eat in my kitchen

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

Yellow Plum Cobbler

Yellow Plum Cobbler

A fruity cobbler is one of the quickest, most comfortable and delicious morning sweets you can put on your breakfast table, with short preparation (unlike my Friday’s brioche) and a satisfying result! The pastry is a smooth scone dough with sour cream, thrown together in just a few minutes. It turns into a light golden crust lying on top of the fruity filling like fluffy clouds.

Plums are my favourite addition to this dish and yellow plums are my latest discovery for desserts. It’s not only the warm glowing colour that’s so striking, it’s their honey sweet taste. Uncooked, they aren’t too far away from blue plums, just a bit sweeter, but when they are cooked, seasoned with a little cinnamon, they develop a very deep flowery taste, almost like rosewater. Their fragrant sweetness made me choose them for this easy pie. My cobbler is made with just a little sugar, you could also use the pastry for a savory pie, but when the yellow fruit kicks in, the sweet richness takes over. Warm and fragrant, I couldn’t stop shoveling one portion after the other onto my plate!

Yellow Plum Cobbler

 Yellow Plum Cobbler

You could replace the yellow plums with blue plums and a add a few drops of rosewater.

For 4 people you need

yellow plums, sliced, 600g / 1.5 pounds
sugar 4 tablespoons
cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon

For the pastry
plain flour 200g / 7 ounces
sugar 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon for the topping
cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
butter, cold, 100g / 3.5 ounces
sour cream 160ml / 5.5 ounces

Set the oven to 190°C / 375°F (fan assisted oven).

Spread the plums in a baking dish and coat with the sugar mixed with cinnamon.

For the pastry, combine the dry ingredients. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just crumbly pieces left. Continue with your fingers, rub the buttery pieces into the flour until combined. Mix in the sour cream with a spoon until combined. Break the soft dough into pieces, gently flatten them and put them on top of the plums, they should be almost covered. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and some more cinnamon if you like and bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve warm.

Yellow Plum Cobbler

 

Yellow Plum Cobbler

 

Yellow Plum Cobbler

 

Yellow Plum Cobbler

 

Yellow Plum Cobbler

 

Yellow Plum Cobbler

Mary’s fantastic Drunken Grapes in Anisette

Grapes in Ouzo

After I visited Mary Licari in her old watch tower in Malta for one of my meet in your kitchen features, I came home with lots of inspiration and a long list of recipes which I couldn’t wait to try in my kitchen! On that hot afternoon in August, she treated me to so many delicacies and one of them was red grapes in anisette which she made in 1985! She topped her homemade banana ice cream (which was also to die for!) with these amazing grapes that have been in the bottle for almost 30 years! I almost felt too shy to eat them, that’s such a treasure, fruit soaked in three decades of aroma!

It was my second visit to her house, just a day before I left the island to go back to Berlin. As always when meeting Mary, you have to be prepared for food, lots of good food! We wanted to stop at her house to say a quick good bye but as soon as we got into the house, Mary got out the plates and treated us to an amazing three course meal, finished with these fantastic drunken fruits. They were sweet and strong, a bit wrinkled, enhanced with the strong flavour of anise. The texture was a bit like jelly, but not as soft, they still had some crunch. It was a special culinary experience that I will never forget!

I’ve been back home for more than a month and I still can’t get Mary’s amazing grapes out of my head. There’s no reason to wait any longer! The Italian grapes taste amazing at the moment and there’s a bottle of Ouzo waiting to be emptied. I won’t wait for 30 years to eat them (I’m too impatient!) but maybe I will keep some of them for a year or two.

Mary taught me to keep a little stalk on the grapes, that prevents the fruit from soaking up too much of the liquid!

Grapes in Ouzo

 

Grapes in Ouzo

 Drunken Grapes in Anisette

For 1 large jar of grapes you need

Ouzo (or any other anisette) 600ml / 1.5 pints
red grapes 200g / 7 ounces

Cut the single grapes off the bunch. Don’t pull them off, keep a short piece of stalk of about 1/2 cm / 1/4 ” on each of them.

Put the grapes in a clean jar and fill with anisette until the fruits are covered. Let it sit for at least a month, or for years, like Mary. Serve with ice cream or cheese.

Grapes in Ouzo

 

Grapes in Ouzo

 

Grapes in Ouzo

Buttery Weekend Brioche

Brioche

Lots of butter, lots of eggs – the secret to a great brioche! I enjoy this sweet golden bread fresh and warm out of the oven on the first day, and toasted, for breakfast, lunch or as sweet and savory sandwiches on the second day. Therefore, when I make brioche, I bake a big batch of them!

The dough has to rise three times, but that shouldn’t put you off. If you time it well and let it rise overnight the second time you can be rewarded with the best French breakfast treat ever, apart from croissants maybe but their preparation reaches another dimension. I never managed to move myself to give them a try but one day their time will come even in my kitchen. Back to the brioche, this recipe makes a wonderful buttery, light pastry, rich but tender. I like to break them in pieces and spread even more butter on top of them and some of my homemade strawberry or Tyrolean plum jam, a hot latte macchiato on the side and I’m happy!

I always bake one loaf and a few little round brioches. The bread stays fresh for days wrapped in parchment paper and it’s great for tea time, sliced, toasted and – again – with some butter melted on top. It also makes a delicious dessert, in a trifle, bread pudding or thick fresh slices topped with a thick warm berry compote and some whipped cream!

Brioche

 

Brioche

 Brioche

For 2 loaves you need

plain flour 700g / 1.5 pounds
yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
sugar 60g / 2 ounces
organic eggs, mixed with a fork, 5 plus 1 egg mixed with a pinch of salt for the glaze
milk, lukewarm, 50ml / 2 ounces
butter, soft, 250g / 9 ounces

Melt 50g / 2 ounces of the butter, let it cool and mix with the milk.

In  a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the lukewarm milk butter mixture and eggs and mix with your dough hooks for 5 minutes until well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for about 5 minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Add  the remaining soft butter cut into little pieces and mix until all the butter is worked into the dough and you have a soft, shiny but sticky ball. This will take about 5 minutes.

Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven ( top / bottom heat, no fan!) for 1 hour.

Take the dough out, knead for 1 minute and put it in a clean large bowl. Close well with a lid or cling film and keep in the fridge overnight to rise slowly a second time.

Take the dough out the next morning and let it sit for 10 minutes before you knead it for 1 minute and divide it into 2 portions (or more depending on the tins you use to bake the brioche). Butter the tins generously and push in the dough, the tins should be filled 1/2 to 2/3, not more. If you bake a round brioche you can shape little (or big) balls and place them on top. Form a little hole with your finger in the middle and gently push the ball in to prevent it from falling off. Cover with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Set the oven to 175°C / 350°F (top/ bottom heat).

Brush the brioche with the egg mixed with salt and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top, depending on the tins’ shape and size the baking time can be shorter or longer. If you’re not sure if it’s done turn the brioche around and knock on its underside, it should sound hollow. Enjoy warm.

Brioche

 

Brioche

 

Brioche

 

Brioche

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

A piece of meat slowly roasted to perfection, with fresh herbs, garlic and vegetables is the essence of my mother’s cuisine. The fragrant smell teases me for hours while the roast is cooking, the depth of the meat’s taste, the rich sauce of juices mixed with seasonings is the most comfortable cooking that can happen in a kitchen!

When I saw this leg of lamb I made a quick decision, roast lamb for dinner! Thinking of my mother’s famous Sunday lunches, I also packed lots of garlic and tomatoes in my shopping basket as I had a Mediterranean style roast in mind. I also bought a bunch of rosemary as my plant looks rather sad at the moment. I planted it in a pot together with mint and that wasn’t a good idea. The roots of peppermint plants spread into every corner of the pot, there’s no soil left for my poor rosemary. If you ever decide to plant rosemary and mint together, leave the mint plant in a plastic pot before you put it in soil, this stops the roots from spreading (I got this tip from a lady with a green thumb at the market). My big thyme plant is the complete opposite, it looks as fresh and green as it should (in its own pot). That’s the second herb in this recipe to add flavour to the meat.

Back home, I made a thick marinade with 2 tablespoons of each of the herbs and a little crushed garlic. I mixed it with lots of olive oil and rubbed it into the leg of lamb. You could keep it in the fridge like that for a day or two, but we were hungry, so I added two whole garlic bulbs and 5 large tomatoes, all cut in half and cooked the meat in the oven for a bit more than an hour. The meat was perfect, juicy and soft, and the tomatoes and garlic were almost caramelized. They were dark on the outside but sweet inside and thickened the juices which was simply divine! Fruity, oily and fragrant!

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

 Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

For 3-4 people you need

leg of lamb, with the bone, 1.5kg / 3.5 pounds
olive oil 70ml / 2.5 ounces
fresh rosemary, chopped, 2 tablespoons plus 5 small sprigs
thyme, chopped, 2 tablespoons
garlic bulbs, cut in half, 2 plus 1 big clove, crushed, for the marinade
large tomatoes, cut in half, 5
salt and pepper

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (I used the Rotitherm setting).

Put the leg of lamb into a roasting tin. Arrange the tomatoes (cut side down) and garlic (cut side up) next to the meat. Mix the oil, crushed garlic clove and herbs, rub into the meat and sprinkle a bit over the tomatoes and garlic bulbs. Put the rosemary sprigs under and next to the meat. Season everything with salt and pepper and cook in the oven for 75 minutes, turn the garlic around after 45 minutes, pour the juices over the meat once or twice while it’s cooking.

When the meat is done, wrap the roast leg in aluminum foil for 5 minutes.

Cut up the meat and serve with the roast tomatoes and garlic. You could have some potatoes on the side but we enjoyed it with a fresh white French loaf which was perfect to scrape the tasty juices out of the pan.

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

 

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

 

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

 

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

 

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

300 Days and 300 Recipes later, a Date Goat Cheese and Balsamic Fig Tartine

Date and Balsamic Honey Fig Tartine

300 days ago, on the 23rd November 2013, I started eat in my kitchen! Today, almost 10 months and 300 recipes later, it feels like this journey has just begun. I’ve met so many amazing people through the blog, people who follow eat in my kitchen worldwide since the early days or who just found it recently. Be it in Europe, the USA, South America, Australia, Africa or Asia, we all share our passion for cooking, baking, eating and treating and that’s been such a great experience for me. Here, I can write about my latest discoveries at the market, new ideas for recipes or old family dishes which have been with me since my childhood. Or the meet in your kitchen features and my wonderful guests who taught me so much about beekeeping, producing olive oil and wine, harvesting salt at the sea, or traditional Maltese recipes which were handed down from one generation to the next. All this would have never happened without eat in my kitchen and without you who follow me so enthusiastically!

Today, it’s my Sandwich Wednesday, one of my blog’s early traditions which I started on the 4th December 2013. It was a spontaneous mood on a busy day that made me come up with a sandwich and I decided to make a weekly series out of it. That’s what I love about this online space, this white canvas where I can not only share the culinary adventures of my kitchen but also try out new ideas that I would have never had without it. One thing is for sure, we wouldn’t have eaten so many sandwiches in the past months without this blog!

I just want to thank you for your trust in my cooking, in my recipes and your ongoing following of what’s happening in my kitchen and what we eat in my kitchen!

This week’s sandwich is a sensual late summer tartine. The sweetest dried dates stirred into smooth goat cream cheese, a couple figs cooked in honey and Balsamico vinegar and Arnold’s Maltese Wild Thyme Honey dripping from the top. It’s sweet, sticky and luscious, like sugary ripe figs almost falling of the branches.

Date and Balsamic Honey Fig Tartine

 Honey Date Goat Cheese and Balsamic Fig Tartine

For 4 small tartines you need

goat cream cheese 125g / 4.5 ounces
dried dates, chopped, 4
ripe figs, quartered, 2
strong liquid honey 2 teaspoon plus more for the topping
Balsamico vinegar 1 teaspoon
white bread (like baguette or ciabatta) 4 slices

In a sauce pan, heat 1 teaspoon of honey, add the figs and cook for 1 minute, turning them once. Deglaze with the Balsamico vinegar, close with a lid and take off the heat.

