eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: aubergine

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

 

villabologna11.8

 

Villa Bologna

 

villabolognaVilla Bologna7

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

This is one of my most beloved summer scenes: juicy focaccia topped with fragrant herbs on the table next to an aromatic selection of cheese and a chilled bottle of rosé wine waiting to be opened. Sometimes it impresses me how easy it can be to create a little holiday even in my own home. Although I have to admit that warm temperatures and a clear blue evening sky definitely help to put my mind in the right mood, scrumptious food is even more efficient.

I used my reliable focaccia recipe to make the soft Italian bread, it’s so oily that my fingers feel deliciously smooth and sticky after each bite. Last year I fell in love with a topping of dark grapes and rosemary, in 2015 I’m falling for an almost pizza-like creation. I picked a selection of rosemary, thyme and sage right from the front row of my window sill garden, chopped them finely and spread the green crumbles over the puffy, risen yeast dough. Thin slices of zucchini and aubergine came next to form a pretty grid pattern and add their summery fruitiness. To finish it off, I sprinkled my golden focaccia with fresh oregano and parmesan. It’s such a teaser, when I opened the door to take out the baking sheet, the warm smell of yeast, herbs and cheese caressed my nose. At this point, I definitely felt like I was somewhere in the south of Italy.

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

For a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ focaccia you need

plain flour 500g / 17 1/2oz
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
salt 1 teaspoon
sugar 1 heaped teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 1 cup and 2 tablespoons
olive oil 120ml / 1/2 cup (half for the dough and half for the topping)
fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), finely chopped, 2 generous tablespoons
small zucchini, very thinly sliced (best with a vegetable/ mandoline slicer), 1
medium sized aubergine, very thinly sliced, 1/2
flaky sea salt, for the topping
parmesan, grated, 3 heaped tablespoons
fresh oregano, the leaves of a small handful of sprigs (about 2 heaped tablespoon)

In  a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and half the olive oil (60ml / 1/4 cup) and mix with the hooks of an electric mixer for a few minutes until smooth and well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for a few minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven (top / bottom heat, no fan) for 45-60 minutes.

Take the dough out, punch it down and knead for 1 minute. Spread the dough on an oiled baking sheet with your hands until it measures roughly 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.

Set the oven to 220°C / 430°F (top / bottom heat).

Punch about 6 x 7 holes into the surface of the dough, you can use the round bottom of a wooden spoon or your finger. Pour half of the remaining olive oil (30ml / 1/8 cup) over the dough and into the holes. Use the remaining 30ml / 1/8 cup of oil to thinly coat the sliced vegetables on both sides with your hand. Sprinkle the focaccia with the chopped herbs and lay the oiled vegetables in a cross pattern on top (start with the zucchini and continue with the aubergine). Season with sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and light brown on top. When it’s done, sprinkle with parmesan and oregano and leave in the hot oven for 1 minute.

Enjoy warm or cold at a summery table full of fruits, cheese and wine!

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

zucchiniauberginefocaccia10

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

Mediterranean Roast Vegetables with Tomatoes, Feta and Basil

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

The secret behind this scrumptious Mediterranean pan lies in the separate cooking of the vegetables. First, I sautéed sliced zucchini until golden but with bite, and then I cooked a large handful of aubergine and bell pepper chopped into tiny cubes. The small size let them release a little more of their juices in the hot pan, within minutes they turn into a chunky stew. Mixed with the zucchini, it just needed a bit of salt and pepper and it was done.

You could easily leave it at that but I was after a colourful pan full of fresh flavours. In summer, I like the combination of cooked and raw vegetables, so my pan got a crunchy topping with cherry tomatoes, milky feta chunks and fresh basil leaves. All the wonderful aromas of a Mediterranean garden on a plate! There are a million variations of this dish, you could top it with lemon ricotta (instead of the feta cheese) and make a moussaka, mix in some spaghetti for a richer meal or cook all the ingredients in the oven, like my vegetable casserole. So many options, so many warm months and ripe and tasty vegetables ahead of us. Kitchen life is just great at this time of year!

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

Mediterranean Roast Vegetables with Tomatoes, Feta and Basil

For a lunch for 2 you need

zucchini, sliced thinly, about 200g / 7oz
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
aubergine, cut into tiny cubes, about 200g / 7oz
medium sized bell pepper (colour of your choice), cut into tiny cubes, 1
cherry tomatoes, cut in half, 8
feta cheese, broken into chunks, about 100g / 3 1/2oz
fresh basil leaves 10

Heat a slash of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the zucchini on medium-high heat until golden brown with a little bite. Season with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a plate and set a side.

