Tag: basil

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

When I have a bowl of hummus in front of me, I grab the biggest spoon I can find and enjoy this creamy, nutty deliciousness with inexplicable enthusiasm. I don’t know where this fascination comes from, I only discovered this Middle Eastern dip relatively late in my kitchen, but I’m obsessed with it.

Most of the time I’m not even very experimental, I just stick to my basic recipe, but sometimes my mood calls for a little change. I either replace the chickpeas with white beans, stir in some fresh or dried herbs, or I try less pleasant combinations that I never ever want to taste again (like my avocado hummus – disastrous!). There must be something in the tahini – the rich, oily sesame sauce that’s used for hummus – its nutritional value, that my body is almost addicted to. I can eat the thick, pure sauce by the spoon, straight out of the jar. It’s strange.

One of my latest experiments led to a very simple yet absolutely scrumptious result: a generous amount of ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground cumin. The spices enhance the dip’s sweetness and give it a warm and earthy touch. You don’t actually taste them, they merge with the other ingredients and create a new flavour, which makes me want to eat even more of it. To accomplish the sweet side of the hummus, I added sliced boiled potatoes (warm or cold, both work), fresh basil, and a few prawns. It felt like summer on a plate and reminded me of a similar Mediterranean meal we had in Malta last year.

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

 

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

Serves 4

For the hummus

drained and rinsed canned chickpeas, 240g / 8 ounces
tahini 150g / 5 ounces
water 120ml / 1/2 cup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 4 tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 1 large clove
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
ground cumin 1/8 teaspoon
fine sea salt about 1 teaspoon

olive oil
prawns, the heads cut off, 8-12
boiled potatoes (warm or cold) 8-12
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh basil leaves, a small handful

For the hummus, purée the ingredients in a blender and season with cinnamon, cumin, and salt to taste.

In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and sear the prawns for 1-2 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Arrange the sliced potatoes on 1 large platter or on 4 small plates, drizzle generously with the hummus and additional olive oil, and season to taste with flaky sea salt, crushed pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Place the prawns on top, sprinkle with basil and enjoy immediately.

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

 

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

 

Potatoes with Cinnamon Hummus, Basil, and Prawns

 

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potatoeshummusprawns8

Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich2.2.2

Cheese sandwiches have long been one of my favourite lunchtime snacks. The most basic version features dark German bread, thin slices of young hard cheese, cucumber, salt, and crushed pepper, you could call it my first sandwich creation, born in my early childhood days. But over the years I got a little more experimental: various fruits sneaked in to add their sweetness to ripe cheese, soft cheese, or blue cheese. Mozzarella di Bufala or ricotta are great to bring in some creaminess, and sometimes, I like to take whatever herb or vegetable my eyes catch in the kitchen and turn it into a runny pesto or smooth dip to dollop lusciously on a crusty bun.

When Leerdammer asked me to create a cheese sandwich for them, I decided to go back to my sandwich roots and think about what a great sandwich should be. I always say that I prefer to focus on a few strong flavours rather than distract my taste buds with too many ingredients. It’s all about the right play of contrast and harmony, in taste and texture. I like Leerdammer for its mild and nutty taste, it’s almost sweet, and it melts fantastically under the broiler. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich felt like the perfect choice but another German sandwich classic came to mind: Toast Hawaii. This child-pleasing creation was a hit in my early sandwich years, pineapple and ham covered in cheese on a slice of toast and grilled. People loved it, including myself. I like pineapple but the market has far more to offer at the moment, so I went for honey-sweet persimmon. The fruit has to be ripe and soft as jelly, in combination with the ham and melted cheese, it almost felt like jam, or a chutney without the sourness. A few basil leaves sprinkled on top give it the spring feeling that I crave so much and make this sandwich feel light and fresh. Follow #wirkäsebroten for more delicious sandwich recipes made with Leerdammer cheese!

You’ve seen many sandwiches on my blog for my Sandwich-Wednesday series, but there has never been a giveaway competition – this is a premiere! Leerdammer gave me five of their cute and robust metal sandwich boxes that are perfect to wrap up your sandwich safely for your next city picnic or lunch break. If you’d like to be the lucky owner of one of them, send me an email (eatinmykitchen@eatinmykitchen.meikepeters.com) or leave a comment at the bottom of this post and share your favourite cheese sandwich combination with me. Tell me about your secret ingredient, it can be a fruit, meat, sauce, anything you like. I’ll get in touch with you as soon as we have 5 winners. Good luck!

This post is sponsored by Leerdammer and reminded me of a childhood favourite of mine. Thank you! 

6th April: The competition is now closed. Thank you for all your delicious ideas!

Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich

 

grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich4.2

Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Makes 2 sandwiches

rustic white buns, cut in half, 2
ham 4 thin slices
large ripe persimmon, peeled and torn into chunks, 1
Leerdammer cheese 4-6 thick slices
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh basil leaves 6

Set the oven to broiler or preheat to the highest temperature.

Divide the ham between the bottoms of the buns. Lay the persimmon on top and cover with the cheese. Grill the sandwich in the oven until the cheese starts melting and sizzling, mind that the cheese doesn’t burn or slip off the fruit. Sprinkle the grilled cheese with crushed pepper and basil, close the bun, and enjoy.

Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich

 

Grilled Persimmon, Ham, and Cheese Sandwich

 

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grilledpersimmonhamcheesesandwich12

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

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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Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Ciabatta Sandwich with Basil

Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Sandwich

At the moment I can enjoy the best strawberries, their juices are like a honey-sweet nectar, so satisfying that you could just nibble them as they are, pure and without any distracting addition. I have done that excessively but now it’s time to get a bit playful with this summery fruit.

As summer is nearing, I like to simplify my recipes, less ingredients, less work but still the ultimate enjoyment while I’m sitting at the open window with a glass of pinky rosé wine in front of me and someone nice to chat with. Now is the time for easy, light nibbles, like good bread and cheese, fresh herbs, raw fruits and vegetables, and aromatic olive oil – pure, natural tastes.

When my mother was here a couple weeks ago, I did some recipe tasting for my book. All those different dishes and flavours in my kitchen called for a break for my taste buds when I had some time off. I felt like a juicy ciabatta sandwich, so I whipped some chèvre with a little lime zest, spread it voluptuously on the oily bread and covered this picture of a perfect summer sandwich with strawberries and fresh basil. Before I tried the first bite, I wasn’t sure if the combination of cheese and citrus would be a bit much, but there was no need to worry, they are a perfect match. And when I offered it to my mother, who isn’t as obsessed with citrus as I am, she liked it, to my surprise, just as much as I did!

This sandwich has been featured by Food52!

Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Sandwich

Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Ciabatta Sandwich with Basil

For 6 open sandwiches you need

fresh ciabatta bread 6 small slices
fresh chèvre (or any other soft goat cheese) 200g / 7oz
heavy cream 4 tablespoons
lime zest 1/4 teaspoon, plus a little more for the topping
strawberries, quartered, 150g / 5 1/4oz, plus 6 fruits cut in half for the topping
fresh basil leaves a small handful, for the topping

Whisk the chèvre, heavy cream and lime and adjust to taste. Add more cream if necessary, the texture should be smooth and thick. Divide the cheese between the bread, top with strawberries (quartered plus 1 fruit cut in half for each slice) and sprinkle with lime zest and basil. Enjoy!

Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Sandwich

 

Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Sandwich

 

Strawberry and Lime Chèvre Sandwich

 

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meet in your kitchen | Mimi’s spicy Bulgur with Basil and Mint

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

Mimi and KD’s apartment is a creative laboratory, an exciting place where music, fashion, painting and design come together, created by two wonderful people. Mimi, the musician, painter and designer grew up in London, while musician and producer KD lived in Haifa in Israel before he moved to Berlin. Here in the city, the two created a space where all of their ideas can come alive, the studio where they write their music and where Mimi works on her paintings and tailoring. The rooms overlooking a picturesque river, dense trees and Berlin’s famous TV tower are packed with guitars, audio equipment, a piano, beautiful fabrics, boxes of wool and Mimi’s paintings. On the shelves and window sills, the two have arranged a collection of little figures and old toys, hats and post cards, souvenirs from their tours, gifts from friends and memories. It’s a truly magical place.

For our meet in your kitchen feature, Mimi decided to take over the kitchen as she’s the cook in the house. She likes her food spicy, like the curries that she used to have in London made with exotic spice mixtures that she often can’t find in Berlin. When we met she cooked a delicious bulgur salad made with tomatoes, bell pepper, basil and mint. It was hot and spicy but not painfully. She used the chili pepper’s seeds as well and although I was a bit worried that it would be too hot for me (I’m quite a baby when it comes to spiciness) I loved it! It wasn’t the kind of growing spiciness that you still feel minutes later, it was present the moment it hit my taste buds!

A telling indication of Mimi’s English upbringing is a cup of tea that follows her no matter what she does! During our lunch we spoke a lot about food, culinary memories and habits and cooking with our mothers. After we shared a bowl of her spicy bulgur, Mimi showed me her beautiful prints and designs for the silk jackets and pyjamas that she will soon present on Etsy. She only works with very fine silk, printed by two young artists in Scotland. Many of the designs show her animal characters, another great passion of hers. Mimi used to work on a farm on the weekends when she lived in England, although at the moment, the only animal in her life is Gomez, the cutest and fluffiest grey cat I’ve ever seen, roaming around the rooms of the flat.

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

Both musicians are working on various projects at the moment. Mimi is currently working on new songs for her next album and she contributed her song ‘Get Me Back’ to the ‘Love, Rosie’ movie starring Lily Collins, Sam Claflin, Suki Waterhouse and Jaime Winstone:
http://www.contactmusic.com/article/mimi-and-the-mad-noise-factory-get-me-back-love-rosie-video_4398052
In February, she’ll be supporting the artist Nessi:
18.02.15 Kleiner Donner, Hamburg
19.02.15 MTC, Köln
20.02.15 Ampere, München
21.02.15 Comet Club, Berlin
http://kj.de/artist/3633/Nessi.html

KD will release a new album with his band NÖRD on the 30th January 2015 but there are a couple live dates coming up soon (30.10.14: Privat Club / Berlin and 27.11.14: Kleiner Donner / Hamburg). The video for the first single, Drogen has already been released:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkoYlvKnDSE&feature=youtu.be

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

Mimi’s spicy Bulgur with Basil and Mint

For 4 people you need

bulgur 1 cup
water 2 cups
sweet vine tomatoes, chopped, a handful
bell pepper, chopped, 1
garlic, very finely chopped, 1 small clove
shallots, finely chopped, 2
fresh basil, chopped, the leaves of a large bunch
mint, chopped, the leaves of a large bunch
fresh chillies, chopped, to taste
the juice of 1 lime
yoghurt 4 generous tablespoons (more if you like!)
salt to taste

Boil the water and add the bulgar. Cook for 7-10 minutes depending on the bulgur you use, some coarser kinds can take longer.

Put the garlic, shallots, bell pepper, tomatoes, herbs and bulgur in a big bowl. Add the lime juice, yoghurt and the chillies, mix thoroughly and season with a little salt.

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

Mimi, you grew up in England and KD, you spent your childhood in Israel, what are your food memories of those days? 

Mimi: In England we have the most wonderful Indian food. When I was tiny, my mum’s friend, Chris, would bring late-night super hot curries and beer. I miss that and I’m still completely hooked on chillies. They feature in pretty much everything I make.

KD: My favorite as a child was schnitzel and mashed potatoes! Great comfort food. Later on I became quite addicted to hummus.

Why did you choose Berlin as the place to live and work?

Mimi: I loved Berlin the first time I came here. It was so exciting to find a place that felt alive and like it was still growing. I felt I had space here to create and grow too.

KD: I grew up in Haifa, Israel, but my mum is coming from a German family and I have a German passport. When I had to choose between moving to the nearest big city, Tel Aviv or moving further to an even bigger city with more opportunities for musicians, I decided to give Berlin a shot. I was 23 then and I’m still here now!

What effect did the move to Berlin have on your cooking and eating habits?

Mimi: I found it really hard at first because most of the ingredients I used back home were Indian spices or very hot chillies, which you can get everywhere. Over here I had to seek them out. I discovered new things because of that and started making more Italian-style dishes like risotto and baking my own bread.

KD: I like to eat simply and you can get great ingredients here. I’m mainly cooking fast as I work and forget I’m hungry so pasta is generally a good choice.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Berlin, London and Haifa? 

Mimi: In London I’m always headed to Brick Lane for a phial curry, or the Naz in Church Street, Twickenham for their special prawn curry. I also love Belgo in Camden for a massive pot of mussels and amazing beer. I miss pub Sunday lunch too. In Berlin we cook at home a lot but we love the tapas place round the corner from us, Gastón and we love our local Kalle Klein.

KD: In Haifa there is a really nice bourekas place in the Carmel Mountains that I always visit when I go back. In Berlin, as Mimi says, but also the hummus at Azzam, Sonnenallee is great.

What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

Mimi: I used to make breakfast in bed for my mum sometimes with scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and little bits of charred toast but my favorite memory (or more like the one mum always tells) is when I was 9, I read the flour packet in the cupboard and made the recipe for bread, that was printed on the back, one Saturday morning … My mum loved it despite it not looking very elegant.

KD: I don’t remember!

What or who inspired you to become musicians?

Mimi: My mum inherited a piano from her grandmother and I started by just enjoying tinkling around on that when I was a very small child.

KD: My older brother!

KD, your band NÖRD will release their first album ‘Na Und? Wir kennen euch doch auch nicht’  in the beginning of next year and soon you will be on tour with the band after months in the studio. How did you experience the time in the studio? What do you like about working in the studio and being on tour as a keyboard player?

We had a lot of fun in the studio. We were recording in Hamburg mainly which also allowed us to focus on the music away from home. I joined the band just a few months before we went into the studio so the time there was very important and we bonded a lot musically and personally. I’m really proud of the album and looking forward to sharing it with people live!

Mimi, you released your second album ‘Nothing but Everything’ together with your band The Mad Noise Factory in March which you presented on tour this year. You’re also a visual artist and responsible for the band’s artwork. What’s the difference between working visually and as a musician? Is there a different creative approach?

My music is like a release of emotion. I need it as an emotional output. It’s honest and it doesn’t seem like I have much control on what happens to come out! The artwork is creating a dreamland that I see in my head and takes a long process filled with tiny detail.

What are your upcoming projects and plans for the next months?

Mimi: I have a song coming out with a fantastic new movie called ‘Love Rosie’ (the song is ‘Get Me Back’) and I am working on new songs hoping to have something ready for next year. I will also be starting a new Etsy shop selling clothes that I make using fabrics printed with my drawings. The shop will be called ‘MiMi says I’m Special’ and should be up and running soon!

KD: I have a new album out with a project called Hamlet. It’s just me playing piano and my friend, Fran singing. I will be producing a few artists in the near future, and, of course, touring with NÖRD.

Mimi and KD, what did you choose to share on eat in my kitchen?

Spicy Bulgur!

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

Mimi: I’d have my mum make me what she makes when she has just a few things left in the fridge. I don’t know how she does it but she can make a few eggs, some random vegetables and rice into an amazing feast.

KD: The Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show to come and make me singing vegetables! That would be awesome.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

Mimi: A big mushroom and spinach risotto with tons of parmesan.

KD: Whatever Mimi cooks (laughs).

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

Mimi: Curry and still is!

KD: Schnitzel and mashed potatoes and now it’s a big bowl of mussels!

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

Mimi: On my own but with someone to chat to.

KD: On my own.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Mimi: Improvised.

KD: Improvised.

Which meal would you never cook again?

Mimi: I used to make Sunday roast back in England… way too much washing up!

KD: I never cooked anything that was too horrible … yet!

Thank you Mimi and KD!

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

 

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

 

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

 

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

 

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

 

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

 

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

 

Bulgur with Basil and Mint

Mozzarella and Basil in Carrozza

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Here’s a savory French toast, filled with mozzarella and basil, or the sweeter sounding Italian name, Mozzarella in Carrozza – meaning mozzarella in a carriage!

I’m a big fan of sticky and cinnamony French toast with lots of maple syrup.  There were times when I cooked them almost every morning! Mozzarella in Carrozza is the perfect savory alternative, with a filling of fresh basil leaves softly melted into creamy mozzarella. Great for a late breakfast, Sunday brunch or as a quick snack! You could also introduce some stronger flavours and replace the summery herb with anchovy or capers, or add some tomato slices or prosciutto. There are endless variations on this recipe, with dried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, blue cheese, bacon, different fresh and dried herbs… I can even imagine a French version with slices of ripe camembert infusing the warm bread with its strong aroma while it’s cooking in the pan. French toast, it would close the circle again! Mozzarella in Carrozza doesn’t really feel like a normal sandwich, it’s a bit like a pizza – with much less preparation!

The recipe is quick and easy: You just need to fill the bread with mozzarella and basil leaves, dust both sides of the bread with a thin layer of flour before you dip it in an egg and milk mixture and fry the sandwich in a pan until it’s golden on both sides. Although the bread tastes really good when it’s just out of the pan, still fresh and warm, we enjoyed a couple an hour later just as much!

Mozzarella in Carrozza

 

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Mozzarella and Basil in Carrozza

For a lunch for 2 you need

white bread 6 slices (you could cut off the crust but I prefer to leave it on)
mozzarella, drained, 125g / 4.5 ounces, cut into 6 slices
fresh basil leaves 9
organic eggs 2
milk 4 tablespoons
salt and pepper
plain flour
olive oil for frying
butter, 1 tablespoon, for frying

Whisk the milk, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Pour some flour on a plate.

Put 2 slices of mozzarella and 3 slices of basil in between 2 slices of bread, leaving a little margin around the edges. Press the bread together and dip both sides in flour (they should be lightly dusted). Turn the sandwiches in the egg and milk mixture until all the liquid is soaked up.

In a non-stick pan, heat a splash of olive oil and the butter and fry the sandwiches on both sides until golden. When you turn them around, gently push them down with a spatula. Take the bread out and cut in half. It’s best to enjoy it immediately while the bread is still warm and the cheese is melted.

Mozzarella in Carrozza

 

Mozzarella in Carrozza

 

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Basil and Mint Lemonade and organic farming on the island

Basil and Mint Lemonade

My Maltese brother Alex has been telling me about his own juices, lemonades and non-alcoholic cocktail creations for months and when I saw him in the kitchen, chopping herbs and fruits, crushing ice cubes and working on new colourful compositions every few days, I asked him if he would like to come up with a refreshing lemonade recipe for eat in my kitchen.

It was a hot afternoon and I had just come back home from my visit to a farm in Bahrija. I had a peppermint plant in my hand which I got from Peppi Gauci who runs the Bahrija Oasis farm and Alex decided to mix a chilled basil and mint lemonade for me. It was delicious, not too sweet, fresh, lemony and with strong herbal flavours! You should try this recipe on one of these hot August afternoons, you just need to mix everything in a blender and within a few seconds you’ll have a drink ready to revitalise your senses!

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

In the past few weeks I went to two farms in Malta which have completely different visions and approaches to farming. One of them is Bahrija Oasis which is a bio dynamic farm with organic produce (although not certified organic). Bahrija is part of the Permaculture Research Foundation Malta project, a holistic design philosophy which aims to create “community eco-systems in which plants, animals and human beings, and all forms of ecological diversity interact to produce a prolific, ecologically-sound and regenerative system that can support itself and life indefinitely”. The idea is to provide all we need to live, like food, water, shelter, energy and health consistent with the Earth’s natural balanced ecosystems, symbiotic and synergistic. This project brings together likeminded people with interests in green issues, ecological designers and students and the Bahrija Oasis provides the ground and platform for this work.

Eleven years ago Peppi got the land from his family and it wasn’t cultivated at all at that point, just rocks, some weeds and steep hills, but over the years he managed to establish a working permaculture project. He changed the dry and arid landscape into a fertile farm, a biotope with a much greater biodiversity producing organic crops such as sprouts, herbs, seeds, medical plants and vegetables. Many students and volunteers visit the farm to learn more about sustainability, eco-education, wildlife and permaculture at the workshops hosted at the farm. If you’re interested, just visit permaculturemalta.org and ask Peppi about the workshops!

To get to the farm, we had to walk along a little stream covered with tall bamboo for  about 10 minutes. This water is home to the very rare, endemic Maltese freshwater crab, Qabru. Their population is declining steadily and we were lucky to find one  in the shallow water looking at us!

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

My second visit brought me to a beautiful place in Ahrax in Mellieha which is owned by Louis Cini (you can see his farm in the last 10 pictures). It’s been in his family’s hands for generations and his concept is completely different. It’s a certified organic farm producing a great selection of wonderful fruit and vegetables. Organic farming isn’t as established in Malta as it is in northern Europe but Louis is one of the pioneers. His fields produce some of the best grapes, figs and tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. He also grows sweetcorn, various kinds of lettuce, cabbage and marrows and much more, this farm looks as peaceful and welcoming as Louis’ smile!

What made this visit very special to me, apart from meeting Louis, was being able to see the old rooms at the back of the farm which are no longer used and where his relatives used to live. Louis decided to leave them untouched, in the exact way they looked when his uncle who was the last to live there, passed away. It felt like traveling in time, to see the old furniture, the small, very basic kitchen working without electricity in the olden days, colourful enamel cookware in shelves that have been rusting for years, battled boots from the times of war, manual farming tools under piles of dust, quilts and pillows, photographs eaten away by time, by the wind and the salty air. Louis told me to take pictures, and I took many but at first I wasn’t sure if I should show them. It felt like such an intimate insight in someone’s life who isn’t even here but Louis encouraged me, he feels proud to share his family’s heritage. This is what life in the Mediterranean looked like 100 years ago, nothing changed in these rooms, this is a great gift!

Basil and Mint Lemonade

Basil and Mint Lemonade  

For 500ml / 1 pint of lemonade you need

fresh big basil leaves 10
fresh mint leaves 20
water or soda water, chilled, 500ml / 1 pint
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 big lemon
sugar 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
ice cubes for serving

Put the ingredients in a blender and mix well. Fill the lemonade in big glasses with ice cubes.

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

This is Louis Cini’s beautiful farm in Mellieha:

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade

 

Basil and Mint Lemonade