Whip the goat cream cheese with 1 teaspoon of honey and stir in the dried dates.

Spread the bread generously with the date goat cheese, put the figs and their juices on top and sprinkle with a little more honey.

Date and Balsamic Honey Fig Tartine

 

Date and Balsamic Honey Fig Tartine

 

Date and Balsamic Honey Fig Tartine

 

Date and Balsamic Honey Fig Tartine

Golden Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti

Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti

The glowing Hokkaido pumpkin is back in my kitchen! Although I’ve spotted the bright orange fruit at the markets for quite a while, I wanted to wait a little before it became a permanent part of my weekly purchases again. I know that as soon as it’s on my kitchen tops, nothing can stop me and I use it for everything, quite excessively, soups, risottos, pasta and breads, spreads, salads, cakes, the whole range from sweet to savory. One of my favourite pumpkin meals is oven roasted wedges coated in spiced olive oil and herbs. I could eat that every week!

For now, I will start with a pasta dish and for this recipe I use all a pumpkin offers, the flesh and skin, its seeds and fragrant oil. I mix my shiny spaghetti with a little bit of the water I used to cook the pasta in before I stir in very thin pumpkin slices pan roasted for just a few minutes to soften them and sweeten their taste. I sprinkle the pasta on each plate with a bit more than a tablespoon of pumpkin seed oil and a teaspoon of the fruit’s crunchy roasted seeds. This dish is an ode to the most delicate of all pumpkins, a true Hokkaido feast! It makes the pasta so smooth, almost velvety in texture and sweet and nutty in taste. Each plate looks like the late afternoon sunlight that lights up my kitchen between late summer and early autumn, golden and warm!

Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti

 

Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti

Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti

For 3-4 people you need

spaghetti 300-400g / 10.5 – 14 ounces
Hokkaido pumpkin, with skin but without the fibres and seeds, about 200g / 7 ounces
butter 1 tablespoon
olive oil
sugar 1/2 teaspoon
salt and pepper
pumpkin seed oil, 4 1/2 – 6 tablespoons plus more to taste, for the topping
roast pumpkin seeds, for the topping

Keep the plates for the pasta in a warm place for a few minutes (80°C / 175°F in the oven).

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente. Keep some of the water used to cook the pasta. Drain the spaghetti and mix with a splash of the water they cooked in.

Cut the pumpkin with a cheese or vegetable slicer into very thin slices. In a large heavy pan, heat the butter and a splash of olive oil, add the sugar and pumpkin and roast for a few minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the slices are golden brown on both sides and soft enough to break with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta and pumpkin slices between the plates, sprinkle each plate with 1 1/2 tablespoons of pumpkin seed oil, a teaspoon of pumpkin seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti

 

Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti

Minestrone alla Genovese with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

A minestrone simmering on the cooker puts me a into a comfortable mood, the smell and taste reminds me of the kitchens of all the great cooks in my family and it makes me feel at home! I’m very lucky as I’m surrounded by a few women who have mastered the art of a good minestrone.

My Maltese granny Edith cooks her vegetable soup with courgette, marrows and potatoes and I learnt from her that a little parmesan sprinkled on top makes all the difference. The cheese melts into the warming broth and adds a hearty touch to it. My mother goes with the seasons and uses whatever her vegetable garden offers. Beans, cabbage, peas, potatoes, carrots, the list is long and inspiring. She walks through her garden with a big basket in her hand and picks the fruits and vegetables that fit her mood. She taught me to chop everything into small cubes and blanch each vegetable in the broth separately. This way you avoid some vegetables becoming too soggy and soft while others stay crunchy. I don’t always do this, sometimes I cook it all at once, it depends on the texture I want to achieve.

My minestrone never tastes the same, I like to try out new variations and this one was inspired by the north of Italy, the Minestrone alla Genovese! This warming soup is so rich in flavours, cooked with cabbage, dried butter beans, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, fennel, tomatoes, celery and leak, I listened to both women to be rewarded with a very satisfying result, I chopped the vegetables into little cubes which would have pleased my mother but I cooked them all at once for not more than 20 minutes. I just cooked the soaked dried butter beans separately as they needed about an hour. After I filled my flavourful soup into the plates, I scattered some parsley leaves and grated parmesan over it, thanks to Edith!

When I cook minestrone, I cook lots of it as I like to put a few portions in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. Once the chopping is done, it just needs another half an hour, so you might as well prepare a bit more. You could also add some little pasta like Anellini or Risini to make the dish a bit richer.

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

 

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

Minestrone alla Genovese

For a large pot of around 4l / 8.5 pints of minestrone (for about 8-12 people) you need

big dried butter beans, soaked over night, 200g / 7 ounces
large onion, chopped, 1
white cabbage, cut into small cubes, 200g / 7 ounces
carrots, cut into small cubes, 150g / 5.5 ounces
zucchini, cut into small cubes, 150g / 5.5 ounces
leak, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
potatoes, cut into small cubes, 200g / 7 ounces
fennel bulb, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
large celery stalk, cut into small cubes, 1
large tomatoes, cut into small cubes, 2
broth, hot, 2.8l / 6 pints
garlic, crushed, 3 cloves
bay leaf 1
salt and pepper
olive oil
parmesan, grated, for the topping
fresh parsley leaves, a handful, for the topping

In a large pot, cook the soaked beans for about an hour or until al dente, drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat till golden and soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add a little more oil and the chopped vegetables, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the hot broth, the beans and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve sprinkled with parmesan and parsley.

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

 

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

 

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

Blackberry and Apple Pie

Apple and Blackberry Pie

Glorious weather, food and friends, it was a perfect weekend! Last week, an old friend of mine from my days at university came to visit us and I was so excited as we hadn’t seen each other in years! She moved to LA a long time ago where I’ve only visited her once but a year ago she decided to head over to Costa Rica together with her family, so we’re even further apart from each other now. When she finally stood at the door with her two children, I couldn’t believe it! It was such a strange feeling to meet the little ones who I only knew from pictures and skype, but they felt so familiar. This is such a weird thing about the internet, you can be so far away and still feel so close!

