eat in my kitchen

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

Category: SANDWICH WEDNESDAYS

Roasted Grapes and Camembert Sandwich with Rosemary

My love for cheese is deep and passionate. I embrace the whole variety of soft and hard, young and old, of cow, goat, and sheep milk cheese without skipping a bite. However, I always had a particular pull towards the oldest, runniest, and strong-smelling examples.

In my late teenage years, I spent a romantic weekend in Paris. Aside from the usual sightseeing spots, the strolls through the stunning Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, long walks along the Seine and busy Boulevard Saint-Germain, I went straight for the city’s boulangeriespâtisseries, charcuteries, and fromageries. It was my first proper food trip, constantly carrying – and nibbling from – bags filled with baguette, croissants, pâté, tartes, éclair au café, and cheese. Whenever I spotted a bench or a park, I declared it my picnic zone and made it a moveable feast. It was summer and I bought so much cheese that I had to find a way to store all these rolls, rounds, and triangles. Our hotel room’s mini bar seemed like the only suitable place to keep my fragrant treasures. Just as we left, as I collected my food and other belongings, I noticed a particularly strong odor of a very aged camembert escaping the tiny fridge. In that moment I pitied the future guests of our room, and it dawned on me that it would take days for it to recover from my visit.

Camembert always had a very special place in my heart. When it’s young and firm, still a bit white and crumbly in the center, I enjoy it at breakfast on crunchy baguette. The flavour is mild and still developing.  But when it’s aged and so soft that it practically melts inside the white rind – my favourite – the cheese is at its tasty peak. Then it needs a glass of full-bodied Bordeaux, or ripe fruits or concentrated chutneys. Le Rustique manages to capture this quality of rich ripeness perfectly, the cheese is strong and creamy, packed with a sharp taste that makes it so special.  So when the cheese makers from Normandy asked me to create a sandwich recipe for their famous round product wrapped in red gingham cloth, I knew it would need a potent partner. Grapes and cheese are a common couple, but when you roast the little fruits in the oven until they shrivel, their flavour concentrates beautifully. I balance their sweetness with fresh rosemary to add woody tones to a rather opulent sandwich of ripe camembert and roasted grapes.

Thanks to Le Rustique for sponsoring this post and reminding me of the little culinary adventures that I have in my life through one of my favourite treats: the wonderful world of cheese.

 

Roasted Grapes and Camembert Sandwich

Makes 2 sandwiches

300g / 2/3 pound seedless red grapes, on the vine
6 small sprigs fresh rosemary
Olive oil
Flaky sea salt
100g / 4 ounces aged, aromatic camembert, such as Le Rustique, cut into thick slices
2 rustic, white buns, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Place the grapes and rosemary in a medium baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, gently toss to coat, and season to taste with salt. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until the grapes are soft and a little shriveled.

Divide the camembert among the bottom halves of the buns. Snip the grapes off the vine and arrange on top of the cheese and sprinkle with the roasted rosemary. Place the top on each bun and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Meet In Your Kitchen | David Kurtz & the best Cubano Sandwich in San Francisco

David Kurtz

A food loving friend of mine who lives in San Francisco told me, if you come to California, you must (!) meet David Kurtz and visit his Homage restaurant in Downtown. I trust my friends, especially when it comes to food, so I emailed David that same evening, not only receiving an answer that he was looking forward to cooking with me, but also to showing me around his hometown and spending a day together to give me an insight into his charismatic city that has so many faces.

The first thing that people think of when it comes to San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge and – if you talk to bread obsessed foodies and Instagrammers – the famous Tartine Bakery. The bakery is a temple for baked goods that one shouldn’t miss, the bridge, however, is a moody diva that is hard to catch. San Francisco is a place of extremes when it comes to the weather, a fact that I had totally forgotten about and wasn’t really prepared for. You can be spoilt with blue skies, sunshine, and summery temperatures in one second, then walk two blocks and be swallowed by mist and end up shivering in the cold. It was a bright afternoon as we drove to the famous bridge, impatient excitement in our faces ready to capture its majestic elegance, yet to find ourselves fighting against thunder and rain as we arrived was sobering. Needless to say there was no bridge in sight, but seeing the clouds climbing the hills behind the bridge and filling the bay with darkness and lightning faster than one can run was just as impressive.

