eat in my kitchen

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Tag: pomegranate

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken, Red Coleslaw & Bacon

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My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

We drove down the winding road to the Grand Harbour in Valletta and stopped our cars in front of an old garage. The wooden door must have seen many storms, the green paint faded and the hinges rusted, it’s the salt in the air that takes over whatever it gets hold of. Our friends Michelle and Michelangelo came down to the harbour in the cutest Volkswagen beetle the world has ever seen – in baby blue (Michelangelo would correct me and say it’s Diamond Blue). Built in 1968, the car only changed owner once, when our friends bought it in 2010 from an elderly lady from the village of Qormi. It was in mint condition despite its 110,000 original kilometres. The previous owner’s name was Teresa and she became the eponym of our friend’s little love bug, since then, the beetle is affectionately called Terez.

Terez – and her original 1300cc single port engine, a fact that Michelangelo points out with pride in his voice – has seen a lot since she found her new owner: four overland trips, the latest being our friend’s honeymoon trip last summer. The three of them (including Terez) attended the Le Bug Show 2016 in Spa and crossed half of Europe to get there. Malta, Sicily, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany added 5,400 kilometres to the tachometer and seemed to have made the bond between the car and its owners even stronger.

Every car needs a check up once in a while, especially when it’s nearly 50 years old, and to make it a little more fun, I joined my friends and brought some food and my camera. While Michelangelo laid hands on the tires, I kept mine busy preparing sandwiches for all of us. It’s the peak of winter, a time of year when I usually have to confront Berlin’s seemingly endless, yawning grey sky for weeks and months, but here in Malta I’m spoilt with sunshine and vibrant colours. This inspired me to come up with a snack as fresh and bright as the Mediterranean world around me. It’s a chicken sandwich, the meat tender and thinly sliced, with purple coleslaw and orange wedges, sparkling pomegranate seeds (some of which I turned into a sticky syrup), crunchy bacon bites, and pungent green onions. The composition is rather difficult to eat, but trust me, the pleasure that you’ll feel when you taste it, is absolutely worth it. And the solution is simple, just squeeze it until the sticky juices run out of the sandwich and soak the soft bread – it’s a heavenly mess.

Thank you Michelle, Michelangelo, and Terez for a wonderful morning in Valletta!

For more delicious recipes and kitchen inspiration, visit Volkswagen’s Pinterest community board Food Bloggers for Volkswagen.

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken, Red Coleslaw, Orange and Bacon

Makes 6 sandwiches

For the coleslaw

cored red cabbage, cut into thin strips, about 230g / 1/2 pound
fine sea salt
yoghurt 5-6 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice
ground pepper

For the pomegranate syrup

pomegranate juice 180ml / 3/4 cup
granulated sugar 4 1/2 tablespoons

For the sandwich

olive oil
chicken breast 400g / 14 ounces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
bacon 6 slices
lettuce leaves 6
white buns (or ciabatta cut into buns), cut in half, 6
oranges, peeled and cut into filets, 1-2
the seeds of 1 pomegranate
green onions, the green part cut into thin slices, 1
freshly grated orange zest, about 1 tablespoon

For the coleslaw, in a large bowl, mix the cabbage and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and, using your fingers, rub the salt into the cabbage. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes. Add the yoghurt and orange juice, mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.

For the pomegranate syrup, in a saucepan, bring the pomegranate juice and the sugar to the boil and cook over medium-high heat (it should bubble) for about 7 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Set the syrup aside.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and cook the chicken breast for a couple minutes on each side until golden, you might have to reduce the heat to medium-high. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the chicken to a baking dish. Roast in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Check with a skewer, only clear juices should come out. Let the chicken rest in aluminium foil for about 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into slices (about 18 slices for 6 sandwiches).

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the bacon for a few minutes on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towels, let it cool for a few minutes, then break the bacon into pieces.

Divide the lettuce leaves between the bottoms of the buns and arrange the chicken on top, drizzle with a little of the pomegranate syrup. Spread a heaping tablespoon of coleslaw, 2-3 orange filets, and some pomegranate seeds on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with the sliced green onion, bacon bites, and orange zest, and drizzle with additional pomegranate syrup. Close the bun, squeeze, and enjoy!

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon-2

 

My Maltese Winter Sandwich: Pomegranate Chicken , Red Coleslaw and Bacon

 

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Beluga Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

My late summer of 2016 feels like a mental and emotional roller coaster. And when there’s too much work to be done it’s so easy to panic, to be overwhelmed or to just give up. But I believe that we don’t give up because there are wonderful people around all of us who catch us when we fall.

Many people catch me at the moment, some must already have sore arms and I can’t thank them enough for being there for me and going through this rather intense time together with me. They listen to a crazy woman whose first cookbook will come out soon, in just a few days, and whose ups and downs can be more than tiring. They listen to me, they cook for me, they calm me down, and make me laugh. Many of them have been in my life for years and years, some I’ve only met a few days, weeks, or months ago. This post is for all these amazing people around me, thank you!

When I needed a spontaneous translation of a press release from English to Maltese a few days ago, I could count on my dear friend Jessica who even worked on it during a camping trip on the weekend. And Nikola, who I never even met before, made it possible to proof read it within a couple hours after I got in touch. My boyfriend is my rock, there wouldn’t be this book without him, and Eat In My Kitchen wouldn’t be as inspired as it is – my man is the biggest joy one can possibly have in life. The other day I was looking for accommodation in New York and someone who I haven’t even met before helped me out without hesitation. And when I was chatting with Hetty McKinnon from Arthur’s Street Kitchen about a meet in your kitchen feature this week, I mentioned that I’m planning my book launch event in NY at the moment and that I was struggling. It’s a bit tricky when you’re on another continent, everything takes much longer. Within a split second, Hetty offered to cook my recipes for my book launch event in Manhattan. I could go on and on, the list of people who’ve helped and supported me is long and I know it will become longer and longer in the next few weeks.

We’re not alone, and that’s wonderful, there are times to help others and there are times to receive help from the people around us. We should never forget that we’re not alone.

I dedicate this recipe to everyone who has helped me, to my friends, my family, and everybody who I met and will meet on this journey and who makes it even better. It’s a recipe that combines different tastes and textures: nutty Beluga lentil burgers and creamy mozzarella di bufala sprinkled with fragrant dukkah spice and nut mixture and juicy pomegranate. It’s as vibrant, rich, and colourful as we all are. You can turn it into a sandwich, as I did, but that’s not even necessary.

A big hug to all you wonderful people around me! xx

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

 

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

Beluga Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

Makes 2 sandwiches

For the dukkah

30 g (1 ounce)
 skin-on hazelnuts
30 g (1 ounce)
 salted pistachios
30 g (1 ounce)
 white sesame seeds
30 g (1 ounce) 
sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

For the lentil burgers

1 bay leaf
2 small sprigs fresh lemon thyme
60 g (2 ounces) beluga lentils (no soaking required)
40 g (1 1/2 ounces) drained canned cannellini beans, rinsed and roughly mashed with a fork
1
 spring onion (green part only), thinly sliced
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 large egg
40 g (1 1/2 ounces) Parmesan, finely grated
20 g (2 tablespoons) dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
ground pepper
olive oil, to cook the burgers

For the sandwiches

2 rustic white buns, cut in half
4 lettuce leaves
125 g (4 1/2 ounces) mozzarella di bufala, torn into small pieces
olive oil
1/2 pomegranate
1-2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

You won’t need all of the dukkah for this recipe. Store leftover dukkah in an airtight container and use it in salads and soups.

For the dukkah, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until crumbly—the mixture should be dry—and transfer to a bowl or an airtight jar.

For the lentil burgers: Fill a large pot with water, the bay leaf, and thyme. Add the beluga lentils and bring to the boil. Cook, according to the package instructions, for about 18-20 minutes. The lentils should have some bite. Remove and discard the herbs, drain the lentils, and let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the lentils with the beans, 3/4 of the spring onion, the garlic, egg, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Use your hands or a large spoon to mix until well combined. Wet your hands and form the mixture into 6 burgers.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the burgers, flipping once, for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes in the oven.

Divide the lettuce leaves, lentil burgers, and mozzarella among the sandwiches and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, fresh lemon zest, the remaining spring onion, and some dukkah. Close the sandwiches and enjoy!

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

 

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

 

Lentil Burger with Mozzarella, Pomegranate and Dukkah

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

 

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Villa Bologna

 

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Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

 

Villa Bologna

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart with Pistachios and Rosewater

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

In the past week, I experienced the highs and lows of kitchen life, a fact that a curious baker has to live with when jumping into new recipes. Let’s start with the uplifting experience: I baked 3 cakes and 2 were fantastic, which isn’t that bad. One of them will stay a secret until I share it with you next week, but the other one was this bomb of a cake. It’s a voluptuous beauty, full of flavour, sweetness, crunch, and fluffiness. I call it a pavlova tart – not just a pavlova, which never really managed to rouse my excitement. Baked meringue sandwiched with whipped cream can be nice but it’s not enough for me. So I decided to transfer the whole thing onto buttery shortcrust pastry and now it has my attention. This combination is so good that I believe the pastry base should have been an obligatory part of this sweet classic named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova from the start. But never mind, I’m happy with my new discovery. The light meringue is soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside, it’s refined with a hint of rosewater just like the rich whipped cream that crowns the whole composition. Sweet-sour pomegranate seeds and their juices turned into a concentrated syrup lay graciously on top, side by side with nutty pistachios. Simply wonderful!

However, my disappointing kitchen experience was an epic fail – ready for the bin. I decided to give puff pastry a try again and I regretted it the moment I pulled the result out of my oven. I spent 2 days reading about the perfect croissant and up until they were in the oven I was quite optimistic that I’d manage to bake light, crisp apricot croissants, made for a Sunday brunch table. But my hope was destroyed as I opened the oven door and witnessed a rather sad result that looked like my flaky sweets got run over by a truck. It took me 2 years to recover from my last puff pastry disaster – I tried to make Maltese pastizzi, it’s the flakiest treat, basically the queen of puff pastry – which ended in a buttery, floury soup on a baking sheet. I must say that, this time, it didn’t actually look and taste as bad as my last attempt, but it’s definitely far from making an appearance on the blog. It’s a work in progress I guess.

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart with Pistachios and Rosewater

Makes 1 23cm / 9″ tart.

For the short crust base

flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
granulated sugar 65g / 1/3 cup
a pinch of salt
butter, cold, 110g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
organic egg yolks 2

For the meringue

organic egg whites 4
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
cornstarch, sifted, 1 1/2 teaspoons
cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon
quality rosewater, preferably organic, 2 teaspoons, plus more to taste

For the topping

heavy cream, whipped, 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar
quality rosewater, preferably organic, 1 teaspoon, plus more to taste
seeds from 1/2-1 pomegranate
pomegranate juice 60ml / 1/4 cup
unsalted pistachios, chopped, 1 small handful

For the pastry, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolks and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture; this takes a few minutes. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film, and put in the freezer for 12 minutes.

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

Roll the dough out between cling film and line a 23cm / 9″  tart pan with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden and crisp. Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool completely.

For the meringue, in a large, clean bowl, using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt for 1 minute. Continue whisking for 10-12 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of the sugar at a time. The meringue should be stiff and glossy. Whisk in the cornstarch, vinegar, and 1-2 teaspoons of the rosewater. Add more rosewater to taste.

Turn the oven down to 180°C / 350°F.

Scoop the stiff egg whites onto the pre-baked pastry, spread it lightly but don’t push it down. Swirl it a bit for an uneven surface. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 135°C / 275°F and bake for about 60 minutes or until the meringue is light golden and crisp. Switch off the oven, open the door slightly, and leave the cake in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool completely.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of the rosewater. Add sugar and more rosewater to taste; set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the pomegranate juice and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to the boil. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes or until it starts to thicken.

To assemble the tart, spread the whipped cream in the middle of the meringue, leaving a wide rim, drizzle with the syrup, and sprinkle with pomegrante and pistachios.

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

pomegranatepavlovatart12

 

pomegranatepavlovatart10

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

Roast Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad with Stilton

Roasted Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

Some of my recipes start with a visual idea, with colours and textures that slowly merge into a dish in my head, and this salad was one of them. I could picture an early spring green combined with different shades of red. Green stands for crunchy freshness which I found in tiny leaves of baby spinach, red colours are juicy and sweet, like oven roasted red onions and crunchy pomegranate seeds. It may sound a bit far-fetched, but it’s very simple, I find that, quite often, I can follow this rule: what looks good together tends to taste good together too. Maybe my mind only suggests flavour combinations which my taste buds already connect with a positive experience, I don’t know, it definitely worked for this composition!

Texture was next, as soon as the colours for this dish were set. All these crunchy bites demanded some milky creaminess. A while ago my sister asked me to give blue cheese a little break on eat in my kitchen, she hates it but I love it and therefore I could use it all the time. For sandwiches, of course, salads, risotto, gnocchi or crackers, there’s almost no dish on the savory side that can’t deal with a little addition of this fantastic dairy product. So I knew that I’d have to refuse her request, it’s just too tempting. And here it is again, English Stilton, kind of the queen of blue cheese, it’s simply too good on warm onions and it was a true revelation in combination with the pomegranate. I’m sorry Nina!

Roasted Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

Talking about colours and textures, my dishes got a new addition! A few months ago, I saw pictures of some very puristic plates, the simple shape and elegant lines caught my attention the moment I spotted them. I got in touch with the company, Broste Copenhagen, the same day but unfortunately, Esrum (my desired collection’s name) wasn’t available yet, it’s a brand new series. I had to wait a few weeks, but then a huge box arrived right at my door step, filled with beautiful plates, ceramic mugs and golden cutlery. For almost 20 years, I’ve been using the same flatware, a rustic black set (a Finnish classic from 1952) and my delicate fine Bone China. I didn’t feel bothered as I like both a lot. So, one day my mother mentioned with careful politeness that, for eat in my kitchen, a little change of plates in my photos wouldn’t be a bad idea, just once in a while, for a little variation. I always listen to her wise words, so I started to look for some inspiration. This isn’t an easy undertaking in my case, I prefer products that are timeless, minimal and practical designs, following the architect Mies van der Rohe’s principal that form follows function. Broste seems to have a similar idea in mind and made the perfect plates for me, thank you!

Roasted Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

Roast Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad with Stilton

For 3-4 people you need

medium sized red onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges, 3 (about 300g / 10 1/2 ounces)
baby spinach 200g / 7 ounces
pomegranate 1
Stilton, crumbled, 80g / 3 ounces
Daikon cress (or pepper or water cress), a small handful
olive oil 4 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons for the onions
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons
white Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
honey (liquid) 1 teaspoon
sea salt and pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I used the Rotitherm setting) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread the onions on the baking sheet and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Gently mix with your fingers and roast in the oven for 10 min, turn the onion wedges and cook for another 7-10 minutes or until golden brown and soft.

For the dressing, whisk 4 tablespoons of olive oil with the dark and white vinegar and the honey, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the baby spinach on large plates, lay the onions on top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and Stilton. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with the cress.

Roasted Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

 

spinachonionpomegranatestiltonsalad4.2

 

Roasted Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

 

Roasted Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

 

Roasted Onion, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate & Mascarpone

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate and Cardamom Mascarpone

Roots and fruits are a great match for puréed soups, they merge to a deliciously warming treat full of fragrant flavours. They often balance each other out, like the strong parsnip which has such an overpowering impact that it’s best in combination with other ingredients that underline its subtle sweetness.

I went for robust sweet potatoes, a great team player, and juicy pomegranate seeds, their sourness is a wonderful addition to the earthy aroma. And, of course, their dramatic look is quite a stunner on the root’s pale pink! When I cook these kind of soups I like to spare on heavy cream, I just stir in a little bit to support the natural creaminess which is already given through the puréed vegetables. It doesn’t need much of the dairy product otherwise it will turn into a heavy meal and that’s the opposite of what I’m after. I prefer to refine the roots with another kind of milkiness, a discovery I made in October for my parsnip and pear soup. I used whipped mascarpone cheese, just a small spoonful, but this time I mixed it with cardamom and a bit of orange juice, it literally melted into the root composition!

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate and Cardamom Mascarpone

 

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate and Cardamom Mascarpone

 Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate & Cardamom Mascarpone

For 4 as a starter you need

parsnip, peeled and chopped, 300g / 10.5 ounces
sweet potato, peeled and chopped, 200g/ 7 ounces
medium sized onion, chopped, 1
vegetable broth 800ml / 2 pints
bay leaf 1
rosemary 1-2 small sprigs
olive oil
heavy cream 75ml / 2.5 ounces
salt and pepper
honey 1-2 teaspoons, to taste
ground cardamom
mascarpone 100g / 3.5 ounces, for the topping
freshly squeezed orange juice, to taste, for the topping
pomegranate, peeled, 1, for the topping

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the onion on medium heat until soft. Add the parsnip and sweet potato and cook for a minute. Pour in the broth and add the bay leaf and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 20 minutes or until the roots are soft. Take the rosemary out after 10 minutes and the bay leaf when the soup is done. Purée the soup in a blender or with a stick mixer, stir in the heavy cream, honey and a pinch of cardamom, season to taste.

Whisk the mascarpone with 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom and a splash of orange juice. Add a bit of heavy cream if it’s too thick and season to taste.

Serve the warm soup with a dollop of mascarpone, pomegranate seeds and some cardamom sprinkled on top.

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate and Cardamom Mascarpone

 

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate and Cardamom Mascarpone

 

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate and Cardamom Mascarpone

Lentils with Pomegranate and Dukkah

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

This dish caused one of those exciting kitchen moments that leave you speechless. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to throw together but when it was finally on my plate, it blew my mind. I have wanted to mix black Beluga lentils with the glowing red of pomegranate seeds for quite a while as I couldn’t resist this colour combination. I felt sure that something that looks so beautiful together must also match on a culinary level!

A couple weeks ago I read about dukkah which reminded me of this great mixture of seeds, nuts and spices so popular in Egyptian cooking. So I decided to add this as well. I prepared a selection of hazelnuts, pistachios, sesame and sunflower seeds and took some black peppercorns, coriander and fennel seeds and cumin from my spice box to make the mixture complete. The lentils cooked with a bunch of fresh thyme and a bay leaf before I stirred in a splash of olive oil. I arranged the legumes on the plates with the crunchy pomegranate seeds and my dukkah and was mesmerized by its beauty and simplicity. The first bite made me speechless, it was fantastic! The nuttiness of the lentils combined with the dukkah and the sweet and sour pomegranate is one of the best things my dark Belugas have ever seen (apart from my Lentil Salad with Blue Cheese and Pear).

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

 

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

You can keep the remaining dukkah in a jar and use it for salads and soups.

For 3-4 people you need

lentils (preferably Beluga) 250g / 9 ounces
bay leaf 1
fresh thyme, a small bunch
olive oil
pomegranate 1

For the dukkah
hazelnuts 30g / 1 ounce
sunflower seeds 20g / 3/4 ounce
pistachios 20g / 3/4 ounce
sesame seeds 20g / 3/4 ounce
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon
coarse sea salt 1/2 teaspoon

Mix the ingredients for the dukkah in a food processor.

Peel the seeds out of the pomegranate.

Cook the lentils according to the instructions on the package with the bay leaf and thyme but without salt. Mine needed 20 minutes in 750ml / 1.5 pints of water. Stir in a splash of olive oil and season with a little salt. 

Arrange the lentils on the plates sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and a tablespoon of dukkah.

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

 

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

 

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

 

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

 

Lentils, Pomegranate and a spicy Nut Dukkah

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