Tag: Villa Bologna

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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

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

Thank you Malta! xx

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-3

Ħobż biż-Żejt

Serves 2

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

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

Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-4


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch-2


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch


Eat In My Kitchen Malta Book Launch

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




Marina's Lemon Marmelade Ice Cream with Caramelized Pistachios

meet in your kitchen | Marina Fabic’s Maltese Summer Feast at Villa Bologna

Villa Bologna

When you meet someone who follows a passion with dedication and humility, who loves every single part of the process of creation, you should stop to witness art in its purest form. Marina is this kind of person. She’s very close to nature and loves to include all her senses in her work. Whatever she does, she uses her eyes, her nose, her taste, her sense of touch to get the whole picture. Her perception is holistic, she’s a true artist, and I adore her for this reason. Food is her profession, her feel for simple yet stunning combinations of flavours is outstanding. To watch her picking fruits and vegetables in the extensive gardens of Villa Bologna, foraging for wild fennel, chives, and allspice is calming, as you can see a woman who has found her peace.

The first time we met, this Swedish lady caught me with her smile. It was at a lavish lunch at a mutual friend’s palazzo, at last year’s meet in your kitchen feature with Alex and Benjamin. Marina and I clicked straight away and decided to meet so that she could show me the place where she had just started a restaurant – which soon became the restaurant that all of our friends in Malta started talking about: The Villa Kitchen at Villa Bologna. Be it for a romantic dinner or a birthday garden party, everybody who loves food wants to visit Marina’s kitchen in the heart of Attard where the stunning villa is located.

Villa Bologna

Villa Bologna was built in 1745 by Fabrizio Grech, as an extravagant wedding gift to his daughter Maria Teresa, married to Nicholas Perdicomati Bologna, the namesake of the opulent Baroque villa. One of the family’s most politically influential descendants, born in 1861, was Gerald Paul Joseph Cajetan Carmel Antony Martin Strickland, 6th Count della Catena, also known as the 1st Baron Strickland. The busy Lord’s roles included being Prime Minister of Malta, Governor of the Leeward Islands, Governor of Tasmania, Governor of Western Australia, and Governor of New South Wales, in addition to being a member of the House of Commons and House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Over hundreds of years, the members of this aristocratic Anglo-Maltese family left their marks in Malta, both politically and culturally. The Stricklands are part of the Mediterranean archipelago, their roots are British, but their influences combine English and Maltese traditions. Lord Strickland and his first wife, Lady Edeline Sackville-West, had eight children. One of their daughters, Hon. Mabel Edeline Strickland, was an exceptional and remarkably modern woman of her times. She was a pioneer of emancipation, co-founder of The Times of Malta and one of the principal political leaders of the 1950s. Her older sister, Hon. Cecilia Victoria Strickland, established a strong support for the arts. Cecilia founded an arts and crafts institute in the 1950s and archived numerous traditional Maltese blue prints for lace and fabric patterns. She understood the importance of protecting the arts and knowledge of former generations. The traditional pottery attached to the premises still uses the old patterns for its beautiful designs, to create plates and platters that turn every table into a Maltese feast. I love the minimal design and its strong colours, which seems so modern even in our days, all hand painted on robust white ceramic.

Villa Bologna

Although times have changed, the villa is still a place to learn about the past and appreciate the crafts of former generations. Cecilia’s son, Gerald de Trafford, and his wife Charlotte opened the villa to the public eye for weddings and events in the 1980s. Their son Jasper has taken care of the villa since 2009 and initiated further projects. The current restoration of the representative rooms on the villa’s ground floor should be finished in autumn, when guided tours will be offered by appointment. The visitors will get an idea of the original life at Villa Bologna. To present the house in all its glory, Marina is strongly involved in the creative process of going through hundreds of years of furniture, artworks, and tableware, as is Jasper’s mother Charlotte who has called the villa her home since she was a young woman.

Marina left London, her former home, two years ago to come to Malta and live here with her boyfriend Dom Strutt who’s a close friend of the Strickland family. She brought many years of catering experience with her, which she gathered while working as a chef in England’s capital. As soon as she arrived on the island, she started building up The Villa Kitchen, aiming for an honest, simple, and creative style of Mediterranean cooking. Marina and I have a similar approach in the kitchen, we try to avoid too many ingredients and distractions, just the right combination, with maybe one element that breaks the usual pattern. Marina’s next step is to transform her vision from food to perfume. Her senses and sensitivity that guide her explorations of the culinary world work just as well in the world of aromas and led to three unisex perfumes united under the name Neroli & Spice. The beautiful perfumes enticed me with strong notes of spices and citrus, they will be launched this autumn, at the same time as my book, which I’ll celebrate at an event at Villa Bologna. Somehow, Marina and I have had a strong bond ever since we first met under the hot Mediterranean sun.

