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Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil and Sea Salt

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

The hot afternoon air is filled with the sweet fragrance of fennel, Buzbiez in Maltese, mixed with the earthy smell of the rocky, red soil and wild thyme, this is the addictive smell of Malta’s countryside! The ground is burst open by the sun and covered with twiggy plants, growing like sticks and crowned with golden umbels which carry the tasty fennel seeds which I love to use so much in my cooking. When we drive down some of the lonely narrow streets I touch the fennel with my hands as they grow so close to the asphalt that it feels like they want to take back their territory. Sometimes we jump into the car to drive around in these desolate parts of the island, to find a new hidden spot to snorkel or to stop somewhere in the middle of the soft hills and listen to the silence surrounded by the beautiful scent of fennel, thyme and sea air!

I always buy my fennel seeds in Malta, from a very sweet lady at the Sunday market in Marsaxlokk. I got used to the little seed’s taste which is so sweet, strong and unique here, I’ve never found tastier fennel anywhere else! It’s great to infuse olive oil for pasta, to cover the skin of roast poultry or to flavour potatoes. There is a popular Maltese dish, oven potatoes cooked with onions and fennel seeds in white wine, it’s often served as a side dish in restaurants with fish. It tastes so good that it doesn’t need anything else with it, we often eat it on it’s own and enjoy the aromatic potatoes.

Sometimes I feel the need to eat potatoes, my body just calls for them, so I decided to make my Mediterranean mashed potatoes which I  chop with a knife while I pour olive oil into the chunky mixture. Normally, I just season them with sea salt but this time I infused the olive oil with my aromatic fennel seeds from Marsaxlokk!

When we go to Marsaxlokk we like to stop at Delimara to snorkel and dive off the cliffs. The sea is beautiful here, crystal clear, in different shades of blue and turquoise! The bay is surrounded by white rocks and steep cliffs that look like abstract sculptures created by nature! One of the next bays, St. Peter’s Pool, is just as stunning!

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil and Sea Salt

For 2 people you need

big potatoes, cooked and peeled, warm, 3
olive oil 5 tablespoons
fennel seeds, lightly pressed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
sea salt

In a sauce pan, warm up the olive oil and fennel seeds for 3 minutes on low heat.

Chop the warm potatoes with a knife into small chunks while pouring the fennel oil into the lumpy mixture. Season with salt to taste.

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

 

Mashed Potatoes with Fennel Oil

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

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto and Mediterranean Mashed Potatoes

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

My young sister in law came to visit us and brought a big appetite with her! She loves food as much as I do but she enjoys eating more than cooking so whenever I’m cooking and pottering about in my kitchen she joins in with excitement. She gives me a helping hand or sits at the table patiently to see what’s in the pots and pans as soon as I lift their lids. When I visit her at her home in Malta, we always make lots of pesto together. We walk through the garden with the two beautiful orange and lemon trees packed with fruits and pick the herbs growing around them, plenty of basil, parsley, peppermint and rucola. When I touch the leaves and they spread their smell in the warm air I can already taste the pesto! Everything grows so fast and strong under the Mediterranean sun that I can’t stop myself from picking bowls full of fragrant leaves to fill big jars with my pesto which we still manage to empty within a couple days. We mix it with dried tomatoes, pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino, black or green olives and eat it with pasta, on bread or potatoes and in salads. Every pesto tastes different, it’s never the same, that’s what I love about it!

Since we have our own personal pesto tradition, I wanted to make some while Julia is here. I already made one with ramp (and she emptied the jar with her fingers) and now it’s rucola! I sprinkled the pesto on some juicy lamb chops, sautéed for a minute on each side and served them with mashed potatoes. For the mash, I just chopped the cooked potatoes with a knife until they had a lumpy texture and mixed olive oil and sea salt in, no butter or milk, I wanted to keep it light and Mediterranean!

The lamb was great together with the spicy rucola, the meat’s juices mixed in perfectly with the herb, but the secret star of this meal was the mashed potatoes together with the pesto which I hadn’t even planned to mix together. The big pot of mashed potatoes and the bowl of pesto were emptied within minutes!

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

 Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto and Mashed Potatoes with Olive Oil

For 4 people you need

lamb chops, 4-8 (depending on if you have a starter before), around 100g / 3.5 ounces per person
olive oil for frying
rosemary 1 sprig
garlic, cut in half, 1

For the mashed potatoes

medium sized potatoes, peeled and cooked in salted water, 12
olive oil 40ml
sea salt

For the pesto

rucola (rocket), just the leaves, 60g / 2 ounces
parmesan 20g / 3/4 ounce
pine nuts 20g / 3/4 ounce
olive oil 75 ml
a pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients for the pesto in a blender.

In a big pot, chop the warm potatoes with a knife until they have a lumpy texture adding the oil constantly, season with salt.

Warm a little olive oil in a pan over high temperature together with the rosemary and garlic. Lay the lamb chops in the pan, turn the temperature down to a medium heat and sauté the meat for 1 minute on each side until it colours. Don’t overcook them as the meat should remain juicy. Depending on the size of your pan you have to cook them in batches and keep them warm under a plate or wrapped in aluminum foil but keep in mind that they will continue cooking when they are covered.

Place the meat on warm plates sprinkled with the pesto and serve with the mashed potatoes.

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

 

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

 

Lamb Chops with Rucola Pesto

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