Put the pan back on the heat, pour in a splash of olive oil, stir in the garlic and let it turn golden (not brown!) for about 1 minute. Add the aubergine and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and sauté until golden and soft. Take the pan off the heat, mix in the zucchini and tomatoes and season to taste. Stir in the feta and basil and serve immediately, or as a warm salad, with fresh ciabatta bread.

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

mediterraneanvegfeta9

Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Zucchini and Aubergine

Timpana

After a long discussion in the kitchen with my (Maltese!) boyfriend, I have to accept that my recipe is not a traditional Maltese timpana – but it tastes just as good, even my man agreed with that!

Timpana is a Mediterranean dish which is very popular in Malta and also in Italy. It’s penne or macaroni pasta mixed with Bolognese sauce baked in a pastry shell – basically a pasta pie. My version, however, left out the meat sauce. I cooked a concentrated red sauce with fresh tomatoes and lots of basil instead and sautéed zucchini and aubergine slices until golden and juicy. So, here’s the blatant difference, I piled the tomato basil pasta with layers of the sliced vegetables and parmesan in a buttery pastry shell, which, to me, justifies calling this dish Timpana. But sometimes opinions about food differ, especially when it comes to tradition recipes.

Obviously I ate my first Timpana in Malta, bought from one of the tiny bakeries you find at almost ever street corner in the towns and villages. They sell this pasta dish cut into large squares along trays full of buttery Pastizzi and rich ricotta filled Qassata. It’s a street food lunch classic on the island. When I ate a piece of this hearty dish for first time, I didn’t quite understand the concept of wrapping pasta in crisp short crust. But after years of enjoying at least 1 or 2 pasta pies during my stay in the South I got used to this tradition bite by bite. It just makes you feel good, it’s delicious comfort food that combines the best of a pie with lighter comfort of fruity penne. I must admit that I prefer the addition of vegetables, the Bolognese sauce makes it a bit too rich and heavy for my taste. But I won’t argue about that ever again, especially not with a Maltese person!

Timpana

 

Timpana

 Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Zucchini and Aubergine

For a 20 1/2cm / 8″ pie (a loose bottom spring form works best) you need

For the filling

penne pasta 250g / 9oz
medium sized tomatoes, chopped, 6 (about 650g / 1 1/2 pounds)
fresh garlic (preferably spring garlic) 1 clove
salt
olive oil
tomato pasta (Kunserva) 1 tablespoon
Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
pepper
fresh basil, thinly sliced, about 12 large leaves
medium sized zucchini, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 2 (about 380g / 13 1/2oz)
medium sized aubergine, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 1 (about 270g / 9 1/2oz)
parmesan, freshly grated, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon for the topping

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, they should have bite. Let the penne cool.

On a chopping board, rub and press the chopped garlic under the blade of a large knife with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until you have a smooth paste. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes until thick. Stir in the basil and season to taste, make sure that the basil comes through quite strong. Let the sauce cool completely before you mix it with the cooked pasta.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the sliced zucchini on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Cook them in batches, they should be spread out in the pan and not on top of each other. Season with salt and pepper and set them aside to cool. Heat a generous splash of olive oil and sauté the sliced aubergine in the same pan. They will need a little more oil (you’ll have to add some in between batches) and they will also need to cook a bit longer, they should be golden brown, soft and juicy. Season to taste and set them aside to cool.

 

For the pastry

plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups / 10 1/2oz
salt 1 teaspoon
butter, cold, 150g / 1 1/4 sticks / 5 1/4 ounces
egg yolks 2
cold water 2 tablespoons

For the glaze
organic egg yolk 1
milk 1 tablespoon
a pinch of salt

Combine the flour with the salt. Cut the butter into the flour with a knife until there are just little pieces left. Continue with your fingers and quickly rub the butter into the flour. Add the eggs and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form 2 discs, dividing them roughly 2:1, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

 

The pie

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

Whisk the egg yolk, milk and salt for the glaze.

Take the dough out of the freezer and roll out both discs between cling film, the bigger piece (about 32cm / 12 1/2″) for the bottom and the smaller one as the lid for the pie.

Line the bottom and sides of the spring form pan. Spread 1/3 of the pasta mixed with the tomato sauce on top of the pastry, sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan and cover with a layer of aubergine (let the slices overlap a little). Continue with a second layer of pasta (1/3), sprinkle with parmesan (1/3) and cover with the zucchini. Finish with the remaining pasta, cheese and vegetables (if there are some left). Close with the smaller pastry lid and gently push the rim with your fingers to seal the pie. Brush the top with the egg glaze and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the cheese.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes before you turn the heat down to 175°C / 350°F and bake for another 50 minutes or until the pie is golden and baked through. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before you cut it into pieces.

