Tag: pistachios

Marina’s Lemon Marmalade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

A month has passed and I have to leave my beloved archipelago in the deep blue Mediterranean Sea behind. This is the last recipe from my Maltese summer, but I’ll be back soon, in October, to present my ‘baby’ at one of my book launch events, at the fabulous Villa Bologna in Attard.

It’s been a summer full of emotions, with lots of work during the day and family gatherings or evening swims afterwards – the fun began as soon I closed my laptop and put my phone aside. I’ve been busy organizing the book launches in Europe and the US, I survived my first interviews and photo shoots and I met so many wonderful people who’ll be helping me over the next few months. To my surprise, I’ve been enjoying everything that comes along with being a cookbook author. I love giving interviews (I love talking!) and I’ve been quite lucky, I’ve only met very interesting and entertaining people to talk to so far. Photo shoots are still a bit challenging for me, I prefer to stay behind the camera. Usually, I ask my man to accompany me, he manages to make me laugh in the weirdest situations – the result is that we have lots of photos with a big smile on my face. We had a fun shoot with my friend, the great photographer Luke Engerer in Malta. He put me on the roof terrace of his house, the sea in front of me, sparkling in the light of the sinking sun. It was so amazing that I didn’t even mind getting naked on the roof to change (I just hope that none of the neighbours had a camera at hand).

The problem with such a busy schedule is that time flies even quicker. It feels like we just arrived, on that hot night in July and now it’s already mid August and I’m sitting at our dining table, back home in Berlin. For some reason, my home city must have misunderstood the season, Berlin welcomed us with autumn weather, I had to pull out the wool pullovers from the far back of my wardrobe. To ease the pain, I keep looking at the hundreds of pictures I took during the past 4 weeks and I remember every single second that I see in the pictures. I can smell the salty air, I can feel the hot wind on my skin, and I can even taste the ice cream that Marina made for us when we met in the kitchen and gardens of Villa Bologna. It was very lemony and it tasted so good – it was also the first recipe Marina ever made for me, back in the summer of 2015. This recipe is genius, it’s only made with lemon marmalade, heavy cream, milk, and the juice and zest of a Maltese lemon. We were so impatient, that she took it out of the ice cream machine as soon as the motor stopped. It was an early afternoon and so hot, that the ice cream started to melt as soon as we scooped it into the glasses. Marina topped it with caramelized pistachios and lemon zest and I can’t think of a better ice cream for summer – it was divine!

Whenever I have to exchange my Malta life for my Berlin life again, I tend to get a little stressed during our last two days on the islands. There’s a lot of packing to do, but this time we had to sort out the transportation of 33 pounds (!) of sea salt from Mr Cini’s salt pans in Gozo – and we managed. I also had to put away numerous packages of ottijiet cookies from Busy Bee and there were many fragile shells collected from the bottom of the sea waiting to be brought to Berlin to find a place on our window sills. Although they are already covered in shells, I can’t stop collecting more and more of them. When the packing is done, we have a long goodbye ceremony with the family at our granny Edith’s house, accompanied by a few tears and food. And when we’ve waved the last goodbyes and I’ve finally gone through security at the airport, I usually feel exhausted. I just want to get on the plane and relax, which always works out perfectly, thanks to the country’s national airline, Air Malta. I love their cute looking planes, their friendly staff, and the fact that I don’t have to worry about the weight of my luggage. Everyone gets 20kg (44 pounds) for free, just like in the good old days of flying.

Thank you Malta for another amazing summer! xx

And my last tip for the islands: I found a new old bakery in Rabat, they work traditionally and their baked goods are to die for!

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Lemon Marmalade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios 

Makes about 1.5l / 6 cups of ice cream.

heavy cream 500ml / 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
milk 500ml / 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
lemon marmalade 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
juice and zest of 1 lemon

For the topping

granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
pistachios (or almonds), roughly chopped, 50g / 2 ounces
freshly grated lemon zest

For the ice cream, chill all the ingredients and churn in an ice cream machine until creamy. If it’s still too soft, keep it in the freezer until completely frozen.

For the topping, add the sugar and pistachios to a frying pan and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until melted. Quickly transfer the caramelized pistachios to a baking sheet and break into pieces when cool.

Divide the ice cream between bowls and sprinkle with caramelized pistachios and freshly grated lemon zest.

