Tag: mint

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Turmeric and Mint

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Mint

Nature is blossoming all around me! Crunchy young leaves sprinkle the branches of the Linden trees in front of our house with their fresh green, thousands of yellow, pink and white flowers take over the city, visually and with their fragrance. It feels so refreshing and wakes up all my senses!

So many colours bursting around me inspire my culinary activities, I need crisp greens, beans, peas and mint, and a little orange, sweet and sour kumquats and fresh turmeric root for a light vinaigrette. You could also enjoy this composition as a warm side dish, with a splash of olive oil instead. I wanted to take my time, to prepare one ingredient after the other without hassling about keeping everything warm. I chose to slow down my pace, the kitchen windows wide open and the birds seemed as excited about this outburst of spring as I am. It was a cold salad in the end, enjoyed with a relaxed mind and a couple slices of fresh ciabatta.

beanpeakumquatsalad4

 Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Turmeric and Mint

For 2 as a lunch or 4 as a side dish you need

flat green beans, the ends cut off, 380g / 13 1/2oz
peas, fresh or frozen, 150g / 5 1/4oz
kumquats, rinsed and scrubbed, thinly sliced, 4
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

For the dressing
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 3 tablespoons
freshly grated turmeric root (or ginger), a pinch, to taste
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil and blanch the beans for 3 minutes or until al dente. Take them out with a slotted ladle and rinse them under cold water for a second (to keep the fresh colour). Blanch the peas in the same pot for 1 minute, take them out and rinse them for a second with cold water.

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing and season to taste. Arrange the beans and peas on a large plate, sprinkle with the dressing, the slices of kumquat, mint leaves and a little more grated turmeric root.

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Mint

 

Green Bean, Pea and Kumquat Salad with Mint

Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat, Fennel, Cardamom and Mint

Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat, Fennel and Mint

This is the most tender, aromatic and colourful braised dish you can possibly have on your plate at this time of year, at least in the Northern hemisphere. Cardamom, cumin, fennel and coriander seeds refine the deep red juices of summery (tinned) tomatoes cooked with succulent lamb shanks before tiny yellow kumquats add their bittersweet fruitiness. The fresh mint leaves on top are more than just pretty in this warming composition, their job is to freshen it up! A sheer explosions of aromas!

Over the years, I have become a big fan of shanks in my kitchen whenever I’m in the mood for a stew. Be it beef, veal or lamb, I prefer this cut over chuck steaks. The meat around the bone is packed in fat which keeps it juicy and tender while it braises in a fragrant broth of wine, fruit and vegetables. Shanks usually taste quite strong, they can easily deal with spices and herbs, perfect for Mediterranean comfort cooking with lots of rosemary, thyme, sage and garlic, or to find some inspiration in the Arabic cuisine. All those spices, those warming corns, pods and powders, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon and many more, this is the best moment to let their qualities shine. Spices are great on their own but even better in a team. Be experimental, combine your favourites and use a little bit more than you usually would, the meat and sauce can take it!

Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat, Fennel and Mint

 

Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat, Fennel and Mint

Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat, Fennel, Cardamom and Mint

You need an oven proof dish / casserole dish with a lid for this recipe.

For 3-4 people you need

lamb shanks 3-4
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
ground cardamom 1 teaspoon
ground cumin 1 teaspoon
medium sized onion, finely chopped, 1
garlic, cut in half, 4 cloves
white wine 400ml / 1 pint
tinned tomatoes of good quality (it’s worth going for a good brand!) 400g / 14 ounces
bay leaves 2
orange peel 4 long strips
kumquats, rinsed, 8
sea salt and pepper
olive oil
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

Set the oven to 160°C / 320°F.

In a casserole dish, heat a splash of olive oil and sear the shanks for a few minutes until golden brown on all sides. Take the meat out and set it aside but keep the casserole dish on the heat. Add a little more olive oil and the fennel seeds, coriander, cardamom and cumin, cook for about 20 seconds on medium heat or until you smell the spices, stir constantly. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix the lamb shanks with the spices and onion and pour the wine over the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the orange peel, bay leaves and tomatoes, chop them roughly, mix everything and bring to a simmer. Close the casserole dish with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Add the kumquats (whole, not cut) and cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat is tender and you can lift it with a fork off the bone.

