eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: mint

Feta and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

My latest discovery of a barley recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s stunning Jerusalem cookbook was a life changing event in my kitchen. I finally like barley!

For years my mother has been trying to convince me of the little grain’s qualities – unsuccessfully. I’m not a huge fan of orzotto or risotto, I can enjoy both of them for lunch but I wouldn’t call them a great source of inspiration. But then, as I thumbed through the pages of Jerusalem, page number 81 caught my attention: Parsley & Barley Salad. The title doesn’t mention the ingredient that changed everything for me, feta. The two London chefs marinate the cheese in spiced oil before they finish off their composition with barley, lots and lots of parsley, and spring onions. They also add cashews but I skipped them, I’m not too fond of nuts in my cooking.

So what happens is that, when I really like a recipe, my mind starts spinning looking for variations. First I added much more barley than mentioned in the recipe to turn it into a richer meal befitting these cold winter evenings. Then I stirred in raw, thinly sliced fennel, blood orange juice, mint, and honey-caramelized kumquats (an inspiration from last year’s celeriac salad). Ottolenghi and Tamimi use za’tar for their spice oil, which I replaced with ground cardamom and fennel seeds. Crushed coriander seeds and allspice berries are taken from their recipe and add a warming touch to it.

You’ll end up with quite a vibrant dish that can be eaten cold, as a salad, or slightly warm, as a main or side dish. Although the spiced oil, salty cheese, and sour kumquats are quite prominent, the nutty barley and crunchy fennel aren’t shy here either. What’s great about it, is that you can play with it, add and change spices, fruits, and vegetables according to your mood and the season. Just stick to barley and marinated feta, that’s the secret.

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Feta and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Serves 3-4

pearl barley 100g / 1/2 cup
olive oil 5 tablespoons, plus a splash
coriander seeds, ground in a mortar, 3/4 teaspoon
allspice berries, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
fennel seeds, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon
ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon
feta, cut into cubes, 150g / 5 ounces
medium fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced, 1
freshly squeezed blood orange juice 4 tablespoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

For the caramelized kumquats

honey 2 tablespoons
kumquats, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed, 12
(or 12 orange fillets, peeled)
freshly squeezed orange juice 4 tablespoons

Cook the barley in salted water until al dente, drain in a colander, and rinse briefly with water.

In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, coriander, allspice, fennel seeds, cumin, and cardamom. Add the feta and mix gently until the cheese is coated with oil and spices, set aside.

For the caramelized kumquats, in a small, heavy pan, heat the honey over high heat until liquid and bubbling. Add the kumquats and orange juice and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom, turn and cook for another 1 1/2 – 2 minutes or until soft and caramelized; mind that they don’t become too dark.

Transfer the barley, sliced fennel, orange juice, and feta with the spiced oil to a large bowl and stir gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in a little more olive oil if it’s too dry. Sprinkle with mint and arrange the kumquats on top. Enjoy warm or cold.

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

A Mediterranean Ħobż biż-Żejt sandwich and the most emotional book launch in Malta

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

So many emotions, tears and laughter, lots of food and wine, family and friends – I had the best time in Malta and enjoyed every moment of my second book launch event. Our plane landed late on our little island the Mediterranean, it was past midnight when I stepped out into Malta’s humid air. However, it wasn’t too late for a chat in the kitchen and a large piece of the island’s famous lampuki pie (only in season during September and October). I slept like a stone that night which was good, as the next days were packed with excitement.

My mother arrived a day before us, so we had a date, early in the morning. My man and I went up to Valletta to meet her for breakfast and then we went on a mission. The three of us drove to Sliema, to Daniela Bonello’s gorgeous shop Liu Jo, to find a dress for my first TV interview. I had no idea how this premiere would turn out, so I wanted to look pretty at least, in case I made a fool of myself. We had fun and found my new favourite dress, it’s cut perfectly and still allows me to eat as much as I want – an ideal dress in my eyes. Afterwards, we had enough time for a short dip in the clear blue sea and a drink to celebrate our reunion at our beloved beach bar, at Exiles. Knowing what was soon to come, we enjoyed the calm before the storm, before books and drinks had to be picked up for the big event on the following day, before phone calls and last minute decisions had to be made; and so the afternoon flew by.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

The evening turned into a far bigger (and more excessive) feast than expected, we met family and friends at Chris’ Legligin Wine BarWe ate Maltese tapas, drank local wine, and then at the end, late at night, Chris sang a song for us to celebrate the Eat In My Kitchen book. There was a moment that I’ll never forget, I looked into my mama’s eyes and both of us couldn’t stop smiling. It might not have been responsible to indulge in the pleasures of this long night a day before a book launch, but it would have been a sin to miss it. Although we all felt a bit rough the next morning, no one had any regrets.