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

 

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Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato and Pistachio Pesto and a new Saturday ritual

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

We started a new ritual and that’s to spend our Saturdays without any electronic devices, preferably in the countryside. It’s just the two of us, no duties, meetings, parties or anything, we just go with the flow and see where our mood takes us. I can’t even say which part of this ritual I enjoy more, the fact that we leave the city for a few hours or that I have 24 hours without emails, Instagram or any other social network activities. I love it.

Last Saturday we spontaneously decided to take the bus to the west of Berlin to have a cup of espresso in my aunt Ursula’s kitchen. She and my uncle Uwe make the best coffee in town and whenever I announce our visit, I can be sure to find a few pieces of cake on their table – they know me well. The espresso tasted so good that I had to have 2 doppio, which made me a bit hyperactive and ready for the next adventure. We wanted to visit Berlin’s best farmers market at Karl-August-Platz, but we got “stuck” on Kantstraße, a street famous for its Asian restaurants. We stopped at a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to test for years, but unfortunately, it didn’t meet my expectations. We ordered 6 dishes and none of them really struck me. The problem with hyped food places in the city is that you expect something outstandingly amazing if so many people talk about it. So if it’s just average, it’s disappointing. Our dessert was ice cream from the supermarket, which I don’t do very often, but it never lets me down and it’s a reminder of lots of good childhood memories. Stuffed and happy we walked to a small lake and fell asleep in the warming sunlight. The whole scene felt a bit Roman: Two happy people after a lavish meal taking a nap on a blanket in the grass.

Revitalized, we drove back home, planning our dinner of white asparagus, fresh from the fields in Beelitz. It wouldn’t be a proper Saturday if our plans didn’t change with our mood. We stopped by at our favourite local wine shop to buy a bottle of rosé for our meal, but the little bistro tables looked so inviting that we couldn’t resist sitting down for a glass of German Weissburgunder, some lemon olives, and an asparagus quiche. We got chatty and silly and stayed until 11pm, needless to say, we didn’t stop after the first glass.

We haven’t made any plans for next weekend yet, but at one point there will be this pasta dish on the table again, which I came up with last week and got hooked on. It’s a quick pesto made of sun-dried tomatoes and pistachios, the combination is divine, and it’s even better when it’s stirred into warm spaghetti. It also works very well as a thick spread on rustic white bread, the perfect nibble along with a glass of chilled German white wine. There’s one thing that our Saturdays have in common, there’s often a bottle of good wine involved – la dolce vita for a day!

Here’s my recipe for another sun-dried tomato pesto, with rosemary and thyme.

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

 

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

Serves 2

dried spaghetti, about 200g / 7 ounces
flaky sea salt, for the topping
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, for the topping

For the pesto

sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in salt, 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
salted shelled pistachios 60g / 2 ounces, plus a few chopped pistachios for the topping
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
garlic, crushed, 1 large clove

In a large pot, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.

In a small saucepan, cook the sun-dried tomatoes in a little boiling water for about 3-4 minutes or until soft. Reserve the water and rinse the tomatoes under cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels.

In a food processor or blender, purée the dried tomatoes along with 4 tablespoons of their cooking water, the pistachios, olive oil, and the garlic until smooth. Add more of the cooking water and olive oil if the pesto is too dry.

Divide the pasta between 2 plates and stir in some of the pesto. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper to taste.

You can use any leftover pesto as a spread on bread.

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

 

Pasta with Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto

 

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Pomegranate Pavlova Tart with Pistachios and Rosewater

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

In the past week, I experienced the highs and lows of kitchen life, a fact that a curious baker has to live with when jumping into new recipes. Let’s start with the uplifting experience: I baked 3 cakes and 2 were fantastic, which isn’t that bad. One of them will stay a secret until I share it with you next week, but the other one was this bomb of a cake. It’s a voluptuous beauty, full of flavour, sweetness, crunch, and fluffiness. I call it a pavlova tart – not just a pavlova, which never really managed to rouse my excitement. Baked meringue sandwiched with whipped cream can be nice but it’s not enough for me. So I decided to transfer the whole thing onto buttery shortcrust pastry and now it has my attention. This combination is so good that I believe the pastry base should have been an obligatory part of this sweet classic named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova from the start. But never mind, I’m happy with my new discovery. The light meringue is soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside, it’s refined with a hint of rosewater just like the rich whipped cream that crowns the whole composition. Sweet-sour pomegranate seeds and their juices turned into a concentrated syrup lay graciously on top, side by side with nutty pistachios. Simply wonderful!