David Kurtz

The day we met David offered this exact spectrum of experiences, in food, weather, and sceneries. We started at the chef’s wonderfully relaxed, casual, yet elegant Homage restaurant, a culinary gem tucked in a little side road surrounded by high office buildings. It’s a tranquil oasis in the center of the vibrating buzz of this city. Sitting outside at one of the bistro tables, with a glass of Californian wine in my hand and a scrumptiously dripping sandwich on a chopping board right in front of me, was one of the best memories that I took home with me from this trip. This sandwich, the Cubano, is truly addictive and so famous that, according to David, it would cause a riot if he ever dared to take it off the menu. Imagine the best homemade baguette brushed and grilled in tasty pork fat (homemade lard), filled with succulent anise braised pork shoulder, hot smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, dill pickles, and even more pork fat. It’s the best sandwich I ever had in my life.

But before I could take a big bite of this unforgettably delicious lunch snack, David and I met two days before to prepare the dough for the bread in his kitchen and give it time to rise and rest. It was a Saturday morning and David and his lovely assisting, coordinating, and always helping ‘right hand’ Anja welcomed me and my film crew at Homage. David has the kind of voice and aura that calms you down immediately, whatever instructions he gave, I gladly obeyed and followed, enjoying to learn how to make the restaurant’s beautiful baguettes and also being introduced to David and Anja’s friends and suppliers at the utterly stunning Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. The market is their weekly shopping date, it’s a mecca for fresh produce. I’ve seen quite a few markets in my life, but this one is impressive, not only due to its setting right at the bay, but first and foremost because of the freshness and variety of the produce that the farmers offer at their stands:

Tomatoes kissed by the sun in all shapes, sizes, and colors; a sea of polished peppers; fragrant bundles of cilantro, basil, bay leaves, mint, and purslane; farmers’ stands specialized in beans (like Romano and Cranberry Beans), or figs, 8 or 10 different kinds of figs gently laid out in baskets, or a stand putting the spotlight on plums, peaches, and nectarines, run by a woman with the sweetest smile, Aomboon Deasy. Each person, each stand at the market focuses on the prettiest crisp fruits and vegetables, celebrating its taste and beauty. One stand in particular left me in an awe: piles of Baby Curly Kale, Red Russian and Dino Kale, green and red dandelion, each leaf packed with so much pungent flavor that you want to nibble them straight out of the baskets (which we did).

I found the perfect partner for my market visit, David and I love food so much so that when Anja gave me a beautiful flower bouquet at the market, both David and I started eating the petals. Like I said, when he tells me in his trustful voice “Meike, you can eat this”, I’ll eat it! But apart from flowers and greens, I also tried the crunchiest spicy kimchi, candy-sweet September strawberries (a luxury for a German girl who’s used to a rather short season of this fruit in her own country), ripe dates right off the vine, and the Rebel Within, a savory muffin filled with a soft boiled egg, sausage, Asiago cheese, and spring onions. It was heaven.

David Kurtz

After the ‘hard work’ at the market and in the kitchen, we spoilt ourselves with a little feast at Nopalito, David’s favorite Mexican restaurant. They cook delicious organic classics, like ceviche verde, enchiladas de mole con pollo (shredded tender chicken in a deep rich chocolaty sauce), and grilled fish tacos, all washed down with Michelada, Mexican beer with tomato, jalapeno, orange, lime, and salt – which was quite an experience. And after the meal we went for a walk at Golden Gate Park, where we were supposed to forage for forest snacks that one can find in a city if you keep your eyes open, but we chatted the time away. Wrapped in dense mist hanging heavily in the air, I was amazed by the beauty of the ever changing weather and the surprising scenes that it causes, and by David’s philosophy and thoughts about the food that he celebrates at his restaurant.

Homage is a very, very special place that I’ll always go back to when I’m in San Francisco, because of David and Anja, because of the food that’s created and put together by the chef and his team with so much love and attention to detail in every single ingredient, because of this warm atmosphere that welcomes you as soon as you open the heavy door flanked by the restaurant’s black facade, an atmosphere that makes you never want to leave again. And if you want to take a piece of it with you, you can grab a jar of the homemade pickles, jams, or a bottle of the wines and beers brought to Homage by David’s friends, a bunch of people who find satisfaction in creating products of outstanding quality, just like David. And thanks to them we enjoy treats that taste so good – maybe because of the last ingredient that David listed in the recipe for his Cubano sandwich that he gave me: Love.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey,  for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

David Kurtz

David Kurtz’ Baguette and Cubano Sandwich

David mills the grains for the flour that he uses for this recipe himself, however you can also use store-bought flour. It’s recommended to work with grams instead of cups, as it’s important to use precise measurements for this recipe.