The good thing about a busy event day is that there isn’t really enough time to be nervous and think about what’s going on. I got up, dressed up, drove to the TVM station, and started the interview before I even noticed that we were live on air. It was all over after just a few minutes and I found myself surprised, happy, and relieved in front of the TVM building. Thank you Ben Camilleri for inviting me to Twelve to 3! You can watch my interview here.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

When we packed the car with all the things you need at a book launch (a lot!), we noticed that we didn’t really think about where my mama would sit. Both of us dressed up in pretty dresses, we squeezed ourselves onto the front seat of our wobbly jeep (my mother says this car feels like a boat) and arrived safely in front of the impressive gates of the stunning Villa Bologna. Jasper de Trafford and his lovely mother Charlotte were so kind to share the baroque gardens of their beautiful villa with us for our special night. Villa Bologna is one of these places that feels unreal when you see it for the first time. It’s too beautiful, too special, too out of this world, it’s simply too perfect to be true. I fell in love with the building, but even more so with its gardens. To have been able to celebrate my Malta book launch right there, is a great gift, it’s a precious memory that I’ll never forget in my whole life. Thank you Jasper and Charlotte!

The night flew by far too quickly, as always when life feels so good that you could hug the whole world. There were only smiling faces around me, friends and family who are close to me, but also people who I’ve never met before who just seemed so happy to see their local culinary treasures in a book. I don’t know of another country where people support each other so genuinely. I felt so much love that night, so much excitement. When I held my speech – the most emotional of all my speeches so far – I felt my heart pumping like a race car, but at the same time it felt so good to be surrounded by all my loved ones. By my mama, who inspired me to write this book, by my man who goes through the roughest times with me no matter what obstacles we find in front of us, my Maltese mama Jenny who brought so much joy – and her son – into my life. Prestel UK’s PR executive, Emma Cook, who flew down from London to welcome our guests together with Peter Carbonaro, our dear friend who came straight from Ibiza to join our celebrations. Mr Cini, my salt man from Gozo and his wife Rose, their daughter Josephine and her family, they all came from Gozo just for this night. And then, when my salt family met my honey man, Arnold Grech, we witnessed one of the many highlights of this night. It was a moment that we’ll all never forget, two of Malta’s food ambassadors met in front of the historic setting of Villa Bologna. Mama, stuttering and in awe, said ‘this is like a Fellini movie’. I usually wouldn’t choose this word, but here it fits perfectly, this moment was epic.

Luckily, lots of pictures were taken by the great photographer Kris Micallef, thank you for catching all these unforgettable memories. The lights went off in the magical gardens of Villa Bologna, and then, just happiness, and a last glass of wine in Valletta at The Harbour Club before I said goodnight to my Malta, and went to bed.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

When I decided to jump into my extensive book tour in Europe and in the US, I made a wise choice. I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to cook the recipes from my book myself. In Malta, I had the helping hands from my dear friend Marina Fabic, I wouldn’t have managed this without her. She’s an angel and a fantastic chef, thank you for your belief, support, and help, my friend! Dani Vella, the young founder of Flora’s in Naxxar, baked the cakes for our event and she and her team made my creations look even prettier than in my book. You guys are amazing, thank you! There’s one recipe in the sweet chapter of my book, which isn’t my own, it’s Joanna Bonnici’s delicious Pudina. When I tried this local speciality at her house for the first time, I knew I’d need her Maltese bread pudding recipe if there was ever an Eat In My Kitchen book. I wrote a book, Joanna gave me her family recipe, and now we’re both in a book. Joanna is the sweetest mama, she’s a true inspiration in the kitchen, and the right person to talk to if you want to learn about Maltese cuisine.

I wanted my book launch events to be like a family feast, or like a relaxed dinner party with friends, with good food and lots of wine. And we managed so far. A great man and connoisseur, Karl Chetcuti from the Meridiana Wine Estate Malta, is the reason why we have exceptional wine at all of my book launch events. Karl, without you and your wine, my book tour wouldn’t taste as good and it wouldn’t be as much fun either. Thank you for supporting me and even traveling through Europe with us.

The event in Malta was the biggest of all of them, there were more than 120 people. As I saw our guestlist becoming longer and longer, I called for help. Brian Calleja from Island Caterers answered immediately and sent me Jesmond and his colleagues. From that moment, I didn’t have to worry about anything. They set up all we needed, served our dishes, and had the whole event under control until the last guests disappeared and silence returned to the gardens of Villa Bologna. Thank you!

