Tag: Malta

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

Most of the beaches and bays, restaurants and cafés, and markets and shops I visit in Malta are treasured finds of the past. Since I spent my first summer here 9 years ago, I gathered a long list of many places that I need to see at least once every time I come to the islands – I barely have enough time to discover something new. There are many traditions that I set up for myself, like my annual visit to the Sunday morning mass at Valletta’s St John’s Co-Cathedral, which is held in Latin and accompanied by the most ethereal choir. I went to this magnificent cathedral with my Maltese mama, the rest of the house was still asleep, and afterwards we enjoyed a strong cappuccino at Caffe Cordina. I recommend sitting inside with the locals, next to the bar and order some of their addictive treats. This time I went for spongy rum baba deeply soaked with sticky syrup followed by a buttery ricotta pastizzi – both were divine.

Fontanella Tea Garden in Mdina is another one of my favourite sweet spots. The view is breathtaking, sitting high up on a hill surrounded by ancient bastions, it allows you to see large parts of the island. Their chocolate cake is a classic, dark and juicy and a must whenever I visit Malta’s old capital.

But all these sweets are still not enough of a reason to keep the oven back home in Msida switched off. The antique furniture, plates, and cutlery that fill our family’s Malta home inspired me to come up with a dessert that suits all the beautiful lace doileys, fragile tea cups and silver tablets with floral patterns. An elegant meringue, lusciously topped with whipped honey mascarpone and Maltese figs was just right – visually and in taste. It’s sweet and creamy, light and crunchy, with a juicy hint of fruit. Italian meringues are large and pale, crunchy on the outside and still a little soft inside. I preheated the oven to 160°C / 325°F, turned it off, and left the meringue in overnight, they came out perfect. The mascarpone whipped with a bit of heavy cream and warm honey was a nice contrast to the meringue’s crunch.

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

For the meringue

large organic egg whites 3
a pinch of salt
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon

For the honey mascarpone

mascarpone, drained, 250g / 9 ounces
heavy cream 2 tablespoons
aromatic honey, like thyme or orange blossom, 2-3 tablespoons

For the topping

ripe figs, quartered, 6

It’s best to prepare the meringues a day ahead and leave them in the oven overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160°C / 325°F (conventional setting) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For the meringue, in a large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt for 1 minute. Continue whisking for 15 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of the sugar at a time. The meringue should be stiff and glossy, then whisk in the vinegar. Spoon 6 large mounds onto the lined baking sheet and, using a spoon, swirl the tops a little. Place the baking sheet in the oven, switch off the oven, and bake the meringues overnight (for about 8 – 12 hours), without opening the door. If the meringues are still too soft on the outside, turn on the oven again and bake for a few minutes until crunchy on the outside.

For the honey mascarpone, in a medium bowl whisk the mascarpone and heavy cream until creamy, add more cream if necessary. Warm up the honey in a saucepan over low heat for about 1 minute until liquid and slightly warm, and stir into the mascarpone. Keep in the fridge until serving.

Cut a small top off each meringue, top with the honey mascarpone and figs, and close with the meringue tops. Serve immediately once the meringues are filled.

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

Italian Meringue with Honey Mascarpone and Figs

 

meringuemascarponefigs9

Back on the islands: Grouper with Watermelon and my first days in Malta

Grouper with Watermelon

I’m back, I’m back, I’m back! My first days in Malta have been packed with excitement, overwhelming joy, and a tight schedule. When you haven’t seen your Maltese family and friends for so many months, you have to be prepared that everybody wants to see you as soon as possible – which led to two weeks of dinner parties and long chats at breakfast tables and in beach bars. Whenever it was possible, I squeezed in extensive snorkeling trips and my beloved visits to the fish market, my vegetable man Leli, and the (almost) daily treats at my confectionary in Msida, Busy Bee.

We went to a beautiful wedding just two days after we arrived to celebrate the love of Michelle and Michelangelo. The event was announced as a ‘farm wedding’, so I slid into a simple flowery dress. However, my German idea of a farm had nothing to do with the venue that extended before my eyes as the heavy gates opened. We passed countless trees, a gorgeous cubistic house built of golden Maltese limestone, and a bubbling fountain. After a quick stop at the tempting cocktail bar, I found myself in the middle of a huge space surrounded by fields, filled with beautiful people wearing long dresses and swallow-tailed coats. Needless to say I felt a little underdressed, but that didn’t matter at all, as the food was served and the dancing began, no one gave any thought to the dress code.