If necessary, take out the meat when it’s done and cook down the sauce. Season to taste and serve with fresh mint leaves and thick slices of white bread or flatbread.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat, Fennel and Mint

 

Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat, Fennel and Mint

meet in your kitchen | Isa’s Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

On to part II of Berlin’s Hauptstadtmutti cooking session! The popular mother, fashion and lifestyle blog is run by Isa and Claudia, both such vibrant and inspiring ladies that I had to visit both of their culinary spaces. Two weeks ago, I learned how to make Claudia’s Ukrainian Pelmeni dumplings (you can read about it here) and now it’s time to cook in Isa’s kitchen.

It was cold and snowy as I made my way to meet Isa, the city was wrapped in a wintery grey and, although it was already 10 in the morning, it was quite dark when I reached the old house where the young mother lives with her little family of four. The imposing building is one of the few on the street which hasn’t been renovated, the facade crumbling between the majestic window frames which gives it quite a morbid charm, you can still see the beauty of the past. It looks a bit like an abandoned house in a fairy tale, it’s more than impressive and it sparked my fantasy when I walked up the creaking steps to knock on Isa’s wooden door. But then, when I entered her home, I was speechless, endless rooms and corridors, herringbone parquet floors, high ceilings lined with decorative stucco and large windows which let in the most dreamy light. Within seconds I fell in love with this elegant but cosy home!

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

Isa started Hauptstadtmutti in 2011 together with Claudia. In the first part of our cooking series I talked about their fascinating and complementary personalities which led to the two meet in your kitchen features. Both women share an international upbringing which confronted them with various cultures at a young age. Claudia grew up with an Eastern European background and Isa had quite an adventurous childhood, she lived in Baghdad in Iraq during the first 4 years of her life. Her father was a successful engineer who used to live in East Germany with his wife before his skills took him and his young family to the Middle East to design pump stations. Back in East Germany, he was also involved in the construction of the GDR’s first nuclear power station. Despite this experience, or perhaps because of it, the whole family turned to a more alternative lifestyle in the following years. They became politically active, focussed on natural home grown food and raised awareness for healthy living.

As a teenager, Isa joined yoga and meditation classes together with her father and mother. Today, her parents practice Tai Chi together with their friends in the family’s grand garden which is part of an old farm established by Isa’s grandfather. The family takes their well-being into their own hands, one generation after the other, and the next one is waiting in line. Isa passes her experiences on to her children and although they are still quite young they can already enjoy her delicious food. Isa’s cooking truly pleases the taste buds, she creates culinary moments of bliss without regrets, her food is healthy, with organic ingredients, and full of flavour. She made a fantastic beetroot risotto for me, it was  cooked to perfection, the rice corns and roots were al dente, just how I like it. She refined her composition with chèvre, parmesan and fresh mint – a great composition I can only recommend!

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

For 2-3 people you need

small beetroot 2
risotto rice (Arborio) 250g / 9 ounces
onions 2
glove of garlic 1
honey 1 tablespoon
a shot of white wine
vegetable broth 1/2-1 l / 1-2 pints
grated parmesan cheese, a handful
butter 1 tablespoon
olive oil
salt and pepper
mint 4 small branches
fresh goat cheese (chèvre), for the topping

Peel the beetroot, garlic and onions and cut them into cubes. The larger the beetroot cubes, the more bite they’ll have. Warm up the broth in a saucepan, it should be simmering.

In a large pan, heat some olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until glassy and soft. Add the beetroot and honey to the onion and let it caramelise slightly, add the rice and let it cook for a minute. Deglaze with a splash of white wine and add a ladle of broth. When the liquid has been absorbed add more broth, a little at a time stirring in between. When the rice is al dente, take the pan off the heat. Stir in the butter and parmesan cheese and let them melt into the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with chèvre and mint to serve.

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

 

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

You spent the first three years of your life in Iraq due to your father’s work as an engineer before your family moved back to East Germany. How did this experience influence your family and how did it effect your own personality?

Concerning that I should probably explain that my parents were neither in the communist party nor in the homeland security of former East Germany so it was quite a mission for them to get to live and work outside the country. But they made it because of their skills and raised my brother and I to believe that “You can get everywhere if you really want it”. That really brought me to a lot of places and made me later want to live in other countries as well. We also have a very open minded attitude towards other cultures in our family.