Last week, we met to cook together and Marina turned lunch into a summer feast with family and friends from London, Malta, and Sweden. She caressed our taste buds with Gazpacho made with tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden, refined with anchovies – her little secret – to enhance the vegetables’ flavours. The fish is not dominant, but delicious. The meal moved on to swordfish marinated in lemon oil and linguine with an amazing pesto made with lots of pistachios, fennel, and parsley, accompanied by oven roasted aubergine with pomegranate and warm rosemary focaccia. The dessert was divine, but I’ll keep it a secret for now and share it next Sunday, it’s one of Marina’s famous signature dishes!

Marina is planning a ‘Food & Travel’ trip for late September, it will be a 1 week gourmet holiday / workshop in Spain to celebrate good food and wine, click here for more information.

Follow Marina, Neroli & Spice and Villa Bologna on Instagram.

Villa Bologna


Villa Bologna

Marina’s recipes for a summer lunch

Gazpacho Soup

Marinated Swordfish with Pistachio Sauce and Linguine

Oven Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranate and Mint

Serves 4

For the Gazpacho soup

1kg / 2 1/4 pounds best ripe tomatoes
1 red pepper
3 anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves
100ml / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons best extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt
dash of Tabasco
a handful of fresh basil leaves, plus a few chopped leaves for serving
4 ice cubes, for serving

Blend everything in a food processor till smooth, season to taste, and chill. Divide the Gazpacho soup between bowls, add an ice cube, and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil and some chopped basil.

For the swordfish

150-200g / 5-7 ounces swordfish steak per person
juice and zest of 1 lemon
fresh rosemary, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Spread the swordfish on a large plate. Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, rosemary, a generous splash of olive oil, salt, and pepper, add to the swordfish, and mix well, using your hands. Let it marinate while you prepare the pistachio sauce.

For the pistachio sauce

1 tablespoon fennel seeds
100g / 3 1/2 ounces unsalted pistachio kernels
2 cloves garlic
large bunch of parsley
juice and zest of 1 lemon
100ml / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons best extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

In a dry frying pan, toast the fennel seeds first and then the pistachios till fragrant.

Grind the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar. Grate or finely chop the garlic. Chop the pistachio nuts and parsley quite finely and mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil bit by bit to create a sludgy texture. Season with salt to taste.

For the oven roasted eggplant with pomegranate

2 medium size purple aubergine
olive oil
sea salt
1 pomegranate
fresh mint
pomegranate syrup (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Slice the eggplant lengthwise and spread on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil on top, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or till dark golden. Let the slices cool to room temperature and layer on a serving dish. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and chopped mint on top and drizzle some syrup over, if using.

For the pasta

500g / 17 1/2 ounces linguine pasta

Cook the linguine till al dente while cooking the swordfish: In batches, panfry the swordfish steaks in olive oil, about 5 minutes on each side over medium-high heat or till slightly golden. They should be just cooked through.

Divide the swordfish, pasta, pistachio sauce, and eggplant with pomegranate between plates and enjoy.

Villa Bologna

You grew up in Sweden and lived in London for 20 years, but you’ve lived in Malta for the past few years, what made you settle in the Mediterranean?

My friend Jasper de Trafford, the owner of Villa Bologna was looking for someone to set up a cafe / restaurant at the villa and I had been looking for the right opportunity to change my London lifestyle. It was the perfect chance for us both to start a new venture.

Was it hard to switch from a northern European to a southern European culture? What do you like about the Maltese way of life?

No, it wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve always had it in my blood since my father is Slovenian and I spent much of my childhood in Portoroz on the Adriatic. I love the Maltese way of taking each day as it comes and the enthusiasm for new projects and the friendliness of the people. It’s made me feel very welcome here and has made it easy to settle in.

Do you remember what you felt when you first visited Villa Bologna?

I first visited six years ago for Jasper and Fleur’s wedding party at the villa and I was totally smitten by its’ enchanting beauty and charm. 

Having run The Villa Kitchen restaurant at Villa Bologna for 2 years, what do you enjoy most about being a chef and about cooking in general?

The best thing for me is the creative process of putting together local and seasonal produce in an endless variety. The villa has its’ own organic fruit and vegetable gardens so there is always fresh and delicious ingredients to use. It’s a cook’s dream to be able to pick and choose straight from the field to the table, so to speak. It’s also amazingly satisfying to have happy customers enjoying our food!

What inspired you to start a career in food? 

