Oregano Potato Salad, Grilled Prawns and Malta’s Hidden Gems
by eat in my kitchen
Being back on my island feels unbelievably good! The past 10 days have been filled with lonely beaches, fishermen’s villages, camping on a lonely island, new restaurant and ice cream shop discoveries, espresso breaks at traditional cafés and my obligatory (almost) daily visits to one of the countless pastizzerias. I’m in heaven – like every summer!
Whenever we go to Malta, I have a long list of things I definitely want to do while we’re here. Our friends and family have the same idea, which means I have to plan well. The first 2 weeks tend to be packed with all the places I’ve been desperately wanting to visit in the past few months. My first day on the island is all about grocery shopping and a visit to my favourite vegetable man. Every Tuesday and Friday, the farmer Leli parks his mobile truck shop in Msida to offer his fresh produce under pink oleander trees. This man has the most charming eyes and the juiciest melons, peaches and tomatoes right from his fields. I stock up on Maltese sausages and Ġbejna (local sheep cheese) and sneak into one of the old village bakeries to buy far more bread than a family of 5 can possibly eat. But there’s always the option to make a Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) or a Maltese Bread Pudding with the leftovers, so there’s no reason to feel bad. This year I finally went to Qormi, a town famous for its traditional bread baking skills. I literally followed my nose and spotted a tiny place in a side street which makes fantastic large loaves of sourdough bread, Ftiras (rings of breads) and soft aniseed buns. The two bakers Duminku and Glenn took time out to show me around and to my surprise, also shared the bakery’s traditional Maltese bread recipe with me! So I’m planning on trying this recipe in my Maltese mama’s kitchen and, hopefully, sharing the successful results with you soon. I asked Duminku for a recipe for 1 loaf which might have been a bit silly, 12 loaves was the minimum we could compromise on.
We spent another unforgettable afternoon at Ghar Lapsi in the south. After a long swim and snorkeling in the most mesmerizing crystal blue, we sat with an aperitif at Rita’s, the rather old-fashioned Lapsi View Bar & Restaurant. My Aperol Spritz was the size of a fish bowl and the view of lonely Filfla island at sunset was so stunning that we decided to stay for dinner. It was a wise choice, the spider crab ravioli were to die for. Ice cream was next! My Maltese sister Emma insisted that we had to try Mario’s creations at Ta’ Skutu in Qrendi, a small family run business started in 1900, cooling their creations with ice blocks imported from Sicily. Besides the classic flavours, he also offers seasonal specialities, like beer or potato ice cream. I was truly struck by the sweets and the pretty, old interior (and the deer on the wall). But getting to know his chatty niece holding a white rabbit in her arm turned the visit into an almost Alice in Wonderland-like experience – the whole scene felt beautifully surreal. We finished the night at Mariano’s farm (my farming and modeling brother in law) with an introduction to keeping sheep and a traditional Kusksu (Maltese bean soup) with homemade Ġbejna – freshly made from sheep milk which had been milked only 5 hours before.
A night of wild camping on Malta’s small sister island Comino allowed us to enjoy a late evening and early morning swim at Blue Lagoon. This place is paradise as long as you don’t join the day tourists turning the lagoon into a sardine tin during the day. It’s a summer hotspot, the white beaches and turquoise water make you feel like you’re in the middle of the Caribbean. We stayed in our tent at Santa Marija Bay and had the Blue Lagoon almost to ourselves after everybody had left.
My obligatory Sunday morning visit to the Marsaxlokk fish market inspired today’s recipe: the most simple potato salad made with only 5 ingredients (potatoes, olive oil, Gozo sea salt, crushed pepper and fresh oregano) crowned by delicious prawns right from the BBQ.
This is sweet summer life!
Oregano Potato Salad, Grilled Prawns
For lunch for 2 you need
large prawns (wild, not farmed) 4-6
large waxy potatoes rinsed, scrubbed and cooked, 2-3
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh oregano leaves, 2-4 tablespoons
Grill the prawns on a BBQ or sear in a pan in a little oil on high heat.
Cut the potatoes into thick slices and divide them between 2 plates. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. Serve with the prawns and fresh lemon juice.