Before the young family arrived I decided to bake, not only a cake but a pie, the ultimate sweet comfort food. I needed to calm down and nothing beats a pie in a situation like that! The result was a thin layer of buttery short crust wrapped around a juicy filling of apples and blackberries. I’ve made many apple pies in my life but this was the first time that I tried this English classic with the dark berries. They add a sweet juiciness and melt together with the apples to a very unique composition. It reminds me a bit of plums or pears but it’s still different, they create a new taste which is hard to describe.

The fruity filling was so full of red juices that I was a bit worried about the pastry. For no reason, the short crust didn’t soak it all up or get too soggy, it was still crunchy. It was all good, even more so, it was delicious! Just the first piece which I cut off impatiently when the pie was still hot was a bit soft, it’s best to let it sit for a while which is almost impossible as it smells too good!

Apple and Blackberry Pie

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

Apple and Blackberry Pie

For a 20cm / 8″ springform pan you need

For the filling

sour baking apples (such as Boskoop), peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced, 600g / 21 ounces
blackberries, 200g / 7 ounces
sugar 5 tablespoons
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
plain flour 2 tablespoons

For the pastry

plain flour 260g / 9 ounces
sugar 1 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
butter, cold, 70g / 2.5 ounces
vegetable shortening, cold,  70g / 2.5 ounces
cold water 1 tablespoon

For the glaze

milk 3 tablespoons
sugar 1 heaped teaspoon

For the pastry, combine the dry ingredients. Cut the butter and vegetable shortening with a knife into the flour until there are just little, crumbly pieces left. Continue with your fingers and quickly work the buttery pieces into the flour until combined. Add the water, 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).

Take the dough out of the freezer, put the smaller disc in the fridge and roll out the bigger one. Roll out a circle big enough to line the bottom and the sides of the springform pan, overlapping the rim about 1 cm / 1/2 “. Put the pan with the pastry in the fridge.

For the filling, combine the sugar and cinnamon and mix with the apples. Take out the pan with the pastry and fill with 1/3 of the apples, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour and add half of the berries. Add another layer of apples, 1 tablespoon of flour and the remaining berries and apples on top. Roll out the remaining disc, a bit bigger than the springform pan and lay on top of the apples. Gently push the sides onto the bottom layer of pastry, sealing it by rolling in inwards. Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 175°C / 350°F and bake for another 40 minutes or until the pie is golden on top. Take it out and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Apple and Blackberry Pie

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

Mozzarella di Bufala, Rucola, Orange and Chervil Salad

Mozzarella, Orange and Chervil Salad

Mozzarella di Bufala, as creamy as a fresh Burrata, Italian oranges dripping with sweet juices, crunchy rucola (arugula) leaves, delicate chervil (Kerbel in German) and a fruity vinaigrette! This salad is luscious and fresh, a perfect combination of green, fruity and milky flavours.

It’s a light culinary break while I’m bustling in my kitchen on the weekend, my little weekly feast when our meals become a bit more lavish and sumptuous. We spend even more time sitting at the table extending our dinners with some cheese, fruit and chutney before we finish it off with dessert. Good food and company, some music, a nice bottle of wine, it’s so easy to celebrate those moments when everything feels just right! The end of the week is also my favourite time to bake and to fill the air with the smell of fresh bread, cinnamony cakes and cookies, that’s my kind of wellness treat. So, to enjoy my numerous kitchen products, I keep my breakfast and lunch lighter than normally but not necessarily more simple and spartan. I just cut down on a few delicate ingredients, like in this salad.

Mozzarella, Orange and Chervil Salad

Mozzarella di Bufala, Rucola, Orange and Chervil Salad

For 2-3 people you need

Mozzarella di Bufala, torn into pieces, 125g / 4.5 ounces
orange, peeled and cut into slices,
rucola (arugula) leaves, a big handful
chervil (Kerbel), the leaves of a small bunch
olive oil 3 tablespoons
white Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 1/2 tablespoons
salt and pepper

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar and orange juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the rucola, orange and mozzarella on plates and sprinkle with dressing and chervil.

Mozzarella, Orange and Chervil Salad

 

Mozzarella, Orange and Chervil Salad

 

Mozzarella, Orange and Chervil Salad

Moscato Chicken with Grapes and Thyme

Moscato Grape Chicken

A luscious sauce needs time, herbs, spices and wine but sometimes a good 20 minutes in the oven works just as well, when there are chicken legs, Moscato grapes and wine, thyme, bay leaf and garlic on the tray. The meat’s roasting juices mix with the sweetness of the fruit and wine and turn into a heavenly rich sauce. We left the roasting pan clean and spotless after we soaked up the last drops with fresh baguette!

This recipe needs lots of garlic! I pushed some thin slices of garlic together with some small sprigs of thyme under the chicken’s skin to infuse the meat with their aroma. I also cooked quite a few whole garlic cloves in their skin on the tray which makes a wonderful smooth paste. It tasted so good spread on a slice of bread with a couple roasted grapes and a piece of tender chicken with its crisp skin!

I like to cook with Moscato wine a lot, I use it often in my kitchen as it adds a mellow fruitiness. A Pinot Gris or a Riesling would also be nice for this recipe but it comes down to your personal preference and how much you want to invest in your sauce. Personally, I believe that the wine you use for cooking can easily be more simple than the one you fill into the glasses to accompany your dinner.

Moscato Grape Chicken

 Moscato, Grape and Thyme Chicken

For 2-4 people you need

chicken legs 4 (around 1.2kg / 2.5 pounds)
sweet green grapes (like Moscato grapes), on their stalks, 250g / 9 ounces
thyme sprigs, a small handful
garlic, 8 cloves in their skin and 2 cloves cut into very thin slices
fruity white wine (like Moscato) 250ml / 8.5 ounces
small bay leaves 4
olive oil
flaky sea salt
pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I use the Rotitherm setting which works perfectly for poultry).