And last but not least, a shout-out to Jo Caruana and Iggy Fenech, my fabulous PR team in Malta. You took care of this event, you spread the word about the Eat In My Kitchen book, and you’ve both done an amazing job. You can see, read, and watch many of the articles and interviews initiated by this power duo under Press.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

And then the calm came back. On the last night before my mother left the island, we enjoyed an unforgettable dinner at Rita’s Lapsi View. We were the only guests sitting outside, as a chilled breeze blew over the cliffs. The view was too good and the silence out there too tempting to leave our table and go inside (which is also quite an experience, thanks to the restaurant’s original 60s interior, and hopefully it’ll never change!). The owner had to be waiter and chef that night, usually he’s neither, but he didn’t mind. He only asked my mother for help, to mix our Aperol Spritz, an offer that she gladly excepted. She went straight behind the bar and our chef started cooking.

I’ve eaten at Rita’s very often, and it’s always good, but this night’s dinner was outstanding: raw and grilled Maltese prawns, calamari and caponata, pasta rizzi (sea urchin), a whole St. Peters fish cooked to perfection, and freshly baked mqaret. It was a feast – another one. At the beginning of our extensive dinner, as we enjoyed the last sips of our drinks mixed by mama, looking into the golden sunset, our chef teased our appetite with a Maltese classic: the popular Ħobż biż-Żejt. Thick slices of Maltese sourdough bread spread with olive oil and kunserva, a concentrated, sweet tomato paste. The most basic version would be to season it with salt and pepper, at Rita‘s they add thin slices of raw red onion and fresh mint leaves. My mama almost went ecstatic, she was so impressed by the flavours and the simplicity of this local pleasure.

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

And this is the recipe I’ll share with you today. I mentioned last week that I’ll only be able to write about quick and easy creations while I’m on my book tour. I love to be on the road, I enjoy this adventure to the fullest, but when I have a few days at home, I can’t tell you how much I treasure some bread, cheese, and nibbles in my own kitchen. I just have to make my Maltese sandwich and all the beautiful memories of the craziest week in Malta come back. Ħobż biż-Żejt is great for breakfast, a delicious lunch snack, and a fantastic (and very easy) appetizer for your next dinner party.

You can see all the pictures of the book launch in Malta taken by Kris Micallef here.

Thank you Malta! xx

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-3

Ħobż biż-Żejt

Serves 2

white rustic bread, 2 large, thick slices
olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
kunserva (tomato paste), about 1-2 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
medium red onion, cut into very thin strips, 1/4
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

Drizzle the bread generously with olive oil, then spread with kunserva and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the bread in half and sprinkle with onion and mint. Serve and enjoy!

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-4

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-2

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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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grouperwatermelon21

 

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Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Fruits are my new vegetables!

Recently, stone fruits and berries replaced zucchini, tomato, and aubergine in quite a few of my recipes, I became experimental and now I’m hooked. The acidity of gooseberries and red, white, or black currants can be challenging, but at the same time it’s exactly this quality that makes them a perfect partner for meat and seafood dishes. I don’t have to worry about overpowering natural sweetness, instead I work with their slightly sour juices. Cooking makes them less harsh and a dash of maple or elderflower syrup or honey mellows the most pungent fruit.

I found my inspiration for this recipe in my own archive. Almost 2 years ago, I pulled the most delicious tray of Moscato Chicken with Grapes and Thyme out of my oven. The meat was wonderfully succulent, infused with the honey-like aroma of Moscato grapes and woody thyme. The chicken thighs needed less than half an hour to be done, including a few minutes under the broiler for the skin to become nicely browned and crispy. There was no reason to change this promising cooking method, but I introduced different flavours to the palate. The sweet grapes gave way for sour gooseberries, I stirred some maple syrup into the white wine, and placed the whole composition on a bed of thinly sliced fennel. Some mint on top and my summer chicken was done.

Yesterday, I received the first advance copy of my book, you can see the happy moment on Instagram!

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

 

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Serves 2 to 4

medium sized fennel bulb, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced, 1
bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 4
gooseberries 300g / 10 ounces
fruity white wine 5 tablespoons
maple syrup 4 tablespoons
olive oil 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle
flaky sea salt
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (conventional setting). If your oven is equipped with a Rotitherm roasting setting, use this setting instead. You just have to adjust the cooking time (it’ll need a few minutes less) and skip the broiler at the end of the recipe.

Cut off any large chunks of fat from the chicken thighs.

Spread the fennel on the bottom of a medium sized baking dish and place the chicken and gooseberries on top. Whisk together the white wine, maple syrup, and olive oil, pour it over the meat and fruit, and rub it in a little with your fingers. Sprinkle with crushed peppercorns and salt. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the mint and roast, spooning the juices from the pan over the chicken every 10 minutes, for 25 to 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of a chicken thigh with a skewer. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes until the chicken skin starts sizzling. Sprinkle with the remaining mint, and season with flaky sea salt and crushed peppercorns to taste.

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

 

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

 

gooseberryfennelchicken9

 

gooseberryfennelchicken8

A juicy Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Halloween Sandwich

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

This has been the longest sandwich break ever since I started my Sandwich Wednesdays almost 2 years ago – and I missed them badly. There’s something deeply satisfying about creating a sandwich, taking the pictures of this luscious dish – and especially – eating it! It’s back again and although it was supposed to be a Halloween sandwich I must admit that it didn’t really work out. I expected my creation to look a bit messier, wildly dripping with red (pomegranate) juices, but it turned into a pretty sandwich beauty instead. Never mind.

Anyway, the flavours count more than the looks and they are more than promising in this recipe. A bit more than a year ago I shared my juicy lamb sandwich with preserved lemons and capers with you, it was a much loved and often featured sandwich that called for a new interpretation. Seared lamb fillet only needs a little salt and pepper to become the most tempting piece of meat you can possibly have on your plate, so there’s no need to change the preparation. But this time the composition went into a different direction. Sour and salty gave way for sweet, sour and nutty. The fine taste of the fillets goes unbelievably well with the tangy, deep red juices of the pomegranate and unsalted pistachios. The topping of mint leaves should be handled with care. The herb can easily be too overpowering and I don’t recommend using the whole leaves as you can see in the pictures but slice them thinly instead. Apart from this rule, you only have to stuff the composition between two slices of thick, juicy ciabatta – or even better, potato bread – and enjoy!

A short note: it also works without the bread!

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

If you don’t feel like a sandwich enjoy the creation without bread, just juicy lamb fillets sprinkled with pomegranate, pistachios and crushed pepper.

Makes 4 sandwiches

olive oil
lamb fillets 250g / 9 ounces
fine sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
juicy, white bread 8 thick slices
fresh rocket leaves, a small handful
pomegranate seeds about 4 heaped teaspoons
unsalted pistachios, chopped, about 4 heaped teaspoons
mint leaves, thinly sliced, 8

Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy pan and sear the lamb for 1 1/2 -2 minutes on each side (not longer!), the meat should be pink and slightly undone in the middle. Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper and wrap them in aluminum foil. Set them aside for a few minutes before you slice them thinly.

Brush the inside of the slices of bread with the juices from the pan and a little olive oil. Spread some rocket leaves on each slice of bread, lay a few slices of lamb on top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, pistachios, a little mint and crushed pepper. Close the sandwich and enjoy!

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

lambpomegranatesandwich15

 

lambpomegranatesandwich11

 

lambpomegranatesandwich10

Orange and Fennel Couscous with Orange Blossom Water and Mint

Orange and Fennel Couscous

I decided to make couscous and cooked enough to feed a family of six – it shows that I don’t work with this grain very often. The package looked tiny but the result was humongous! It didn’t do the pleasure any harm though, the recipe was delish, we just had enough couscous for days.

Inspired by a phone call with my mother and our obligatory recipe exchanges, I mixed the earthy North African dish with crunchy fennel sliced like carpaccio and juicy orange fillets. To focus on the citrus a little more, I roasted orange peel in olive oil in the oven to create a fragrant oil and some crunchy citrus bites. An open bottle of orange blossom water in my fridge convinced me to go for an orange trilogy – a good choice. Each of them added their individual depth, texture and aroma: the juices of the fruit paired beautifully with the crisp peel and the flowery scented water. Fresh mint leaves on top to finish it off and three happy people at the table ate far more couscous than we ever have before.

A short note: the amount of couscous in the recipe below is adjusted for 4.

Orange and Fennel Couscous

 

Orange and Fennel Couscous

Orange and Fennel Couscous with Orange Blossom Water and Mint

Serves 4

olive oil
long strips of orange peel 6
oranges, cut into fillets, 2
freshly squeezed orange juice 3 tablespoons (collected from the fillets)
fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (like carpaccio), the green chopped, 1 (about 250g / 9 ounces)
couscous 300g / 10 1/2 ounces
quality orange blossom water (preferably organic), to taste
salt and pepper
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

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

Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a shallow baking dish, add the peel and cook in the oven for about 6 minutes until golden brown and crunchy, mind that the peel doesn’t turn too dark. Take out of the oven and set aside.

To cut the orange into fillets, first peel off the outer skin with a knife and then cut off the white pith. Hold the orange in one hand and cut with the knife along the skin between the fruit’s fillets to end up with skin-free fillets. Collect the juices.

For the couscous, put the grains in a large pot. In a kettle, bring double the amount of water to the boil (or adjust to the instructions on the package), pour the boiling water over the grains in the pot and close with a lid, let it sit for 5 minutes. It’s not necessary to cook the couscous on heat.

Transfer the cooked couscous to a large, deep bowl and gently stir in the fennel, orange oil, orange fillets and about 3 tablespoons of the collected juices (to taste). Season with orange blossom water (about 1-3 teaspoons, depending on the brand), salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more olive oil if necessary and sprinkle with the roasted orange peel (broken into pieces), fresh mint and the chopped fennel green. Serve warm or as a cold salad.

Orange and Fennel Couscous

 

Orange and Fennel Couscous

 

Orange and Fennel Couscous

 

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Watermelon Caprese with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

The past few days on the island called for light and easy treats from the kitchen – it’s been hot in Malta and quite a challenge for a northern girl like me. I witnessed 50°C (122°F) measured in the sun and, although I prefer warmth over cold, it’s been beyond enjoyable. The sea is my daily escape, whenever I get the chance to jump into the cool waters, it feels like my brain cells finally start working again. There’s a reason why life’s pace is slower in the Mediterranean, the body just can’t cope any other way. Luckily, we’re off to Berlin today and we’ll have 3 weeks to cool off a little before we get back to Malta’s burning sun.

On the culinary side, I tried to defy the extreme weather conditions with lots of water, juicy peaches and melons. I noticed a growing watermelon trend in the web in the past few weeks that I had wanted to avoid. It felt like a flood of melon popsicle, melon soup and melon salad recipes – no need to bother you with another one on eat in my kitchen. But then, I thought of this delicious combination of chilled watermelon, creamy mozzarella di bufala, olive oil, sea salt, basil, mint and a little black pepper and I thought it wouldn’t be fair not to share this easy pleasure. If you find yourself in the Mediterranean, or anywhere else in the world where the temperatures seem unbearable and where sweet and juicy watermelons are accessible, prepare a plate of melon caprese, slow down and relax!

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

 

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

 Watermelon Caprese with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

Serves 3-4

chilled, ripe watermelon, sliced into thin triangles, 1/8-1/4
mozzarella di bufala, torn into bite sized pieces, 125g / 4 1/2oz
olive oil
fresh basil leaves about 16
fresh mint leaves about 8
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Arrange the melon and mozzarella on a large plate, drizzle with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle with basil, mint, salt and pepper.

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

 

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

 

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

 

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

 

Watermelon with Mozzarella di Bufala, Basil and Mint

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Turmeric and Mint

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Mint

Nature is blossoming all around me! Crunchy young leaves sprinkle the branches of the Linden trees in front of our house with their fresh green, thousands of yellow, pink and white flowers take over the city, visually and with their fragrance. It feels so refreshing and wakes up all my senses!

So many colours bursting around me inspire my culinary activities, I need crisp greens, beans, peas and mint, and a little orange, sweet and sour kumquats and fresh turmeric root for a light vinaigrette. You could also enjoy this composition as a warm side dish, with a splash of olive oil instead. I wanted to take my time, to prepare one ingredient after the other without hassling about keeping everything warm. I chose to slow down my pace, the kitchen windows wide open and the birds seemed as excited about this outburst of spring as I am. It was a cold salad in the end, enjoyed with a relaxed mind and a couple slices of fresh ciabatta.

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 Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Turmeric and Mint

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

flat green beans, the ends cut off, 380g / 13 1/2oz
peas, fresh or frozen, 150g / 5 1/4oz
kumquats, rinsed and scrubbed, thinly sliced, 4
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

For the dressing
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 3 tablespoons
freshly grated turmeric root (or ginger), a pinch, to taste
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil and blanch the beans for 3 minutes or until al dente. Take them out with a slotted ladle and rinse them under cold water for a second (to keep the fresh colour). Blanch the peas in the same pot for 1 minute, take them out and rinse them for a second with cold water.

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and season to taste. Arrange the beans and peas on a large plate, sprinkle with the dressing, the slices of kumquat, mint leaves and a little more grated turmeric root.

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Mint

 

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Mint

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