The hot afternoon air is filled with the sweet fragrance of fennel, Buzbiez in Maltese, mixed with the earthy smell of the rocky, red soil and wild thyme, this is the addictive smell of Malta’s countryside! The ground is burst open by the sun and covered with twiggy plants, growing like sticks and crowned with golden umbels which carry the tasty fennel seeds which I love to use so much in my cooking. When we drive down some of the lonely narrow streets I touch the fennel with my hands as they grow so close to the asphalt that it feels like they want to take back their territory. Sometimes we jump into the car to drive around in these desolate parts of the island, to find a new hidden spot to snorkel or to stop somewhere in the middle of the soft hills and listen to the silence surrounded by the beautiful scent of fennel, thyme and sea air!
I always buy my fennel seeds in Malta, from a very sweet lady at the Sunday market in Marsaxlokk. I got used to the little seed’s taste which is so sweet, strong and unique here, I’ve never found tastier fennel anywhere else! It’s great to infuse olive oil for pasta, to cover the skin of roast poultry or to flavour potatoes. There is a popular Maltese dish, oven potatoes cooked with onions and fennel seeds in white wine, it’s often served as a side dish in restaurants with fish. It tastes so good that it doesn’t need anything else with it, we often eat it on it’s own and enjoy the aromatic potatoes.
Sometimes I feel the need to eat potatoes, my body just calls for them, so I decided to make my Mediterranean mashed potatoes which I chop with a knife while I pour olive oil into the chunky mixture. Normally, I just season them with sea salt but this time I infused the olive oil with my aromatic fennel seeds from Marsaxlokk!
When we go to Marsaxlokk we like to stop at Delimara to snorkel and dive off the cliffs. The sea is beautiful here, crystal clear, in different shades of blue and turquoise! The bay is surrounded by white rocks and steep cliffs that look like abstract sculptures created by nature! One of the next bays, St. Peter’s Pool, is just as stunning!
Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil and Sea Salt
For 2 people you need
big potatoes, cooked and peeled, warm, 3
olive oil 5 tablespoons
fennel seeds, lightly pressed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
In a sauce pan, warm up the olive oil and fennel seeds for 3 minutes on low heat.
Chop the warm potatoes with a knife into small chunks while pouring the fennel oil into the lumpy mixture. Season with salt to taste.