However, my disappointing kitchen experience was an epic fail – ready for the bin. I decided to give puff pastry a try again and I regretted it the moment I pulled the result out of my oven. I spent 2 days reading about the perfect croissant and up until they were in the oven I was quite optimistic that I’d manage to bake light, crisp apricot croissants, made for a Sunday brunch table. But my hope was destroyed as I opened the oven door and witnessed a rather sad result that looked like my flaky sweets got run over by a truck. It took me 2 years to recover from my last puff pastry disaster – I tried to make Maltese pastizzi, it’s the flakiest treat, basically the queen of puff pastry – which ended in a buttery, floury soup on a baking sheet. I must say that, this time, it didn’t actually look and taste as bad as my last attempt, but it’s definitely far from making an appearance on the blog. It’s a work in progress I guess.

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart with Pistachios and Rosewater

Makes 1 23cm / 9″ tart.

For the short crust base

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

For the meringue

organic egg whites 4
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
cornstarch, sifted, 1 1/2 teaspoons
cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon
quality rosewater, preferably organic, 2 teaspoons, plus more to taste

For the topping

heavy cream, whipped, 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar
quality rosewater, preferably organic, 1 teaspoon, plus more to taste
seeds from 1/2-1 pomegranate
pomegranate juice 60ml / 1/4 cup
unsalted pistachios, chopped, 1 small handful

For the pastry, in a large bowl, combine the flour, 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; this takes a few minutes. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film, and put in the freezer for 12 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

Roll the dough out between cling film and line a 23cm / 9″  tart pan with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden and crisp. Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool completely.

For the meringue, in a large, clean bowl, using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt for 1 minute. Continue whisking for 10-12 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of the sugar at a time. The meringue should be stiff and glossy. Whisk in the cornstarch, vinegar, and 1-2 teaspoons of the rosewater. Add more rosewater to taste.

Turn the oven down to 180°C / 350°F.

Scoop the stiff egg whites onto the pre-baked pastry, spread it lightly but don’t push it down. Swirl it a bit for an uneven surface. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 135°C / 275°F and bake for about 60 minutes or until the meringue is light golden and crisp. Switch off the oven, open the door slightly, and leave the cake in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool completely.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of the rosewater. Add sugar and more rosewater to taste; set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the pomegranate juice and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar to the boil. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes or until it starts to thicken.

To assemble the tart, spread the whipped cream in the middle of the meringue, leaving a wide rim, drizzle with the syrup, and sprinkle with pomegrante and pistachios.

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

Pomegranate Pavlova Tart

 

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A juicy Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Halloween Sandwich

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

This has been the longest sandwich break ever since I started my Sandwich Wednesdays almost 2 years ago – and I missed them badly. There’s something deeply satisfying about creating a sandwich, taking the pictures of this luscious dish – and especially – eating it! It’s back again and although it was supposed to be a Halloween sandwich I must admit that it didn’t really work out. I expected my creation to look a bit messier, wildly dripping with red (pomegranate) juices, but it turned into a pretty sandwich beauty instead. Never mind.

Anyway, the flavours count more than the looks and they are more than promising in this recipe. A bit more than a year ago I shared my juicy lamb sandwich with preserved lemons and capers with you, it was a much loved and often featured sandwich that called for a new interpretation. Seared lamb fillet only needs a little salt and pepper to become the most tempting piece of meat you can possibly have on your plate, so there’s no need to change the preparation. But this time the composition went into a different direction. Sour and salty gave way for sweet, sour and nutty. The fine taste of the fillets goes unbelievably well with the tangy, deep red juices of the pomegranate and unsalted pistachios. The topping of mint leaves should be handled with care. The herb can easily be too overpowering and I don’t recommend using the whole leaves as you can see in the pictures but slice them thinly instead. Apart from this rule, you only have to stuff the composition between two slices of thick, juicy ciabatta – or even better, potato bread – and enjoy!

A short note: it also works without the bread!

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

If you don’t feel like a sandwich enjoy the creation without bread, just juicy lamb fillets sprinkled with pomegranate, pistachios and crushed pepper.

