eat in my kitchen

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

Tag: zucchini

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers from my cookbook & a short trip to Malta

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Old cities and beaches, seafood and wine! When Condé Nast Traveler asked me to take over their Instagram Stories last weekend and share some of my favourite spots in Malta, I immediately booked the flights. There’s no way I would miss a chance to visit my second home!

I’m in the Mediterranean for just a few days at the moment, but it’s enough time to visit my personal hot spots. An early morning boat ride starting in Sliema took me to Valletta to enjoy my first espresso of the day at the beautifully old fashioned Prego Caffe on the capital’s narrow South Street. It’s a beloved morning ritual of many locals, nibbling on buttery breakfast pastizzi filled with ricotta surrounded by the café’s original 60’s decor. A quick visit to the Baroque Saint Francis of Assisi Church (1607) and then I strolled through the streets – one of the most relaxing things I can imagine. If it had been a Sunday, I would have gone to St. John’s Co-Cathedral‘s early morning mass, which is held in Latin accompanied by the most heavenly sounding choir.

On the way to my next destination, Casa Rocca Piccola, I stopped by at the peaceful Lower Barakka Gardens. This place always manages to overwhelm me with its stunning views over The Grand Harbour and The Three Cities – and its almost meditative atmosphere. Frances de Piro was so kind to show me around the 400 year old private Valletta palace Casa Rocca Piccola, where she lives together with her husband, the 9th Marquis de Piro who’s a Knight of Malta, and their family. Many of the private rooms can be visited during guided tours and are a must see for everybody who loves art, history, and architecture.

My man joined me for lunch, which turned into a little feast at Scoglitti right at the sea at the Marsamxett Harbour facing Sliema. Pasta with Maltese prawns, swordfish from the grill, and a bottle of Meridiana Wine Estate‘s fruity white. Maltese Mqaret filled with dates for dessert and we were ready for a nap. Only the thought of an afternoon swim in Malta’s deep blue waters could stop us from having a siesta. We chose the secluded Delimara bay, limestone rocks and crystal-clear turquoise sea are the best conditions for a good snorkeling trip.

My perfect day in Malta wouldn’t be complete without having dinner at Legligin, my favourite restaurant in Valletta offering the most delicious Maltese tapas cooked by our friend Chris. And if it’s a Friday night, you can stroll over to Bridge Bar for their weekly open air Jazz concerts. Sitting on red cushions on the capital’s ancient stairs in front of the bar, sipping on a glass of pastis, and listening to good music make me ask myself why I should ever leave the Mediterranean (sorry Berlin).

As a part of the Instagram takeover, I also shared a recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen cookbook on Condé Nast Traveler‘s website. It’s a Maltese classic: stuffed bell peppers. Stuffed vegetables are a staple in every Maltese home. Tomato, zucchini, eggplant, pepper are filled with meat, seafood, or other vegetables and turned into the coziest treat to please a large Mediterranean family’s appetite. In my version, which you can find below, I go for green peppers cooked al dente – I don’t like them too soft and soggy – stuffed with white fish like cod, tiny zucchini cubes, tomatoes, and parsley refined with a shot of vermouth.

If you can’t travel at the moment, just cook a dish that reminds you of your favourite holiday spot, close your eyes, and you’ll almost be there.

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers with Cod, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

from Eat In My Kitchen, To cook, to bake, to eat, and to treat

Serves 4

4 to 5 medium green bell peppers
Olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
510g / 18 ounces cod fillet (or any firm, white fish, such as monkfish or grouper), preferably 1 thick center piece
Fine sea salt
Ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
340g / 12 ounces zucchini, cut into very small cubes
60ml / ¼ cup dry white vermouth, like Noilly Prat, or dry white wine
1 medium tomato, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for garnish

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Scrape out and discard the seeds and fibers, then rinse the peppers and set aside.

In a heavy pan, large enough to fit the fish, heat a generous splash of olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat. Sear the fish, turning once, for 1 to 3 minutes per side or until golden and flaky—mind that you don’t overcook it. Remove from the heat, break the fish into chunks, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in a little more olive oil, add the zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes or until soft. Add the vermouth and cook, stirring and letting the alcohol burn off, for about 10 seconds. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the tomato and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To combine the filling, spread half the zucchini-tomato mixture on a large plate, lay the fish on top, and finish with the remaining vegetables. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Season the inside of the bell peppers with salt and pepper. Using a large spoon, generously stuff the peppers with the zucchini-cod mixture without pushing on the filling too much. If you have leftover filling, stuff the fifth bell pepper. Place the tops on the peppers and place them in a baking dish. Add a splash of water to cover the bottom of the dish and bake for about 25 minutes or until the bell peppers are al dente and the tops turn dark. Take the peppers out of the oven, sprinkle with more parsley, and serve warm.

Malta

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Bean and Caper Dip with Golden Sautéed Zucchini

Caper Bean Dip with golden sautéed Zucchini

Besides all the excitement that our Mediterranean summer offered last month, we also got the chance to spend a more than relaxing, but nonetheless very inspiring evening at one of our friends’ house. Alex and Benjamin live a life that’s just as busy as ours, which makes it a bit difficult to meet. They love to travel, they celebrate their weekly gatherings and dinner parties with their loved ones, and they also split their life between Malta and London. And this I’ll never understand and I’m sure you’d agree if you could see their gorgeous palazzo in the silent heart of Żebbuġ – if I lived there, I’d never leave the house! However, we managed to find a free evening, or rather a few free hours, and visited them for drinks and nibbles.

When you meet Alex, a man who seems to either work or spend his time in his beautiful kitchen (click here for pictures), you’re treated to the most scrumptious culinary pleasures. Even his ‘nibbles’ are heavenly. He’s a true connoisseur, a man who loves the fine arts, exquisite food and wine, and who’s always up for a good conversation. Alex is a critical mind and and you’ll never feel bored in his presence. Benjamin is the most beautiful person who’s helped me deal with the struggles of my current crazy life more than once. Whenever my mind and body can’t keep up with the challenges anymore that come with writing a book and organizing book launch events, I call Benjamin. He’s the best reflexologist I know and whatever problem my body comes up with, Benjamin will fix me! And if you happen to be in Malta and you have some time off, spoil yourself and book an appointment with him (I wish I could do that right now!).

But back to the nibbles: I’ve always been a huge fan of Alex’s dips. Be it hummus or smoky grilled eggplant, they are all addictive. And there’s one of his creations that struck me with its subtle salty note. I couldn’t make out what it was at first, but I loved it since I enjoyed the first bite last summer, spread lusciously on a thick slice of crusty Maltese bread. Alex purées boiled yellow split peas, mixes in chopped onion, olive oil, lots of lemon juice, and – here’s the secret – capers. The salty fruits add a special flavour, it doesn’t really taste like caper, it could also be canned tuna. I totally fell for it and couldn’t stop eating the thick spread. Now I made it at home, it was my first try, but in my version I use canned cannellini beans. They are sweet and smooth, velvety, and fit just as well to this Mediterranean composition. A few thick slices of golden sautéed zucchini, some ciabatta, and lunch – or dinner – is served.

Caper Bean Dip with golden sautéed Zucchini

 

Caper Bean Dip with golden sautéed Zucchini

Bean and Caper Dip with Golden Sautéed Zucchini

Serves 2

For the bean caper dip

rinsed and drained canned cannellini beans 360g / 13 ounces
(you could also use boiled yellow split peas as in Alex’s original recipe)
capers, preserved in salt, rinsed, 20g / 1 ounce
small shallot, roughly chopped, 1/2 -1
olive oil 60-75ml / 1/4-1/3 cup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tablespoons

For serving

olive oil
small zucchini, cut into thick slices, 2
fine sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh ciabatta 1 small loaf

For the dip, purée the beans, capers, 1/2 of the shallot, 60ml / 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and lemon juice in a blender. Add more of the shallot to taste and purée until smooth. If the texture is too thick, add more olive oil, and, if necessary, season with additional lemon juice and salt to taste.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat, turn the heat down to medium-high, and sauté the zucchinis for 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden with brown sprinkles. The zucchini should only start to soften outside and still have some bite on the inside. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the zucchini between plates and add a dollop of the bean caper dip. Drizzle the dip with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle with a little pepper. Serve with fresh ciabatta, enjoy warm or cold.

Caper Bean Dip with golden sautéed Zucchini

 

Caper Bean Dip with golden sautéed Zucchini

 

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Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Sometimes I am asked by a reader to come up with a certain recipe. Quite often it’s a dish connected to a childhood memory of theirs, a food experience saved many years ago, and now they’re hoping to find this specific flavour again. But it’s a tricky thing, it’s almost impossible to relive something as an adult and expect the same satisfaction that we felt back then when we were young.

I used to love Dutch coconut sheets for breakfast, which is as weird as it sounds. This is compressed dessicated coconut, pressed into thin sheets and, to make it even more appealing, they were either pink or pale white. I was obsessed with them. After a culinary break from this delicacy, I tried them again years later and I was so disappointed. But there’s another Dutch classic, which still lives up to my memories, and I enjoy it with the biggest passion whenever I pull it out of my oven: sticky honey cake.

At the end of this winter, I got asked to share a traditional German hot chocolate recipe, which my reader, who lives in the US, connects with the time he spent in Germany as a child. Somehow, I never felt in the mood for it, and my hot chocolate is also a rather simple creation made of milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, and ground cinnamon and cardamom, which is not a traditional German take on this drink. I’m sorry, I’ll try to write about it next winter.

But last week, someone dropped a comment on Instagram, telling me that I haven’t made a soup in a long time – and this person was right! She lives in Asia and asked for a soup that she can have with her morning rice. I don’t think that someone who lives in Asia, needs a German girl to tell her how to make a fragrant broth with ginger, spices, and lemon grass, so I thought about something that I could share from my background. Our summers spent in Malta made me fall for minestrone, and when I cook this warming soup with just green vegetables – like fresh beans, peas, and zucchini – it tastes like spring. To turn it into a full lunch, I add tiny meatballs refined with lots of chopped arugula and lemon zest. The strong aroma of the citrus fruit reminds me of the Mediterranean but at the same time, it adds the same lemony freshness that you know from a clear broth made with ginger. Enjoy!

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

Serves 2-4

For the meatballs

ground beef 400g / 14 ounces
fresh arugula leaves, finely chopped (with a knife or in a blender), 1 large handful / 50g
zest of 1 lime (1 heaping teaspoon)
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
a generous amount ground pepper

For the soup

olive oil
garlic, cut in half, 1 clove
green vegetables (a mix of trimmed green beans, peas, and zucchini), beans and peas cut into bite size pieces, about 350g / 12 ounces
vegetable broth, hot, 1l / 4 1/4 cups
freshly squeezed lime juice 1 tablespoon
bay leaf 1
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For the topping

ramp leaves, thinly sliced, 2
and/ or
spring onion, thinly sliced, 1

For the meatballs, in a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chopped arugula, lime zest, garlic, salt, and pepper and mix until well combined. Wet your hands and form the mixture into tiny meatballs.

For the soup, in a large saucepan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, lime juice, and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper to taste, and bring to the boil. Add the meatballs and bring to the boil again. Reduce the heat to medium, cover with a lid, and simmer for 4 minutes. Split 1 meatball to check if it’s done. Season the soup with salt, pepper, and additional lime juice to taste.

Serve the soup in deep bowls, sprinkled with ramps and / or spring onion, and enjoy warm.

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

Green Minestrone with Lime-Arugula Meatballs

 

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Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

This is one of my most beloved summer scenes: juicy focaccia topped with fragrant herbs on the table next to an aromatic selection of cheese and a chilled bottle of rosé wine waiting to be opened. Sometimes it impresses me how easy it can be to create a little holiday even in my own home. Although I have to admit that warm temperatures and a clear blue evening sky definitely help to put my mind in the right mood, scrumptious food is even more efficient.

I used my reliable focaccia recipe to make the soft Italian bread, it’s so oily that my fingers feel deliciously smooth and sticky after each bite. Last year I fell in love with a topping of dark grapes and rosemary, in 2015 I’m falling for an almost pizza-like creation. I picked a selection of rosemary, thyme and sage right from the front row of my window sill garden, chopped them finely and spread the green crumbles over the puffy, risen yeast dough. Thin slices of zucchini and aubergine came next to form a pretty grid pattern and add their summery fruitiness. To finish it off, I sprinkled my golden focaccia with fresh oregano and parmesan. It’s such a teaser, when I opened the door to take out the baking sheet, the warm smell of yeast, herbs and cheese caressed my nose. At this point, I definitely felt like I was somewhere in the south of Italy.

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

For a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ focaccia you need

plain flour 500g / 17 1/2oz
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
salt 1 teaspoon
sugar 1 heaped teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 1 cup and 2 tablespoons
olive oil 120ml / 1/2 cup (half for the dough and half for the topping)
fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), finely chopped, 2 generous tablespoons
small zucchini, very thinly sliced (best with a vegetable/ mandoline slicer), 1
medium sized aubergine, very thinly sliced, 1/2
flaky sea salt, for the topping
parmesan, grated, 3 heaped tablespoons
fresh oregano, the leaves of a small handful of sprigs (about 2 heaped tablespoon)

In  a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and half the olive oil (60ml / 1/4 cup) and mix with the hooks of an electric mixer for a few minutes until smooth and well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for a few minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven (top / bottom heat, no fan) for 45-60 minutes.

Take the dough out, punch it down and knead for 1 minute. Spread the dough on an oiled baking sheet with your hands until it measures roughly 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.

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

Punch about 6 x 7 holes into the surface of the dough, you can use the round bottom of a wooden spoon or your finger. Pour half of the remaining olive oil (30ml / 1/8 cup) over the dough and into the holes. Use the remaining 30ml / 1/8 cup of oil to thinly coat the sliced vegetables on both sides with your hand. Sprinkle the focaccia with the chopped herbs and lay the oiled vegetables in a cross pattern on top (start with the zucchini and continue with the aubergine). Season with sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and light brown on top. When it’s done, sprinkle with parmesan and oregano and leave in the hot oven for 1 minute.

Enjoy warm or cold at a summery table full of fruits, cheese and wine!

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

zucchiniauberginefocaccia10

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

Mediterranean Roast Vegetables with Tomatoes, Feta and Basil

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

The secret behind this scrumptious Mediterranean pan lies in the separate cooking of the vegetables. First, I sautéed sliced zucchini until golden but with bite, and then I cooked a large handful of aubergine and bell pepper chopped into tiny cubes. The small size let them release a little more of their juices in the hot pan, within minutes they turn into a chunky stew. Mixed with the zucchini, it just needed a bit of salt and pepper and it was done.

You could easily leave it at that but I was after a colourful pan full of fresh flavours. In summer, I like the combination of cooked and raw vegetables, so my pan got a crunchy topping with cherry tomatoes, milky feta chunks and fresh basil leaves. All the wonderful aromas of a Mediterranean garden on a plate! There are a million variations of this dish, you could top it with lemon ricotta (instead of the feta cheese) and make a moussaka, mix in some spaghetti for a richer meal or cook all the ingredients in the oven, like my vegetable casserole. So many options, so many warm months and ripe and tasty vegetables ahead of us. Kitchen life is just great at this time of year!

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

Mediterranean Roast Vegetables with Tomatoes, Feta and Basil

For a lunch for 2 you need

zucchini, sliced thinly, about 200g / 7oz
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
aubergine, cut into tiny cubes, about 200g / 7oz
medium sized bell pepper (colour of your choice), cut into tiny cubes, 1
cherry tomatoes, cut in half, 8
feta cheese, broken into chunks, about 100g / 3 1/2oz
fresh basil leaves 10

Heat a slash of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the zucchini on medium-high heat until golden brown with a little bite. Season with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a plate and set a side.

Put the pan back on the heat, pour in a splash of olive oil, stir in the garlic and let it turn golden (not brown!) for about 1 minute. Add the aubergine and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and sauté until golden and soft. Take the pan off the heat, mix in the zucchini and tomatoes and season to taste. Stir in the feta and basil and serve immediately, or as a warm salad, with fresh ciabatta bread.

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

Zucchini, Aubergine and Bell Pepper with Feta and Basil

 

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Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Zucchini and Aubergine

Timpana

After a long discussion in the kitchen with my (Maltese!) boyfriend, I have to accept that my recipe is not a traditional Maltese timpana – but it tastes just as good, even my man agreed with that!

Timpana is a Mediterranean dish which is very popular in Malta and also in Italy. It’s penne or macaroni pasta mixed with Bolognese sauce baked in a pastry shell – basically a pasta pie. My version, however, left out the meat sauce. I cooked a concentrated red sauce with fresh tomatoes and lots of basil instead and sautéed zucchini and aubergine slices until golden and juicy. So, here’s the blatant difference, I piled the tomato basil pasta with layers of the sliced vegetables and parmesan in a buttery pastry shell, which, to me, justifies calling this dish Timpana. But sometimes opinions about food differ, especially when it comes to tradition recipes.

Obviously I ate my first Timpana in Malta, bought from one of the tiny bakeries you find at almost ever street corner in the towns and villages. They sell this pasta dish cut into large squares along trays full of buttery Pastizzi and rich ricotta filled Qassata. It’s a street food lunch classic on the island. When I ate a piece of this hearty dish for first time, I didn’t quite understand the concept of wrapping pasta in crisp short crust. But after years of enjoying at least 1 or 2 pasta pies during my stay in the South I got used to this tradition bite by bite. It just makes you feel good, it’s delicious comfort food that combines the best of a pie with lighter comfort of fruity penne. I must admit that I prefer the addition of vegetables, the Bolognese sauce makes it a bit too rich and heavy for my taste. But I won’t argue about that ever again, especially not with a Maltese person!

Timpana

 

Timpana

 Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Zucchini and Aubergine

For a 20 1/2cm / 8″ pie (a loose bottom spring form works best) you need

For the filling

penne pasta 250g / 9oz
medium sized tomatoes, chopped, 6 (about 650g / 1 1/2 pounds)
fresh garlic (preferably spring garlic) 1 clove
salt
olive oil
tomato pasta (Kunserva) 1 tablespoon
Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
pepper
fresh basil, thinly sliced, about 12 large leaves
medium sized zucchini, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 2 (about 380g / 13 1/2oz)
medium sized aubergine, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 1 (about 270g / 9 1/2oz)
parmesan, freshly grated, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon for the topping

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, they should have bite. Let the penne cool.

On a chopping board, rub and press the chopped garlic under the blade of a large knife with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until you have a smooth paste. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes until thick. Stir in the basil and season to taste, make sure that the basil comes through quite strong. Let the sauce cool completely before you mix it with the cooked pasta.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the sliced zucchini on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Cook them in batches, they should be spread out in the pan and not on top of each other. Season with salt and pepper and set them aside to cool. Heat a generous splash of olive oil and sauté the sliced aubergine in the same pan. They will need a little more oil (you’ll have to add some in between batches) and they will also need to cook a bit longer, they should be golden brown, soft and juicy. Season to taste and set them aside to cool.

 

For the pastry

plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups / 10 1/2oz
salt 1 teaspoon
butter, cold, 150g / 1 1/4 sticks / 5 1/4 ounces
egg yolks 2
cold water 2 tablespoons

For the glaze
organic egg yolk 1
milk 1 tablespoon
a pinch of salt

Combine the flour with the salt. Cut the butter into the flour with a knife until there are just little pieces left. Continue with your fingers and quickly rub the butter into the flour. Add the eggs and water and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form 2 discs, dividing them roughly 2:1, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

 

The pie

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top/ bottom heat).

Whisk the egg yolk, milk and salt for the glaze.

Take the dough out of the freezer and roll out both discs between cling film, the bigger piece (about 32cm / 12 1/2″) for the bottom and the smaller one as the lid for the pie.

Line the bottom and sides of the spring form pan. Spread 1/3 of the pasta mixed with the tomato sauce on top of the pastry, sprinkle with 1/3 of the parmesan and cover with a layer of aubergine (let the slices overlap a little). Continue with a second layer of pasta (1/3), sprinkle with parmesan (1/3) and cover with the zucchini. Finish with the remaining pasta, cheese and vegetables (if there are some left). Close with the smaller pastry lid and gently push the rim with your fingers to seal the pie. Brush the top with the egg glaze and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the cheese.

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

Timpana

 

Timpana

 

Timpana

 

Timpana

 

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Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

This dish combines the two culinary worlds which influence my kitchen activities the most, Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine and Tyrol’s cosy comfort food. I cooked a warming minestrone the way I know it from my Maltese granny Edith, with lots of pumpkin, zucchini (qarabaghli in Maltese) and kohlrabi. This soup can take the most varied collection of vegetables so I also added some cauliflower, celery stalk, potatoes and carrots. It’s a deliciously sweet broth of all the strengthening  fruits of the season, and once the vegetables are chopped, it only takes 15 minutes !

Whenever I sit in Edith’s kitchen in Msida enjoying this comforting soul food, she sprinkles freshly grated parmesan over the steaming dish, but here in the North, I wanted to add something richer to satisfy our strong appetite. In the cold season, I’m a big fan of saturating additions to light and healthy soups, Tyrolean frittaten, called Flaedle in the Swabian region in southern Germany, are one of my first choices. They are made of thin crêpes refined with chives, rolled up in a tight wrap and cut into slim strips. Frittaten look like pancake snails and turn a minestrone into a special treat, the eggy pastry adds a hearty feel to this meal which I absolutely love about wintery soups!

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

For 4-6 people you need

For the frittaten

plain flour, sieved, 70g / 2.5 ounces
salt 1/8 teaspoon
organic egg, beaten, 1
milk 120ml / 4 ounces
chives, snipped 3 tablespoons
butter, to fry the crêpes

Mix the flour, salt, egg and milk to a smooth dough (with an electric mixer) and let it sit for 15 minutes before you mix in the chives.

In a non-stick pan, heat a teaspoon of butter. Pour in a ladle of the dough, holding the pan in your hand and turning it so that the dough spreads evenly and very thinly. The temperature should be on medium-high as the crêpes won’t need more than 1 minute on each side once the heat is set right. When the crêpe is golden on both sides take it out and continue with the remaining dough. Always heat a teaspoon of butter before you add new dough to the pan. Roll up each crêpe very tightly and cut into thin strips (snails).

 

For the minestrone

medium sized onion, chopped, 1
cauliflower, cut into small pieces, 160g / 5.5 ounces
butternut squash, peeled, cut into small cubes, 160g / 5.5 ounces
zucchini, cut into small cubes, 160g / 5.5 ounces
kohlrabi, peeled, cut into small cubes, 50g / 2 ounces
carrot, peeled, cut into small cubes, 80g / 3 ounces
potato, peeled, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
celery stalk, cut into small cubes, 1
medium sized tomato, cut into small cubes, 1
broth, hot, 1.5l / 3 pints
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
bay leaf 1
spring onion, thinly sliced, 2
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat until golden and soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add a little more oil and the chopped vegetables (apart from the spring onions), stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the hot broth and the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and cook for 15 – 20 minutes. Stir in the spring onion, season to taste and serve with the frittaten.

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

 

Maltese Minestrone with Tyrolean Crêpes Frittaten

Minestrone alla Genovese with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

A minestrone simmering on the cooker puts me a into a comfortable mood, the smell and taste reminds me of the kitchens of all the great cooks in my family and it makes me feel at home! I’m very lucky as I’m surrounded by a few women who have mastered the art of a good minestrone.

My Maltese granny Edith cooks her vegetable soup with courgette, marrows and potatoes and I learnt from her that a little parmesan sprinkled on top makes all the difference. The cheese melts into the warming broth and adds a hearty touch to it. My mother goes with the seasons and uses whatever her vegetable garden offers. Beans, cabbage, peas, potatoes, carrots, the list is long and inspiring. She walks through her garden with a big basket in her hand and picks the fruits and vegetables that fit her mood. She taught me to chop everything into small cubes and blanch each vegetable in the broth separately. This way you avoid some vegetables becoming too soggy and soft while others stay crunchy. I don’t always do this, sometimes I cook it all at once, it depends on the texture I want to achieve.

My minestrone never tastes the same, I like to try out new variations and this one was inspired by the north of Italy, the Minestrone alla Genovese! This warming soup is so rich in flavours, cooked with cabbage, dried butter beans, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, fennel, tomatoes, celery and leak, I listened to both women to be rewarded with a very satisfying result, I chopped the vegetables into little cubes which would have pleased my mother but I cooked them all at once for not more than 20 minutes. I just cooked the soaked dried butter beans separately as they needed about an hour. After I filled my flavourful soup into the plates, I scattered some parsley leaves and grated parmesan over it, thanks to Edith!

When I cook minestrone, I cook lots of it as I like to put a few portions in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. Once the chopping is done, it just needs another half an hour, so you might as well prepare a bit more. You could also add some little pasta like Anellini or Risini to make the dish a bit richer.

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

 

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

Minestrone alla Genovese

For a large pot of around 4l / 8.5 pints of minestrone (for about 8-12 people) you need

big dried butter beans, soaked over night, 200g / 7 ounces
large onion, chopped, 1
white cabbage, cut into small cubes, 200g / 7 ounces
carrots, cut into small cubes, 150g / 5.5 ounces
zucchini, cut into small cubes, 150g / 5.5 ounces
leak, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
potatoes, cut into small cubes, 200g / 7 ounces
fennel bulb, cut into small cubes, 100g / 3.5 ounces
large celery stalk, cut into small cubes, 1
large tomatoes, cut into small cubes, 2
broth, hot, 2.8l / 6 pints
garlic, crushed, 3 cloves
bay leaf 1
salt and pepper
olive oil
parmesan, grated, for the topping
fresh parsley leaves, a handful, for the topping

In a large pot, cook the soaked beans for about an hour or until al dente, drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat till golden and soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add a little more oil and the chopped vegetables, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the hot broth, the beans and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve sprinkled with parmesan and parsley.

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

 

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

 

Minestrone with Zucchini, Beans and Parmesan

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