eat in my kitchen

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Category: PASTA

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

I think spring is my favourite season – until I feel the same in summer, autumn, or winter, depending on my mood. Spring offers a lot of drama and surprises. The changeover from the cold season is so drastic, so abrupt. There’s so much energy around and inside me all of a sudden without even knowing where it’s coming from. The temperature rises, nature’s sprouting and flourishing at every corner, adding colour to a scene that was brown and grey only a few weeks ago. I welcome these changes with gushing excitement and open the doors to my kitchen for all those greens that are soon to come to my cooking space.

In the past couple weeks, the fragile leaves of fragrant ramps brought Mediterranean pesto back to our table. And crisp asparagus is next. The official harvest start of the white asparagus from Beelitz happened last week, so let the feasting begin! When I eat the white stalks, I’m quite a traditionalist. Young potatoes, ham, and Hollandaise sauce is all I need. But when it comes to green asparagus, I become more experimental.

This little lunch was as simple as it was stunning: I added the green stalks, boiled and very thinly sliced, to a plate of warm spaghetti, burrata (mozzarella di Bufala would also work), and ramp pesto. You could also go for a basil or arugula (rucola) pesto, but I enjoyed the subtle oniony flavour in my green creation. In case you disagree, you’ll find the links to all three pesto recipes below. Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Serves 2

For the ramp pesto
(here you can find alternative recipes for basil or arugula pesto)

ramps or ramson, leaves only, 1 medium bunch (around 60g / 2 ounces)
parmesan 30g / 1 ounce
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
salt 1/4 teaspoon

For the pasta

green asparagus, the bottoms cut off, 1 pound
spaghetti 150-200g / 5-7 ounces
olive oil
burrata (or mozzarella di Bufala) 200g / 7 ounces
ramp pesto about 4 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar

For the pesto, purée the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and season with salt to taste.

Cook the asparagus in plenty of salted water for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Using a slotted ladle, transfer the asparagus to a colander (leave the water in the pot), rinse the stalks briefly with cold water, and drain. Using a sharp knife, lengthwise, quarter each stalk into 4 long pieces (including the heads).

To cook the pasta, put the pot you used for the asparagus back on the heat, bring the water to the boil (add more water if necessary), and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, transfer back to the pot, and stir in a tiny splash of olive oil.

Divide the pasta and asparagus between 2 plates, folding the vegetable into the spaghetti. Break the burrata in half and place in the middle of each pasta plate. Drizzle with pesto and a few drops of olive oil (optional) and season with salt and crushed pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

I love to end the year with a plate full of spaghetti. It gives me the kind of comfort that pasta masters to perfection. Its beauty and magic lies in simplicity – and in many happy carbs. This year’s combination is tangy, a bit creamy, and nutty –  it makes me feel good and that’s all I need. So here’s my Mediterranean creation to celebrate the changeover from 2016 to 2017: spaghetti with lemon pistachio pesto and mozzarella di Bufala.

In the past 12 months of this turbulent year I felt my limits quite often and I flew higher than I thought I could ever fly without burning my wings. I saw my first cookbook being born, being celebrated during my book tour in Berlin, London, Malta, New York, and Washington. I saw the Eat In My Kitchen book reaching the New York Times’ list of ‘The Best Cookbooks of Fall 2016’, which I still can’t really believe. So much love and support came into my life, so much happiness has been spread through this book that feels like a baby to me. There were unbelievable highs, so many wonderful moments, moments that I will feel thankful for for the rest of my life. But there were also lows and losses that tore trenches into my heart that will hurt for the rest of my life. I lost a person who’s been so close to me that I sometimes can’t even say who’s me and who’s him. He was my mentor, my supporter, my biggest critic, my challenger. He was my friend, my most beloved Swabian, and my step father. I wouldn’t be who I am without him, and I’ll never again be who I was before he left this world. Eat In My Kitchen wouldn’t be what it is without him.

I want to thank all of you for supporting me and my book, for being there and for coming back to these pages here on the blog. Eat In My Kitchen makes me grow every day, this blog makes me go back to my kitchen and experiment more than I would do if I didn’t write about it. Thank you for being on this journey together with me.

Have a peaceful and joyful start into the New Year!

Meike

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

Serves 2

dried spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
olive oil
mozzarella di Bufala, torn into bite sized pieces, 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the pesto

freshly grated lemon zest 4 tablespoons, plus more for the topping
freshly grated young Parmesan 4 tablespoons, plus more for the topping
finely chopped shelled pistachios (unsalted) about 1 tablespoon, plus more (roughly chopped) for the topping
olive oil 3 tablespoons
fine sea salt

In a large pot filled with salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and stir in a little splash of olive oil.