For the baguette

Makes 3 baguettes

519g water (lukewarm)
30g honey
23g SAF instant yeast
875g all purpose flour
60g fresh whole wheat flour
Or if available
23g hard red wheat flour
23g soft white wheat flour
14g rye flour

157g good quality lard (cold)
20g sea salt

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, using a fork, combine the water, honey and yeast, let it sit for a couple minutes.

In a large bowl, combine all the flours, add to the yeast mixture and, using the hook, mix for a few minutes or until well combined. Add the lard and, using the hook, continue kneading for a few minutes or until the dough has come together. Add a little more flour if it’s too sticky or, if it’s too firm, add a little (!) more water. Add the salt and continue kneading until well combined and firm. Form a ball, place in a clean bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough sit in a warm place for 1 hour. Turn the dough completely over releasing built up CO2 and let rise again for another hour, covered with a damp towel.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down, take it out of the bowl, and divide equally into 3 pieces. Roll into smooth balls and let bench rest for 10 minutes under a damp cloth. When fully rested, take one piece of dough and stretch and pull it into a longish rectangular shape (about 14×5.5″ / 35x14cm). Carefully flip 1 long side over until it reaches the middle of the rectangle, mind that no air is trapped in the fold. Then flip the opposite long side over, so that you end up with 3 layers of dough folded on top of each other. Using your fingers, pinch the fold all the way to seal well. Gently roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape, then carefully, but quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet (the pinched fold should be on the bottom side). Continue forming the remaining 2 baguettes and transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a damp kitchen towel, transfer the baking sheet to the fridge, and let the baguettes rest in the fridge overnight, further developing flavor and retarding the yeast activity.

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C (convection setting). Take the baguettes out of the fridge when the oven is hot and ready.

Spray the baguettes with a little water and bake for 6-12 minutes or until the crust is golden, spraying them with water once or twice while baking. Internal temperature of the bread should be 210°F / 100°C when fully baked.

For the Cubano sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

1 large piece of fresh baguette, cut in half
Dijon mustard
Whole grain mustard
2-3 thin slices hot smoked ham
1.5 ounces / 40g Swiss cheese (one that melts well), thinly sliced
2-3 anise pickled spring onions (or fresh spring onion), thinly sliced
2-3 dill pickles (gherkins), cut in half
5-7 ounces/ 150-200g braised pork shoulder (preferably cooked with anise and citrus), pulled or shredded
Good quality lard (pork fat)
Love, most importantly

Heat two heavy pans, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat.

Spread the inside of the baguette with Dijon and whole grain mustard. Lay the ham on the bottom and topside of the opened baguette. Arrange the cheese, spring onions, and pickles on top of the ham. Spread the braised pork shoulder on top and close the baguette. Brush one pre heated pan with fresh lard, carefully place the Cubano onto the pan’s surface and brush more lard onto the top of the baguette. Squeeze, or press the Cubano with the other preheated pan directly on top of the sandwich. Cook in the pan, on medium heat, turning once, for a few minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust of the bread is golden brown and crunchy.

Prepare with love and serve immediately with a large sliced pickle.

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

Watch my interview with David in San Francisco in September 2017:

Thank you, David!

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

Maltese Fennel & Coriander Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Makes 4 burgers

For the burgers

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

To assemble the burger toast

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

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

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

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

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

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

I found a new duo that comes close to perfection: chorizo and strawberry. It’s an unexpected match, the fruity sweetness and slightly hot, porky sausage merge beautifully, as if they had just been waiting to meet.

It started as a quick snack while we were cooking, we filled our glasses with our favourite summer wine and looked in the fridge to see what we could nibble on while chopping and stirring the ingredients for our dinner. The red sausage and berries caught my man’s attention and – in these moments he’s a little more brave than me – he sandwiched them and stuffed a rather large portion of it in my mouth. We immediately discussed what we could do with this new find. A salad? I’m not a big fan of meat in my salad. Pasta? I don’t like the combination of pasta and strawberries. I tried it, but it just tastes wrong. An open sandwich seemed like the right answer, a golden Italian bruschetta drizzled with good olive oil, crowned with thick slices of the peppery salami and juicy berries. Some fresh basil, salt, and pepper, and you have the perfect snack for summer on your plate.

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Serves 2-4

medium baguette, sliced, 1
olive oil
chorizo (salami, not fresh chorizo sausage) 1/2 ring, about 150g / 5 ounces
ripe strawberries, cut in half, about 18
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
flaky sea salt

To roast the bread, set the oven to broil (grill). If your oven doesn’t have a broil setting, toast the baguette in a hot cast iron pan.