Food has always been a passion for me and I suppose that I’m a natural cook. I had an opportunity to set up a catering business in London with Andrea Bauer-Khadim, formerly of Grosvenor House and Somerset House, called Wild Peacock Events. We catered for high end occasions from weddings to intimate dinners and cocktail parties. This gave me experience in working with food on a professional level and gave me confidence to start The Villa Kitchen here in Malta. My mother Britt-Marie also encouraged me and helped me set up the cafe from scratch. She has been an enormous help and a very hands-on collaborator particularly in developing fantastic products for our shop, such as marmalade, chutneys and cordials.

You’ll be launching your first perfumes this autumn. Are there similarities in working with food, which needs the attention of all of your senses, and with fragrances, which are purely developed with the help of your nose?

Yes, this may seem like a departure from food and cooking but for me it’s very much a continuous progress. When cooking, I focus on the layering of flavours and balancing spices, herbs and other ingredients in order to achieve a whole result. There are many similarities in creating perfumes using Mediterranean scents such as citrus, spices, herbs and botanicals. The process of layering and balancing to create a specific vision is similar whether olfactory or gourmet. This crossover inspired me to create Neroli & Spice, which is launching as a niche perfume house soon. My best friend Gunilla Freeman is my partner in this venture and she brings business savvy and a brilliant eye for detail.

Do you have the final composition in mind when you start working on a dish or a perfume or do you add ingredients until the result fits your vision?

I’m strongly influenced by my travels – in particular to Egypt and North Africa – and places which hold a special place in my heart, both when creating dishes and perfumes. So I start off with a sensory memory or picture, which I then aim to evoke through experimenting and mixing until I feel that the result is right.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative projects? How do you develop new recipes – for food and perfumes?

Inspiration comes from my impressions and experiences through travel, culture and my background as a Scandinavian with roots in the Mediterranean, having lived in Sweden, Slovenia, London, Los Angeles and now Malta.

What are your future projects for Villa Bologna?

My main focus will be on curating and putting together the main rooms in the villa for it to be opened to the public. I am collaborating with the de Trafford family to create a unique insight into the way of life at this grand historic house which has been in the same family since it was built in 1745. There will be guided tours and we are looking forward to welcoming visitors to one of the finest baroque houses in Malta with its beautiful gardens and ancient citrus groves. It was the home of Jasper de Trafford’s great grandfather Lord Strickland who was Malta’s prime minister in the 1920’s as well as his daughter Mabel Strickland who founded The Times of Malta. The Villa has been used as a film location on numerous occasions and I’m sure visitors will be interested in seeing where famous actors have starred! We will also host some very special events, such as a Christmas market and classical concerts. I’m also creating a perfume especially for Villa Bologna, called Sans Mal, which is the family motto!

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

I think it was a chicken curry with peanuts and banana for a party as a teenager but I remember helping my grandmother make jams and cakes as a child. Both my grandmothers were amazing cooks.

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

Malta’s has a fantastic climate which produces an abundance of fruit and vegetables all year round. For me, the best places to buy are from the farmers market in Ta Qali and from local grocers specially in my home village of Siggiewi and the farming area of Mgarr. Some of my favourite restaurants are Michaels in Valletta, Il Corsaro by the Blue Grotto, Ta Majjistra in Mgarr and Carmen’s Bar in Ghar Lapsi, where we swim every day. The Corinthia Palace hotel is also a great place to eat. I prefer simple down to earth restaurants who use the best local produce, where one can relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

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

I’d ask my mother to cook creamy chanterelles on toast with mint chocolate mousse for dessert. We would sit in the garden of our summer cottage by the sea in Sweden.

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

Well, I would throw together a tagine or curry or some other one-pot dish with a fresh salad from the Villa Bologna gardens. There are usually a few different ice creams and sorbets in the freezer on standby to finish off with. During the orange season I can just go and pick some delicious fruit as well.

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

I loved my paternal grandmother’s apfel strudel and my maternal grandmother’s roast veal with her delicious creamy sauce, with prune soufflé to follow. I still love these dishes but I suppose I have expanded my taste somewhat. I really love good Dim Sum and a visit to The Royal China in London is always a must.

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

I prefer to cook on my own with an assistant for other people to enjoy!

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

I’m definitely an improvised cook and love spontaneous meals.

Which meal would you never cook again?

Anything too fiddly and I would prefer never to cook for a wedding again, it’s far too stressful.

Thank you Marina!

Villa Bologna


Villa Bologna




Villa Bologna


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Villa Bologna


Villa Bologna


Villa Bologna


Villa Bologna


Villa Bologna


Villa Bologna