For the pesto, in a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, Parmesan, pistachios, and olive oil and use the back of a spoon to press the Parmesan into the oil until well combined. Season to taste with salt.

Divide the spaghetti and mozzarella di Bufala between plates. Sprinkle with pesto, additional lemon zest, Parmesan, and pistachios. Season to taste with flaky sea salt and crushed peppercorns, serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

Spaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

pastalemonpistaSpaghetti with Lemon Pistachio Pesto and Mozzarella di Bufalachiopesto6

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

If you decide to make your own homemade pasta, be prepared that you’ll never be able to eat store bought pasta again (you’ll feel less satisfied with it at the very least) – and that you won’t feel your arms and abs for a couple days. To knead the dough by hand is necessary and labor-intensive. I had moments when I felt slight doubts about whether the crumbly mixture in front of me would ever turn into a smooth ball, but it worked. I needed all my patience and muscle power to get there, but the result tasted so good that I’d do it all over again (after my muscles got some rest).

My pasta project started last Friday and ended on Saturday afternoon. I first tried a recipe by Sicilian chef Dario Cammarata who only uses plain flour, durum wheat semolina, salt, egg yolks, and olive oil. The result tasted amazing, but getting there was so much harder than what I remembered from when I visited the chef in his kitchen in Frankfurt earlier this year. What seemed so easy in Darios’s hands, didn’t want to work as smoothly in my own.

Dario taught me that ravioli are best when they are made with egg yolks and not whole eggs. I have no doubt that this is true, the texture is light and perfectly al dente. But to knead my own dough made of 10 egg yolks, flour, and semolina almost made me cry. The mixture was so hard and fragile, I needed an alternative that was less stressful. I still used my egg yolk dough to make a few ravioli, which were perfect, and I made tagliatelle. And these were the best tagliatelle of my life – taste, texture, and thickness were spot on!

Early the next morning I went back to my kitchen. More eggs in the bowl (this time including the egg whites), with a fresh and open mind and a quenchless appetite for fresh pasta, I felt optimistic. Kneading the dough still required some serious muscle power (maybe it’s just me, my arms are not the strongest), but it was manageable. And this time I totally enjoyed pulling the thin layers of fresh pasta through my KitchenAid pasta attachment. I needed about two test sheets, but then I was in business. They were so thin that I could see my hand through them.

For my first homemade ravioli, I chose a filling that still allowed me to enjoy the fine taste of the egg pasta. After all this work it didn’t feel right to knock it out. The combination of preserved artichokes and fresh ricotta refined with a little orange zest was just right, present, but not overpowering. I served it with melted butter and golden artichoke hearts, briefly seared in the sizzling fat. A little crushed pepper and some more orange zest, and my work was done.

My KitchenAid has three pasta attachments and I’m particularly fond of the tagliatelle cutter. Once I was done with the ravioli, all the shorter pieces and leftover dough went through this attachment and they were perfectly cut into the thinest, tastiest pasta. Cook it al dente and add a knob of butter, freshly grated aromatic hard cheese, and black pepper, and you’ll have the best meal ever. Buon appetito!

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Homemade ravioli are time and labour-intensive. They are a great starter or main dish for a dinner party, but I recommend preparing them a day in advance to keep it stress free. Freeze them (uncooked) and cook them in boiling salted water just before serving for 4 minutes. I recommend using a pasta machine for this recipe.

Makes 20-24 ravioli / serves 2-4

For the pasta dough

plain flour 150g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
durum wheat semolina 150g / 5 1/4 ounces
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
large organic eggs 3 plus 1 egg yolk
olive oil 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
water, cold, 1 tablespoon

For the filling

preserved artichoke hearts, drained and squeezed, 160g / 6 ounces
fresh ricotta 125 g/ 4 1/2 ounces
olive oil 1 tablespoon
freshly grated Parmesan 25g / 1 ounce
a pinch of freshly grated orange zest
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For serving

butter 4 tablespoons
preserved artichoke hearts, drained and cut into 6 pieces each, 2
Parmesan
black peppercorns, crushed
a little orange zest

For the pasta dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment, combine the flour, semolina, and salt. Add the eggs, egg yolk, and olive oil and knead for about 5 minutes (I set it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid). If it’s too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water, but not more. If it’s too sticky, add a little semolina and flour. On the counter top or on a stable table, using your hands, continue kneading the dough for about 15 minutes until smooth. It will still be firm. I find it easiest to leave it in the shape of a thick disc for the first 5-7 minutes, punching and kneading it, and scraping the crumbs together. Then I knead it and roll it into a ball (see pictures below). Form a ball, wrap it in cling film, and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

For the filling, purée the artichoke hearts, add to a bowl along with the ricotta, olive oil, Parmesan, orange zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth and adjust seasoning.

