eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: Malta

Lime Scones & my last book launch event in Washington D.C.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

When we left our hotel in New York in the early morning it was still dark and I was too tired to realize that my Eat In My Kitchen book tour would soon come to an end. But after six weeks of being on the road in Europe and the US, I was somehow ready to close one of the most exciting chapters of my life in America’s capital, in Washington D.C.

We celebrated the birth of my first cookbook with true feasts, in Berlin, Malta, London, New York, and Washington and there are no words to describe how I felt during this trip. It made me the happiest and – after a few weeks – the most tired person at the same time. To be able to write and publish a book, to travel and share my thoughts about these pages filled with my recipes makes me very thankful – and humble. I didn’t know what to expect when my book was published on the 4th October, I didn’t know if people would like or reject it. I just tried my best to create a collection of recipes that someone who loves cooking would pick up for inspiration. To see all the love, support, and positive response that this book keeps getting, is more than I ever dreamed of. I met so many incredible food-loving people at all my book launch events, we discussed with each other, we ate and drank Maltese wine together, and we gathered around the table, just like we do in my own kitchen. People keep asking me which event I enjoyed the most, but I can’t even answer this question. Each celebration was unique, each of them was filled with countless magic moments, each event made my heart stop and jump, out of anxiety and pure happiness. Each celebration is a huge gift to my life.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Lime Scones

Washington felt a bit like the calm after the storm (please keep in mind that it was the week before the sobering elections!). New York is restless and that’s how we felt, but in D.C. we got treated to the relaxing amenities of the wonderful Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel and a luxuriously elegant room. We also had more time than expected, so we decided to jump on the hotel’s bikes to ride to the Embassy of Malta in Washington and meet the ambassador, Clive Agius, the generous host of the last Eat In My Kitchen book launch event. It was only a quick visit to the embassy before we drove on – this time in the ambassador’s car – to his private residence where our celebration was going to take place the next day. When I saw his house from afar, I knew that we had yet another unforgettable launch ahead of us.

The ambassador’s house is located in a picturesque residential area a little outside the center. The quiet streets lined with old trees, their leaves painted in gold, orange, and red, it was an Indian summer’s dream, almost too beautiful to be true. The house could have been straight from a fairytale, I couldn’t help but think of Little Red Riding Hood. The coziest cottage, warm and welcoming, just like Mr. Agius’ lovely family who shared their home with us. Mrs. Agius was so kind to let me use her kitchen to prepare the dishes for our big night and Vs Adass, the sweetest man who’s been the residence’s indispensable helping hand for two decades, assisted me. It was the only launch where I cooked and it went more smoothly than expected.

That night we treated ourselves to a scrumptious dinner at Le Diplomate, a relaxed French style Brasserie serving classics of exquisite quality. A glass of Champagne, clams, burger (the best in town), and a nice bottle of wine from Crozes Hermitage made us forget about the struggles that you face once in while when you’re on a book tour. It was heavenly. My culinary highlight was the bread served with our meal. Homemade sourdough bread, baguette, and a fruit and nut loaf that were so good that I ordered a bunch of them for the next day’s book launch.

Lime Scones

One of the breakfast treats I enjoyed during my stay in D.C. inspired me to share today’s recipe. It was a wonderfully crumbly, fragrant lemon scone. In my recipe, I replaced the lemon with lime and added vanilla. It’s one of the best scones I ever made, delicious for breakfast and perfectly fitting for my Sunday teatime.

My last book launch event was the most intimate of all of them. We sat at the fireplace, it was warm and cozy, a glass of wine in our hands, and we spoke about food. First, we picked up on our tradition of having a talk between me and my interviewer – my boyfriend took on this role that night – and then we moved on to an open discussion. And Washington, you impressed me, your people like to talk and ask questions! In no other city was I asked so much about my book, but also about food in general, I loved it. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms, thank you for your curiosity!

