sponge with the towel. Leave it rolled up until cool. You can see the picture in my strawberry roll post (link above).
Whip the cream, cardamom and 2 tablespoons of sugar until thick and creamy and adjust sugar and spice to taste.
Unwind the sponge roll carefully and lay it onto a working surface. Spread the whipped cream on the cake, leave a rim of 2cm / 3/4″. Cover with blueberries and roll it up again, slowly and gently, mind not to squeeze the cream out from the sides. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with the berries and a little lemon zest. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge before serving.
The past few days have been a pleasant break from my daily duties, my mother came to visit! I decided to take some time off for the long walks through the city which both of us love so much. We started with a beautiful place called Clärchen’s Ballhaus which opened more than 100 years ago, in 1913. It’s a restaurant/ dancehall where people still meet for Sunday tea dance. When we entered the room the sound of Samba, Waltzes and Tangos filled the air and the faces of the dancing couples seemed lost in nostalgic escape, it felt like a different world!
There’s also a gorgeous mirrored ball room on the first floor which has quite a morbid charm, it doesn’t sparkle with its original glory anymore. The room was heavily damaged in the war and it was used to store coal until 2005. The mirrors are dull and broken, the decorations and chandeliers on the ceiling can’t hide the strains of the past years. It’s a forgotten place, a remnant of Berlin’s party days from a century ago. When we left the building and its faded light we stepped right into the bright afternoon, we felt like kids who found an abandoned house.
Our next stop was the Museum Island, a group of beautiful and renowned museums on a little island in the Spree river. One of my favourite Berlin buildings is the Bode-Museum, when I first visited it many years ago I instantly fell in love with it and with the little bridge that leads to its entrance. The round building is a classic beauty, majestic but not intimidating. It keeps a stunning collection of marble sculptures in a light-flooded room, the folds and faces cut into the white rock almost seem alive. Our walk ended in front of this museum, at a bar outside on the river bank. We sat down in deck chairs, enjoyed Prosecco with Aperol and witnessed another one of Berlin’s tea dance scenes. On an open stage, couples danced Tango under the blue sky, forgetting everything and everybody around them. People stopped to watch them and I’ll never forget the beauty of this moment!
So much outdoor activity meant little time for the kitchen, we focussed on salads, snacks and sandwiches. We took it easy this time, no extensive cooking sessions. Usually, when my mother visits, we spend lots of time together in my kitchen but I needed a little break. Yesterday, we had a big family dinner at a restaurant with crayfish and asparagus and today, there’ll be oysters on our culinary schedule. In between, we fit in this little sandwich beauty, pure Mediterranean deliciousness stuffed in a juicy focaccia bun. I sautéed very thinly sliced zucchini and piled them up with ripe tomatoes, basil pesto and green olives. It tastes like summer!
A Mediterranean Sandwich with Zucchini, Pesto and Olives
For 2 sandwiches you need
focaccia buns, cut in half, 2
medium sized zucchini, cut into long, very thin slices, about 200g / 7oz
(this is best done with a cheese or vegetable slicer)
ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half, 6
green olives, cut in half, 6
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
For the pesto
fresh basil leaves 20g / 3/4oz plus a few small leaves for the topping
fresh mint leaves 2
pine nuts 1 tablespoon
parmesan, grated, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon for the topping
olive oil 50ml / 1/4 cup
Mix the ingredients for the pesto in a blender and season to taste.
In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the sliced zucchini in batches, spread the slices out next to each other. Cook them on medium-high for 1 minute, turn and season them with salt and pepper and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side until soft and golden but not dark. Take them out of the pan and keep them on a plate. Continue cooking the remaining zucchini slices, always adding a little splash of olive oil between batches.
Lay the zucchini on the bottom half of each bun and spread the tomatoes and olives on top. Sprinkle with pesto, coarsely crushed pepper and basil leaves. Close the bun and enjoy!
Here’s another one of the kitchen leftover mash-ups I mentioned yesterday: There were 3 bunches of rucola (rocket) on the window sill, Italian plums which started to look a bit sad and ripe pears, ready to be eaten just before they get soft and mushy. I tossed everything together in a bowl and mixed it with my new favourite summer salad dressing: olive oil whisked with freshly squeezed orange juice and a little orange blossom water. It’s fantastic, the citrus’ fruitiness merges wonderfully with the orange blossom’s flowery aroma and the warm olive oil.
Citrus and olive oil is a delicious combination. One of my favourite recipes on eat in my kitchen features this glorious treat, it’s a very simple yet absolutely delicious Sicilian salad. The first time I ate it was at a farm in Noto where we stayed a few years ago. The lady of the house would make it for us for breakfast. She used the ripest oranges from the farm, cut them into fillets and sprinkled them with a little olive oil and dried oregano. It was a heavenly and eye-opening experience for me. I had never really thought of this combination before, mixing fruit with olive oil was quite new for me at that point and this morning treat influenced many of my recipes over the years. It taught me to be open minded and experimental, to combine various flavours, to mix what seems far away in taste but trust that it will lead to a satisfying result (which it often does).