Brush the baguette on both sides with olive oil and, if using your oven, spread them on a baking sheet and roast for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown, but not burnt. If you use a pan, in batches, spread the bread in the pan and toast on both sides until golden.

Depending on the size of your bread, pile up 2 slices of chorizo and 2-3 strawberry halves on each bruschetta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with basil, crushed pepper, and salt. Enjoy!

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken, Red Coleslaw & Bacon

Sponsored by Volkswagen.

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

We drove down the winding road to the Grand Harbour in Valletta and stopped our cars in front of an old garage. The wooden door must have seen many storms, the green paint faded and the hinges rusted, it’s the salt in the air that takes over whatever it gets hold of. Our friends Michelle and Michelangelo came down to the harbour in the cutest Volkswagen beetle the world has ever seen – in baby blue (Michelangelo would correct me and say it’s Diamond Blue). Built in 1968, the car only changed owner once, when our friends bought it in 2010 from an elderly lady from the village of Qormi. It was in mint condition despite its 110,000 original kilometres. The previous owner’s name was Teresa and she became the eponym of our friend’s little love bug, since then, the beetle is affectionately called Terez.

Terez – and her original 1300cc single port engine, a fact that Michelangelo points out with pride in his voice – has seen a lot since she found her new owner: four overland trips, the latest being our friend’s honeymoon trip last summer. The three of them (including Terez) attended the Le Bug Show 2016 in Spa and crossed half of Europe to get there. Malta, Sicily, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany added 5,400 kilometres to the tachometer and seemed to have made the bond between the car and its owners even stronger.

Every car needs a check up once in a while, especially when it’s nearly 50 years old, and to make it a little more fun, I joined my friends and brought some food and my camera. While Michelangelo laid hands on the tires, I kept mine busy preparing sandwiches for all of us. It’s the peak of winter, a time of year when I usually have to confront Berlin’s seemingly endless, yawning grey sky for weeks and months, but here in Malta I’m spoilt with sunshine and vibrant colours. This inspired me to come up with a snack as fresh and bright as the Mediterranean world around me. It’s a chicken sandwich, the meat tender and thinly sliced, with purple coleslaw and orange wedges, sparkling pomegranate seeds (some of which I turned into a sticky syrup), crunchy bacon bites, and pungent green onions. The composition is rather difficult to eat, but trust me, the pleasure that you’ll feel when you taste it, is absolutely worth it. And the solution is simple, just squeeze it until the sticky juices run out of the sandwich and soak the soft bread – it’s a heavenly mess.

Thank you Michelle, Michelangelo, and Terez for a wonderful morning in Valletta!

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

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken, Red Coleslaw, Orange and Bacon

Makes 6 sandwiches

For the coleslaw

cored red cabbage, cut into thin strips, about 230g / 1/2 pound
fine sea salt
yoghurt 5-6 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice
ground pepper

For the pomegranate syrup

pomegranate juice 180ml / 3/4 cup
granulated sugar 4 1/2 tablespoons

For the sandwich

olive oil
chicken breast 400g / 14 ounces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
bacon 6 slices
lettuce leaves 6
white buns (or ciabatta cut into buns), cut in half, 6
oranges, peeled and cut into filets, 1-2
the seeds of 1 pomegranate
green onions, the green part cut into thin slices, 1
freshly grated orange zest, about 1 tablespoon

For the coleslaw, in a large bowl, mix the cabbage and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and, using your fingers, rub the salt into the cabbage. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes. Add the yoghurt and orange juice, mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.

For the pomegranate syrup, in a saucepan, bring the pomegranate juice and the sugar to the boil and cook over medium-high heat (it should bubble) for about 7 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Set the syrup aside.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and cook the chicken breast for a couple minutes on each side until golden, you might have to reduce the heat to medium-high. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the chicken to a baking dish. Roast in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Check with a skewer, only clear juices should come out. Let the chicken rest in aluminium foil for about 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into slices (about 18 slices for 6 sandwiches).

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the bacon for a few minutes on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towels, let it cool for a few minutes, then break the bacon into pieces.

Divide the lettuce leaves between the bottoms of the buns and arrange the chicken on top, drizzle with a little of the pomegranate syrup. Spread a heaping tablespoon of coleslaw, 2-3 orange filets, and some pomegranate seeds on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with the sliced green onion, bacon bites, and orange zest, and drizzle with additional pomegranate syrup. Close the bun, squeeze, and enjoy!