Spread the chicken legs on a baking dish or tray and push a few thyme sprigs and slices of garlic under the skin of each of them. Rub them on all sides with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Arrange the grapes, garlic cloves and thyme around the meat, put 1 bay leaf under each chicken leg, sprinkle with a splash of olive oil and pour the wine over the meat and fruits.

Cook the chicken legs in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown, pour some of the juices over the meat a couple times while it’s cooking. After 20 minutes, check the meat with a skewer, only clear juices should come out. Turn the grill on for a few minutes until the skin starts sizzling and turns dark and crisp. Serve with baguette.

Moscato Grape Chicken

 

grapechicken1.2

Tyrolean Plum Jam with Cinnamon and Star Anise

Tyrolean Plum Jam with Cinnamon and Star Anise

This is the kind of jam I would eat for breakfast in the mountains, in an old wooden hut, the morning table strewn with rustic delicacies, thick slices of a hearty loaf of bread, Tyrolean prosciutto, strong cheese, rich butter and this dark jam. It’s very fruity and concentrated. The purple fruits cook for around 20 minutes with cinnamon and star anise which gives this thick spread a warm autumn touch (I don’t really like to call it wintery yet, it’s still too early in the year). The little pieces of the fruits’ skin curl up and turn into caramelised fruit bites, delicious!

For my jams, spreads and chutneys, I always try to find the ripest fruits possible, it makes such a difference in taste! Especially when it comes to plums which develop the best side of their strong aromas when they start to soften. Natural sweetness, that’s all you need! A hard and sour fruit won’t develop its whole range of flavours in a jam.

I call this spread my Tyrolean Plum Jam as my mountain memories lie in Corvara in the Alta Badia region in South Tyrol. We used to spend many winter holidays in the Italian Dolomite Alps when I was a child, a time of hearty mountain food, aromatic cakes and strudels and some of the best breakfast tables I’ve ever had!

Tyrolean Plum Jam with Cinnamon and Star Anise

Tyrolean Plum Jam with Cinnamon and Star Anise

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

ripe dark plums (preferably damson plums), pitted and chopped, 1kg/ 2 1/4 pounds
granulated sugar 600g / 1 1/4 pounds
star anise 4 single pieces
ground cinnamon 3 heaped teaspoons

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 5 minutes. Dip 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 for jam jars (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 and spices 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 a month) before you put it on your breakfast table and store the jars in your pantry.

Tyrolean Plum Jam with Cinnamon and Star Anise

 

Tyrolean Plum Jam with Cinnamon and Star Anise

Juicy Lamb, Moroccan Lemon and Caper Sandwich

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

Maltese capers, dried tomatoes, wild fennel seeds, honey and sea salt, these were just some of the goods I took home with me from my last trip to the Mediterranean island and these were also the ingredients I offered Malin from The Bread Exchange to choose from for our next sandwich. The sourdough queen went for salty capers and then it was my turn to come up with an idea for our next eat in my kitchen x The Bread Exchange creation.

Malin called me in the morning when the bread was done, after a night without much sleep as she had to get up a couple times to take care of her caper sourdough bread. I jumped on my bike excitedly to meet her in her kitchen which was already filled with the sweetest smell of freshly baked bread when I arrived. When she showed me her beautiful loaf of bread, juicy and spongy on the inside as always, refined with capers and the amazing oily crust that Malin mastered to perfection, I couldn’t wait to get started in my kitchen! A colourful composition of a few strong flavours, a wave of tastes on the tongue, that was my idea when I held the warm bread in my hands.

This inspiration led to a rich sandwich voluptuously stuffed with tender slices of lamb fillet, cooked for just a few minutes to keep it pink on the inside, thin strips of my Moroccan preserved lemons, crisp lemon peel roasted in olive oil (I used both the infused oil and the rind), salty capers and spicy rucola leaves. This was one of those moments when I wasn’t sure if I went a bit overboard with the flavours, especially when they are all so powerful on their own. But the first bite cleared any doubts, there wasn’t too much of anything, it was just right!

This sandwich has been featured on Food52!

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

 

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

 Lamb, Moroccan Lemon and Caper Sandwich

For 4 closed sandwiches you need

the best sourdough bread you can get, 8 thick slices
lamb fillet 250g / 9 ounces
Moroccan preserved lemons, cut into thin strips, 1/4
lemon peel, 6 long strips
olive oil 3 tablespoons plus more for frying
capers, rinsed and drained, 1 heaped tablespoon
fresh rucola (arugula) leaves, a small handful
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
salt

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F. 

In a small baking dish, mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the lemon peel and roast in the oven for 6 minutes or until the lemon is crisp and golden (it shouldn’t be brown!). Set the oil and roasted peel aside.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil, season the lamb fillet with salt and pepper and brown for 1 1/2 -2 minutes on each side. The meat should stay pink to keep its juiciness. Wrap the fillet in aluminum foil and set aside for a few minutes.

Drizzle a little of the lemon oil on a slice of bread and cover with a few rucola leaves. Cut the lamb fillet into thin slices and spread on top of the greens. Scatter over some strips of Moroccan lemon, roasted lemon peel, capers and lemon oil. Sprinkle with some crushed black pepper and close with another slice of bread.

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

Here are all of the eat in my kitchen x The Bread Exchange sandwiches we created so far:

Sainte-Maure Chèvre, Rosemary Oil and Olive Sandwich

Roast Apricots on Turmeric Bread with Cardamom Crème Fraîche

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

 

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

 

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

 

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

 

Lamb, Lemon, Rucola and Caper Sandwich

Caramelized Kohlrabi Chips

Maple Syrup Caramelized Kohlrabi Chips

After I stared at this stunning vegetable, a glowing purple kohlrabi, for about five minutes, I could see them right in front of my eyes: sweet, caramelized kohlrabi chips! Thin and sticky with crispy edges!

Normally I buy green kohlrabi as that’s what I find at the market most of the time and to be honest, there isn’t really a difference in taste, but the deep colour, somewhere between red, blue and the faded green of the leaves makes me grab this one whenever I see it. As soon as it’s cut and sliced there isn’t much left of its outstanding beauty but that doesn’t matter, the taste makes up for it. Especially when the paper thin slices turn into chips which combine the hearty taste of cabbage with the bitter sweetness of caramel.