However, the combination of fruit and olive oil needs a strong partner, either a herb or spicy rucola leaves as I chose. You could replace the plums and pears with any other sweet fruit you have at hand in your kitchen: strawberries, nectarines, figs or oranges. As long as they have honey sweet juices to add to the salad, they will be a good choice!
A Salad of Rucola, Plum and Pear with Orange Blossom Water
For a quick lunch for 2 you need
rucola (rocket) leaves, 2 handful
pear, quartered, cored and sliced, 1 (or an equal amount of another sweet fruit)
large plum, cut in half and sliced, 1 (or an equal amount of another sweet fruit)
For the dressing
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 2 tablespoons
quality orange blossom water (preferably organic) 1-2 teaspoons, to taste
salt and pepper
Arrange the rucola and fruit in a bowl. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing, season to taste and sprinkle over the salad, serve immediately.
In the past few weeks, my kitchen (and sometimes our living room and balcony) has looked like a farmer’s market. I use every corner, kitchen counter, shelf and cupboard to store piles of fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes, squash and beans sit next to colourful cabbages, lettuce, the whole range of citrus fruits and more pots of herbs than I’ve ever had in my kitchen before. Plums, strawberries, pears and apples share space with all sorts of roots and greens. Since I started working on my cookbook, my kitchen became a beautiful mess, completely stuffed and almost bursting. My fridge is always so full that I have problems fitting in the butter tin and milk after breakfast.
In the past 3 days, I cooked and baked 12 dishes, so whenever my boyfriend and I meet in the kitchen to have dinner, it feels like choosing from a scrumptious buffet at a hotel. It’s quite a treat and we can’t complain as the results are very satisfying but we are a little bit worried that we’ll look like whales when we go to the beach in Malta this summer. So far, the scales have been fair and forgiving, nothing has changed. I blame it on all the vegetables, the good olive oil and the crazy activities which has also taken over our lives. If you move constantly, you can’t really gain weight. Hopefully it will stay this way, as I still have a few weeks of excessive cooking and baking ahead of me!
If there are no book recipes on my schedule, I only need to look around me and I can pick all the fruit and veg I could possibly ask for. There’s everything at hand, whatever my taste desires. Be it spring, summer, autumn or winter, all the seasons are represented in my kitchen, which also means that there is always something that has to be prepared as I don’t want to waste. I ended up with too many eggs, too much milk and too much rhubarb, this called for a clafoutis! I refined the golden French pan dish with cardamom, you could also add cinnamon but cardamom is my favourite baking spice at the moment. The result was very fluffy, I was impressed how much it rose this time! You never really know what this dessert is going to do when you take it out of the oven. The pleasure didn’t last very long, a clafoutis can rise like a soufflé and deflate almost as quickly. But it tasted fantastic, warm and fragrant, slightly sweet and sour, just right for a late Sunday breakfast with your mama – Happy Mother’s Day to all the great mamas in the world!
For a 23cm /9″ heavy, ovenproof pan or baking dish you need
rhubarb, cut into 3cm / 1 1/4″ pieces, 300g / 10 1/2oz
flour 80g / 3 ounces
sugar 4 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons for the rhubarb
a pinch of salt
butter, melted, 30g / 1 ounce plus 2 tablespoons for the rhubarb
organic eggs 4
milk 200ml/ 7 ounces
freshly squeezed orange juice 3 tablespoons
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom in a heavy pan, add the rhubarb and cook for 3 minutes until it becomes soft, stir once in a while. Set the pan aside.
Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (top / bottom heat) and butter a 23cm /9″ heavy, ovenproof pan or baking dish generously.
Combine the flour, 4 tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk 1 teaspoon of cardamom into the warm melted butter and mix with the eggs, milk and orange juice, pour into the dry mixture and mix with an electric mixer until well combined.
Spread the rhubarb in the buttered pan and pour the batter on top. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the clafoutis is golden and set. Sprinkle the warm clafoutis with sugar and ground cardamom to taste.
I rediscovered an old cheese love: Taleggio! Although I used to enjoy this Italian dairy product from the Val Taleggio in the Lombardy quite often in the past, it hasn’t been in my kitchen for a few months, but now it’s back – preferably melted! A culinary phone call with my mother (our regular recipe exchange) brought it back to my mind. I went to the supermarket right the next morning to stock up on this slightly creamy cheese and started thinking about all the recipes I would use it for.
A new sandwich creation was first on my list, the milky cheese melting its soft yet distinct aroma onto Parma prosciutto and sweet-roasted spring onions. The result was juicy and hearty without being overpowering. Taleggio isn’t as harsh as one of my other sandwich-cheese-obsessions, the dominant raclette, its flavour is more subtle, almost fruity. It develops a little slower in the mouth but the impact is impressive nonetheless. I loved the look of this sandwich, I loved its taste and I had to have two of them!
Roasted Spring Onion, Parma Prosciutto and Taleggio Sandwich
For 3 sandwiches you need
rustic buns, cut in half, 3
small spring onions, cut in half lengthwise, 6
olive oil 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
Parma prosciutto 6 slices
Tallegio cheese, sliced, 60g / 2oz
Set the oven to 220°C / 430°F (top / bottom heat).