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon-2

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

chickenpomegranatecabbagesandwich9

Spinach and Chèvre Sandwich & my London book launch at the Maltese embassy

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

Malta, Berlin, London – three countries in less than 24 hours! The pace of my traveling fit the mood, vibrant and exciting, I didn’t want to rest. I arrived in England at noon, had at a scrumptious lunch at Ottolenghi Spitalfields and a chat with chef Sami Tamimi. To charge my batteries, I finished my meal with a double espresso and a luscious piece of Guinness chocolate cake with Bailey’s frosting. London looked bright and sunny as I stepped out onto the streets and I felt ready for my third book launch event, on the roof terrace of the High Commission of Malta in the English capital.

To make my travels feel even sweeter, I got to stay at the luxuriously relaxing Corinthia Hotel London. Right between St. James’s Park and the Thames, the location couldn’t have been better. I could walk to my event at the Maltese embassy and to my book signing at the Tate bookstore the next day. Before the festivities started, I had enough time to enjoy the amenities and comfort of the house, and especially the most beautiful marble bathroom I ever happened to see. It was marble heaven and I felt like a princess as I dressed up for my big night.

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

Unfortunately, the pretty lace dress that I had bought for this festive occasion didn’t really fit London’s weather conditions – it was freezing cold as I opened the door to the terrace of the High Commission of Malta. I wrapped myself in a warm coat most of the time, which I only took off quickly for the photographers and an interview. The jump in temperature between summery Malta and England’s rather rough climate was too painful. However, the stunning view over roof tops, church spires, and The London Eye made all of us forget about the weather. We just stood there, high up under the Maltese flag, astonished by London’s beautiful sunset, dramatically framed by the darkest clouds. We were lucky, not a single drop of rain fell onto the delicious looking buffet prepared by Kitty Coles (thank you so much, my dear) or into our glasses, filled with Meridiana‘s finest wines, poured by my book tour mate and Meridiana‘s best man, Karl Chetcuti.

I have to thank a few very special people who made this unforgettable night happen: His Excellency Norman Hamilton, High Commissioner of Malta, Nerissa Sultana, Political and Communications Officer, and their fantastic team at the embassy. Thank you for sharing the High Commission’s roof terrace with us, thank you for all your help and support, for all the time to exchange ideas for this event. Thank you Emma Cook from Prestel for helping me organize this special evening.

The speeches of the High Commissioner and of Andrew Hansen, Managing Director of Prestel Publishing London, both touched my heart, and then it was my turn to welcome our guests. It was too dark and windy to follow our manuscripts, our microphone decided to stop working, but that didn’t do our celebrations any harm. It felt like a scene from Peter Pan, high up over London’s roof tops, the air filled with laughter, glasses filled with good wine, and lots of delicious food on our plates. But unlike the book or movie, we didn’t need our imagination, it was all real.

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

Before we drove back to the airport, we enjoyed a sandwich that was so good that I decided to re-create it at home and share it with you: spinach and ripe chèvre in carrozza (meaning in a carriage). This sandwich is similar to french toast, however, it’s a savoury treat, lusciously filled and hearty. The combination of winter greens and ripe cheese was fantastic. I have an in carrozza sandwich recipe in my book, which I adore, but there are so many ways to fill two slices of bread!

Thank you London! xx

At the event, I was interviewed by Rita for her Share Food with Sainsbury’s Magazine radio show, you can listen to our chat here. To see all the pictures of the event in London taken by the amazing photographer Agnese Sanvito, click here. And here are the pictures of our book signing tour at Tate, Waterstones, and Foleys.

All the pictures of the launch are by Agnese Sanvito.

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch-2

Spinach and Chèvre Sandwich

Makes 2 sandwiches

spinach leaves, a large handful, about 140g / 5 ounces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
ripe chèvre, about 60g / 2 ounces
organic eggs 2 (mine were quite small)
milk 3 tablespoons
plain flour 2 to 3 tablespoons
soft white bread 4 slices
butter, about 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil and blanch the spinach for 1 minute. Rinse with cold water, drain, and let cool for a few minutes. Using your hands, squeeze out most of the liquid and chop roughly. On a large plate, crumble the spinach and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Cut the chèvre into thin slices, leave out 4 slices for the topping, and crumble the remaining cheese over the spinach.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the flour on a flat plate.

Divide the spinach-chèvre mixture between 2 slices of bread, leaving a thin border around the edges. Top each with a second slice of bread and press the sandwiches together. Dip both sides of each sandwich in the flour until lightly coated. Carefully dip each sandwich in the egg-milk mixture, repeat until all the liquid is soaked up—mind that the filling stays inside.