Do you think traveling is important for children to get to know different cultures and mentalities? Can you give some tips for traveling with young children?

If they are very young I don’t know. They will not really remember it. We did not travel too far away with our kids yet. Switzerland, France, Denmark. It is not that stressful for them but sometimes for us, the parents. Sometimes it is more fun to spend a week at the Baltic Sea than to travel for hours and hours. It is always good to have plenty of books with you, especially Wimmelbücher (picture books).

Your parents encouraged a great awareness for natural food and a healthy lifestyle by their own way of living. How did they influence your consumption, your cooking and the food you buy?

Oh yes, my mother was very into healthy food when we were young and still is. She cooks her own jams from the fruits of her garden and we always ate fruits and vegetables from the garden. She always uses fresh and natural ingredients. The older I get, and of course with children, I try to live as healthy as I can too. I usually buy local or organic fruits and vegetables.

You went to high school in the US for one year, what fascinated you about this new culture? What are your culinary memories?

Everybody was very very friendly and I just had a very great teenage time there. Culinary memories? Donuts, cheeseburger, tacos and ice cream (smiling)!

As an au pair in Paris, you also experienced the French cuisine for one year. What did you like about the food there?

It is very pure, many vegetables and beef and lots of seafood. I liked that very much and the oysters. I learned how to eat oysters. Delicious!

Did your cooking change since you became a mother? Do you have any tips to make cooking for and eating with young children easier?

I really changed into organic and local food. Eating with young children is easy. I always cooked the baby food by myself. This is totally easy and does not take a long time. What I learned is that young children want a variety and a change of food every day. They do not like to eat the same thing every day over and over. My tip is to always try to eat the same as your kids. They copy you and will (often) try more.

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

The first dish was Spaghetti Bolognese. I learned this when I was 12 when my mother was away for an allergy cure and our father taught it to my brother and I.

As a fashion observer and blogger, which are your 3 most helpful fashion tips for young mothers?

1. Always carry a large scarf for nursing in public.
2. Get a new haircut. It makes you feel good.
3. Buy at least 3 shirts or dresses which make nursing comfortable.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

In Berlin, walking around the city and on the internet reading international blogs and magazines.

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

I love to eat at Cordobar. Great food and the largest selection of wine. And I like to buy food at Mitte Meer.

What did you choose to share on eat in my kitchen?

Beetroot risotto.

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

Janine (a friend), roasted root vegetables.

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

Risotto!

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

Spaghetti Bolognese and now it is fish, especially Sushi.

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

Together with others.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Planned.

Which meal would you never cook again?

Octopus.

Thank you Isa!

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

 

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

 

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

 

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

 

Beetroot Risotto with Chèvre and Mint

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Butter Beans and Mint

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Beans and Mint

Five tasty C’s: coriander seeds, cumin, curcuma longa (turmeric), cardamom and cayenne pepper! The list of spices for my roast chicken legs is long but each single one adds its strong character to the aromatic result. I mixed a generous amount of their fragrant qualities into a golden marinade made of olive oil and lemon juice to let them infuse the chicken’s sizzling skin while cooking in the oven. The air in the kitchen smelled just wonderful and so did the meat when I put the tray onto the table. I also cooked some slices of lemon and butter beans in the spiced oil, the legumes skin burst and their velvety, soft inside mixed with the juices. It literally asked to be soaked with fresh ciabatta bread!

My mother often makes chicken legs in larger quantities when she has many people staying at her house, when my cousins visit to help her in the garden, or when her grandchildren visit and she isn’t up for an extensive dinner. I completely understand why, this dish is the ultimate comfort food, it’s easy to prepare (all you have to do is put the chicken legs on a tray and cook them in the oven) and you can easily customize the recipe. In late summer I cooked chicken legs with Moscato wine, grapes and thyme and in spring I glazed the skin with honey and roasted the meat with carrots and sage. You could also adjust my chicken with spiced peaches and work with the legs instead of the whole bird and enjoy the fruit’s sweetness together with the tender poultry. There are so many options! Sometimes my mother just cooks it with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, plain and simple. Just the idea of sitting in her garden eating the chicken leg with my fingers makes my mouth water!