In a baking dish, mix the spring onions with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until golden brown, mind that they don’t burn (about 20 minutes). Turn them after 10 minutes.
Lay the 2 slices of Parma prosciutto on the bottom side of each bun, cover with cheese and swirl the spring onions on top. Put under the grill for a few minutes until the Taleggio starts to melt. Sprinkle with pepper and close the bun. Enjoy!
All you need are 6 ingredients: green asparagus, bacon, Balsamico vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper! This is one of the easiest asparagus recipes we’ve had on our table this spring and I’m sure I’ll cook it a few more times during this season. Its comforting heartiness combined with the vegetable’s crunchy freshness is all I need when I sit at the kitchen table after a long day of work.
The preparation takes around 10 minutes which is also quite convenient. Green asparagus only needs a few minutes until it’s cooked al dente and the bacon bites fried to salty crispiness don’t take much longer. I deglazed the meat with a little white Balsamico vinegar which brings out its sweet side and fits so well with the green stalks. It’s such an easy spring comfort dish!
Asparagus with Crisp Balsamic Bacon
For 2 people you need
green asparagus, the bottom part cut off, 500g / 1 pound
bacon, cut into tiny cubes, 80g / 3oz
white Balsamico vinegar 25 ml / 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper
Blanch the asparagus in salted water for 3-4 minutes or until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water for a second to keep its fresh colour.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and fry the bacon for a few minutes on medium heat until golden brown and crisp. Deglaze with the vinegar, add the asparagus, stir gently and season with salt and pepper to taste, serve warm.
This is advanced lavender baking! When I shared my Lavender Gâteau Breton recipe with you a couple weeks ago, I mentioned Frances Bissell’s fantastic baking book, The Floral Baker. The renowned British cookbook author inspired me to give the aromatic blue flowers a try in my kitchen and to add them to my own baking. I started off with the preparation of a jar full of lavender sugar about a month ago, the floral sweetness needs some time to develop its exhilarating qualities. For my buttery French cake, the Gâteau Breton, I sieved the sugar and used the florets just for the topping. I wanted to take it easy at first, to get used to this new flavour and to avoid straining my taste buds without even getting started properly.
So now I felt ready to take the next step, the advanced level of floral baking. I got in touch with Stephen from Serif Books to see if I could share one of the floral master’s recipes on eat in my kitchen. We got along very well and I found out that Frances lives in England and Gozo and also includes traditional Maltese recipes in her cooking. I really hope to meet her there one day for a meet in your kitchen feature on the blog!
After reading her book I felt quite torn between a few recipes but in the end I went for Frances’ Lavender and White Chocolate Caramel Cake. It sounded so decadent and rich that I had to give it a try. The creation is based on her mother’s recipe for toffee cake and it has been in her family since the early 1960s. It’s like Millionaire’s shortbread, just with white chocolate. It starts off with a thin shortcrust base infused with the beautiful aroma of lavender, topped with toffee cream and a final layer of crunchy white chocolate. The creation looks a bit old fashioned which I love, it’s the right treat for high tea with the ladies, when you bring out the nice porcelain and get dressed up. I didn’t use my bone China at my table but another gem I found recently, the beautiful plates and bowls (and my beloved new measuring spoons!) by Ferm Livingin Denmark. It’s a clean, grey stoneware collection inspired by Bauhaus classics. My friend Anne, the photographer I mentioned last Sunday, told me about their stunning designs, she knows that I’m always on the lookout for nice tableware. Luckily, we have a similar taste, which is quite minimal, and we’re both picky, so I found the perfect design scout for me!
Mind that you prepare the lavender sugar a few days (or even weeks) in advance, 10 parts sugar and 1 part organic lavender flowers (L. augustifolia, Hidcote).
For a 20cm / 8″ cake tin, about 4cm / 1 1/2″ deep, you need
For the shortbread
plain flour 115g / 4oz
lavender sugar 25g / 1oz (I used mainly the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the flowers)
butter, cold, 50g / 2oz
For the topping
Golden Syrup 2 tablespoons
condensed milk 395g / 14oz
quality white chocolate 200g / 7oz
a drop of culinary lavender essence (I left this out and sprinkled the cake with lavender flowers instead)
Set the oven to 190°C / 375°F (fan assisted oven) and lightly butter the cake tin (or line the tin with parchment paper).
For the shortbread, mix the flour, lavender sugar and butter with the hooks of your mixer. Press the dough into the tin and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven and leave the shortbread in it.
For the toffee, pour the Golden Syrup and the condensed milk into a saucepan, stir together over moderate heat until well-mixed, then boil precisely 7 minutes, stirring all the time.
Spread the mixture over the shortbread and allow it to cool. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water, mix in the essence if you would like to use it and spread over the cooled toffee, marking into small triangles, squares or fingers, as appropriate, before the chocolate has set. Sprinkle with lavender flowers. Cut when cold.