In a large, heavy pan, heat the butter over medium heat and cook the sandwiches, turning and pressing down on them gently with a spatula, for a few minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Lay the remaining chèvre slices on top of the warm sandwiches and sprinkle with crushed pepper. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

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Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

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Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

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Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

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Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

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Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen London Book Launch

 

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Spinach Chèvre Sandwich In Carrozza

A Mediterranean Ħobż biż-Żejt sandwich and the most emotional book launch in Malta

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

So many emotions, tears and laughter, lots of food and wine, family and friends – I had the best time in Malta and enjoyed every moment of my second book launch event. Our plane landed late on our little island the Mediterranean, it was past midnight when I stepped out into Malta’s humid air. However, it wasn’t too late for a chat in the kitchen and a large piece of the island’s famous lampuki pie (only in season during September and October). I slept like a stone that night which was good, as the next days were packed with excitement.

My mother arrived a day before us, so we had a date, early in the morning. My man and I went up to Valletta to meet her for breakfast and then we went on a mission. The three of us drove to Sliema, to Daniela Bonello’s gorgeous shop Liu Jo, to find a dress for my first TV interview. I had no idea how this premiere would turn out, so I wanted to look pretty at least, in case I made a fool of myself. We had fun and found my new favourite dress, it’s cut perfectly and still allows me to eat as much as I want – an ideal dress in my eyes. Afterwards, we had enough time for a short dip in the clear blue sea and a drink to celebrate our reunion at our beloved beach bar, at Exiles. Knowing what was soon to come, we enjoyed the calm before the storm, before books and drinks had to be picked up for the big event on the following day, before phone calls and last minute decisions had to be made; and so the afternoon flew by.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

The evening turned into a far bigger (and more excessive) feast than expected, we met family and friends at Chris’ Legligin Wine BarWe ate Maltese tapas, drank local wine, and then at the end, late at night, Chris sang a song for us to celebrate the Eat In My Kitchen book. There was a moment that I’ll never forget, I looked into my mama’s eyes and both of us couldn’t stop smiling. It might not have been responsible to indulge in the pleasures of this long night a day before a book launch, but it would have been a sin to miss it. Although we all felt a bit rough the next morning, no one had any regrets.

The good thing about a busy event day is that there isn’t really enough time to be nervous and think about what’s going on. I got up, dressed up, drove to the TVM station, and started the interview before I even noticed that we were live on air. It was all over after just a few minutes and I found myself surprised, happy, and relieved in front of the TVM building. Thank you Ben Camilleri for inviting me to Twelve to 3! You can watch my interview here.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

When we packed the car with all the things you need at a book launch (a lot!), we noticed that we didn’t really think about where my mama would sit. Both of us dressed up in pretty dresses, we squeezed ourselves onto the front seat of our wobbly jeep (my mother says this car feels like a boat) and arrived safely in front of the impressive gates of the stunning Villa Bologna. Jasper de Trafford and his lovely mother Charlotte were so kind to share the baroque gardens of their beautiful villa with us for our special night. Villa Bologna is one of these places that feels unreal when you see it for the first time. It’s too beautiful, too special, too out of this world, it’s simply too perfect to be true. I fell in love with the building, but even more so with its gardens. To have been able to celebrate my Malta book launch right there, is a great gift, it’s a precious memory that I’ll never forget in my whole life. Thank you Jasper and Charlotte!

The night flew by far too quickly, as always when life feels so good that you could hug the whole world. There were only smiling faces around me, friends and family who are close to me, but also people who I’ve never met before who just seemed so happy to see their local culinary treasures in a book. I don’t know of another country where people support each other so genuinely. I felt so much love that night, so much excitement. When I held my speech – the most emotional of all my speeches so far – I felt my heart pumping like a race car, but at the same time it felt so good to be surrounded by all my loved ones. By my mama, who inspired me to write this book, by my man who goes through the roughest times with me no matter what obstacles we find in front of us, my Maltese mama Jenny who brought so much joy – and her son – into my life. Prestel UK’s PR executive, Emma Cook, who flew down from London to welcome our guests together with Peter Carbonaro, our dear friend who came straight from Ibiza to join our celebrations. Mr Cini, my salt man from Gozo and his wife Rose, their daughter Josephine and her family, they all came from Gozo just for this night. And then, when my salt family met my honey man, Arnold Grech, we witnessed one of the many highlights of this night. It was a moment that we’ll all never forget, two of Malta’s food ambassadors met in front of the historic setting of Villa Bologna. Mama, stuttering and in awe, said ‘this is like a Fellini movie’. I usually wouldn’t choose this word, but here it fits perfectly, this moment was epic.