Timpana

 

Timpana

 

Timpana

 

Timpana

 

timpana8

Mediterranean Feta and Vegetable Casserole

Mediterranean Feta and Vegetable Casserole

It was a cold, grey evening when my aunt Ursula invited us to dinner a few years ago. We meet quite often to enjoy good food and wine together but that day we felt tired from work and weren’t in the mood for a heavy meal. When we arrived at her apartment we saw that she hadn’t set up the table in the dining room as she normally does but created a comfy dining scene in her living room. The low table was packed with loaves of bread with herbs and dried tomatoes, a few dips and a bottle of red wine was just waiting for us. Our mood was lifted straight away, this was exactly what we needed, a relaxed evening on the sofa! When Ursula came out of the kitchen with a steaming dish in her hands, filling the air with the smell of roast vegetables and herbs she had our attention and we felt awake again!

The meal she served became one of my most beloved dishes, Mediterranean vegetables on top of a thick slice of feta roasted in the oven for only half an hour. By the end of it you have a plate full of juicy, partly crunchy vegetables that you can spoon onto a thick slice of bread together with the aromatic cheese and herbs, it’s delicious! The mix of zucchini, red and yellow bell pepper, aubergine, red onions, garlic and lots of thyme and rosemary became my favourite, personal variation on this recipe. Just throw together a composition that suits your taste and put this on a slice of a French country bread, ciabatta or focaccia and I’m sure you’ll be as happy as I am whenever I cook this meal!

I love to make this when friends come over, I just put one or two big casseroles on our long table, a few loaves of bread, some wine – this is the perfect food and atmosphere to let the laughing and chatting begin! Or to celebrate that Germany won the World Cup!

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

Mediterranean Vegetable and Feta Casserole

For 4 people you need

feta cheese, 2 slices, around 2cm / 3/4″ thick, 400g / 14 ounces
medium sized aubergine, cut into 1cm / 1/2″ cubes, 1
medium sized zucchini, cut in half and sliced, 1
yellow bell pepper, cut into cubes, 1
red bell pepper, cut into cubes, 1
medium sized tomatoes, cut into cubes, 3
medium sized red onions, cut into 8 pieces, 2
garlic, 8 cloves in their skin
olive oil 60ml / 2 ounces
thyme, a small bunch
rosemary, 6 sprigs
salt and pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I use the Rotitherm roasting setting).

Put the feta cheese next to each other in a baking dish, cover with the vegetables, garlic and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil on top and mix until everything is coated in oil (add a little bit more if it’s not enough). Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, they shouldn’t burn. Check the aubergine first as it needs the longest to cook. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with rustic white bread.

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

 

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

 

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

Bruschetta with Avocado, Tomato and Red Onions

Bruschetta with Avocado, Tomato and Red Onions

Whenever I have some bread leftovers, bruschetta is my solution! White bread doesn’t stay fresh for so long, after 1-2 days it becomes a bit hard and dry but some olive oil drizzled on top and a few seconds under the grill will bring it back to life. A fruity dip, dripping and a little oily is the fine finish. I put the topping on just before we eat the bread so that it only soaks a little of the juices and the thin crust stays crisp.

Bruschetta can be the base for all kinds of dips, spreads and vegetables. In late summer I fancy one made with sautéed mushrooms, liver and thyme but luckily we aren’t there yet. There’s still lots of food in between now and then, lots of vegetables waiting to be chopped and mixed with some olive oil, garlic and herbs to end up on this crunchy bread. I’ll start with a mix of velvety avocado, fresh tomatoes and a little spicy red onion.

For the 2 of us, I chopped up a ripe avocado with a fork, roughly, I didn’t want to turn it into a mousse. I diced 2 medium sized tomatoes, sweet and ripe, chopped a clove of garlic finely and 1/4 red onion into small cubes. 8 fleshy basil leaves, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper stirred in made this chunky spread complete. I used a 2 day old baguette for this recipe, sliced and drizzled with a little olive oil, roast under the grill for a minute until it turned golden brown.

bruschetta1-2

 

Bruschetta with Avocado, Tomato and Red Onions

Zucchini, Bell Pepper and Aubergine Moussaka with Lemon Ricotta

Moussaka

My Moussaka, truth be told, is a fruity ratatouille baked with a fluffy lemon ricotta soufflé on top. The traditional Greek Moussaka is made with a Béchamel sauce which I’m not too fond of. I like this creamy sauce in my lasagna or cannelloni but that’s it. The ricotta tastes much lighter, enhanced with lemon zest, nutmeg, parmesan and fresh basil, it gives this dish more of a summer feeling. Contrary to the Greek version, I kept mine vegetarian, there’s no minced meat involved, just zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onions, lots of parsley and a velvety layer of fried aubergine slices in between the vegetables and the cheese. It stops the ricotta from running into the juicy ratatouille.