Divide the dough into 4-8 portions (depending on the width and power of your pasta machine). Roll out 1 portion with a rolling pin until it’s thin enough to fit into your pasta machine. I started using position ‘1’ on my pasta attachment, using the speed setting ‘2’. Pull the dough through the pasta machine twice, fold it in the middle, flatten it a little with the rolling pin if necessary, turn it 90°, and pull it through the pasta machine. Continue 2-3 times. Change to a thinner setting (I used ‘3’) and pull the dough through the machine about 3 times, without folding it. Using a knife, straighten the sides of your pasta sheet and cut off excess dough. Continue using the thinner settings of your pasta machine until you can see your hand through the dough (I used ‘5’ and then ‘6’ at the end). If the dough is too sticky, use semolina, but no flour.

Sprinkle the rolled out pasta layer with semolina, fold it gently, and cover with cling film. Continue rolling the remaining dough.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with semolina. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil.

Lay out a layer of pasta and mark it with circles, using a 7cm / 3″ round cutter (or whatever size and shape you prefer). Add a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each marked circle. Dip your finger in water and wet the rim of the circles. From a second sheet of pasta, cut out circles of the same size, lay on top of the filling, and using your finger, push around the rim (see picture above). Using the cookie cutter, cut out the ravioli and press a little fork all around to seal the rim (see picture below). Transfer the ravioli to the prepared baking sheet.

In batches, cook the ravioli in the simmering water for about 2-3 minutes or until al dente.

To serve the ravioli, in a saucepan, heat the butter over high heat until golden brown, add the artichoke hearts, turn gently, and sauté for 1 minute.

Serve the ravioli sprinkled with the butter, Parmesan, orange zest (optional), and crushed pepper and lay the sautéed artichokes on top.

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

artichokeorangeravioli12

 

artichokeorangeravioli11

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

10 Pumpkin recipes to inspire your Thanksgiving table

Pumpkin

Thanksgiving calls for pumpkin on the table, lots of pumpkin! Since winter squash is so versatile, I wouldn’t mind having a festive meal dedicated to these gorgeous beauties in orange, green, and golden yellow. Nibbles, soup, main, and dessert – I’d be up for a pumpkin celebration.

When it comes to the main course, we have two options, we can either go vegetarian and in this case I strongly recommend the Pumpkin Crespelle with Ricotta and Sage – although the Pumpkin Gnocchi wouldn’t be a bad choice either. However, if you need some meat on your plate, I’ll share my suggestions with you tomorrow. But we can already start thinking about the sides and there’s a universe of options. Gnocchi always work, there’s no doubt that their spongy softness is perfect to soak up the juices of a roast, or you can go for maple orange pumpkin with sage and walnuts from my tartine recipe below (without the bread); pumpkin, stilton, and rosemary is also a very pleasant combination (taken from another sandwich recipe below). Roast it, cook it, sauté the squash – thinly sliced – in a pan (like in the Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti), or bake a soufflé. If you want to keep the crowd entertained while you’re cooking, serve the Pumpkin Pesto, Date, and Chèvre Sandwich and everybody will be happy.

(Click on the titles to get to my recipes)

Pumpkin Crespelle with Ricotta and Sage:

Pumpkin Crespelle

 

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Ripe Chèvre Sandwich:

Pumpkin Pesto Date Sandwich

 

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup with Chèvre:

pumpkinsweetpotatochevresoup5

 

Pumpkin Taleggio Quiche with Crisp Sage:

pumpkintaleggiosagequiche1

 

Hokkaido Pumpkin Spaghetti:

Pumpkin Spaghetti

 

Maple Syrup and Orange Pumpkin Tartine with crisp Sage and Walnuts:

Maple Syrup Orange Pumpkin Tartine

 

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Walnut Pesto:

gnocchi_2

 

A Bun with Butternut Squash, Stilton and Rosemary:

butternutstiltonrosemarysandwich2

 

Pumpkin Pie with Coriander Caramel:

pumpkinpie1

 

Pumpkin and Ginger Brack:

Pumpkin Ginger Brack

Camping deluxe – Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala & Honey Butter

Post sponsored by Volkswagen.

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

Although I can’t really call myself an experienced camper, I’m fascinated by the idea of setting up a tent in the middle of nowhere and keeping the signs of civilization to a minimum.