Maple Syrup Caramelized Kohlrabi Chips

 Caramelized Kohlrabi Chips

For a sweet nibble for 2 you need

kohlrabi, peeled and thinly sliced with a cheese or vegetable slicer, 160g / 5.5 ounces
butter 1 1/2 tablespoons
sugar 1 tablespoon

In a large heavy pan, melt the butter and sugar on a medium-high heat, add the vegetables and spread them flat next to each other. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook for another minute until golden brown on both sides. Take the chips out and spread them on kitchen roll for just a few seconds. Don’t let them cool on the paper or they will stick to it. Nibble cold or warm.

Maple Syrup Caramelized Kohlrabi Chips

 

Maple Syrup Caramelized Kohlrabi Chips

Spinach Ricotta stuffed Conchiglioni on Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

spinachricottaconchiglioni2

The trilogy of spinach, ricotta and tomatoes is one I use a lot for my pasta dishes, be it in lasagna, ravioli or canneloni. And if I need a really quick dinner I go for conchiglioni, the pretty pasta shells. It’s so convenient to stuff these little beauties with all kinds of sauces and vegetables, a thick Bolognese or Ratatouille, mashed pumpkin or a tuna stew, they deliciously carry whatever I choose to fill them with! I also like that I can cook them in advance and just bake them with some cheese under the grill to warm them up, another easy solution for a spontaneous dinner party!

For this recipe I can skip all of the preparations that my classic lasagna requires, no Béchamel, no slow cooked red or meat sauce. I just put a bunch of cherry tomatoes under the grill until their skin starts to burst, it’s the same preparation that I used for my orecchiette recipe in July. The roasted fruits are so soft and sweet that I only need to stir in some olive oil, Balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper to turn them into an aromatic and juicy sauce. I spread the conchiglioni on top of the tomatoes in the same dish as soon as they are done, lusciously stuffed with blanched spinach and creamy ricotta and sprinkled with Parmesan. Another 3 minutes under the grill and dinner is served!

spinachricottaconchiglioni1

 

spinachricottaconchiglioni5

 Spinach Ricotta stuffed Conchiglioni on Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

For 3-4 people you need

conchiglioni, cooked al dente, around 25 pasta shells
spinach, the hard stems cut off, cleaned, 400g / 14 ounces (mine weighed 600g / 21 ounces before I prepared it)
ricotta 200g / 7 ounces
cherry tomatoes 500g / 1 pound
Balsamico vinegar 1 teaspoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons
nutmeg, freshly grated, to taste
salt and pepper
Parmesan, grated, around 40g / 1.5 ounces, for the topping

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil. Blanche the spinach for 1 minute, rinse with cold water in a colander, drain and squeeze out the water with a spoon. Chop the spinach roughly, mix with the ricotta and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Put the cherry tomatoes in a baking dish (big enough to spread the stuffed conchiglioni on top when the tomatoes are done) and roast the fruits under the grill for 15 minutes or until their skin starts to burst, turn them once or twice. When the tomatoes are done, stir in the Balsamico vinegar and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and gently squeeze the tomatoes with a spoon.

Fill the pasta shells with the spinach ricotta stuffing, spread them on top of the tomatoes and push them gently in between the tomatoes. Sprinkle the shells with the Parmesan and some more pepper and put under the grill for around 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Like with lasagna, it’s best to let the dish sit for a few minutes before serving.

spinachricottaconchiglioni7

 

Spinach Ricotta stuffed Conchiglioni on Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

 

spinachricottaconchiglioni4

 

spinachricottaconchiglioni3

Raspberry Savarin or a giant Rum Baba

Raspberry Savarin

Giorgio’s Cafe is a busy bistro in Malta on the Sliema promenade where I love to go for a morning espresso. It’s right opposite Valletta and you can see the capital’s majestic bastions right across Marsamxett Harbour. Just sitting there, enjoying my breakfast and watching people passing by is one of my favourite Saturday morning activities when I’m on the island. On that day of the week, lots of Maltese ladies meet at Giorgio’s amongst a few business men for a little break and a snack in between their weekend shopping. Everybody is dressed up, the mood is chatty and you can see the season’s latest sunglasses collections presented at every table. It’s a wonderful Mediterranean scene, la dolce vita!

It wouldn’t be one of my most beloved cafes on the island if there wasn’t a culinary treat involved. In this case, it’s Rum Baba, a little yeast cake soaked in syrupy liqueur topped with fresh fruits! It’s sticky and sweet. The cake is so saturated in syrup that it feels like a soaking wet sponge when you cut off a piece. I’ve been wanting to make a lighter version of this sweet dish for years, in a bigger pan and with less syrup, in essence, a Savarin which is like a giant Rum Baba. The only difference between the two cakes is the size and the amount of syrup, apart from that, both use the same rich yeast dough which is similar to a brioche. Another recipe that I will share with you in the next few weeks!

I prefer to use less syrup as it’s so sweet that it can easily become too dominant in this composition and you wouldn’t be able to taste the cake anymore. To accompany my fruits, slightly tart, delicate raspberries, I used a liqueur also made of the red berries, a German Waldhimbeer Geist which is a traditional spirit made of wild raspberries. I cooked the liqueur with Riesling wine, sugar, lemon juice and water for a few minutes to turn it into an aromatic syrup. It wasn’t just sweet, it was rich in flavours! Some Savarin and Rum Baba recipes add whipped cream, which is nice too but it takes away a bit of the fresh touch that the fruity cake has without it. For me, it depends on my mood and the weather, the colder it gets the more I like rich cakes. If it’s a warm day I like my tea time treat light and fruity!

Raspberry Savarin

 

Raspberry Savarin

 Raspberry Savarin Cake

For a 1 litre / 2 pint Savarin or Bundt pan you need

For the topping

raspberries 125g / 4.5 ounces

 

For the cake

plain flour 210g / 7.5 ounces
dry yeast 2 teaspoons
sugar 30g / 1 ounce
a pinch of vanilla
a pinch of salt
milk, lukewarm, 80ml / 3 ounces
butter, melted, 80g / 3 ounces
organic eggs 2

In  a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, vanilla, salt and sugar. Whisk the milk, melted butter and eggs, the temperature should be lukewarm! Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with your dough hooks for a few minutes until well combined, on high speed for the last minute. Th dough will be thick but runny. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm ( top / bottom heat, no fan!) oven for 45 minutes.