Grouper with Watermelon

The following days were so windy that most of our favourite snorkeling spots were not safe for swimming, the currents were too strong. Luckily, my Maltese mama Jenny pointed out a protected bay I had never visited before, which allowed us to jump into the clear blue Mediterranean Sea despite the strong winds. Xrobb l-Għaġin bay is framed by white cliffs and a nature park situated on a small peninsula in the south east of Malta. It’s a hidden spot, which isn’t known by many tourists and a bit hard to find, so we had the whole bay almost to ourselves. Sunday morning started with a creamy cappuccino in Marsaxlokk and a look at the fishermen’s latest catch. After a little bargaining we drove home with 2 pounds of sardines and the same amount of mackerel, an octopus, and some swordfish. Lunch was long, accompanied by a nice bottle of chilled white wine, and the rest of the day was rather lazy.

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

I celebrated my birthday last week and I always have the same gift for myself: a day in Gozo with my man and no internet. We went to Il-Kantra at the tip of the Mgarr ix-Xini bay, had an espresso, and enjoyed the sparkling blue as we jumped off the rocks. It’s one of my favourite spots for swimming and snorkeling. You can see a lot of fish there – and bright red starfish. There were a few jellyfish this time, they looked beautiful, sparkling purple in front of the bay’s mesmerizing turquoise. I always wear my goggles to avoid an unpleasant and painful collision with these slow moving creatures. I could have stayed in the refreshing waters for hours but our lunch appointment urged me out of the sea. A table at my most beloved restaurant in the whole world was waiting for us. Noel treats his guests at his Rew Rew Kiosk/ beach bar/ restaurant to the most amazing seafood fresh from the sea and the glasses are filled with Livio Felluga‘s wonderful Sharis wine, an elegant cuvée of Chardonnay and Ribolla-Gialla grapes. We ate grilled Barracuda, which was divine, juicy tuna belly, and calamari from the BBQ. A chameleon came to visit us in the branches above our heads before we finished the meal with a scrumptious crème brûlée. We left Noel and his restaurant 4 hours later with happy smiles on our faces. The Blue Hole at Dwejra was next on our schedule, a moody spot in the sea, which is too rough to swim in most of the time. We were luckily, the sea was almost as calm as a lake and allowed us to explore its breathtaking underwater scenery until we felt ready for dinner. We picked up our obligatory Gozitan ftira pizzas at the Maxokk Bakery, our appetite was surprisingly strong after our luscious lunch, and enjoyed them on the rocks of Daħlet Qorrot bay. We had a sundowner at Gleneagles Bar in Mgarr (another one of our countless traditions) and took the ferry back to Malta. It was a happy birthday.

Cooking in Malta feels so different to cooking in Berlin. The produce is fresher – straight from the fields and the sea – and everything seems tastier, the food is honest and pure and so satisfying that I don’t even bother mixing too many ingredients together most of the time. This leads to very simple salads, seafood seasoned only with pepper and a little lemon and some herbs. To combine grouper, called Ċerna in Maltese, with watermelon, basil, and mint, is as far as it gets at the moment. I’m after easy treats when I live under the hot Mediterranean sun. The combination of the firm fish and the sweet and juicy fruit didn’t let me down, we enjoyed every single bite of our lunch snack.

Grouper with Watermelon

Grouper with Watermelon, Basil and Mint

For 1-2 people (makes a lunch snack for 2)

large slice of watermelon, peeled and seeded, cut into chunks
olive oil
lemon 1/2
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
grouper fillet 1 (about 2oog / 7 ounces)
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

Divide the watermelon between plates, drizzle with olive oil and a little lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat and cook the grouper for about 2 minutes on each side until just done. Cut the fish in half and divide between the plates, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little lemon juice. Sprinkle with basil and mint and enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine!

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

Grouper with Watermelon

 

grouperwatermelon10

 

grouperwatermelon21

 

grouperwatermelon14

Maltese Zeppoli – Fried Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ricotta and Fresh Berries

Maltese Zeppoli

My Maltese family has been telling me about zeppoli – or zeppole in Italian – for many, many years. Countless stories about these puffy, tiny balls of choux pastry, fried to golden perfection, and filled with ricotta, fed my curiosity and made my mouth water. In Malta, the little sweets, also known as sfineġ, are traditionally made on the 19th March to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph. The filling is rich, refined with chocolate and candied peel and fruit, and topped with chopped hazelnuts. In other parts of the Mediterranean, like southern Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia, you can also find them plain, rolled in sugar, dipped in melted chocolate, or topped with vanilla custard. There wasn’t the slightest doubt which version I’d go for.

The problem is, when you have an idea of a classic dish without actually ever having tried it, it becomes a dish of its own. In my mind, I always imagined the little puff balls filled with pretty berries. I couldn’t really see the chopped chocolate bits but lots of vanilla freshly scraped out of its pod, sweet orange juice, and fragrant Maltese honey stirred into the creamy ricotta. I have an excuse, I’ve never been to the Maltese archipelago on St. Joseph’s special day, so I have never tried a single original zeppoli. Therefore, I just used my imagination and my critical Maltese man, and gave this project a go in my kitchen. I’m not the biggest fan of deep-frying – and some zeppoli recipes even allow you to bake the pastry in the oven – but I didn’t want to move away from its origin too much. I made 26 of the crisp balls and to my surprise, they all turned out well, apart from the usual 2 to 3 first trials to find the right temperature setting. It should be relatively low, on medium, so that the inside can cook long enough without burning on the outside – golden and crisp should be the goal. The filling was delicious, fine and aromatic, and a couple raspberries and blueberries on top made it summery fresh. I was more than pleased with the result, and so was my Maltese man, the last zeppoli ‘disappeared’ after dinner.

There’s also a savoury version of this dish, filled with anchovies, however, my imagination fails to give me an idea of how this would taste. I guess I have to go to Malta for this culinary experience. If you’re into deep-fried sweets, you can also try my Greek Loukoumades, made with yeast dough.

Have a Happy Easter with your loved ones and enjoy lots of chocolate eggs! xx

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

Maltese Zeppoli – Fried Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ricotta and Berries

Makes about 26 cream puffs

For the filling

fresh ricotta 250g / 9 ounces
flowery honey, such as orange blossom, 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/2
raspberries, 1 small handful (about 100g / 3 1/2 ounces)
blueberries, 1 small handful (about 100g / 3 1/2 ounces)

For the choux pastry

sunflower oil, about 1 1/2l / 6 cups, to fry the pastry
unsalted butter 120g / 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 50g / 4 tablespoons
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
water 120ml / 1/2 cup
plain flour, siefted, 130g / 1 cup
organic eggs 3

For the topping

icing sugar

For the ricotta filling, in a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta, honey, orange juice, and vanilla seeds until creamy. Season with honey and vanilla to taste. Keep the ricotta in the fridge until you fill the choux pastry.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the sunflower oil on medium-high heat. Line a large baking dish with kitchen paper.

For the pastry, in a large pot, bring the butter, sugar, salt, and water to the boil. Turn the heat down to low, stir in the flour vigorously with a wooden spoon, and mix until smooth and the dough comes away from the side of the pan. Transfer the dough to a bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Beat the eggs in with a spoon, 1 at a time, only mix in the next one when the one before is well combined.

When the oil is hot – dip in the bottom end of a wooden spoon, little bubbles, should form around it – scoop out 1 heaping teaspoon of the dough and carefully scrape it with a second teaspoon into the hot oil. Start with 2 balls of dough to adjust the temperature, you might have to turn the heat down to medium or a little bit lower. The pastry has to cook for 4-6 minutes for the inside to be cooked through. The outside should be golden and not dark brown. If they become dark after 2-3 minutes, turn the heat down. Transfer the cooked zeppoli to the lined baking dish and continue frying the remaining dough. Let them cool completely.

Using a sharp knife, cut a wide slit in the top part of each zeppoli and fill with a spoonful of the vanilla ricotta. Top with 2-3 berries, sprinkle with icing sugar, and serve. Once the zeppoli are filled, they should be enjoyed within the next hour as the ricotta soaks the pastry.

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

zippoli12

Lemon Crème Brûlée Tart and Malta’s Mdina Glass

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

My mother completely falls for design, be it in the form of furniture, porcelain, cutlery or architecture, she and the rest of my family are quite obsessed with pleasing the eye. In her house you find far more than one set of plates, she has them in bulk, in all forms, materials and colours used for different occasions and needs. She can talk about miniature porcelain birds and vase collections with such passion that even I (only sometimes) believe I might need an elegant sparrow on my table. We have a lot in common, but here we’re different, I’m a bit more of a minimalist and prefer my home clear and – compared to hers – empty; but our minds meet when it comes to handcrafted products. The art of dedicating a lifetime to a material and shaping it with respect to the highest standards of quality is more than just fascinating, it’s admirable.

When my mother came to visit us in Malta this summer we obviously had to hop into the little Mdina Glass shop in the country’s former capital. The glassware manufacturer offers different design series, as bright and colourful as the land they are made in, we loved it! We also spotted a collection that was new to me, textured glass in vibrant shades of green, blue, yellow and red. It was love at first sight when I saw the turquoise coloured bowls and glasses. So I made a decision, I wanted to go back to visit the company’s manufacturing halls. Last week, I had the chance to meet Mark at the Ta’ Qali Crafts village close to the city of Mdina and I had an insight into the beautiful art of making glassware.

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

Founded in 1968, Mdina Glass is a relatively young family run business. Although the actual craft seems like quite a male domain – there were only men at the 1400°C (2550°F ) oven – production and product development is in the hands of one of the daughters. It’s a story of success built on respect for the artisans who create the fragile products with their hands and mouth. Mdina Glass calls it the freedom of expression that can be found in every single piece – handmade and unique.

Inspired by such vibrancy, the hot oven’s fire and – of course – Malta, the land of the best lemons, I felt like a lemon crème brûlée tart. A smooth but slightly sour filling refined with cardamom and made with lots of citrus juice and zest, eggs and cream sits on a buttery shortcrust. Caramelized lemon slices made it look pretty before my blowtorch turned the sugar sprinkled on top into a thin, blistered crust. Heavenly!

A quick note: to save time, I didn’t prepare a crème brûlée that has to cool for hours, I mixed heavy cream with crème fraîche and eggs and baked the filling right on top of the pastry instead.

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

Lemon Crème Brûlée Tart

It’s easiest to bake the tart in a loose-bottom tart pan. You will need a blowtorch for the topping.

For a 23cm / 9″ tart pan you need

For the short crust base

flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
granulated sugar 65g / 1/3 cup
a pinch of salt
butter, cold, 110g / 4 ounces
organic egg yolks 2

For the filling

organic eggs 2
organic egg yolks 2
heavy cream 100ml / 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons
crème fraîche or sour cream 3 tablespoons
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cardamom
freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 tablespoons
lemon zest 2 1/2 tablespoons

For the topping

small organic lemon, very thinly sliced
granulated sugar 4 tablespoons plus a few spoonfuls for the burnt topping
water 4 tablespoons

For the pastry, combine the flour with the 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. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 12 minutes.

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

Roll the dough out between cling film and line the tart pan with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Take the pan out of the oven and set aside.

Turn the oven down to 180°C / 355°F and prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks, heavy cream, crème fraîche, sugar, salt and cardamom with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and continue mixing until well combined. Place the tart pan with the pre-baked pastry back into the oven and pour the lemon filling on top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until just set.

Prepare the caramelized lemon sliced while the tart is in the oven. In a wide pan, bring the sliced lemon, sugar and water to the boil and cook until soft and golden brown. This can take 6-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the lemon and the temperature, mind that it doesn’t burn. Pull the pan off the heat and arrange the caramelized fruit on top of the tart. Sprinkle with 1-3 tablespoons of sugar (depending on the desired sweetness) and brown the top gently with a blowtorch.

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

 

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

 

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

 

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

 

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

 

Lemon Cème Brûlée Tart

 

lemontart13

Oregano Potato Salad, Grilled Prawns and Malta’s Hidden Gems

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

Being back on my island feels unbelievably good! The past 10 days have been filled with lonely beaches, fishermen’s villages, camping on a lonely island, new restaurant and ice cream shop discoveries, espresso breaks at traditional cafés and my obligatory (almost) daily visits to one of the countless pastizzerias. I’m in heaven – like every summer!

Whenever we go to Malta, I have a long list of things I definitely want to do while we’re here. Our friends and family have the same idea, which means I have to plan well. The first 2 weeks tend to be packed with all the places I’ve been desperately wanting to visit in the past few months. My first day on the island is all about grocery shopping and a visit to my favourite vegetable man. Every Tuesday and Friday, the farmer Leli parks his mobile truck shop in Msida to offer his fresh produce under pink oleander trees. This man has the most charming eyes and the juiciest melons, peaches and tomatoes right from his fields. I stock up on Maltese sausages and Ġbejna (local sheep cheese) and sneak into one of the old village bakeries to buy far more bread than a family of 5 can possibly eat. But there’s always the option to make a Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) or a Maltese Bread Pudding with the leftovers, so there’s no reason to feel bad. This year I finally went to Qormi, a town famous for its traditional bread baking skills. I literally followed my nose and spotted a tiny place in a side street which makes fantastic large loaves of sourdough bread, Ftiras (rings of breads) and soft aniseed buns. The two bakers Duminku and Glenn took time out to show me around and to my surprise, also shared the bakery’s traditional Maltese bread recipe with me! So I’m planning on trying this recipe in my Maltese mama’s kitchen and, hopefully, sharing the successful results with you soon. I asked Duminku for a recipe for 1 loaf which might have been a bit silly, 12 loaves was the minimum we could compromise on.

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

We spent another unforgettable afternoon at Ghar Lapsi in the south. After a long swim and snorkeling in the most mesmerizing crystal blue, we sat with an aperitif at Rita’s, the rather old-fashioned Lapsi View Bar & Restaurant. My Aperol Spritz was the size of a fish bowl and the view of lonely Filfla island at sunset was so stunning that we decided to stay for dinner. It was a wise choice, the spider crab ravioli were to die for. Ice cream was next! My Maltese sister Emma insisted that we had to try Mario’s creations at Ta’ Skutu in Qrendi, a small family run business started in 1900, cooling their creations with ice blocks imported from Sicily. Besides the classic flavours, he also offers seasonal specialities, like beer or potato ice cream. I was truly struck by the sweets and the pretty, old interior (and the deer on the wall). But getting to know his chatty niece holding a white rabbit in her arm turned the visit into an almost Alice in Wonderland-like experience – the whole scene felt beautifully surreal. We finished the night at Mariano’s farm (my farming and modeling brother in law) with an introduction to keeping sheep and a traditional Kusksu (Maltese bean soup) with homemade Ġbejna – freshly made from sheep milk which had been milked only 5 hours before.

A night of wild camping on Malta’s small sister island Comino allowed us to enjoy a late evening and early morning swim at Blue Lagoon. This place is paradise as long as you don’t join the day tourists turning the lagoon into a sardine tin during the day. It’s a summer hotspot, the white beaches and turquoise water make you feel like you’re in the middle of the Caribbean. We stayed in our tent at Santa Marija Bay and had the Blue Lagoon almost to ourselves after everybody had left.

My obligatory Sunday morning visit to the Marsaxlokk fish market inspired today’s recipe: the most simple potato salad made with only 5 ingredients (potatoes, olive oil, Gozo sea salt, crushed pepper and fresh oregano) crowned by delicious prawns right from the BBQ.

This is sweet summer life!

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

 

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

Oregano Potato Salad, Grilled Prawns

For lunch for 2 you need

large prawns (wild, not farmed) 4-6
large waxy potatoes rinsed, scrubbed and cooked, 2-3
olive oil
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
fresh oregano leaves, 2-4 tablespoons
lemon 1/2

Grill the prawns on a BBQ or sear in a pan in a little oil on high heat.

Cut the potatoes into thick slices and divide them between 2 plates. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. Serve with the prawns and fresh lemon juice.

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

 

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

 

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

 

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

 

Oregano Potato Salad with Grilled Prawns

 

oreganopotatosaladprawns14

 

oreganopotatosaladprawns9

Joanna’s amazing Maltese Bread Pudding

Maltese Bread Pudding

Fruity, sticky and juicy, that’s what comes to my mind when I think of Joanna Bonnici’s Maltese Bread Pudding. I loved its richness, stuffed with sweet Mediterranean flavours, like tangerine and orange, the bread mixture enhanced by the aromas of nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, coconut and whiskey. I got hooked on it after the first bite and couldn’t stop cutting piece after piece off this cakey juiciness!

When I met Joanna at her house a few days ago for the meet in your kitchen feature, I was so excited to see her, but I must admit that I had been looking forward to trying her famous pudding for days! Her kind and welcoming character, her big smile made me feel at home straight away. We sat down in her garden, enjoyed a cup of coffee and a slice of her pudding for breakfast and it felt like we had known each other for years! She made us feel so comfortable that, when I finished the first slice of this wonderful sweet, I didn’t feel shy to ask for another one!

When I got home I shared another piece with my Maltese Mama Jenny, a true bread pudding connoisseur. We sat down together in her kitchen, prepared for our sweet tasting. Jenny could only agree, she said it was the best Maltese bread pudding that she had ever tasted!

Maltese Bread Pudding

 

Maltese Bread Pudding

Maltese Bread Pudding

stale rolls or Panini, torn into bite sized chunks, 6 (about 500g / 17 1/2oz)
fresh milk 1l / 4 1/4 cups
mixed fruit 250g / 9 ounces
orange, juice and zest, 1
desiccated coconut 3 tablespoons
dates, chopped, 100g / 3.5 ounces
apricot jam or marmalade (or whatever there is in the pantry) 2 tablespoons
sugar 3 tablespoons
cocoa powder 2 tablespoons
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of vanilla
a pinch of cinnamon
tangerine zest 1 teaspoon
amaretto di Saronno (or whiskey) 2 tablespoons

Mix the milk, orange juice, vanilla, amaretto and marmalade. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and add the milk-orange mixture. Mix with your fingers and let it soak for an hour.

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F and line a 23 x 28 x 4cm / 9 x 11 x 1 1/2″ baking dish with parchment paper.

Fill the pudding mixture into the lined baking dish and bake in the oven until the top of the pudding is firm and springy. Insert a skewer to check if the pudding is done.

May be served with warm custard or on its own with a cup of tea.

Maltese Bread Pudding

 

Maltese Bread Pudding

 

Maltese Bread Pudding

Bread Salad with Tomato and Basil and an early morning swim

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

The most beautiful sparkling blue and a fantastic snorkeling trip was our reward for leaving the house quite early on Sunday morning while everyone else was still asleep in the village. I’m awake earliest (together with Jenny) so it was my job to get the other ones out of their beds and into the car. I managed and off we went to Wied iz-Zurrieq for an early Sunday morning swim before we went to the fish market in Marsaxlokk.

Imagine a fjord cut deeply into barren rocks, steep cliffs tumbling into the calm, crystal blue sea in the protected bay. The water is so clear that you can see the seabed metres below and swarms of colourful fish swimming around your feet. The blue of the sea is just mesmerizing, I love to go there in the morning, when the sun is low and creates sparkling reflections which reach deep into the water. I’m obsessed with snorkeling and this is one of my favorite spots.

Most of the tourists come here to visit the famous Blue Grotto, fishermen in tiny colourful wooden boats – Luzzus in Maltese – take them around the corner of the fjord to show them the grotto’s fascinating shades of blue. I’m here to see the big schools of fish along the cliffs and to swim through the bubbles of the divers who are getting ready for their trip from this spot. If you visit this place you should either come very early in the morning to enjoy the water and sea world or in the early evening when fishermen’s families come to take an evening swim at the end of the fjord. There’s lots of chatting and laughing, kids jumping into the sea and older boys looking for octopus. This scene is as beautiful as it is timeless, the atmosphere is basically the same as it was 100 years ago. This is Malta as it’s always been and how it will hopefully stay!

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

 

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

At home in Jenny’s kitchen, I’m back in my cooking groove and one of the dishes that I prepared for us was my personal ultimate holiday salad, Panzanella, a bread salad with tomatoes, red onions, basil and mint. It’s perfect for a quick lunch when the temperatures are so high that you don’t even want to switch on the cooker. When I was a child, we used to go to a village close to Luca in Tuscany for our summer holidays. One of the dishes my mother prepared very often (and I loved) was this salad. In the South, bread tends to dry out much quicker because of the high temperatures, there is always some stale bread lying on the table waiting for further processing. So this recipe comes in handy quite often when we’re here in Malta.

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

Bread Salad with Tomato, Basil and Onions

For 2 people you need

medium sized tomatoes, thickly sliced, 3
a small red onion, chopped, 1
white bread, cut into big cubes. 1 thick slice
fresh basil leaves, a handful
olive oil 3 tablespoons
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper

Arrange the tomatoes in a big plate and sprinkle with the onions, bread and basil leaves. Whisk the olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste and pour over the salad, serve immediately.

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

 

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

 

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

 

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

 

Bread Salad with Tomato + Basil

Moscato Prawn Pasta and a Festa to celebrate our arrival in Malta

Moscato Prawn Pasta

I’m finally back in Malta! I can’t describe how much I’ve been looking forward to having my feet on Maltese ground again. I just wanted to smell the air, feel the sun on my skin and see all the beloved faces at the airport again – and finally we’re here again!

When I went to Malta for the first time I learnt that the arrival at the airport is the beginning of a big, endless family feast. Aunts and uncles, cousins, the grandmother of course, sisters, brothers and my Maltese Mama Jenny, there is always a big welcoming committee waiting for us at the gate and escorting us to the house in Msida, our home town for the weeks to come. On the way there I took a deep breath of the salty air mixed with the sweet scent of oleander and wild thyme, this is Malta to me!

In the next weeks I’ll be cooking and baking in Jenny’s kitchen – and her garden as that’s where the grill is. I will share some of my favourite summer dishes with you, show you around on the islands a bit and introduce some passionate food and wine lovers to you. I will show you this wonderful place in the Mediterranean through my eyes but for a bigger picture I will be meeting and writing about Arnold, the bee keeper and Sam who produces his own olive oil, my baker, the butcher, farmers, wine and cheese makers, chefs and Maltese Mamas who’ve been cooking traditional meals for their families for many years. We will exchange recipes so that you and l can get the chance to learn a few more secrets of traditional Maltese cooking. These people, their profession and passion will show you the side of Malta that I fell in love with nine years ago. I hope I can give you an insight into this culture and food but also its warm, hospitable people who make me feel at home every time I come back.

Moscato Prawn Pasta

 

Moscato Prawn Pasta

One of the many things I’m always looking forward to impatiently when we’re in Malta is to go to the fish market in Marsaxlokk in the south of the island. The freshness and variety is overwhelming, especially for someone like me who lives in the city far away from any water (apart from rivers and lakes). Every Sunday, the fishermen offer their catch of the last night. They go out in the dark into the open sea with their colourful boats in blue, red and yellow to come back from their fishing trip a few hours or days later and fill their tables with swordfish, tuna, sea bream, moray eels, prawns and many more. These aren’t big companies, these are families who have been in the fishing business for many generations.We went there yesterday and I didn’t know where to start and when to stop filling our ice box!

One of our purchases were Maltese prawns, the best I ever ate, almost sweet in taste. We threw them on the grill with some garlic and lemon, and enjoyed them with Maltese bread and wine to celebrate our arrival!

Next time when I write about one of our seafood meals I will tell you a bit more about Marsaxlokk, the fishing village and it’s  picturesque atmosphere but for now I’m off to the beach!

Moscato Prawn Pasta

 

Moscato Prawn Pasta

The weekend of our arrival happened to be Msida’s Festa – the holy feast – in honour of Saint Joseph. Each village praises its patron saint with days of celebration including fireworks and a long procession with the saint’s statue carried through the whole village. If you ever get the chance to join a Festa in Malta you will understand a lot about the Maltese culture, its traditions but also about the people’s untamable will to celebrate and enjoy life!

Moscato Prawn Pasta

 Moscato Prawns with Linguine

For 4 people you need

linguine 300g / 10.5 ounces
prawns (in their shells, the heads removed) 300g / 10.5 ounces
garlic, quartered, 2 big cloves
Moscato wine 75ml / 2.5 ounces
water used to cook the pasta, 50ml / 1 3/4 ounces
freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons plus more to taste
olive oil
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
salt

Cook the pasta al dente in lots of salted water.

In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil together with the garlic. When the oil is hot add the prawns and sauté for 1 minute. Deglaze with half of the wine, add the rest of the wine, the lemon juice and the water. Mix in the pasta and season with salt, crushed pepper and lemon juice to taste, serve immediately.

Moscato Prawn Pasta