eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: garlic

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

When I see juicy strips of grilled bell pepper on an antipasti platter, colourful in red, orange and yellow, I can barely stop myself from eating all of them (which is unfortunate for my antipasti platter companion). I love this balanced taste of sweet and smokey, it’s addictive! There are many ways to do this, some prefer to grill the fruit cut in half, some say you should cook it whole in one piece. Peeling the skin off can be a bit fiddly but it’s manageable, there are many suggestions to make this part easier. The latest I heard was to put the grilled bell pepper in a plastic bag and shake it to get rid of the skin although I’ve never tried it myself.

This is how I grill and peel bell pepper, how I’ve done it for years and it works perfectly: I put the whole fruit in a baking dish under the grill, turning it as soon as one side gets dark (meaning partly black). When the skin is dark and burst all around, after about 25 minutes, I open the oven, take out the dish and lay a wet kitchen cloth or paper towel over the bell peppers to cover them completely. I wait just a few seconds as they should stay warm and moist for this process. Then, I take out one pepper after the other and pull the skin off with a knife. If you leave them to cool without the moisture it’s impossible to peel them without damaging the flesh.

Sometimes I grill a big batch of bell peppers, I cut them in thick strips and keep them covered in olive oil in the fridge for days. Apart from the fact that it is a convenient (and healthy) nibble, it’s perfect for an antipasti platter at one of our dinner parties, as a salad or to make sandwiches. This time I grilled only three peppers and marinated them in garlic infused olive oil and fresh thyme. They didn’t last very long!

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

For 2-4 people you need

bell peppers (red, orange or yellow) 3
olive oil 3 tablespoons
garlic, cut into thin slices, 1 big clove
thyme sprigs 8

In a sauce pan, warm up the olive oil and garlic for 3 minutes on a medium-low heat to infuse the oil, the garlic shouldn’t change colour.

Put the bell peppers in a baking dish under the grill and turn them as soon as one side gets dark and starts to burst. I turned them twice, after 10 minutes on each side, I cooked the third side for only 5 minutes. Take the baking dish out and cover with a wet kitchen cloth or paper towel immediately. Wait for 10 seconds, take out one pepper and peel it with a knife. Keep in mind that they are still hot, especially the inside! Cut the peeled fruit in half, take out the seeds and cut the bell pepper into strips.

Pour the olive oil over the bell peppers and sprinkle with the garlic and thyme sprigs (or just the leaves if the sprigs are hard and woody). You can season it with salt and pepper but I left it pure.

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

 

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

 

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

 

Grilled Bell Pepper with Garlic and Thyme

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

La dolce vita, I can hear it calling me! I need a holiday, some Mediterranean vibes, the sea that slows down my pace! For now I only have my beloved Mediterranean food but there’s only a month between me and a little dolce far niente! Our flights are booked and in four weeks we will be heading South, but my mind is already there, in Malta, our beautiful rock in the Mediterranean Sea. I find myself daydreaming about all the things I will do and eat.

I have a plan, I will enjoy the sea and spend lots of time with our friends and family as I always do but I will also share some of my culinary hotspots with you. Over the years, I found so many delicious restaurants, small producers of olive oil, cheese, bakeries, winemakers and my salt pans in Gozo of course. I met many people who are as passionate about eating and cooking as I am, chefs and Maltese Mamas who have treated their families to years of the most delicious traditional dishes. Soon, I will meet these food lovers, we will talk about food, I will watch them cook and share their recipes with you on the blog. I’m very excited and I can’t wait to show you this amazing island, its food and natural beauty!

For now I can only enjoy all the lovely dishes that feed my memories and fit my daydreams, like spaghetti with pangrattato (meaning grated bread in Italian), crisp breadcrumbs fried with anchovies and garlic! I sprinkle it with freshly squeezed lemon juice, crushed black pepper and parsley, a summer meal which couldn’t be quicker and easier!

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

 Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

For 2 people you need

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
breadcrumbs 5 heaped tablespoons
(if you have some stale white bread left put it in a food processor and turn into breadcrumbs)
anchovies, rinsed, dried and finely chopped, 2-3 big fillets (use 3 if you like a strong fish taste)
garlic, finely chopped, 2 cloves
parsley, finely chopped 1 1/2 tablespoons
lemon 1/2, to drizzle over the pasta
black pepper, crushed coarsely
salt
olive oil for frying

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the garlic on a medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the anchovies and fry for a few seconds before you pour in a little more oil, add the breadcrumbs and fry until golden brown and crisp. Divide the spaghetti and the pangrattato between 2 plates and sprinkle with lemon juice, black pepper and parsley. Season with salt, carefully as the anchovies are very salty.

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

Rabbit wrapped in Sage and Bacon roast on Rhubarb

Rabbit wrapped in Sage + Bacon on Rhubarb

Sweet and sour rhubarb, salty bacon and aromatic sage wrap my juicy pieces of rabbit in a delicious composition of spring flavours. You could use pork fillet in this recipe as well but I like rabbit meat, it’s tenderness and unique taste. We often eat it when we’re in Malta where rabbit is so popular that it became the national dish. Be it as a Mediterranean stew with olives, tomatoes and wine, often cooked together with pork for a stronger aroma, or in a pie, I’ve enjoyed some of the best rabbit meals on this island!

Rabbit meat isn’t very challenging to cook as long as it’s kept moist and not overcooked. The little packages of sage and bacon in my recipe infuse the meat with their flavours but also keep it juicy. The steaming rhubarb roasting under the meat has the same effect. Its juices add a fruity taste to the meat and make sure that it doesn’t dry out while it’s cooking.

Rabbit wrapped in Sage + Bacon on Rhubarb

 

Rabbit wrapped in Sage + Bacon on Rhubarb

Rabbit wrapped in Sage and Bacon roast on Rhubarb

For 4 people you need

rabbit, without bones, 500g / 1 pound for 8 portions
(I bought rabbit back and legs, the fillets from the back were the easiest to prepare)
rhubarb, cut into 5cm / 2″ pieces, 500g / 1 pound
sugar 3 tablespoons
garlic, thinly sliced, 3 cloves
fresh sage 16 leaves
bacon 8 slices
white wine 75ml / 2.5 ounces
olive oil 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper

Set the oven to 210°C / 410°F. My oven has a Rotitherm roasting setting which works perfectly for this recipe.

Cover the bottom of a baking dish with the rhubarb mixed with sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the rabbit in 8 portions, season with salt and pepper and wrap each portion in a slice of bacon together with 2 leaves of sage and 3 slices of garlic. Place on top of the rhubarb and pour the wine and olive oil over it.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, pouring some of the juices over it from time to time. For the last 3 minutes sprinkle the bacon with some sugar.

Rabbit wrapped in Sage + Bacon on Rhubarb

 

Rabbit wrapped in Sage + Bacon on Rhubarb

A warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

Artichokes seem to follow me in the past few weeks, even when I don’t buy them they end up in my kitchen. I got a bag full of beautiful purple baby artichokes as a gift, the tiniest I’ve ever seen. A friend of mine had bought too many and knowing that I use everything that finds its way into my space she was happy to pass them over to me. I had already made plans for dinner but the vegetables couldn’t wait a day longer. When I looked at them, a warm salad came to my mind, a little snack in between. I imagined them sautéed and deglazed with vermouth and some parsley on top, so I brought out my pan and started the cooker.

As a starter for 4 you need 6 small baby artichokes. Cut off the artichoke stem if it’s too woody and pluck the hard outer leaves. Cut the artichoke’s tip off (1/3 – 1/2 of the artichoke), quarter them and scoop out the hairy choke. Keep the prepared artichokes in a bowl of cold water and the juice of half a lemon while you’re finishing the rest.

Sautée the prepared artichokes in a large heavy pan in a dash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter for about 5 minutes together with 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic. Deglaze with 75ml / 2.5 ounces of vermouth and season with salt and pepper. Add 75ml / 2.5 ounces of water and 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and let them simmer on a medium heat for about 10 minutes until al dente. Sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

 

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

 

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

Gratin with Cauliflower and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Cauliflower + Potato Gratin

This is a recipe my father used to make for us when we were children. We all loved it because of the cheese and mashed potatoes! I still do as it’s one of the few dishes made with cauliflower that I really like.

When I wrote about my ginger, lemon and cauliflower soup I mentioned that I don’t use this pretty white cabbage so often in my kitchen, I only like it in a few combinations. I don’t have anything against its unique taste, it just needs the right treatment to bring out its sweet side. The mashed potatoes are a good choice, seasoned with nutmeg which I also use for the cauliflower to refine its taste, they are a good match. I didn’t want to disturb the mild flavours in the gratin so I picked a soft cheese for the crunchy crust, not too ripe and overpowering. I used a hard Gouda, this Dutch cheese melts well and develops a nice crust under the grill, it’s also the cheese my father used for this meal.

This recipe is very simple to prepare, a whole cauliflower cooked in one piece, pushed into creamy mashed potatoes and baked with cheese to a golden gratin. If you need a quick dinner for a handful of people, this is the perfect choice!

Cauliflower + Potato Gratin

Gratin with Cauliflower and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

For 4 people you need

a whole cauliflower, around 700g / 25 ounces
potatoes, peeled, 650g / 23 ounces
garlic, in its skin, 3 big cloves
milk 200ml / 7 ounces
butter 50g / 2 ounces
nutmeg, freshly ground
salt and black pepper
hard cheese (Gouda, Emmentaler or cheddar), thinly sliced, 100g / 3.5 ounces

Cook the potatoes together with the garlic in salted water for 20 minutes. Rinse the potatoes under cold water for a few seconds and peel the garlic. Mash the potatoes together with the garlic, milk and butter, whisk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Cook the cauliflower in lots of salted water al dente (around 10 minutes), it should be soft with bite without falling apart.

Scrape the mashed potatoes into a baking dish, put the cauliflower on top and push it down. Season the cabbage with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cover it with the cheese. Bake under the grill for a few minutes until golden brown, bubbly and crisp, slice like a cake and serve immediately.

Cauliflower + Potato Gratin

Preserved Artichoke Hearts with Spices and Thyme

Marinated Artichokes

I’ve been wanting to marinate artichokes for so long, ever since I had my own kitchen in fact, which is quite a while ago. I took my time and over the years I discovered the advantages of a pantry packed with jars of homemade jams, chutneys, preserved lemons and fruits but now I want to see some artichoke hearts cooked in wine and vinegar, with lots of spices on my shelves as well. I love to fill this space with all the jars that make my favourite food so handy and always available, I don’t have to worry about industrial preservatives which are banned in my kitchen.

The process of preserving has a wonderful side effect, it’s so relaxing! I understand why my grandmother used to have a room in her cellar packed to the ceiling with preserving jars and bottles, cherries, pears  and plums, German apple purée, gherkin, jams, so much that even my big family didn’t manage to eat everything that she produced. I imagine that she enjoyed preserving food as much as I do now, standing peacefully in her kitchen, keeping an eye on the bubbling and steaming food in the pots. When I’m done with cooking and have filled my culinary products into the jars and line them up on a table, I feel so satisfied and rewarded for the work I’ve done, it’s truly therapeutical!

Artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil are great on bread sprinkled with parsley, on crostini or pizza, mixed with pasta or in a risotto. You could also fry them together with your omelet, mix them into a Mediterranean salad or enjoy them pure on an summery antipasti platter.

Marinated Artichokes

 Preserved Artichokes Hearts

For 6 artichoke hearts preserved in an 800ml jar you need

baby artichokes 6
water 900ml
white wine 350ml
white wine vinegar 150ml
garlic, quartered, 2 cloves
bay leaves 2
black peppercorns 8
juniper berries 5
thyme 8 small sprigs
salt 1 teaspoon
lemon 1/2, to prevent the artichokes from turning brown
olive oil to fill the preserving jar
spirit to sterilise the rim of the jar

Peel the artichoke stems, if it isn’t soft but woody you have to cut it off. Pluck the hard outer leaves and cut the artichoke’s tip off (1/3 – 1/2 of the artichoke), just the soft parts of the leaves should be left. Loosen the hairy choke with a knife and scoop it out with a spoon. Keep the prepared artichoke heart in a bowl of cold water and the juice of half a lemon to avoid it discolouring while you’re finishing the rest.

In a large pot, bring all the ingredients to a boil, add the artichoke hearts and cook for 10 minutes.

Sterilise the preserving jar in boiling water for 5 minutes. Take it out, let it dry for a few minutes and dip the rim of your jar in the spirit and wash out the lid with the alcohol as well.

Drain the artichokes and put them in the sterilised jar, fill with olive oil till covered and add some of the spices and thyme sprigs. The jar should be filled with oil to the top! Close the jar, keep in your pantry or enjoy immediately.