Butter the cake pan, dust with flour and fill the dough (best with 2 tablespoons) into the pan. Even out the top, cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.

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

Bake the cake for 20 minutes or until golden on top. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool for a few minutes and take it out of the pan.

For the syrup

white wine (preferably Riesling) 100ml / 3.5 ounces
fruity spirit (preferably raspberry spirit) 60ml / 2 ounces
freshly squeezed lemon juice 30ml / 1 ounce
water 60ml / 2 ounces
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces

In a sauce pan, mix the ingredients for the syrup, bring to the boil and cook down for 2 minutes.

 

The Savarin

Pour the warm syrup into a pot or dish just big enough for the cake to fit in. Put the warm cake into the pot with the syrup (the soft, top side of the cake first). Gently turn the pot around a little to help the cake soak the syrup. After the syrup is completely soaked (after around 15-20 minutes), put a big plate on top of the pot and turn it around, carefully but quickly! Top with the fruits and serve with or without whipped cream, as you prefer.

Raspberry Savarin

 

Raspberry Savarin

 

Raspberry Savarin

 

Raspberry Savarin

A Salad with Greens, Cannellini Beans, Capers and Olives

A Salad with Greens, Cannellini Beans and Olives

Some days call for a quick salad and today is one of them, a little snack at noon!

We had a friend over from Costa Rica for a couple nights with her two young kids, so my kitchen creations had to be child friendly. Lasagna, pizza and cake made them very happy (I didn’t expect anything else)! We were lucky, summer has come back to the city so we spent many hours out at playgrounds, lots of walking and running around for those little legs which made them hungry all the time!

It was only a short visit but we enjoyed every second of it! Now that they left, the flat is quiet again and I feel like some lighter food. I hadn’t made any kitchen plans so I had to work with what I found and inspired me, a big lollo bionda lettuce in the fridge, some parsley on the kitchen window sill, a small can of cannellini beans, my Maltese capers and some black Kalamata olives (this jar is never missing in my pantry). All this thrown together in a large bowl and mixed with a light vinaigrette can make two people very happy. You could also add some canned tuna or tomatoes but I found my Saturday snack perfect as it was.

A Salad with Greens, Cannellini Beans and Olives

 

A Salad with Greens, Cannellini Beans and Olives

A Salad with Greens, Cannellini Beans, Capers and Olives

As a lunch for 3 or a side dish for 4 you need

lettuce (lollo bionda or rosso), rinsed, dried and torn into pieces, 1 big head
canned cannelli beans, rinsed and drained, 240g / 8.5 ounces
Kalamata olives 12
capers 4 tablespoons
the leaves of a small bunch of parsley

For the dressing
olive oil 3 tablespoons
white Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and season to taste.

In a large bowl, mix the lettuce, beans, olives, capers, parsley and dressing.

A Salad with Greens, Cannellini Beans and Olives

Focaccia with Grapes, Rosemary and Gozitan Sea Salt

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

This is the best focaccia I ever made! One reason might be the excessive use of very good olive oil. Sometimes there’s just no way around, if you spare on oil you spare on taste and texture, it’s just that simple. The second reason is the unbelievably delicious combination of baked ripe dark grapes and rosemary! The fruits add a soft sweetness and juiciness to the bread which is better than any other flavouring I ever tasted in combination with this Italian classic.

So, the air in my kitchen was filled with the addictive smell of freshly baked bread mixed with the woody aroma of rosemary. I sat in front of the oven like a hungry cat and I couldn’t wait for the focaccia to be done, it was so tempting! I took the photos as quickly as possible as the aromas teased my nose even more after I cut the first piece off the thick and flat loaf. Then, finally, when I took the first bite, I just enjoyed the spongy softness, the oily crust which was almost flaky, the grapes which released their juices and this heavenly taste topped with roast rosemary sprigs and my Gozitan salt from the Cini family!

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

 

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

 Focaccia with Grapes, Rosemary and Gozitan Sea Salt

For a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12.5″ focaccia you ned

plain flour 500g / 1 pound
yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
salt 1 teaspoon
sugar 1 heaped teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 9 ounces
olive oil 110ml / 3 3/4 ounces, 60ml / 2 ounces for the dough and 50ml / 1 3/4 ounces for the topping
red grapes around 25
fresh rosemary needles, a small handfull
flaky sea salt for the topping

In  a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and 60ml / 2 ounces of olive oil and mix with your dough hooks for 5 minutes until well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for around 5 minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm ( top / bottom heat, no fan!) oven for 40 minutes.

Take the dough out, punch it down and knead for 1 minute. Roll out the dough until it measures around 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12.5″ and put it carefully on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.

Set the oven to 220°C / 430°F.

Punch about 6 x 7 holes into the dough with the round bottom of a wooden spoon and put a grape into every second hole. Pour the remaining 50ml / 1 3/4 ounces of olive oil over the dough and into the holes. Sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

 

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

 

graFocaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

 

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

 

Focaccia with Grapes and Rosemary

Saffron Bouchot Mussels with Tomatoes, Garlic and Parsley

Saffron Mussels

When I have mussels on my cooker I like to add spices, herbs and chopped vegetables, lots of flavours to enrich the broth they’re cooking in. I love to dip a piece of fresh baguette into the concentrated juice of wine cooked with mussels, garlic and parsley as much as I like the tender flesh.