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Beans and Mint

 

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Beans and Mint

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Butter Beans and Mint

For 2-4 people you need

chicken legs 4
canned butter beans, rinsed and drained, 250g / 9 ounces (double the amount for 4 people)
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
ground cumin 1 teaspoon
ground turmeric 1/2 teaspoon
ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon
cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 1/4 teaspoon
lemon, cut into thin slices, 1, plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
olive oil
coarse sea salt
fresh mint leaves, a small handful, to serve

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I use the Rotitherm setting which works perfectly for poultry).

Whisk 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the lemon juice and spices. Arrange the chicken legs in a baking dish, rub them on all sides with the spiced oil and sprinkle the skin generously with sea salt. Mix the beans with a splash of olive oil and arrange them around the meat. Put the slices of lemon on top and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Pour some of the juices over the meat a couple times while it’s cooking. Check the meat with a skewer, only clear juices should come out when it’s done. If you like, turn the grill on for a few minutes until the skin starts sizzling. Serve with fresh mint and ciabatta bread.

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Beans and Mint

 

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Beans and Mint

 

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Beans and Mint

 

Spice Roast Chicken Legs with Beans and Mint

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

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

There’s a beautiful little take away restaurant close to my flat which offers the best Chickpea Falafel and Chicken Shawarma in town, and this is not just my opinion! This tiny place is called Salsabil and it’s run by a very nice guy from Tunis, we’ve known him for years and he always brings us a cup of hot tea as soon as he sees us, even if we’re just passing by! His food is honest and authentic, he doesn’t offer that many dishes but each of them is delicious. In summer, we like to sit outside at one of the tables on the pavement and the rest of the year we enjoy the cosiness inside. We sit on wooden benches opposite a photography of the old city walls of Tunis which always reminds me of the Silent City of Mdina in Malta. The light is dimmed and they usually play traditional Tunisian music, it feels a bit like a short holiday in one of the old towns of Tunisia! When it comes to the menu I follow a bit of a tradition, I always order some juicy Falafel in pita bread with different vegetables and sauces, some of their amazing hummus and a very aromatic parsley, tomato and onion salad.

Since I already wrote about my hummus recipe and I’m not experienced enough yet to make my own Falafel in my kitchen (but that will soon change!), I will share my tomato, parsley and mint salad to create a bit of a Salsabil atmosphere at home!

This fresh salad is also great for parties and barbecues!

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

For 2 people as a side dish you need

fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped, 40g / 1.5 ounces
large, ripe tomato, finely chopped, 1
fresh large mint leaves, finely chopped, 6
small red onion or shallot, finely chopped, 1
garlic, crushed, 1 small clove
olive oil 3 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
white Balsamico vinegar 1 tablespoon
salt and pepper

For the dressing, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dressing with the tomato and herbs and serve in a bowl.

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

 

Parsley, Tomato and Mint Salad

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

Melon, Mint and Lemon

Melon, Mint and Lemon

One of the great things about living in the Mediterranean in summer is that you can find fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables at every street corner. Farmers offer their harvest of the morning on little open vans, ripe tomatoes, zucchini, aubergines, the sweetest peaches, melons, grapes and the biggest bunches of basil I’ve ever seen in my life. They are so big that you have to hold them with both of your hands! These mobile shops are the social meeting points of each street or village. It’s a beautiful scene of women buying their groceries for the next days, checking the quality of the offers, exchanging gossip and enjoying the fresh air before the heat takes over again.

My trusted vegetable man, Leli, comes to Msida twice a week, a humble man with beautiful eyes as blue as the Mediterranean sea! Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to meet him yet. He comes to our village on Tuesday and Friday in the morning and I was busy driving around on the island on both days. Jenny told me that his face lit up with a big smile when she told him that we were soon to arrive! I asked her to buy some vegetables for me before I arrived and she bought me one of the sweetest melons that I have ever eaten. It was like honey, so juicy and ripe!

We enjoyed a couple slices before I threw a handful of mint leaves from Jenny’s garden on top. Then I drizzled some fresh lemon juice over the yellow fruit, a tip a got from my Maltese auntie Sandra. It’s perfectly refreshing on these days that push to almost 40°C (104°F) on the thermometer! All you need is a very ripe Galia melon – Bettiegh in Maltese – skinned and cut into slices, a handful of fresh mint leaves, the juice of half a lemon and the heat can come!

Melon, Mint and Lemon

 

Melon, Mint and Lemon

 

Melon, Mint and Lemon

 

Melon, Mint and Lemon