Marinated Artichokes

 

Marinated Artichokes

Roast Garlic and Gruyère Sandwich

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

Garlic roasted in its skin is one of these things I can never have (or make) enough of. No matter how many of these little cloves I throw into the hot oven, I always feel like I could have made more. They cook in their delicate peel like in a little parchment pouch, steaming, softening and unfolding all of their wonderful flavours. It tastes less spicy than raw garlic but yet so aromatic, almost sweet and the texture is smooth, a bit oily. It’s a great spread on bread!

Garlic is considered a natural antibiotic which has lots of positive effects on the body. It strengthens the immune system, stops free radicals and slows down the aging process. A tiny bulb that does a lot of good for our body! I strongly believe in the healing and strengthening powers of natural and good quality food. This is one of the reasons why I buy organic food as much as possible. I want natural food which is kept natural, no GMOs, no pesticides, food attuned to the ecological system and not against it. A few years ago I started to drink organic green tea with freshly squeezed lemon juice every morning, since then I haven’t had a cold or become sick!

There must be something in garlic that my body loves and when it comes to roast garlic I feel like I could eat it with a spoon, in strong doses like in this sandwich made with 14 cloves of garlic for just 2 buns! I baked medium sized cloves of garlic in their skin in a 210°C / 410°F hot oven for about 12 minutes until golden and soft (you can cover them with aluminum foil if they start to get too dark). They were so soft that I could mash them with a fork, I just added some salt and spread the paste on the buns. I put a couple slices of Swiss Gruyère cheese on top (120g / 4.5 ounces for 4 halfs) and let them melt under the grill for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. I finished my sandwich off with crushed black pepper and some watercress sprinkled on top.

An oily and dense Ciabatta bread would have been good too but when I saw the Swiss Buns at the bakery which have a similar texture to the Italian bread I thought they would match the Gruyère cheese perfectly, it became a delicious and healthy Swiss sandwich!

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

 

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

 

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

 

Roast Garlic + Cheese Sandwich

Sicilian Spaghetti with Bottarga di Tonno

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

Marzamemi! This is the name of a picturesque fishing village in southern Sicily in the Syracuse region. It’s right by the sea, with two churches – an old and a new one – both dedicated to the village’s patron San Franceso built around the historic piazza which is, as in every Mediterranean village, the lively centre especially at night.

Two years ago we spent an evening in Marzamemi, strolled through the narrow alleys, between the old limestone houses where  fishermen used to live. We passed a beautiful artisan market which was still open at night and enjoyed the sight of all the restaurants which had placed their long tables outside in the piazza where families already filled the air with laughter and the delicious smell of seafood. We couldn’t wait any longer to join them and went straight to the restaurant at the sea where our table was waiting for us, but as we wanted to sit down we spotted an old storehouse with a big, open gate and people walking in and out. Curiosity was still stronger than our appetite, so we took a look.

We went inside a huge hall piled high with fish products, mainly made of bluefin tuna but also anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and swordfish. I discovered food I had never seen before, tuna salami for example, I had to buy it! It tasted interesting, salty, something I would have to eat a few times and try out a few combinations to get used to it. They also sold the famous Bottarga di Tonno, the dried roe pouch of bluefin tuna. If it’s in one piece, you slice it thinly over spaghetti, grated you sprinkle it over a quick pasta dish. Its taste is distinct and salty, it comes from a fish with a strong flavour and you can taste it!

I haven’t eaten it since my last visit to Sicily so I was happy to finally open a jar of grated Bottarga di Tonno again and mix it with my pasta. I like to add some lemon (juice and zest), garlic, parsley and coarsely crushed black pepper.

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

Spaghetti with Bottarga di Tonno, Lemon and Parsley

For this meal I suggest you warm up the plates in the oven.

For 2 people you need
(the amounts are matched to taste, just play around and season to your own taste)

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
olive oil 6 tablespoons
garlic, cut in half, 2 cloves
grated Bottarga di Tonno 4-6 heaped teaspoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
lemon zest 2 teaspoon
parsley, chopped, 4 heaped tablespoons
salt and coarsely crushed black pepper

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water till al dente.

Heat up the oil in a sauce pan, add the garlic and take the pan off the heat, let it infuse the oil for a couple minutes and add the lemon juice.

After the pasta is mixed with the warm oil and divided between the plates, sprinkle with parsley, lemon zest, pepper and salt and add the bottarga di tonno to taste.

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

 

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

 

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

 

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon