Tag: bread

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Thank you Malta! xx

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-3

Ħobż biż-Żejt

Serves 2

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-4

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-2

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

Saffron Bread

Saffron Bread

Here’s the saffron bread I promised!

Let’s start with the texture, it’s juicy but light, a quality I love of all of my bread recipes, be it my Zucchini Bread, the Olive Loaf or my Potato Bread, but this one has a special aroma. It’s made with one of the most precious and expensive spices, dried saffron threads. Only a very small part of the saffron crocus’ flower is used for the production of this red spice, the three crimson stigmas growing at the end of the carpel. Lots of flowers, 150 – 200, are necessary to produce 1 gram of this treasure! Luckily, its aroma is so intense that a tiny amount is enough to refine other ingredients with its flavour.

For my bread made of a bit more than a pound of flour I used a pinch of saffron threads (around 1/5 teaspoon)  to spread their unique taste. At first I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t be strong enough for yesterday’s sandwich, the Greek feta dip mixed with harissa and cayenne pepper had quite an impact of different flavours. To my surprise, the hot spiciness and the saffron complemented each other perfectly! It was a Greek reunion as antique mythology tells that the Greek God Zeus used to sleep on a bed covered in saffron.

Saffron Bread

 

Saffron Bread

 Saffron Bread

For 1 big loaf of bread you need

plain flour 550g / 19 ounces
yeast 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
water, lukewarm, 230ml / 8 ounces
olive oil 4 tablespoons
a pinch of saffron threads (around 1/5 teaspoon)

Mix the saffron with 3 teaspoons of the water.

In  a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, add the olive oil, saffron liquid and the rest of the water and mix with your dough hooks for 5 minutes until well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for around 5 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 ( top / bottom heat, no fan!) oven for 60 minutes.

Take the dough out, punch it down and knead for 1 minute. Form 1 long loaf and put on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 25 minutes in a warm place.

Set the oven to 225°C / 440°F.

Cut 4 diagonal slashes into the bread and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through. If you’re not sure if it’s done turn the bread around and knock on its underside, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a couple minutes on a wire rack covered with a tea towel to soften the crust a bit.

Saffron Bread

 

Saffron Bread

Hobz biz-Zejt u Tadam and more delicious Goods from the Maltese Rock

Malta

Today I will share some special food with you! I got a wonderful gift from Emma, my boyfriend’s sister who lives in Malta and came to visit us for a few days. She put a big smile on my face when she opened her bag and I saw all the nice food she brought for me (well, not just for me actually). Emma knows which food I love and miss so much from her home island in the Mediterranean, especially now that it’s been a few months since I was last there. Her gift reminded me of the taste and smell of this island which I got to know so well over the past years, during so many holiday trips and summers we spent there. Our family and friends, the food, the sea, so many memories connect me to this rock in the Mediterranean (this is what many Maltese affectionately call their home island).

This is a very personal introduction to Maltese food through my eyes and taste buds.

Whenever I’m in Malta, first thing in the morning I go to a wonderful traditional bakery, St. Josephs Bakery in Msida, to buy the most amazing white bread with the perfect crust. Every Maltese is proud of this bread and it’s famous for good reason. There are two different types of bread, the big loaf called Hobz Malti (Maltese Bread) and the round Ftira with a hole in the middle. Usually, I cut thick slices off the loaf, dip them in olive oil and spread the sweetest tomatoes and some crushed pepper on top which makes the Hobz biz-Zejt u Tadam (Maltese bread with oil and tomato). There is also a famous (and quick) beach version which is made with Kunserva, a concentrated tomato paste full of ripe Maltese tomatoes and some mint or basil in between two slices of this amazing bread. There’s nothing better than sitting on the beach after a long swim, this sandwich in your hands and your fingers staining with juicy tomatoes and olive oil – I love it!

Malta

Fruits and vegetables are heavenly in this sun kissed place, strong and honest in taste, ripe, with the flavours of a soil rich in clay. There’s not much water, but the sun and the ground make up for it. My taste buds are always disappointed when I’m back home and have to get used to the store bought quality again. Maltese sausage is another speciality I’m very fond of as it’s full of spices, the meat is coarse, its taste so strong that you can season a meal with it. Dairy products are limited, this rock isn’t really made for cows, but the Maltese make a strong cheese from goat milk which is called Gbejna, delicious tiny round cheeselets. There are two kinds, the hard one which is a bit salty, great for salad and pizza, and the soft one, milky and mild. On the photos you see the hard ones from Gozo, Malta’s sister island.

One of my favourite places is Busy Bee Confectionery where I get my daily dose of delicious cakes and pies. I love their sweet Mediterranean specialities like Cannoli, Cassata Siciliana and Ottijet (figure of 8 shaped tea time cookies with sesame seads). Unfortunately the Cannoli didn’t survive the flight very well so I can’t show them to you. On the savory side there is Qassata tal-Irkotta (a round short crust pie filled with ricotta), Pastizzi tal-Irkotta or tal-pizelli (puff pastry filled with ricotta or peas) and a huge Torta tal-Laham (Beef Pie), filled with tasty beef stew.

The colourful sweets are Perlini, filled with almonds, a traditional Maltese carnival treat.

Go visit and enjoy!

Malta

 

Malta

 

Malta

 

Malta

 

Malta

 

Malta

 

Luscious Bread with Black and Green Olives

Black + Green Olive Bread

Baking bread is a very relaxing and satisfying ritual. You mix the dough and watch it rise slowly, then you shape it and bake it in the hot oven where it doubles in size again. It’s such a simple yet wonderful food, one of my favourites! Nothing beats a slice of fresh warm bread spread with butter or sprinkled with olive oil. So many people from different cultures celebrate this ritual, with similar recipes even though they live on opposite sides of the world. It’s one of our traditions that connects us and shows how much we have in common.

I have a good friend who lives in Sydney and whenever he comes to Berlin we all meet at our’s together with a few of our friends. Sometimes it’s a big dinner, sometimes we just have some wine and snacks. The only problem is that he never tells me in advance, it’s a very spontaneous thing, he’s just here at one point. Followed by another 10 – 15 people. This calls for some improvisation tricks in the kitchen, we just have to eat what my fridge offers!

Around two years ago he called to announce his arrival and I was lucky to have a few pumpkins in my kitchen, so a soup for 10 was quickly thrown together. For whatever reason I had lots of black olives as well. I like to have more than enough good bread on my table when it’s a long night so I decided to bake 2 loaves of olive bread with lots of olives and olive oil, juicy enough to nibble on after finishing the soup. The texture is light but you taste and feel the olives and the olive oil, it makes the bread really smooth. Everybody loved it and couldn’t stop eating it. This was a feast to me, it always is, sitting together with friends at my long wooden table, talking, laughing and enjoying some red wine and nice bread.

Tomorrow it’s my Sandwich Wednesday again and I will make a special sandwich with this bread which is very popular in the Middle East!

Black + Green Olive Bread

A Juicy Bread with Black and Green Olives

For 1 loaf of bread you need

plain flour 250g / 9 ounces
(I use spelt flour type 630 but you can use any other plain flour)
dry yeast 1 tablespoon
salt 1/2 teaspoon
a pinch of sugar
water, lukewarm, 70ml
milk, lukewarm, 70ml
butter 1 tablespoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons
black and green olives, chopped, 60g / 2 ounces

Combine the dry ingredients and add the water, milk, butter and olive oil. Mix with your dough hooks till everything is combined. Add the olives and continue mixing for a few minutes. Continue kneading and punching with your hands until you have an elastic dough ball, it will be a little sticky but that’s fine. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel.

Option1:
When I prepare the dough the day before I bake it, I put the bowl with the dough in the fridge (covered with cling film) and let it rise overnight. You will have to take it out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before you can continue with the next steps.

Option 2:
In case I want to bake my bread the same day, I let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven for 45 minutes. This works really well but make sure that your oven is set to top / bottom heat and not to fan.

When the dough has doubled in size, take it out, punch it down and knead with your hands for 2 minutes. Form the dough in a long loaf shape and put it on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for another 25 – 35 minutes in a warm place.

Set your oven to 200°C / 390°F top / bottom heat.

Bake the bread for 30 minutes or until cooked through. If you’re not sure if it’s done turn the bread around and knock on its underside, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for 5 – 10 minutes, cut a thick slice off it and drizzle some olive oil on top, just a bit, and sprinkle with salt.

Black + Green Olive Bread

Juicy Potato Bread with Beetroot and Walnuts

I love bread, I’m virtually obsessed with good bread and I need my daily dose of this wonderful, ancient invention. Every culture has their own bread tradition all over the world and it is so important to keep this up and to support traditional bakeries.

Potato bread has a nice crust and is very juicy inside. The kitchen smells divine when the loaf is freshly out of the oven. I love to cut it into thick slices and then let some butter melt on it. With the first bite I know why I love to bake my own bread!

Today I want to prepare a little sandwich with cooked beetroot slices. I drizzle some balsamico and olive oil on top and sprinkle with walnuts. This makes a wonderful snack or starter for a dinner party.

Beetroot

Cook 1 or 2 beetroots together with 2 bay leaves in salted water for 45 minutes (more or less depending on their size). Check with a skewer, it should come out easily, and rinse under cold water. Let them cool, peel and slice very thinly.

 Potato Bread

For this bread I used spelt flour type 630 which I love to bake with but you can use any other flour. I chose dry yeast as it is a bit quicker to prepare but you can change to fresh if you prefer.

Sometimes I prepare the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight. This is convenient for the weekend if you want some warm fresh bread on the table for breakfast.

This makes one loaf of bread

potatoes, cooked, peeled, cut in cubes, cold, 150g / 5 ounces
potato water (the water the potatoes got cooked in), lukewarm, 150ml
plain flour 450g / 16 ounces
sour cream 3 teaspoons
olive oil 1 tablespoon
dry yeast 1 1/2 teaspoons
salt 2 teaspoons

Grate the potatoes or press through a ricer (mashing works as well).

Mix the potato water with the sour cream and olive oil.

Combine 350g / 12 ounces of flour with the salt in a big bowl. You will add the rest of the flour while kneading the dough. Add the lukewarm water to the flour together with the yeast. Mix with the dough hook of your mixer until everything is combined, add the potatoes and continue mixing for around 10 minutes. After a few minutes you can start adding the rest of the flour. Put the dough ball on a floured working surface and continue kneading with your hands. You can put all your energy in this which is good for you and for the fluffiness of the bread.

When I prepare the dough in the evening I place it in a clean, oiled and covered bowl in the fridge and let it rise overnight. You will have to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before you can continue with the next steps.

In case I want to bake my bread the same day, I put the dough in a clean and oiled bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise in the 35°C / 95°F warm oven for 60-90 minutes. This works really well but make sure that your oven is set to top/ bottom heat and not to fan.

When the dough is bigger and puffy punch it down and knead for a couple minutes. This one doesn’t rise as much as dough without potatoes but you should notice a change in size. Now place your future bread on a lightly oiled baking sheet giving it the shape you want and cover with a tea towel. Give it another 30 minutes to rise in the warm oven again.

Set your oven to 230°C / 445°F (for bread it works best to use top / bottom heat and not the fan setting). Bake your bread for 10 minutes, take the temperature down to 190°C / 375°F and bake for another 20 minutes. Test by knocking on the bottom side of the bread, it should sound hollow. Let it cool on a rack before you start cutting it. I minimise this to a few minutes as I can’t wait to try it. Not with this smell in my kitchen.

Potato bread + Beetroot 3