Luckily, lots of pictures were taken by the great photographer Kris Micallef, thank you for catching all these unforgettable memories. The lights went off in the magical gardens of Villa Bologna, and then, just happiness, and a last glass of wine in Valletta at The Harbour Club before I said goodnight to my Malta, and went to bed.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

When I decided to jump into my extensive book tour in Europe and in the US, I made a wise choice. I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to cook the recipes from my book myself. In Malta, I had the helping hands from my dear friend Marina Fabic, I wouldn’t have managed this without her. She’s an angel and a fantastic chef, thank you for your belief, support, and help, my friend! Dani Vella, the young founder of Flora’s in Naxxar, baked the cakes for our event and she and her team made my creations look even prettier than in my book. You guys are amazing, thank you! There’s one recipe in the sweet chapter of my book, which isn’t my own, it’s Joanna Bonnici’s delicious Pudina. When I tried this local speciality at her house for the first time, I knew I’d need her Maltese bread pudding recipe if there was ever an Eat In My Kitchen book. I wrote a book, Joanna gave me her family recipe, and now we’re both in a book. Joanna is the sweetest mama, she’s a true inspiration in the kitchen, and the right person to talk to if you want to learn about Maltese cuisine.

I wanted my book launch events to be like a family feast, or like a relaxed dinner party with friends, with good food and lots of wine. And we managed so far. A great man and connoisseur, Karl Chetcuti from the Meridiana Wine Estate Malta, is the reason why we have exceptional wine at all of my book launch events. Karl, without you and your wine, my book tour wouldn’t taste as good and it wouldn’t be as much fun either. Thank you for supporting me and even traveling through Europe with us.

The event in Malta was the biggest of all of them, there were more than 120 people. As I saw our guestlist becoming longer and longer, I called for help. Brian Calleja from Island Caterers answered immediately and sent me Jesmond and his colleagues. From that moment, I didn’t have to worry about anything. They set up all we needed, served our dishes, and had the whole event under control until the last guests disappeared and silence returned to the gardens of Villa Bologna. Thank you!

And last but not least, a shout-out to Jo Caruana and Iggy Fenech, my fabulous PR team in Malta. You took care of this event, you spread the word about the Eat In My Kitchen book, and you’ve both done an amazing job. You can see, read, and watch many of the articles and interviews initiated by this power duo under Press.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

And then the calm came back. On the last night before my mother left the island, we enjoyed an unforgettable dinner at Rita’s Lapsi View. We were the only guests sitting outside, as a chilled breeze blew over the cliffs. The view was too good and the silence out there too tempting to leave our table and go inside (which is also quite an experience, thanks to the restaurant’s original 60s interior, and hopefully it’ll never change!). The owner had to be waiter and chef that night, usually he’s neither, but he didn’t mind. He only asked my mother for help, to mix our Aperol Spritz, an offer that she gladly excepted. She went straight behind the bar and our chef started cooking.

I’ve eaten at Rita’s very often, and it’s always good, but this night’s dinner was outstanding: raw and grilled Maltese prawns, calamari and caponata, pasta rizzi (sea urchin), a whole St. Peters fish cooked to perfection, and freshly baked mqaret. It was a feast – another one. At the beginning of our extensive dinner, as we enjoyed the last sips of our drinks mixed by mama, looking into the golden sunset, our chef teased our appetite with a Maltese classic: the popular Ħobż biż-Żejt. Thick slices of Maltese sourdough bread spread with olive oil and kunserva, a concentrated, sweet tomato paste. The most basic version would be to season it with salt and pepper, at Rita‘s they add thin slices of raw red onion and fresh mint leaves. My mama almost went ecstatic, she was so impressed by the flavours and the simplicity of this local pleasure.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

And this is the recipe I’ll share with you today. I mentioned last week that I’ll only be able to write about quick and easy creations while I’m on my book tour. I love to be on the road, I enjoy this adventure to the fullest, but when I have a few days at home, I can’t tell you how much I treasure some bread, cheese, and nibbles in my own kitchen. I just have to make my Maltese sandwich and all the beautiful memories of the craziest week in Malta come back. Ħobż biż-Żejt is great for breakfast, a delicious lunch snack, and a fantastic (and very easy) appetizer for your next dinner party.

You can see all the pictures of the book launch in Malta taken by Kris Micallef here.