When I cook a ratatouille I always make a big batch. This moussaka is perfect as a second day dish for ratatouille leftovers. Topped with the ricotta it just has to bake in the oven for half an hour, great if you have friend’s over for dinner and not much time for preparations! I baked it in small casserole dishes closed with a lid so that each of us could have our own little pot.

Moussaka

 Zucchini, Bell Pepper and Aubergine Moussaka with Lemon Ricotta

I bake the Moussaka in two 12,5cm / 5″ casserole dishes with lids, you could use a big one instead but you may have to bake it a bit longer for the ricotta to set.

For 2-3 people you need

small aubergine, sliced into circles, 1
zucchini, sliced into circles, 1
red bell pepper, thinly sliced, 1
big red onion, quartered and thinly sliced, 1
big tomatoes, chopped, 4
garlic, thinly sliced, 3 cloves
parsley, chopped, 2 tablespoons
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons plus more to taste
olive oil for frying
salt and black pepper

For the topping
ricotta 260g / 9 ounces
organic eggs 2
parmesan, grated, 30g / 1 ounce
small basil leaves, chopped, 30
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
lemon juice 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
(I also added in a little of the liquid of my Moroccan preserved lemons)
nutmeg, ground to taste
salt and pepper

Spread the slices of aubergine on a baking dish and sprinkle with salt on both sides to pull some of its water out. Let it sit for around 15 minutes, rinse the slices and dry between kitchen roll paper. In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the aubergine for a few minutes on both sides on medium temperature until golden and soft, add a little more oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes until golden and soft. Add the bell pepper and garlic and fry for 2 minutes before you add the zucchini. Fry the vegetables for 2-3 minutes and deglaze with 2 tablespoons of Balsamico vinegar. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Add the parsley and season with Balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

For the topping, mix the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

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

Divide the vegetables between the 2 casserole dishes, cover with 3-4 slices of aubergine and spread the ricotta mixture gently on top. Cover with lids and bake for around 35 minutes until the ricotta mixture is set.

Moussaka

Baked Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary and golden Polenta Slices

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta

This pale aubergine mousse isn’t a beauty but its taste and smooth texture make up for it! Something changes in the purple fruit’s  flavour when it has been cooking in the oven. If you fry it in a pan or cook it in a stew it’s nice but only oven baking manages to extract the aubergine’s finer qualities. Sliced, grilled and filled like my aubergine rolls or baked in foil which turns the aubergine into a soft mousse. Both recipes leave no doubt as to why aubergines are so popular in Mediterranean cooking!

Baking aubergines al Cartoccio together with spices and herbs allows them to become infused with lots of different flavours. The spongey flesh, its soft texture is perfect to absorb tasty liquids and aromatic steam which is why they are also know to soak up so much olive oil! Rosemary was my herb of choice this time which I also used for the golden fried polenta slices. I’m a big fan of this yellow corn, either turned into a thick purée and mixed with gravy and meat or fried, buttery and crisp.

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta

 Baked Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary and golden Polenta Slices

For 2-3 people you need

aubergine, cut in half, 1
garlic,  4 cloves in their skin
rosemary, the needles of 3-4 sprigs
olive oil 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F.

Place the aubergine on a big piece of aluminum foil, sprinkle with olive oil and some rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Turn the fruit’s cut side down, add some more rosemary and the garlic and close the pouch. Bake on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes till soft. Check if the flesh is soft and scrape it out with a spoon. Mix in a bowl together with the soft roasted garlic, some of the roasted rosemary and season with salt and pepper, mash with a fork.

 

For the polenta

polenta 120g / 4 ounces
water 250ml / 8.5 ounces plus around 100ml / 3.5 ounces for cooking
milk 250ml / 8.5 ounces
salt 1 teaspoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons plus more to grease the baking dish
butter for frying 3-5 tablespoons
rosemary, the needles of 2 sprigs

In a sauce pan, heat the water and milk, add the salt and bring to a boil. Take the pan off the heat, add the olive oil and polenta and whisk. Turn down the heat to the lowest temperature and put the pan back on. Cook the polenta for 10 minutes mixing and adding more water once in a while.

Grease a 28 x 20cm / 11 x 8″ baking dish with olive oil. Pour the polenta into the baking dish, let it cool for around 10 minutes. When the polenta is cold and a bit hard, flip the baking dish gently around, either on cling film or directly on your working surface, mine is made of marble and it worked fine. Cut the polenta into diamond shapes and fry in hot butter together with the rosemary on both sides, just for a couple minutes till golden.

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta

 

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: