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Spring Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

Yesterday’s excitement called for lots of carbs – and a glass of wine! It was a day packed with too many emotions to handle. After sharing the cover of my book and the Amazon pre-order links here on the blog, I felt overwhelmed by all the sweet emails and messages I got from all over the world. I needed good, solid, rustic food for dinner to calm me down. I made a dish that is so packed with carbs that it actually feels a little weird, but it’s also packed with flavour and comfort, so it makes sense. I baked a springy Maltese pasta pie, also known as Timpana. I introduced you to this Maltese street food classic a few months ago and the response to the recipe was crazy.

Timpana is basically short pasta stuffed into a buttery pastry shell. Usually, it’s enriched with Bolognese, which is nice but it can get a little boring if you’ve eaten it for years, so last time I made it I went for a meat-free Mediterranean filling of zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and basil. It was so good that I thought I’d never need another filling ever again. But then spring came around the corner with all its pretty greens. Wouldn’t it be nice to see green asparagus, sweet peas, and leek inside this pie beauty? I didn’t have to think about it twice. I went to the grocery store, put all the vegetables in my bicycle’s basket, and once home, I turned on the oven.

It’s still a little weird for me to look at this combination of penne and shortcrust in a rational way but maybe this dish shouldn’t be overanalyzed. It simply feels and tastes good, and after the first bite, my mind and emotions were at ease again: I felt so happy and thankful to have the eat in my kitchen blog and book in my life, both of them connect me with so many people all over the world and bring so many fantastic experiences into my life.

Behind the scenes of my Timpana on Snapchat: eatinmykitchen!

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

Spring Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

You’ll need a 20 1/2cm / 8″ springform pan.

Serves 4-6

For the filling

penne pasta 250g / 9 ounces
green asparagus, trimmed, about 500g / 1 pound
peas, fresh or frozen, 200g / 7 ounces
olive oil
leek, thinly sliced, 200g / 7 ounces
Dijon mustard 3 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
ground pepper
organic egg 1
Parmesan, freshly grated, 80g / 3 ounces for the filling plus 1 tablespoon for the topping
(or 100g / 3 1/2 ounces for the filling if you prefer the pie more cheesy)

For the pastry

plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
butter, cold, 150g / 2/3 cup
organic egg yolks 2
water, cold, 2 tablespoons

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
milk 1 tablespoon
a pinch of fine sea salt

For the filling, cook the penne in salted water until al dente, they should have bite. Let the pasta cool completely.

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil and cook the asparagus for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Reserve 120ml / 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the asparagus and rinse quickly with cold water. Let the asparagus cool completely, then cut into pieces as long as the penne.

In a small saucepan, cook the peas in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the leek for about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while, or until golden and soft; let it cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolks and water and continue mixing with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form 2 discs, dividing the dough roughly 2:1, wrap in cling film, and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the pasta, the reserved asparagus cooking water, mustard, salt, and a generous amount of ground pepper. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and mustard, then stir in the egg and mix until well combined. To fill the pie, the filling should be completely cool.

For the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, milk and salt .

Take the dough out of the freezer and roll out both discs between cling film, the large disc, for the bottom and sides of the springform pan, should be about 32cm / 12 1/2″, and the smaller disc should be big enough to cover the pie.

Line the bottom and sides of the springform pan with the large pastry disc. Spread 1/3 of the pasta mixture on top of the pastry, sprinkle with 1/3 of the Parmesan, 1/3 of the vegetables (asparagus, peas, and leek) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue making 2 more layers. Pour any remaining liquid from the pasta mixture over the filling. Close with the pastry lid and gently push the rim with your fingers to seal the pie. Using a toothpick, prick a few holes into the top of the pie. Brush the top with the egg glaze and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cheese.

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

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

asparagusspringtimpana9

 

asparagusspringtimpana11

Rhubarb and Leek Gratin with Rosemary

Rhubarb and Leek Gratin

For weeks I have been thinking about combining leek and rhubarb in a gratin, the sourness of the fruity stalk and the onion’s distinct spiciness seemed like a special match. Weeks and many other recipes have past, but I finally found the time to sit down and think about the right composition to make this duo work.

At first, I started off with a pinch of cardamom, this spice adds a nice warming touch, but something was still missing. I took a quick look at my herb garden in front of my bedroom window, that’s the place where I keep all my little pots at the moment. The plants spread a mesmerizing smell in the afternoon sun and filled the air with the nicest aroma of rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, chervil and lovage. I started to pick some thyme leaves but realised it would be too strong for my gratin, rosemary and its woody taste was the missing link in my composition, it made it complete!

Rhubarb and Leek Gratin

 

Rhubarb and Leek Gratin

 Rhubarb and Leek Gratin with Rosemary

For 2 as a snack or 4 as a side dish you need

leek, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 6cm / 2 1/2″ pieces, 250g / 1/2 pound
rhubarb, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 6cm / 2 1/2″ pieces, 250g / 1/2 pound
olive oil
a pinch of ground cardamom
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
sugar
fresh rosemary needles, chopped, for the topping

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top / bottom heat) and oil the bottom of a baking dish.

Arrange the leek and rhubarb in circles in the baking dish and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, cardamom and a little sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and soft. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and season to taste.

Rhubarb and Leek Gratin

 

Rhubarb and Leek Gratin

 

rhubarbleekgratincardamom6

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas and Leek in Mustard Sauce

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

This is one of my oldest, most beloved and often cooked spring/ summer recipes. It’s been with me for so many years and I still savour it as I did the first time I cooked it. It works both warm as a comfy pasta dinner with a glass of rosé wine, the windows wide open and the flowery smell of June in the air but also as a cold, summery picnic salad, enjoyed outside in the fields under the rustling leaves of a swaying tree.

I’m talking about the wonderful combination of the fine flavours of white asparagus together with sweet peas in their crunchy pods, leek and a light sauce made with spicy Dijon mustard. All this on top of a big bowl of pretty Farfalle pasta, little bow-ties of perfect size and shape to catch all these nice vegetables like a shovel!

This meal tastes fresh and light and is absolutely easy to prepare. You just need to cook the asparagus (green or white), sautée the young pea pods and leek (you could also blanch some peas), deglaze them with white wine or vermouth and mix everything together with the cooked pasta, some mustard and cooking liquid, salt and pepper – that’s it!

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas and Leek in Mustard Sauce

For 2 people you need

Farfalle pasta, 200g / 7 ounces
asparagus (white or green), peeled (if necessary), bottoms cut off, 500g / 1 pound
young peas in their pods, cut into bite sized pieces, 150g / 5.5 ounces
leek, cut into slices, 1/2
water used to cook the asparagus 150ml / 5 ounces
Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons plus more to taste
white wine or vermouth for deglazing
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

Cook the pasta al dente in lots of salted water.

Cook the asparagus al dente in lots of salted water with a pinch of sugar and cut into bite sized pieces.

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the leek for a few minutes until soft and golden, add the pea pods and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with a splash of wine, add the pasta, mustard and water used to cook the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper, add the cooked asparagus, mix and serve on big plates.

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

 

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

 

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

Vichyssoise with crunchy Garlic Chips

Vichyssoise

Velvet in a bowl, vichyssoise! This traditional soup is made with only a few ingredients, potatoes, leek, heavy cream and broth besides the spices which were garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper and nutmeg in my case. There is an ongoing dispute if the recipe is a French or an American invention. Louis Diat from a French town close to Vichy who was a chef at the Ritz Carlton in New York claimed that he cooked the first vichyssoise in the early 20th century, in remembrance of his mother’s and grandmother’s cold potato and leek soup. The first written proof is found in 1923 in French culinary magazines which relate it to the American cooking. Either way, it’s such a simple yet delicious soup and one of the first recipes I made on my own when I started cooking.

I always preferred to eat this soup warm and not cold as I’m not too fond of cold soups in general. My vichyssoise is quite leeky and light, I go easy on the cream and want the vegetable’s flavours to be prominent. My addition of garlic and bay leaf is also a variation on the original recipe. That’s what recipes are for, to evolve and adapt them to your own taste!

Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise with Garlic Chips

For 4 people you need

potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes, 450g / 16 ounces
leek, sliced, 350g / 12.5 ounces
vegetable or chicken broth 1300ml
heavy cream 75ml
bay leaf 1
nutmeg, freshly grated
salt and pepper (black or white, as you prefer)
butter 1 tablespoon
olive oil for frying
garlic, thinly sliced, 4 cloves, for topping
chives, snipped, a small bunch, for topping

In a large pot, heat the butter and a splash of olive oil and sweat the potatoes and leek for a few minutes. Add the broth and spices and simmer for 25 minutes on low heat. Take out the bay leaf and purée the soup in a blender or with a stick mixer. Whisk in the cream and bring to a boil, cook for about 5 minutes and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

In a sauce pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the slices of garlic for a few seconds until golden and crisp on both sides. Don’t burn them as they will taste bitter.

Either serve the soup immediately, sprinkled with the garlic chips and chives, or let it cool and chill in the fridge.

vichyssoise3.2

King Prawns, Ginger and Leek Pasta for a special night

King Prawn, Ginger + Leek Pasta

Sometimes when I visit my mother and it’s just the two of us, we go for a luxurious mother and daughter treat. In our case that’s not a day at the spa but a sumptuous meal. We both love seafood, so we go to the fish shop and buy a few king prawns for one of our favourite meals. We fry the prawns, add some ginger, garlic and leek and mix them together with Linguine pasta – so simple yet so delicious! The pasta is glazed with the gingery oil infused with the aroma of the prawns which are so strong on their own that you just have to fry them in hot oil to unfold their pure quality. No sauce, no further distraction, just a subtle spiciness from the leek and ginger. We love it!

It’s one of those days again, my mother is at my home at the moment, we went to some great restaurants in the past few days and had some wonderful dinners out but now it’s time to cook together in my kitchen again, but first it’s time to go shopping! I mentioned my favourite department store when I wrote about my Camembert and Pomegranate Sandwich because of their amazing (and huge) cheese section. I started my own tradition more than 20 years ago when I was still only a regular visitor to my current home city. I would always visit their food section whenever close by, and I still can’t resist its attraction. I walk around, take a look at the displayed goods and I always end up in the seafood section to buy a shrimp sandwich. Yesterday I went there with my mother, I ate my shrimps in a crisp bun and she had a few oysters. We bought some king prawns for our dinner, fresh from the open sea, we also chose some wine, cheese and petit fours for dessert and couldn’t wait to get home to prepare our special dinner.

I must admit we’re still two girls so we didn’t just leave it at the food. The fashion section was nearly as attractive as the food so we ended up spending some time there as well. A perfect day – and night!

King Prawn, Ginger + Leek Pasta

King Prawns, Ginger and Leek Linguine

For 4 people you need

king prawns, uncooked, rinsed, cleaned, the head removed but with the shell, 12
(we got the ones with head and shell, their taste is stronger and you can make an amazing broth with the hard shells)
linguine pasta 400g / 14 ounces
leek, cut into thin slices, 1
ginger, cut into strips, 3 tablespoons
garlic, cut in half, 3 cloves
white wine for deglazing and a little of the water used for cooking the pasta
salt and black pepper
olive oil for frying

In a large pot, cook the Linguine al dente. While the pasta is cooking you can continue with the prawns.

In a large and heavy pan, fry the prawns in hot oil for a couple minutes on each side until their shells turns golden brown. Take the prawns aside (I leave mine in their shell but you can also peel them before you mix them with the pasta). Pour some more oil into the pan and fry the leek, ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Deglaze with a splash of white wine, add half a cup of the water used for cooking the pasta and season with salt and pepper. When the leek is soft, add the pasta and prawns. Mix everything and divide between the plates.

You can make a delicious broth with the hard shells and heads, fry them in hot oil and deglaze them with Noilly Prat or white wine. Add an onion, 1/2 leek, 1-2 carrots, 1 small parsley root, 1 celery stalk, 4 black pepper corns and 2 bay leaves and cover everything with 1800ml of water. Cook for half an hour and pour through a sieve. I fill mine in containers and put them in the freezer.

King Prawn, Ginger + Leek Pasta

 

King Prawn, Ginger + Leek Pasta

 

Couscous with Orange, Ginger and 6 Spices

6 Spice Couscous

Two days ago I filmed a live session at a recording studio with electronic artist Jim Hickey . As there were five of us and we had to work till late, I wanted to prepare something nice for us to eat to feed the energetic mood.

I didn’t have much time to prepare, so a box of couscous caught my attention (5 minutes and it’s done!). My mother had just sent it to me a couple days before because, I think, something that has to sit rather than cook for just a few minutes didn’t quite satisfy her idea of cooking. I had half an hour to enhance it a bit so I decided to mix it with slices of leek and carrot and to add some strong exotic flavors – a homemade curry mixture with orange zest, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. I mixed in some raisins to add some sweetness to the fruity spiciness of the curry mixture. Quick and easy – perfect food to wake you up (exactly what we needed at 11pm)!

6 Spice Couscous

 A Couscous with Orange, Ginger and 6 Spices

For 6 people you need

couscous 360g / 12.5 ounces
salty water 540ml (with 1 teaspoon of salt)
1/2 a medium sized leek, thinly sliced
spring onion, thinly sliced, 2
carrots, cut in small cubes, 4
raisins, a handful
olive oil, 3 tablespoons plus more for frying
butter, 2 tablespoons
sour cream, 3 tablespoons

Curry mixture

ginger, grated, 2 teaspoons
zest of an orange, 2 teaspoons
turmeric, ground, 1 teaspoon
black pepper, ground, 1 teaspoon
cinnamon, ground, 1 teaspoon
cardamom, ground, 1 teaspoon
cayenne pepper, ground, 1 teaspoon
cumin, ground, 1 teaspoon

Let the raisins soak in a cup of hot water.

Bring the salty water to the boil. Take the pot off the heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the water, add the couscous and mix immediately, close the lid (leave it off the heat). Let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the butter, mix and separate the grains with a fork.

Mix all your spices for the curry mixture (including the ginger and orange zest) and grind in a mortar. Warm some olive oil in a large pan and add the leek, spring onions and the carrots. Push the vegetables to the side after a couple minutes, pour some more oil in the middle of the pan and fry 3 teaspoons of your curry mixture for a minute on medium heat. Mix everything together and fry for another 1o minutes (keep in mind that the carrots shouldn’t become too soft). Season with salt.

Mix the couscous and the fried vegetables in a big bowl, add the sour cream and more of your curry mixture until you find the right balance of spiciness (I added another 3 teaspoons of the spices at that point, so 6 teaspoons in all). When you are happy with the result, take the raisins out of the water and sprinkle on top of your couscous.

6 Spice Couscous

A trusted companion, my beloved Quiche

Quiche

This recipe has been with me for a very long time. I think I cooked it for the first time nearly twenty years ago. And since then it has made lots of people very happy (including myself). My time trusted companion is a quiche with a wonderful crisp and buttery short crust base and a simple but perfect filling of leek, tomatoes and thyme. What I also like about it is that the egg and cream filling isn’t as high and heavy as in many other versions of this famous French dish. There is still something light about mine.

In past years I tried out different fillings with spinach or broccoli but I still prefer the combination of leek and tomatoes. The taste is just perfect. I once  lined the base with slices of pear and crumbled Stilton over it for a party, very nice too and perfect finger food.

Quiche

Quiche

Usually I double the amount and make two quiches, one to eat warm straight away, the other to eat cold the next day. I can’t say which I prefer as the different flavours come through very strongly when the quiche has cooled down.

For one quiche you need a 27cm / 10.5″ baking dish or tart pan. I use spelt flour type 630 (but you can use any other plain flour) and organic eggs.

For the short crust base

flour 250g / 8.5 ounces
butter, cold 125g / 4.5 ounces
egg, organic 1
salt 1 teaspoon

Combine the flour with the salt and cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and work the butter into the flour until combined (there shouldn’t be any lumps of butter left). Add the egg and continue mixing with the hook of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

For the filling

leek, medium size, sliced, 1
tomato, cut into cubes, 1
thyme, leaves of a few sprigs
eggs, organic, 3
heavy cream 125ml
crème fraiche or sour cream 125ml
salt 1 heaping teaspoon
pepper
nutmeg, best freshly grated, a generous amount

Set your oven to 210°C / 410°F.

Mix  the eggs with the heavy cream, crème fraiche, salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme.

Roll out the dough between cling film and line your baking dish with the flat pastry. Prick it with a fork and blind-bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes.  Take your baking dish out of the oven and set the temperature down to 175°C / 350°F.

Spread the leek slices and tomato cubes over your pre-baked pastry base and pour the egg / cream mixture over. Put the quiche carefully on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until golden. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before you eat.

Bon appétit!

Quiche

Tomato, Leek and Cream Cheese Bagel

Today has been a busy day so we are going to keep it simple and make some sandwiches. I love trying out new variations as there are so many great things one can place between two slices of bread  – or, in our case today, in a bagel.

Even though my bagels are really good (my recipe will follow soon), I must admit the true star of this snack is the filling of sour cream cheese together with spicy chilli, fried leek rings and fresh slices of tomato. Some salt and pepper on top and you have a most satisfying meal.

When I make bagels I bake them in bigger batches because it is very convenient to have a few of them in the freezer and you just have to warm them up in the oven for a few minutes whenever you feel like. For our sandwiches today I prepare two bagels which I had baked with spelt flour (my favorite flour). But four thick slices of any other nice, fresh white bread will work as well. While the bagels are defrosting in the oven, I gently fry thinly sliced leek (a thumb length piece) in some butter and cut a fresh chili pepper (4 cm) in very thin slices as well. Then I spread the cold cream cheese on the warm bagels, layer this with thinly sliced tomatoes (I use four cherry tomatoes) and scatter the leek and chili on top. Seasoned with some sea salt and pepper, this makes you feel like you never want to eat anything else ever again!

Tomato + Leek Bagle

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