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

This night wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of Clive Agius and his lovely wife and daughters. Thank you so much for sharing your home with us and our guests. Thank you Karl Chetcuti and Meridiana Wine Estate for filling our glasses, Marisa Dobson for helping me organize our event, and Corinne Thompson for capturing all the beautiful moments in your pictures.

So, the Eat In My Kitchen book is out and it made it onto several Best Cookbooks of Fall 2016 lists (New York Times, InStyle US, Epicurious), you can see all the reviews here. I’m happy, relieved, and I’ll definitely need some time to process all the excitement that came over my life in the past few months. The best place to do this is my kitchen in Berlin and in Malta. I want to get back to my routine, my normal life. I hope you had fun joining my book tour here on the blog and on Instagram and Facebook. My post-book tour life will bring back recipes and posts from my kitchen, very relaxed, and a slower pace.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Lime Scones

Lime Scones

Makes 6 scones

plain flour 260g / 2 cups
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
cream of tartar 2 teaspoons
baking soda 1 teaspoon
fine sea salt 3/4 teaspoon
freshly grated lime zest 1 1/2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon for the topping
unsalted butter, cold, 60g / 1/4 cup
freshly squeezed lime juice 2 tablespoons
milk a bit less than 120ml / 1/2 cup
vanilla bean, split in half and scraped, 1/2
organic egg, lightly beaten, to glaze, 1

crème fraîche, clotted cream, or butter, for serving

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (conventional setting) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and lime zest. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined.

Add the lime juice to a measuring cup and fill with milk until it measures 120ml / 1/2 cup. Add the vanilla seeds and whisk quickly. Add to the flour mixture and, using a large spoon, mix until just combined.

Scrape the dough onto a floured kitchen counter, dust your hands with flour, and flatten the dough until it’s about 2 1/2cm / 1″ thick. Using a 6 1/2cm / 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter, cut out 6 scones, reshape the dough for the last 2. Transfer to the lined baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash, and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden and risen. Sprinkle with additional lime zest (optional). Enjoy preferably warm with crème fraîche, clotted cream, or butter.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

Marina’s Lemon Marmalade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

A month has passed and I have to leave my beloved archipelago in the deep blue Mediterranean Sea behind. This is the last recipe from my Maltese summer, but I’ll be back soon, in October, to present my ‘baby’ at one of my book launch events, at the fabulous Villa Bologna in Attard.

It’s been a summer full of emotions, with lots of work during the day and family gatherings or evening swims afterwards – the fun began as soon I closed my laptop and put my phone aside. I’ve been busy organizing the book launches in Europe and the US, I survived my first interviews and photo shoots and I met so many wonderful people who’ll be helping me over the next few months. To my surprise, I’ve been enjoying everything that comes along with being a cookbook author. I love giving interviews (I love talking!) and I’ve been quite lucky, I’ve only met very interesting and entertaining people to talk to so far. Photo shoots are still a bit challenging for me, I prefer to stay behind the camera. Usually, I ask my man to accompany me, he manages to make me laugh in the weirdest situations – the result is that we have lots of photos with a big smile on my face. We had a fun shoot with my friend, the great photographer Luke Engerer in Malta. He put me on the roof terrace of his house, the sea in front of me, sparkling in the light of the sinking sun. It was so amazing that I didn’t even mind getting naked on the roof to change (I just hope that none of the neighbours had a camera at hand).

The problem with such a busy schedule is that time flies even quicker. It feels like we just arrived, on that hot night in July and now it’s already mid August and I’m sitting at our dining table, back home in Berlin. For some reason, my home city must have misunderstood the season, Berlin welcomed us with autumn weather, I had to pull out the wool pullovers from the far back of my wardrobe. To ease the pain, I keep looking at the hundreds of pictures I took during the past 4 weeks and I remember every single second that I see in the pictures. I can smell the salty air, I can feel the hot wind on my skin, and I can even taste the ice cream that Marina made for us when we met in the kitchen and gardens of Villa Bologna. It was very lemony and it tasted so good – it was also the first recipe Marina ever made for me, back in the summer of 2015. This recipe is genius, it’s only made with lemon marmalade, heavy cream, milk, and the juice and zest of a Maltese lemon. We were so impatient, that she took it out of the ice cream machine as soon as the motor stopped. It was an early afternoon and so hot, that the ice cream started to melt as soon as we scooped it into the glasses. Marina topped it with caramelized pistachios and lemon zest and I can’t think of a better ice cream for summer – it was divine!

Whenever I have to exchange my Malta life for my Berlin life again, I tend to get a little stressed during our last two days on the islands. There’s a lot of packing to do, but this time we had to sort out the transportation of 33 pounds (!) of sea salt from Mr Cini’s salt pans in Gozo – and we managed. I also had to put away numerous packages of ottijiet cookies from Busy Bee and there were many fragile shells collected from the bottom of the sea waiting to be brought to Berlin to find a place on our window sills. Although they are already covered in shells, I can’t stop collecting more and more of them. When the packing is done, we have a long goodbye ceremony with the family at our granny Edith’s house, accompanied by a few tears and food. And when we’ve waved the last goodbyes and I’ve finally gone through security at the airport, I usually feel exhausted. I just want to get on the plane and relax, which always works out perfectly, thanks to the country’s national airline, Air Malta. I love their cute looking planes, their friendly staff, and the fact that I don’t have to worry about the weight of my luggage. Everyone gets 20kg (44 pounds) for free, just like in the good old days of flying.

Thank you Malta for another amazing summer! xx

And my last tip for the islands: I found a new old bakery in Rabat, they work traditionally and their baked goods are to die for!

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Lemon Marmalade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios 

Makes about 1.5l / 6 cups of ice cream.

heavy cream 500ml / 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
milk 500ml / 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
lemon marmalade 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
juice and zest of 1 lemon

For the topping

granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
pistachios (or almonds), roughly chopped, 50g / 2 ounces
freshly grated lemon zest

For the ice cream, chill all the ingredients and churn in an ice cream machine until creamy. If it’s still too soft, keep it in the freezer until completely frozen.

For the topping, add the sugar and pistachios to a frying pan and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until melted. Quickly transfer the caramelized pistachios to a baking sheet and break into pieces when cool.

Divide the ice cream between bowls and sprinkle with caramelized pistachios and freshly grated lemon zest.

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

lemonmarmeladeicecream9

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

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

A juicy Grape and Rosemary Tart

Grape and Rosemary Tart

This tart combines two of my favourite Mediterranean flavours – grapes and rosemary – and the result is nothing less than heavenly. The fact that the aromatic filling lies on top of buttery crisp puff pastry only exaggerates the temptation.

After failing miserably at making my own puff pastry on a few occasions, I only use this sweet delicacy when I’m in Malta, when I can buy it frozen in exceptionally good quality. If I ever manage to come up with a recipe that’s as good as the product that I can buy here from the supermarket, I’ll be a very happy baker. You could also use a shortcrust base for this summery tart but I like the elegant look and flaky texture of puff pastry in combination with the syrupy, juicy grapes. The chopped fresh rosemary sprinkled on top of the warm cake as soon as it comes out of the oven adds a woody aroma and gives it an unusual touch – try it, it’s fantastic. I used it for a focaccia recipe last year and got hooked on this tasty duo.

I’ve already baked this tart twice since we arrived in Malta and it immediately gained huge popularity within our family – everybody loves it, kids and grandmother included!

Grape and Rosemary Tart

 

Grape and Rosemary Tart

Grape and Rosemary Tart

Makes 1 (28cm / 11″) tart, serves 4-6.

frozen puff pastry, defrosted, 320g / 11 ounces
dark grapes, preferably seedless, 500g / 18 ounces
granulated sugar 120g / 2/3 cup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
roughly chopped fresh rosemary 1 generous tablespoon

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F and butter a 28cm / 11″ tart pan.

Line the tart pan with the puff pastry, pushing the pastry into the pan, and put in the freezer for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, using a large spoon, mix the grapes, sugar, and lemon juice and spread on top of the chilled pastry. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp at the edges. The grapes will be juicy, so the bottom of the tart won’t be crisp. Sprinkle the tart with the rosemary and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Grape and Rosemary Tart

 

Grape and Rosemary Tart

 

graperosemarytart6

 

Grape and Rosemary Tart

 

graperosemarytart10

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

Walking aimlessly through the narrow streets of Malta is one of my favourite activities when we’re on the islands. Give me comfy shoes and a bottle of water and I’m ready to brave the heat. Valletta, with its imposing architecture, will always be my first destination when I need a break of my beach life. I just love strolling along the limestone facades, shining golden in the late afternoon sun. Discovering new vegetable shops, peaking into little baroque chapels, or simply looking at the stunning grand palazzi built in the past centuries is one of the most relaxing things I can think of. To extend my circle of adventures, I take the ferry that connects Valletta and Sliema on one side of the capital or I catch the boat that sails across The Grand Harbour on the other side, towards The Three Cities: Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua.

If I need a complete change of scenery, I go to the sister islands Comino or Gozo, and that’s what we did last weekend. We rented a huge farmhouse, which our family of 20 people filled easily with Mediterranean craziness. The village of Ghasri got to hear lots of laughter, accompanied by a water ballon fight, a luscious BBQ, and a late night pizza picnic at the pool. Our extensive snorkeling trips to the breathtaking Wied ilGħasri, Reqqa Point, and Qbajjar were fabulous. I had never been to Reqqa before, but it’s one of the most spectacular spots I’ve seen so far. The water is very, very deep and the dancing sunbeams that cut through the dark blue look like lightsabers – it’s hypnotic. We finished our trip with a visit to the Cini family at the Xwejni Salt Pans where I always buy enough salt for a year of cooking. Their passion for their craft, their love for the salt from the sea, and their dedication to nature never ceases to amaze me.

Every time I’m in Malta, I bake at least one ricotta pie. This year’s creation turned into a savoury quiche, refined with lots of basil and sweet tomatoes – delicious

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

 

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche 

Makes 1 ( 20cm / 8″) quiche, serves 4.

short crust dough 250g / 9 ounces (you can use 1/3 of the pastry from my fruit tart recipe, but leave out the sugar, click here)

ricotta 400g / 14 ounces
organic eggs 3
butter, melted and cooled, 40g / 2 heaping tablespoons
Parmesan, freshly grated, 60g / 2 ounces
chopped fresh basil leaves, 4 heaping tablespoons, plus a few leaves for the topping
lemon zest 1 heaping teaspoon
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
ground pepper
cherry tomatoes, cut in half, 6

Prepare the dough, form a thick disc, wrap in cling film, and put in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

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

Roll out the dough between cling film and line a 20cm / 8″ pie or quiche form with the pastry. Push the pastry into the pie form and prick with a fork. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden. Take the pie form out of the oven and turn the heat down to 190°C / 375°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta, eggs, butter, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper until well combined. Pour the ricotta on top of the pre-baked pastry, even it out, and arrange the tomatoes on top. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until golden and the ricotta is just firm.

Let the quiche cool for a few minutes, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, and serve warm or cold.

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

 

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

 

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

 

Basil Ricotta and Tomato Quiche

 

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basilricottaquiche12

 

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Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

Most of the beaches and bays, restaurants and cafés, and markets and shops I visit in Malta are treasured finds of the past. Since I spent my first summer here 9 years ago, I gathered a long list of many places that I need to see at least once every time I come to the islands – I barely have enough time to discover something new. There are many traditions that I set up for myself, like my annual visit to the Sunday morning mass at Valletta’s St John’s Co-Cathedral, which is held in Latin and accompanied by the most ethereal choir. I went to this magnificent cathedral with my Maltese mama, the rest of the house was still asleep, and afterwards we enjoyed a strong cappuccino at Caffe Cordina. I recommend sitting inside with the locals, next to the bar and order some of their addictive treats. This time I went for spongy rum baba deeply soaked with sticky syrup followed by a buttery ricotta pastizzi – both were divine.

Fontanella Tea Garden in Mdina is another one of my favourite sweet spots. The view is breathtaking, sitting high up on a hill surrounded by ancient bastions, it allows you to see large parts of the island. Their chocolate cake is a classic, dark and juicy and a must whenever I visit Malta’s old capital.

But all these sweets are still not enough of a reason to keep the oven back home in Msida switched off. The antique furniture, plates, and cutlery that fill our family’s Malta home inspired me to come up with a dessert that suits all the beautiful lace doileys, fragile tea cups and silver tablets with floral patterns. An elegant meringue, lusciously topped with whipped honey mascarpone and Maltese figs was just right – visually and in taste. It’s sweet and creamy, light and crunchy, with a juicy hint of fruit. Italian meringues are large and pale, crunchy on the outside and still a little soft inside. I preheated the oven to 160°C / 325°F, turned it off, and left the meringue in overnight, they came out perfect. The mascarpone whipped with a bit of heavy cream and warm honey was a nice contrast to the meringue’s crunch.

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

For the meringue

large organic egg whites 3
a pinch of salt
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon

For the honey mascarpone

mascarpone, drained, 250g / 9 ounces
heavy cream 2 tablespoons
aromatic honey, like thyme or orange blossom, 2-3 tablespoons

For the topping

ripe figs, quartered, 6

It’s best to prepare the meringues a day ahead and leave them in the oven overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160°C / 325°F (conventional setting) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For the meringue, in a large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt for 1 minute. Continue whisking for 15 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of the sugar at a time. The meringue should be stiff and glossy, then whisk in the vinegar. Spoon 6 large mounds onto the lined baking sheet and, using a spoon, swirl the tops a little. Place the baking sheet in the oven, switch off the oven, and bake the meringues overnight (for about 8 – 12 hours), without opening the door. If the meringues are still too soft on the outside, turn on the oven again and bake for a few minutes until crunchy on the outside.

For the honey mascarpone, in a medium bowl whisk the mascarpone and heavy cream until creamy, add more cream if necessary. Warm up the honey in a saucepan over low heat for about 1 minute until liquid and slightly warm, and stir into the mascarpone. Keep in the fridge until serving.

Cut a small top off each meringue, top with the honey mascarpone and figs, and close with the meringue tops. Serve immediately once the meringues are filled.

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

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Back on the islands: Grouper with Watermelon and my first days in Malta

Grouper with Watermelon

I’m back, I’m back, I’m back! My first days in Malta have been packed with excitement, overwhelming joy, and a tight schedule. When you haven’t seen your Maltese family and friends for so many months, you have to be prepared that everybody wants to see you as soon as possible – which led to two weeks of dinner parties and long chats at breakfast tables and in beach bars. Whenever it was possible, I squeezed in extensive snorkeling trips and my beloved visits to the fish market, my vegetable man Leli, and the (almost) daily treats at my confectionary in Msida, Busy Bee.

We went to a beautiful wedding just two days after we arrived to celebrate the love of Michelle and Michelangelo. The event was announced as a ‘farm wedding’, so I slid into a simple flowery dress. However, my German idea of a farm had nothing to do with the venue that extended before my eyes as the heavy gates opened. We passed countless trees, a gorgeous cubistic house built of golden Maltese limestone, and a bubbling fountain. After a quick stop at the tempting cocktail bar, I found myself in the middle of a huge space surrounded by fields, filled with beautiful people wearing long dresses and swallow-tailed coats. Needless to say I felt a little underdressed, but that didn’t matter at all, as the food was served and the dancing began, no one gave any thought to the dress code.

Grouper with Watermelon

The following days were so windy that most of our favourite snorkeling spots were not safe for swimming, the currents were too strong. Luckily, my Maltese mama Jenny pointed out a protected bay I had never visited before, which allowed us to jump into the clear blue Mediterranean Sea despite the strong winds. Xrobb l-Għaġin bay is framed by white cliffs and a nature park situated on a small peninsula in the south east of Malta. It’s a hidden spot, which isn’t known by many tourists and a bit hard to find, so we had the whole bay almost to ourselves. Sunday morning started with a creamy cappuccino in Marsaxlokk and a look at the fishermen’s latest catch. After a little bargaining we drove home with 2 pounds of sardines and the same amount of mackerel, an octopus, and some swordfish. Lunch was long, accompanied by a nice bottle of chilled white wine, and the rest of the day was rather lazy.

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

I celebrated my birthday last week and I always have the same gift for myself: a day in Gozo with my man and no internet. We went to Il-Kantra at the tip of the Mgarr ix-Xini bay, had an espresso, and enjoyed the sparkling blue as we jumped off the rocks. It’s one of my favourite spots for swimming and snorkeling. You can see a lot of fish there – and bright red starfish. There were a few jellyfish this time, they looked beautiful, sparkling purple in front of the bay’s mesmerizing turquoise. I always wear my goggles to avoid an unpleasant and painful collision with these slow moving creatures. I could have stayed in the refreshing waters for hours but our lunch appointment urged me out of the sea. A table at my most beloved restaurant in the whole world was waiting for us. Noel treats his guests at his Rew Rew Kiosk/ beach bar/ restaurant to the most amazing seafood fresh from the sea and the glasses are filled with Livio Felluga‘s wonderful Sharis wine, an elegant cuvée of Chardonnay and Ribolla-Gialla grapes. We ate grilled Barracuda, which was divine, juicy tuna belly, and calamari from the BBQ. A chameleon came to visit us in the branches above our heads before we finished the meal with a scrumptious crème brûlée. We left Noel and his restaurant 4 hours later with happy smiles on our faces. The Blue Hole at Dwejra was next on our schedule, a moody spot in the sea, which is too rough to swim in most of the time. We were luckily, the sea was almost as calm as a lake and allowed us to explore its breathtaking underwater scenery until we felt ready for dinner. We picked up our obligatory Gozitan ftira pizzas at the Maxokk Bakery, our appetite was surprisingly strong after our luscious lunch, and enjoyed them on the rocks of Daħlet Qorrot bay. We had a sundowner at Gleneagles Bar in Mgarr (another one of our countless traditions) and took the ferry back to Malta. It was a happy birthday.

Cooking in Malta feels so different to cooking in Berlin. The produce is fresher – straight from the fields and the sea – and everything seems tastier, the food is honest and pure and so satisfying that I don’t even bother mixing too many ingredients together most of the time. This leads to very simple salads, seafood seasoned only with pepper and a little lemon and some herbs. To combine grouper, called Ċerna in Maltese, with watermelon, basil, and mint, is as far as it gets at the moment. I’m after easy treats when I live under the hot Mediterranean sun. The combination of the firm fish and the sweet and juicy fruit didn’t let me down, we enjoyed every single bite of our lunch snack.

Grouper with Watermelon

Grouper with Watermelon, Basil and Mint

For 1-2 people (makes a lunch snack for 2)

large slice of watermelon, peeled and seeded, cut into chunks
olive oil
lemon 1/2
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
grouper fillet 1 (about 2oog / 7 ounces)
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

Divide the watermelon between plates, drizzle with olive oil and a little lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and cook the grouper for about 2 minutes on each side until just done. Cut the fish in half and divide between the plates, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little lemon juice. Sprinkle with basil and mint and enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine!

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

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Maltese Zeppoli – Fried Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ricotta and Fresh Berries

Maltese Zeppoli

My Maltese family has been telling me about zeppoli – or zeppole in Italian – for many, many years. Countless stories about these puffy, tiny balls of choux pastry, fried to golden perfection, and filled with ricotta, fed my curiosity and made my mouth water. In Malta, the little sweets, also known as sfineġ, are traditionally made on the 19th March to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph. The filling is rich, refined with chocolate and candied peel and fruit, and topped with chopped hazelnuts. In other parts of the Mediterranean, like southern Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia, you can also find them plain, rolled in sugar, dipped in melted chocolate, or topped with vanilla custard. There wasn’t the slightest doubt which version I’d go for.

The problem is, when you have an idea of a classic dish without actually ever having tried it, it becomes a dish of its own. In my mind, I always imagined the little puff balls filled with pretty berries. I couldn’t really see the chopped chocolate bits but lots of vanilla freshly scraped out of its pod, sweet orange juice, and fragrant Maltese honey stirred into the creamy ricotta. I have an excuse, I’ve never been to the Maltese archipelago on St. Joseph’s special day, so I have never tried a single original zeppoli. Therefore, I just used my imagination and my critical Maltese man, and gave this project a go in my kitchen. I’m not the biggest fan of deep-frying – and some zeppoli recipes even allow you to bake the pastry in the oven – but I didn’t want to move away from its origin too much. I made 26 of the crisp balls and to my surprise, they all turned out well, apart from the usual 2 to 3 first trials to find the right temperature setting. It should be relatively low, on medium, so that the inside can cook long enough without burning on the outside – golden and crisp should be the goal. The filling was delicious, fine and aromatic, and a couple raspberries and blueberries on top made it summery fresh. I was more than pleased with the result, and so was my Maltese man, the last zeppoli ‘disappeared’ after dinner.

There’s also a savoury version of this dish, filled with anchovies, however, my imagination fails to give me an idea of how this would taste. I guess I have to go to Malta for this culinary experience. If you’re into deep-fried sweets, you can also try my Greek Loukoumades, made with yeast dough.

Have a Happy Easter with your loved ones and enjoy lots of chocolate eggs! xx

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

Maltese Zeppoli – Fried Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ricotta and Berries

Makes about 26 cream puffs

For the filling

fresh ricotta 250g / 9 ounces
flowery honey, such as orange blossom, 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/2
raspberries, 1 small handful (about 100g / 3 1/2 ounces)
blueberries, 1 small handful (about 100g / 3 1/2 ounces)

For the choux pastry

sunflower oil, about 1 1/2l / 6 cups, to fry the pastry
unsalted butter 120g / 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 50g / 4 tablespoons
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
water 120ml / 1/2 cup
plain flour, siefted, 130g / 1 cup
organic eggs 3

For the topping

icing sugar

For the ricotta filling, in a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta, honey, orange juice, and vanilla seeds until creamy. Season with honey and vanilla to taste. Keep the ricotta in the fridge until you fill the choux pastry.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the sunflower oil on medium-high heat. Line a large baking dish with kitchen paper.

For the pastry, in a large pot, bring the butter, sugar, salt, and water to the boil. Turn the heat down to low, stir in the flour vigorously with a wooden spoon, and mix until smooth and the dough comes away from the side of the pan. Transfer the dough to a bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Beat the eggs in with a spoon, 1 at a time, only mix in the next one when the one before is well combined.

When the oil is hot – dip in the bottom end of a wooden spoon, little bubbles, should form around it – scoop out 1 heaping teaspoon of the dough and carefully scrape it with a second teaspoon into the hot oil. Start with 2 balls of dough to adjust the temperature, you might have to turn the heat down to medium or a little bit lower. The pastry has to cook for 4-6 minutes for the inside to be cooked through. The outside should be golden and not dark brown. If they become dark after 2-3 minutes, turn the heat down. Transfer the cooked zeppoli to the lined baking dish and continue frying the remaining dough. Let them cool completely.

Using a sharp knife, cut a wide slit in the top part of each zeppoli and fill with a spoonful of the vanilla ricotta. Top with 2-3 berries, sprinkle with icing sugar, and serve. Once the zeppoli are filled, they should be enjoyed within the next hour as the ricotta soaks the pastry.

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

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