The last time I wrote about a recipe with mussels, it was an aromatic bomb inspired by my friend Essa’s kitchen. The list of spices was long with turmeric, coriander, fresh and  seeds, cayenne pepper, ginger and lemongrass. Not too long after I shared this recipe, Marilena from the Molise region in Italy got in touch with me as she holds a completely different position when it comes to cooking mussels and seafood in general. Pure without too many distractions, that’s how it should be cooked in her opinion. I understand her point, and agree partly. I prefer prawn and lobster dishes that focus mainly on the seafood. When it comes to grilled steak fish, I feel the same. That’s also one of the reasons why my fish recipes in Malta were quite minimal. Although mussels have a very fine taste of the sea, almost sweet, I find they work very well in combination with exotic aromas. We all have our cooking preferences, our likes and dislikes which makes the product of each kitchen so unique! When it comes to baking, Marilena and I found common ground again. She asked me to bake her Milk Pan di Campobasso, a traditional dolci of the region where she lives. This cake is packed with saffron and Strega (an old Italian saffron liqueur) infused milk and covered with hazelnut icing. I had never heard of this combination before but since then I’m in love with saffron combined with nuts!

Today’s recipe for my mussels also works with the strong aroma of this precious, red spice. I felt like a strong broth with a dominant note of saffron mixed with tomatoes, bay leaf, parsley, onions and garlic. The dish looked and tasted like autumn! Warm flavours and colours, red, yellow and green on the shimmering Moules de Bouchot from the Mont-Saint-Michel bay between Brittany and Normandy. The mussels grow on ropes in the sea and that’s the taste they bring to the plate, the fresh sea!

Saffron Mussels

 

Saffron Mussels

 Saffron Bouchot Mussels with Tomatoes, Garlic and Parsley

For a lunch for 3-4 people served with baguette you need

mussels in shells (preferably Bouchot mussels) 1 kg / 2 pounds
medium sized tomatoes, finely chopped, 3
medium sized onion, finely chopped, 1
garlic, thinly sliced, 3 cloves
white wine 200ml / 7 ounces
bay leaf 1
saffron a pinch
salt 1/2 teaspoon
pepper
olive oil
fresh parsley, roughly chopped, 4 tablespoons plus a few leaves

Rinse and scrub the mussels under cold water and cut off the beard, discard any broken mussels.

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the onion and garlic on a medium heat for a few minutes until soft and golden. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, wine, saffron, salt, pepper and the mussels. Shake the pot gently to mix or stir with a slotted ladle. Bring to the boil, close with a lid and cook on lowest heat for 5 minutes or until the shells open (shake the pot once or twice while cooking). Discard any mussels that didn’t open! Sprinkle the mussels with parsley and serve immediately, in deep plates with a bit of broth and baguette.

Saffron Mussels

 

Saffron Mussels

Fig and Gorgonzola Ciabatta Sandwich

Gorgonzola and Fig Ciabatta Sandwich

Late summer figs call for a late summer sandwich, an effortless combination of honey sweet fruit and creamy blue cheese. There’s no cooker involved in the preparations, no oven or grill, just 5 ingredients put together in less than 5 minutes and a glass of red wine to go with. This is an early evening sandwich, when you sit outside on your balcony or in the garden, some cheese and prosciutto on the table, a quick salad of rucola thrown together with the last ripe tomatoes from the vine and a light vinaigrette. All you need are some candles, a friend to talk, some music maybe, a glass of dark red wine and this marvelous duo of figs and Gorgonzola.

Figs are one of those fruits that I could eat all year round but, unfortunately, the pleasure of their sweetness, taste and delicateness is limited to only a few summer months. In Malta I pick them off the trees but here, in the city, they are quite a luxurious treat and the quality barely justifies the price. They are never as ripe, soft and tasty as in the Mediterranean, it would be impossible to transport them. So when I spotted a box of organic Italian figs at the market, soft and thin skinned, nothing could stop me. I bought a big handful of them, enough to make a dozen of these late summer sandwiches!

For 6 open tartines, you need a loaf of fresh ciabatta bread, the slices lightly brushed with a dressing of 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of Balsamico vinegar which makes the bread soft and juicy. I cut 130g (4.5 ounces) of Gorgonzola into slices and quartered 6 ripe Mediterranean figs. Their skin was was so thin that I didn’t even need to peel them, I rinsed them off and spread them with the cheese on the bread and sprinkled the remaining dressing over them.

Gorgonzola and Fig Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Gorgonzola and Fig Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Gorgonzola and Fig Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Gorgonzola and Fig Ciabatta Sandwich

 

Gorgonzola and Fig Ciabatta Sandwich

Mojo Verde inspired by the Canaries

Green Mojo

When our friends came back from the holiday they spent on Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands, they told me about their culinary discovery with such passion that I had to try it, Canarian Mojos! The name derives from the Portuguese word molho (meaning sauce) and stands for an endless variety of sauces made of (fresh or dried) green or red peppers, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, fresh herbs, like coriander or parsely and spices, like cumin, caraway seeds or sweet paprika. Most of these traditional Canarian dishes praise the local peppers which must be extremely aromatic and strong in flavour and cover the whole range from mild to very hot and spicy. Some sauces are made just with herbs, similar to a thick pesto or with dried spices mixed with breadcrumbs. I also read about a sauce which mainly features grated hard cheese, the Almogrote which originates from the Canarian island La Gomera. There are so many delicious sounding names like the spicy, red Mojo Rojo Picón made of dried red hot peppers or Mojo de Almendras mixed with roast almonds. These sauces will be one of my winter kitchen projects as many of them can be made with dried peppers and they offer a great field to experiment with strong aromas.

My friends told me that they savored these sauces with almost every dish, with fish, meat, vegetables and potatoes and they encouraged me to give them a try although I’ve never visited the Canarian Islands myself. So I don’t claim authenticity, I just felt inspired to mix my own Mojo inspired by these islands’ signature dishes. For my Mojo Verde, I mixed mild green bell pepper with garlic, fresh hot chili pepper, (lots of) olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of cumin and salt and pepper and I was very pleased with the result when I mixed it with my pasta!

Green Mojo

 Mojo Verde

For 4 people you need

long or round green bell pepper (preferably organic as they taste stronger) 1
fresh red chili pepper 1
garlic, 2 big cloves
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
salt and pepper
optionally
a pinch of cumin, to taste

Mix the ingredients in a blender, or more authentically but also more time consuming, grind them in a mortar to a thick paste. Season to taste and serve with pasta or on grilled bread or vegetables.

Green Mojo

 

Green Mojo

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