Makes 4 sandwiches

olive oil
lamb fillets 250g / 9 ounces
fine sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
juicy, white bread 8 thick slices
fresh rocket leaves, a small handful
pomegranate seeds about 4 heaped teaspoons
unsalted pistachios, chopped, about 4 heaped teaspoons
mint leaves, thinly sliced, 8

Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy pan and sear the lamb for 1 1/2 -2 minutes on each side (not longer!), the meat should be pink and slightly undone in the middle. Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper and wrap them in aluminum foil. Set them aside for a few minutes before you slice them thinly.

Brush the inside of the slices of bread with the juices from the pan and a little olive oil. Spread some rocket leaves on each slice of bread, lay a few slices of lamb on top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, pistachios, a little mint and crushed pepper. Close the sandwich and enjoy!

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

Lamb, Pomegranate and Pistachio Sandwich with Mint

 

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Maltese Ricotta Pie with Lemon Syrup and Pistachios

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

My friend Essa baked a wonderful cake a few years ago that I never managed to get out of my head. It was a Maltese cheesecake made with ricotta and eggs on top of a thin short crust base topped with sticky lemon syrup and chopped pistachios. It was so good, I dreamt of it! We enjoyed it in her Mediterranean garden, the rustic limestone walls covered in fragrant blue plumbago and white stephanotis flowers – the tantalizing smell of the south and a sweet pie on my plate.

Years have past, Essa forgot about the recipe and I, sadly, couldn’t find the copy that I had made – until a few days ago. I gave it a go in my Maltese mother’s house, in Jenny’s kitchen, the same day I made the happy discovery and it came out as amazing as I remembered it. The filling refined with lemon zest is creamy but fluffy, not as dense as a New York cheesecake. The sticky and sour syrup on top and the generous amount of crunchy nuts turn this cake into something so delicious that I soon regretted the size of the pie tin I chose. We ate it all within less than an hour!

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 Maltese Ricotta Cake with sticky Lemon Syrup and Pistachios

For a 20cm / 8″ pie form you need

short crust dough 250g / 9 ounces (you can use 1/3 of the pastry from my fruit tart recipe, click here)

ricotta 380g / 13 1/2 ounces
lemon zest 1 heaped teaspoon
organic eggs 3
sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
butter, melted, 40g / 2 heaped tablespoons
semolina (fine) 1 heaped tablespoon
pistachios (unsalted), chopped, 40g / 1 1/2 ounces, for the topping

For the lemon syrup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 75ml / 1/3 cup
sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
honey 1 heaped tablespoon

Prepare the dough, form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.

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

Roll out the dough between cling film and line your pie form with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and bake it in the hot oven for 12 minutes. Take it out when it’s golden and set aside. Turn the oven down to 190°C / 375°F.

In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, zest, eggs and sugar. Add the melted butter and semolina and whisk until well combined. Pour the cheese filling on top of the pre-baked pastry and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until just set (I use a gas oven in Malta so the baking time can be different in an electric oven).

For the syrup, bring the lemon juice, sugar and honey in a sauce pan to the boil and cook for about 4-5 minutes on high heat until thick and golden. Whisk once in a while and mind that it bubbles up while cooking, it shouldn’t burn!

Drizzle the syrup over the ricotta cake and sprinkle generously with pistachios.

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 

Maltese Ricotta Cake with Lemon Syrup

 

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Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios

Although I’m much more into cakes, pies and cookies than classic desserts, I can enjoy a good panna cotta once in a while with great satisfaction. It only needs a strong addition, chocolate doesn’t work for me here but fruits or fragrant flavours. Rosewater, orange blossom water, lavender, rosemary or spices like aniseed, cinnamon or cardamom. Anything which gives the pure milky taste of this basic cream a bit of a punch, a more defined direction is not only welcoming but also necessary to get me hooked on this dish.

Today’s recipe definitely manages to get my full attention, the flowery hint of delicate rosewater is more than tempting. It’s important that you adjust the amount of the fragrant infusion to your taste though, every product tastes different and varies in intensity. My rosewater is organic, it has no artificial or overpowering nuances, so I could whisk 5 teaspoons into the cream without feeling knocked down by its aroma. Especially in combination with the soft nuttiness of the topping, unsalted pistachios, it reveals a warm, summery feeling. I also stirred in some fresh ricotta which makes it a bit lighter and fits the season.

There’s no reason for my preference of baked desserts, the list of recipes on eat in my kitchen can’t hide that I totally fall for anything baked. Every few days, I feel the need to eat something sweet that includes pastries, cake doughs and batters. I adore the smell in my kitchen when there’s a cake rising in the oven. The whole process of baking food, the warm air around the oven, it feels quite archaic, I like that. But then there are those days which call for different treats, especially in summer, and even more so when we go to Malta, living above 30°C / 86°F constantly day and night, that’s the right time for creamy desserts: flans like the Spanish crème caramel, French creme brûlée, Bavarian cream or the wonderful Italian panna cotta. They tend to be lighter and less filling after an extensive dinner. And the preparation takes less time, which makes it a convenient crowd pleaser. You just have to time it well and keep in mind that it has to set in the fridge for a few hours which is another reason to give it a go at your summer dinner parties. You just open the door of your fridge, pull out the ramekins and sprinkle them pretty – done!

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios

 

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios 

For a small dessert for 4 or for a hungry couple (like us) you need

gelatine sheets (size 7 1/2 x 11 1/2cm / 3 x 4 1/2″) 2 1/2 sheets
heavy cream 240ml / 1 cup
milk 110ml / 1/2 cup
a pinch of salt
sugar 40g / 3 generous tablespoons
vanilla pod, scraped, 1
quality rosewater (preferably organic) 5 tablespoons, to taste
fresh ricotta 50g / scant 1/4 cup
unsalted pistachios, chopped, 1 1/2 tablespoons, for the topping
rose pedals, for the topping (optionally)

Break the gelatin sheets in half and soak in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes.

In a sauce pan, bring the cream, milk, salt, sugar and vanilla to the boil. Take the pan off the heat once it’s bubbling and squeeze in the gelatin, add the whole crumbled sheets and whisk until dissolved. Add 2 teaspoons of rosewater and the ricotta and whisk until combined. Add more rosewater to taste (I stopped at 5 teaspoons) and let the mixture cool in the pan (whisk it a few times while cooling). Once the cream is cool (it will still be liquid) pour it into 4 small ramekins, cover with cling film and refrigerate for about 4 hours (or overnight) or until the panna cotta is set. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and rose pedals, you can also serve it with fruits, strawberries are great!

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios

 

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios

 

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ricotta and Pistachios

 

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Orange Blossom Ricotta and Honey Kumquat Tartine with Pistachios

Orange Blossom Water Ricotta, Honey Kumquat and Pistachio Sandwich

A handful of little kumquats have been lying on the window sill for days challenging my kitchen creativity. They were the meager leftovers from my bean and pea salad and I didn’t really feel too inspired to use them. Although I really like these concentrated citrus fruits in combination with vegetables and dairy products, I’m not too fond of eating them on their own, so I had to come up with an idea which would fit their biting tanginess.

I thought of Malta, one of my biggest inspirations and answer to all sorts of open questions in my life. We just booked our flights for this summer, so it’s been on mind since I clicked the confirmation button on the booking page. All that Mediterranean food, our family, friends, snorkeling, the sun and blue sky above my head every day, just the thought of it makes me so happy! And we’ll have a very special guest over for a few days this summer which makes me even happier (and more excited if that’s even possible): Holly, my editor, will visit us from New York to learn more about the country and culture that I praise and write about so much. I’m as excited as a child to show her around, to introduce her to my perfect spots for snorkeling and food, our favourite beach bar for a glass of Ricard in the sunset, my Maltese mama’s and grannie’s kitchens in Msida. I want to walk though the old streets of Valletta and Mdina with her and show her where to enjoy the best pastizzi, qassatat and Spaghetti Rizzi (sea urchin pasta), so much that was once new to me many years ago and opened the door to a mentality that’s so different to mine yet filled my life with so much fun and love!

When I think of Malta, ricotta comes to mind, honey and orange blossom water, I just had to add my kumquats and a few pistachios (unsalted!) and all of the sudden I could see a new sandwich creation before my eyes. I whisked the dairy product with some honey, orange juice and blossom water and spread this sweet dip voluptuously on a slice of fluffy ciabatta bread. The citrus fruit came next, I caramelized the kumquats in honey to soften and sweeten their skin which made them a little sticky and juicy. The crunchy pistachios finished it off and gave this Mediterranean combination an oriental touch. It was as bright as the sunset in Malta and tasted wonderfully sweet and sour!

Orange Blossom Water Ricotta, Honey Kumquat and Pistachio Sandwich

Orange Blossom Ricotta and Honey Kumquat Tartine with Pistachios

For 4 small tartines you need

ciabatta bread, 4 slices
fresh ricotta 250g / 9oz
quality orange blossom water (preferably organic) 1 teaspoon
liquid honey 1-2 teaspoons plus 3 heaped teaspoons for the kumquats
freshly squeezed orange juice 2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons for the kumquats
kumquats, cut in half (lengthwise), 12
pistachios peeled and unsalted, roughly chopped, a small handful

Whisk the ricotta with orange blossom water, 1-2 teaspoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of orange juice, season to taste.

Heat 3 heaped teaspoons of honey in a heavy pan, add the kumquats and 2 tablespoons of orange juice and cook for about 2 minutes on high temperature or until the citrus fruits start to soften.

Spread the ricotta dip on the bread, lay the kumquats on top and sprinkle with the juices from the pan and the pistachios. Enjoy!

Orange Blossom Water Ricotta, Honey Kumquat and Pistachio Sandwich

 

Orange Blossom Water Ricotta, Honey Kumquat and Pistachio Sandwich

 

Orange Blossom Water Ricotta, Honey Kumquat and Pistachio Sandwich

 

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Lime Buttermilk Cake with Pistachios & Orange Blossom Water Yoghurt

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

This cake is sweet perfection! It’s spongy, juicy, buttery and lemony with a touch of flowery lime which gives it a soft hint of marzipan. It’s simply a scrumptious loaf cake and I could have just left it at that, cut into thick slices with a cup of tea and I would have been more than happy. But I asked for more, no puristic cake treat but a rich composition of cakey citrus flavours topped with Greek yoghurt whipped with orange blossom water, Maltese honey and sprinkles of unsalted pistachios. This is a proper dessert, also very convenient as a special Sunday tea time treat, but definitely beyond a simple breakfast cake.

My cake tastes like a summery day in the Mediterranean, the sun at its zenith, so hot that it invites all the beautiful fragrances around you to merge into an enchanting perfume of citrus, salt and warming sweetness. Imagine the smell of your last holiday in a hot and dry country, close your eyes and feel the sun on your skin, all those rich and exotic aromas surrounding you and caressing your senses. That’s how this sweet little wonder made me feel and that’s why I call it perfection!

More about the dough which led to this satisfying experience: I mixed some cornstarch into the flour, a trick I already used for my apple breakfast cake, it guarantees a very light and fluffy result. Then there’s also buttermilk which adds the right juiciness to keep your fingers moist when you hold a slice of this cake in your hands. You could also reach this pleasant effect with more butter but that would make it heavier. Vegetable oil would also be an efficient alternative to end up with a very juicy cake (it’s actually used quite often in combination with buttermilk) but the taste tends to bug me when there are such fine aromas involved. I like it for my nutty Florida carrot cake, but I usually prefer to work with the dairy product.

In the end, everything was just right in this cake, well balanced and harmonic. When that happens I don’t ask any more questions, I’m just a thankful baker.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Lime Buttermilk Cake with Pistachios & Orange Blossom Water Yoghurt

For a 24cm x 10,5cm / 9.5″ x 4″  loaf tin you need

plain flour 210g / 7 1/2 ounces
cornstarch 70g / 2 1/2 ounces
baking powder 3 teaspoons
salt 1/4 teaspoon
butter, soft, 180g / 6 1/2 ounces
sugar 180g / 6 1/2 ounces
organic eggs 3
zest of 1 lime
lemon zest 2 tablespoons (about 2 large lemons)
freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 tablespoons
buttermilk 90ml / 3 ounces

icing sugar 2 tablespoons, for the syrup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 tablespoons, for the syrup
pistachios (unsalted), chopped, a small handful, for the topping

For the orange blossom yoghurt
Greek yoghurt 200g / 7 ounces
orange blossom water (preferably organic) 2 teaspoons, to taste
quality honey 1 tablespoon, to taste

Set the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan-assisted oven) and butter the loaf pan.

Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the butter with an electric mixer until fluffy, add the sugar and continue mixing until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mix well in between. When the mixture is light and creamy mix in the zest and juice. Gently stir in the flour/ cornstarch mixture with a wooden spoon, in batches, alternating with the buttermilk (about 1/3 of each at a time). Pour the dough into the buttered pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until golden on top. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes before you put it on a wire rack.

For the syrup, whisk the icing sugar and lemon juice until combined. Prick the cake and slowly pour the lemon syrup over the top of the cake, sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Whisk the yoghurt, orange blossom water and honey, season to taste and serve with the warm cake.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cake