I got my introduction to camping through my boyfriend. To avoid unnecessary difficulties, he chose wisely and decided to give it a go when we were in his home country – a place where you’re never really completely cut off. He convinced me to take a boat to Comino, Malta’s tiny sister island, which is just the right size to jump bravely into our first outdoor adventure without having to worry about too many risks. Our ‘captain’ dropped us off at the shore, along with our two bags, a tent, and a cooling box. It was August, it was unbearably hot, and I found myself in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, on a rocky island. There was not a single tree in sight. My boyfriend, however, looked at the situation with far more optimism. He knows Comino like his back pocket, thanks to countless trips as a child. He set up our rather basic looking tent within less than 10 minutes, with a little help from his clueless German girlfriend (I really tried hard not to be a burden). And when we were done, we jumped into the gentle waves in a lonely bay and I felt a bit like Robinson Crusoe. All of a sudden I started to like this camping idea.

To prepare our dinner, I collected some twigs and my man made a fire. We even managed to exchange a few of our tomatoes from the cooling box with the fresh catch of a passing fisherman. Then I got comfortable: I couldn’t help but turn the rocks around me into a little desert island kitchen. Olive oil, salt, and pepper were ready to marinate the fish and vegetables for our DIY BBQ and we sat down with a glass of wine (a gift from the fisherman). This dinner tasted so good that I could have cried. Maybe that’s part of the whole camping experience, you’re very close to nature, you depend on the weather, the sunlight, the sea, and the food that nature (or your cooling box) offers you. It makes you humble and it opens your senses, everything feels more intense. To smell, taste, feel, and see is essential when you live in and around a tent or camper van. The night came early and covered our little island in the deepest darkness. As soon as the sun sank into the sea, I felt more sleepy than usual, but also more peaceful. I brushed my teeth in the calm sea and went to bed.

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

Most of my activities on the Maltese Islands are documented in thousands of pictures, but the idea of camping – at least in my eyes – is about being unplugged and as far away from any technical devices as possible. So there’s no photographic evidence of my first or our following Comino camping adventures. However, when I spoke to my mother about camping recently, she brought many stories and pictures back to mind that I hadn’t thought of in decades. My parents and my sister went to the Camargue, in southern France in the 70s, to a place with the beautiful name Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. They didn’t have a tent but an old Volkswagen van. I always loved the old photographs, of them on the beach and in old villages, on ancient narrow cobblestone streets. The ease of a camper on their faces. One of the nicest camper vans I know belongs to our friends Luke and Jessica in Malta. Their gorgeous four wheeled gem is baby blue, built in 1968, and its restoration took them 10 months, but all the patience, sweat, and love they put into it was worth it.

Stephanie Le from Canada also shared her love for camping with me in our meet in your kitchen feature a few weeks ago. She’s a pro, she even manages to create a Beef Stroganoff when she’s out in the woods. Stephanie made me think about the culinary challenges that you have to face when you limit your life to a few bags and a grill or gas stove. It also makes a huge difference if you’re in a place that still allows you to forage, or where fishermen offer you the best fish you ever tasted in your whole life. I’m talking about a rather romantic kind of camping here, away from the crowds and civilization and its disturbing visual and acoustic side effects.

Let’s say you’ll be out in the wilderness, for 1-2 nights, and you can upgrade your meal with some fruit and dairy products, the cooling box will keep it fresh for a day. When Volkswagen asked me to come up with a recipe – an eat in my kitchen on the road creation – I couldn’t help but think of camping deluxe. A kind of camping that satisfies the longings of a gourmet who ended up off the beaten track. The senses stimulated by the whole outdoor experience, ready to be caressed by a beautiful plate of farfalle with ripe figs, creamy mozzarella di bufala, velvety honey butter, and fragrant basil. The dried pasta and honey are easy to store, the figs and herbs can be kept in a lunch box, and the mozzarella and butter stay fresh in the cooling box. This would be my ideal treat for a night under the clear black sky.

For more delicious recipes and kitchen inspiration, visit Volkswagen’s Pinterest community board Food Blogger for Volkswagen.

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

 

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

Serves 2

farfalle pasta 200g / 7 ounces
butter 3 tablespoons
honey 1 1/2-2 teaspoons
large figs, cut into 8 wedges each, 2
mozzarella di bufala, torn into pieces, 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
flaky sea salt

Cook the farfalle in salted water until al dente.

In the pot used to cook the pasta, heat the butter and honey and whisk until combined. Mix in the farfalle, stir, and divide between 2 plates. Arrange the figs, mozzarella, and basil on top and season with crushed pepper and flaky sea salt to taste.

Enjoy warm or cold.

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

 

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

 

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

 

Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter

meet in your kitchen | Marina Fabic’s Maltese Summer Feast at Villa Bologna

Villa Bologna

When you meet someone who follows a passion with dedication and humility, who loves every single part of the process of creation, you should stop to witness art in its purest form. Marina is this kind of person. She’s very close to nature and loves to include all her senses in her work. Whatever she does, she uses her eyes, her nose, her taste, her sense of touch to get the whole picture. Her perception is holistic, she’s a true artist, and I adore her for this reason. Food is her profession, her feel for simple yet stunning combinations of flavours is outstanding. To watch her picking fruits and vegetables in the extensive gardens of Villa Bologna, foraging for wild fennel, chives, and allspice is calming, as you can see a woman who has found her peace.

The first time we met, this Swedish lady caught me with her smile. It was at a lavish lunch at a mutual friend’s palazzo, at last year’s meet in your kitchen feature with Alex and Benjamin. Marina and I clicked straight away and decided to meet so that she could show me the place where she had just started a restaurant – which soon became the restaurant that all of our friends in Malta started talking about: The Villa Kitchen at Villa Bologna. Be it for a romantic dinner or a birthday garden party, everybody who loves food wants to visit Marina’s kitchen in the heart of Attard where the stunning villa is located.

Villa Bologna

Villa Bologna was built in 1745 by Fabrizio Grech, as an extravagant wedding gift to his daughter Maria Teresa, married to Nicholas Perdicomati Bologna, the namesake of the opulent Baroque villa. One of the family’s most politically influential descendants, born in 1861, was Gerald Paul Joseph Cajetan Carmel Antony Martin Strickland, 6th Count della Catena, also known as the 1st Baron Strickland. The busy Lord’s roles included being Prime Minister of Malta, Governor of the Leeward Islands, Governor of Tasmania, Governor of Western Australia, and Governor of New South Wales, in addition to being a member of the House of Commons and House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Over hundreds of years, the members of this aristocratic Anglo-Maltese family left their marks in Malta, both politically and culturally. The Stricklands are part of the Mediterranean archipelago, their roots are British, but their influences combine English and Maltese traditions. Lord Strickland and his first wife, Lady Edeline Sackville-West, had eight children. One of their daughters, Hon. Mabel Edeline Strickland, was an exceptional and remarkably modern woman of her times. She was a pioneer of emancipation, co-founder of The Times of Malta and one of the principal political leaders of the 1950s. Her older sister, Hon. Cecilia Victoria Strickland, established a strong support for the arts. Cecilia founded an arts and crafts institute in the 1950s and archived numerous traditional Maltese blue prints for lace and fabric patterns. She understood the importance of protecting the arts and knowledge of former generations. The traditional pottery attached to the premises still uses the old patterns for its beautiful designs, to create plates and platters that turn every table into a Maltese feast. I love the minimal design and its strong colours, which seems so modern even in our days, all hand painted on robust white ceramic.

Villa Bologna

Although times have changed, the villa is still a place to learn about the past and appreciate the crafts of former generations. Cecilia’s son, Gerald de Trafford, and his wife Charlotte opened the villa to the public eye for weddings and events in the 1980s. Their son Jasper has taken care of the villa since 2009 and initiated further projects. The current restoration of the representative rooms on the villa’s ground floor should be finished in autumn, when guided tours will be offered by appointment. The visitors will get an idea of the original life at Villa Bologna. To present the house in all its glory, Marina is strongly involved in the creative process of going through hundreds of years of furniture, artworks, and tableware, as is Jasper’s mother Charlotte who has called the villa her home since she was a young woman.

Marina left London, her former home, two years ago to come to Malta and live here with her boyfriend Dom Strutt who’s a close friend of the Strickland family. She brought many years of catering experience with her, which she gathered while working as a chef in England’s capital. As soon as she arrived on the island, she started building up The Villa Kitchen, aiming for an honest, simple, and creative style of Mediterranean cooking. Marina and I have a similar approach in the kitchen, we try to avoid too many ingredients and distractions, just the right combination, with maybe one element that breaks the usual pattern. Marina’s next step is to transform her vision from food to perfume. Her senses and sensitivity that guide her explorations of the culinary world work just as well in the world of aromas and led to three unisex perfumes united under the name Neroli & Spice. The beautiful perfumes enticed me with strong notes of spices and citrus, they will be launched this autumn, at the same time as my book, which I’ll celebrate at an event at Villa Bologna. Somehow, Marina and I have had a strong bond ever since we first met under the hot Mediterranean sun.

Last week, we met to cook together and Marina turned lunch into a summer feast with family and friends from London, Malta, and Sweden. She caressed our taste buds with Gazpacho made with tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden, refined with anchovies – her little secret – to enhance the vegetables’ flavours. The fish is not dominant, but delicious. The meal moved on to swordfish marinated in lemon oil and linguine with an amazing pesto made with lots of pistachios, fennel, and parsley, accompanied by oven roasted aubergine with pomegranate and warm rosemary focaccia. The dessert was divine, but I’ll keep it a secret for now and share it next Sunday, it’s one of Marina’s famous signature dishes!

Marina is planning a ‘Food & Travel’ trip for late September, it will be a 1 week gourmet holiday / workshop in Spain to celebrate good food and wine, click here for more information.

Follow Marina, Neroli & Spice and Villa Bologna on Instagram.

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

Marina’s recipes for a summer lunch

Gazpacho Soup

Marinated Swordfish with Pistachio Sauce and Linguine

Oven Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate and Mint

Serves 4

For the Gazpacho soup

1kg / 2 1/4 pounds best ripe tomatoes
1 red pepper
3 anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves
100ml / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons best extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt
dash of Tabasco
a handful of fresh basil leaves, plus a few chopped leaves for serving
4 ice cubes, for serving

Blend everything in a food processor till smooth, season to taste, and chill. Divide the Gazpacho soup between bowls, add an ice cube, and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil and some chopped basil.

For the swordfish

150-200g / 5-7 ounces swordfish steak per person
juice and zest of 1 lemon
fresh rosemary, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Spread the swordfish on a large plate. Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, rosemary, a generous splash of olive oil, salt, and pepper, add to the swordfish, and mix well, using your hands. Let it marinate while you prepare the pistachio sauce.

For the pistachio sauce

1 tablespoon fennel seeds
100g / 3 1/2 ounces unsalted pistachio kernels
2 cloves garlic
large bunch of parsley
juice and zest of 1 lemon
100ml / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons best extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

In a dry frying pan, toast the fennel seeds first and then the pistachios till fragrant.

Grind the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar. Grate or finely chop the garlic. Chop the pistachio nuts and parsley quite finely and mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil bit by bit to create a sludgy texture. Season with salt to taste.

For the oven roasted eggplant with pomegranate

2 medium size purple aubergine
olive oil
sea salt
1 pomegranate
fresh mint
pomegranate syrup (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Slice the eggplant lengthwise and spread on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil on top, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or till dark golden. Let the slices cool to room temperature and layer on a serving dish. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and chopped mint on top and drizzle some syrup over, if using.

For the pasta

500g / 17 1/2 ounces linguine pasta

Cook the linguine till al dente while cooking the swordfish: In batches, panfry the swordfish steaks in olive oil, about 5 minutes on each side over medium-high heat or till slightly golden. They should be just cooked through.

Divide the swordfish, pasta, pistachio sauce, and eggplant with pomegranate between plates and enjoy.

Villa Bologna

You grew up in Sweden and lived in London for 20 years, but you’ve lived in Malta for the past few years, what made you settle in the Mediterranean?

My friend Jasper de Trafford, the owner of Villa Bologna was looking for someone to set up a cafe / restaurant at the villa and I had been looking for the right opportunity to change my London lifestyle. It was the perfect chance for us both to start a new venture.

Was it hard to switch from a northern European to a southern European culture? What do you like about the Maltese way of life?

No, it wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve always had it in my blood since my father is Slovenian and I spent much of my childhood in Portoroz on the Adriatic. I love the Maltese way of taking each day as it comes and the enthusiasm for new projects and the friendliness of the people. It’s made me feel very welcome here and has made it easy to settle in.

Do you remember what you felt when you first visited Villa Bologna?

I first visited six years ago for Jasper and Fleur’s wedding party at the villa and I was totally smitten by its’ enchanting beauty and charm. 

Having run The Villa Kitchen restaurant at Villa Bologna for 2 years, what do you enjoy most about being a chef and about cooking in general?

The best thing for me is the creative process of putting together local and seasonal produce in an endless variety. The villa has its’ own organic fruit and vegetable gardens so there is always fresh and delicious ingredients to use. It’s a cook’s dream to be able to pick and choose straight from the field to the table, so to speak. It’s also amazingly satisfying to have happy customers enjoying our food!

What inspired you to start a career in food? 

Food has always been a passion for me and I suppose that I’m a natural cook. I had an opportunity to set up a catering business in London with Andrea Bauer-Khadim, formerly of Grosvenor House and Somerset House, called Wild Peacock Events. We catered for high end occasions from weddings to intimate dinners and cocktail parties. This gave me experience in working with food on a professional level and gave me confidence to start The Villa Kitchen here in Malta. My mother Britt-Marie also encouraged me and helped me set up the cafe from scratch. She has been an enormous help and a very hands-on collaborator particularly in developing fantastic products for our shop, such as marmalade, chutneys and cordials.

You’ll be launching your first perfumes this autumn. Are there similarities in working with food, which needs the attention of all of your senses, and with fragrances, which are purely developed with the help of your nose?

Yes, this may seem like a departure from food and cooking but for me it’s very much a continuous progress. When cooking, I focus on the layering of flavours and balancing spices, herbs and other ingredients in order to achieve a whole result. There are many similarities in creating perfumes using Mediterranean scents such as citrus, spices, herbs and botanicals. The process of layering and balancing to create a specific vision is similar whether olfactory or gourmet. This crossover inspired me to create Neroli & Spice, which is launching as a niche perfume house soon. My best friend Gunilla Freeman is my partner in this venture and she brings business savvy and a brilliant eye for detail.

Do you have the final composition in mind when you start working on a dish or a perfume or do you add ingredients until the result fits your vision?

I’m strongly influenced by my travels – in particular to Egypt and North Africa – and places which hold a special place in my heart, both when creating dishes and perfumes. So I start off with a sensory memory or picture, which I then aim to evoke through experimenting and mixing until I feel that the result is right.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative projects? How do you develop new recipes – for food and perfumes?

Inspiration comes from my impressions and experiences through travel, culture and my background as a Scandinavian with roots in the Mediterranean, having lived in Sweden, Slovenia, London, Los Angeles and now Malta.

What are your future projects for Villa Bologna?

My main focus will be on curating and putting together the main rooms in the villa for it to be opened to the public. I am collaborating with the de Trafford family to create a unique insight into the way of life at this grand historic house which has been in the same family since it was built in 1745. There will be guided tours and we are looking forward to welcoming visitors to one of the finest baroque houses in Malta with its beautiful gardens and ancient citrus groves. It was the home of Jasper de Trafford’s great grandfather Lord Strickland who was Malta’s prime minister in the 1920’s as well as his daughter Mabel Strickland who founded The Times of Malta. The Villa has been used as a film location on numerous occasions and I’m sure visitors will be interested in seeing where famous actors have starred! We will also host some very special events, such as a Christmas market and classical concerts. I’m also creating a perfume especially for Villa Bologna, called Sans Mal, which is the family motto!

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

I think it was a chicken curry with peanuts and banana for a party as a teenager but I remember helping my grandmother make jams and cakes as a child. Both my grandmothers were amazing cooks.

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

Malta’s has a fantastic climate which produces an abundance of fruit and vegetables all year round. For me, the best places to buy are from the farmers market in Ta Qali and from local grocers specially in my home village of Siggiewi and the farming area of Mgarr. Some of my favourite restaurants are Michaels in Valletta, Il Corsaro by the Blue Grotto, Ta Majjistra in Mgarr and Carmen’s Bar in Ghar Lapsi, where we swim every day. The Corinthia Palace hotel is also a great place to eat. I prefer simple down to earth restaurants who use the best local produce, where one can relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

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

I’d ask my mother to cook creamy chanterelles on toast with mint chocolate mousse for dessert. We would sit in the garden of our summer cottage by the sea in Sweden.

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

Well, I would throw together a tagine or curry or some other one-pot dish with a fresh salad from the Villa Bologna gardens. There are usually a few different ice creams and sorbets in the freezer on standby to finish off with. During the orange season I can just go and pick some delicious fruit as well.

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

I loved my paternal grandmother’s apfel strudel and my maternal grandmother’s roast veal with her delicious creamy sauce, with prune soufflé to follow. I still love these dishes but I suppose I have expanded my taste somewhat. I really love good Dim Sum and a visit to The Royal China in London is always a must.

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

I prefer to cook on my own with an assistant for other people to enjoy!

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

I’m definitely an improvised cook and love spontaneous meals.

Which meal would you never cook again?

Anything too fiddly and I would prefer never to cook for a wedding again, it’s far too stressful.

Thank you Marina!

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

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Villa Bologna

 

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Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato and Pistachio Pesto and a new Saturday ritual

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

We started a new ritual and that’s to spend our Saturdays without any electronic devices, preferably in the countryside. It’s just the two of us, no duties, meetings, parties or anything, we just go with the flow and see where our mood takes us. I can’t even say which part of this ritual I enjoy more, the fact that we leave the city for a few hours or that I have 24 hours without emails, Instagram or any other social network activities. I love it.

Last Saturday we spontaneously decided to take the bus to the west of Berlin to have a cup of espresso in my aunt Ursula’s kitchen. She and my uncle Uwe make the best coffee in town and whenever I announce our visit, I can be sure to find a few pieces of cake on their table – they know me well. The espresso tasted so good that I had to have 2 doppio, which made me a bit hyperactive and ready for the next adventure. We wanted to visit Berlin’s best farmers market at Karl-August-Platz, but we got “stuck” on Kantstraße, a street famous for its Asian restaurants. We stopped at a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to test for years, but unfortunately, it didn’t meet my expectations. We ordered 6 dishes and none of them really struck me. The problem with hyped food places in the city is that you expect something outstandingly amazing if so many people talk about it. So if it’s just average, it’s disappointing. Our dessert was ice cream from the supermarket, which I don’t do very often, but it never lets me down and it’s a reminder of lots of good childhood memories. Stuffed and happy we walked to a small lake and fell asleep in the warming sunlight. The whole scene felt a bit Roman: Two happy people after a lavish meal taking a nap on a blanket in the grass.

Revitalized, we drove back home, planning our dinner of white asparagus, fresh from the fields in Beelitz. It wouldn’t be a proper Saturday if our plans didn’t change with our mood. We stopped by at our favourite local wine shop to buy a bottle of rosé for our meal, but the little bistro tables looked so inviting that we couldn’t resist sitting down for a glass of German Weissburgunder, some lemon olives, and an asparagus quiche. We got chatty and silly and stayed until 11pm, needless to say, we didn’t stop after the first glass.

We haven’t made any plans for next weekend yet, but at one point there will be this pasta dish on the table again, which I came up with last week and got hooked on. It’s a quick pesto made of sun-dried tomatoes and pistachios, the combination is divine, and it’s even better when it’s stirred into warm spaghetti. It also works very well as a thick spread on rustic white bread, the perfect nibble along with a glass of chilled German white wine. There’s one thing that our Saturdays have in common, there’s often a bottle of good wine involved – la dolce vita for a day!

Here’s my recipe for another sun-dried tomato pesto, with rosemary and thyme.

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

 

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

Serves 2

dried spaghetti, about 200g / 7 ounces
flaky sea salt, for the topping
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping

For the pesto

sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in salt, 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
salted shelled pistachios 60g / 2 ounces, plus a few chopped pistachios for the topping
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
garlic, crushed, 1 large clove

In a large pot, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.

In a small saucepan, cook the sun-dried tomatoes in a little boiling water for about 3-4 minutes or until soft. Reserve the water and rinse the tomatoes under cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels.

In a food processor or blender, purée the dried tomatoes along with 4 tablespoons of their cooking water, the pistachios, olive oil, and the garlic until smooth. Add more of the cooking water and olive oil if the pesto is too dry.

Divide the pasta between 2 plates and stir in some of the pesto. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper to taste.

You can use any leftover pesto as a spread on bread.

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

 

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

 

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Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

So now that spring has officially begun, the leaves on the tree in front of my living room window should start sprouting in fresh crisp greens, the birds should sing all day, and the rosé wine should fill the glasses to welcome the new season. But – apart from the pink wine – there isn’t the slightest sign of bright sunshine and rising temperatures in the city. It makes no sense to despair, so I use the kitchen to create the atmosphere I’m after instead. The wine is chilled, the spaghetti’s cooked, and a bright green pesto of sweet peas (frozen, I must admit), and fresh marjoram puts me in the right mood. I also roast whole cloves of garlic in their skins in the oven to turn them into a sweet paste. The golden cloves are mashed with a fork and mixed into the pasta – this dish looks like spring, tastes like spring, and makes me forget about grey skies, leafless trees, and my constant lack of sunshine.

This is the last of three recipes I created for Westelm. You can find all three recipes including my Mozzarella, Tapenade, and Preserved Lemon Sandwich and Pumpkin Quiche with Taleggio and Sage on their blog. This post was sponsored by West Elm to make my kitchen a little prettier!

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

 

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

Serves 2

For the pesto

peas (fresh or frozen) 200g / 7 ounces
fresh marjoram leaves 2 teaspoons, plus 2 tablespoons marjoram leaves for the topping
water used to cook the peas 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 teaspoons
olive oil 3 tablespoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper

large garlic cloves, unpeeled, 12-16
spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

For the pea pesto, in a small saucepan, bring salted water to the boil and blanch the peas for 1 minute, reserve about 6 tablespoons of the water. Drain and quickly rinse the peas with cold water. Purée the peas, marjoram, 3 tablespoons of the water used to cook the peas, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth. If the pesto is too dry, add more of the pea-water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Spread the garlic cloves in a baking dish and roast, turning the garlic occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until the garlic is soft enough to mash with a fork – mind that it doesn’t burn. Take the garlic out of the oven, let it cool for a minute, then peel the garlic cloves out of their skins and mash with a fork.

In a large pot, bring plenty of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente, drain, and stir in a splash of olive oil.

Divide the spaghetti between plates, sprinkle generously with the pea pesto, crushed pepper, and fresh marjoram leaves. Lay the mashed garlic on top and serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

 

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

 

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

 

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

 

Spaghetti with Pea Pesto, Roast Garlic, and Fresh Marjoram

 

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peapestogarlicpastamarjoram9

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