Thank you Malta! xx

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Ħobż biż-Żejt

Serves 2

white rustic bread, 2 large, thick slices
olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
kunserva (tomato paste), about 1-2 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
medium red onion, cut into very thin strips, 1/4
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

Drizzle the bread generously with olive oil, then spread with kunserva and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the bread in half and sprinkle with onion and mint. Serve and enjoy!

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

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Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

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Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

Beluga Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

My late summer of 2016 feels like a mental and emotional roller coaster. And when there’s too much work to be done it’s so easy to panic, to be overwhelmed or to just give up. But I believe that we don’t give up because there are wonderful people around all of us who catch us when we fall.

Many people catch me at the moment, some must already have sore arms and I can’t thank them enough for being there for me and going through this rather intense time together with me. They listen to a crazy woman whose first cookbook will come out soon, in just a few days, and whose ups and downs can be more than tiring. They listen to me, they cook for me, they calm me down, and make me laugh. Many of them have been in my life for years and years, some I’ve only met a few days, weeks, or months ago. This post is for all these amazing people around me, thank you!

When I needed a spontaneous translation of a press release from English to Maltese a few days ago, I could count on my dear friend Jessica who even worked on it during a camping trip on the weekend. And Nikola, who I never even met before, made it possible to proof read it within a couple hours after I got in touch. My boyfriend is my rock, there wouldn’t be this book without him, and Eat In My Kitchen wouldn’t be as inspired as it is – my man is the biggest joy one can possibly have in life. The other day I was looking for accommodation in New York and someone who I haven’t even met before helped me out without hesitation. And when I was chatting with Hetty McKinnon from Arthur’s Street Kitchen about a meet in your kitchen feature this week, I mentioned that I’m planning my book launch event in NY at the moment and that I was struggling. It’s a bit tricky when you’re on another continent, everything takes much longer. Within a split second, Hetty offered to cook my recipes for my book launch event in Manhattan. I could go on and on, the list of people who’ve helped and supported me is long and I know it will become longer and longer in the next few weeks.

We’re not alone, and that’s wonderful, there are times to help others and there are times to receive help from the people around us. We should never forget that we’re not alone.

I dedicate this recipe to everyone who has helped me, to my friends, my family, and everybody who I met and will meet on this journey and who makes it even better. It’s a recipe that combines different tastes and textures: nutty Beluga lentil burgers and creamy mozzarella di bufala sprinkled with fragrant dukkah spice and nut mixture and juicy pomegranate. It’s as vibrant, rich, and colourful as we all are. You can turn it into a sandwich, as I did, but that’s not even necessary.

A big hug to all you wonderful people around me! xx

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

 

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

Beluga Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

Makes 2 sandwiches

For the dukkah

30 g (1 ounce)
 skin-on hazelnuts
30 g (1 ounce)
 salted pistachios
30 g (1 ounce)
 white sesame seeds
30 g (1 ounce) 
sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

For the lentil burgers

1 bay leaf
2 small sprigs fresh lemon thyme
60 g (2 ounces) beluga lentils (no soaking required)
40 g (1 1/2 ounces) drained canned cannellini beans, rinsed and roughly mashed with a fork
1
 spring onion (green part only), thinly sliced
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 large egg
40 g (1 1/2 ounces) Parmesan, finely grated
20 g (2 tablespoons) dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
ground pepper
olive oil, to cook the burgers

For the sandwiches

2 rustic white buns, cut in half
4 lettuce leaves
125 g (4 1/2 ounces) mozzarella di bufala, torn into small pieces
olive oil
1/2 pomegranate
1-2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

You won’t need all of the dukkah for this recipe. Store leftover dukkah in an airtight container and use it in salads and soups.

For the dukkah, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until crumbly—the mixture should be dry—and transfer to a bowl or an airtight jar.

For the lentil burgers: Fill a large pot with water, the bay leaf, and thyme. Add the beluga lentils and bring to the boil. Cook, according to the package instructions, for about 18-20 minutes. The lentils should have some bite. Remove and discard the herbs, drain the lentils, and let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the lentils with the beans, 3/4 of the spring onion, the garlic, egg, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Use your hands or a large spoon to mix until well combined. Wet your hands and form the mixture into 6 burgers.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the burgers, flipping once, for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes in the oven.

Divide the lettuce leaves, lentil burgers, and mozzarella among the sandwiches and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, fresh lemon zest, the remaining spring onion, and some dukkah. Close the sandwiches and enjoy!

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

 

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

 

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah