All posts by Corto Maltese

About Corto Maltese

Everyone knows that food is one of the main pleasures in life, right there after sex, drugs and rock and roll. Not everybody is a food technician. Yet, it is not too difficult or expensive to make good food. I don't believe the fast-food marketing that junk tastes better than good food. It's another economic construct. They are trying to make you lazy. Empower yourself and take control of your diet. Eat well at a reasonable price. Fresh and local. If possible sustainably farmed animals. More importantly, don't waste too much time doing it. No longer than calling a takeaway. Life is beautiful.

Chickpea and Spelt Risotto

IMG_0381A staple grain used since neolithic times, spelt has a wonderful consistency and texture which does not tend to get soggy in liquid and keeps better than rice. I have taken to experimenting with it lately and this is one of the results.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 cup Spelt

3 cups Vegetable Stock

1 onion chopped

1 Carrot chopped

2 sticks Celery chopped

1 clove Garlic chopped

1 can Chickpeas

1 tsp Tomato Puree

2 tsp Ras el Hanout

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1 tsp Chilli Oil

Method:

Fry the vegetables in the oil till the onions are soft, about 6 minutes. Add the spelt, tomato puree and the spices and cook for a further 2 minutes. If you don’t have Ras el Hanout, a popular Moroccan spice mix, substitute ground cumin. Add stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 50 minutes stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas and cook for a further 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Easy but very tasty mmm…

Advertisements

Parmigiana di Melanzane

parmigiana

Apparently Parmigiana does not derive its name from Parma, the place, or Parmiggiano, the cheese. Rather it refers to the slats in Persian blinds, whose construction is reminiscent to the way the aubergine slices  are piled up in this wonderful veggie dish.
Traditionally the aubergine slices are fried, but I have gone for a healthier version which is extremely tasty as well, in which the aubergines are grilled.

Ingredients:

Slice aubergines in 1 cm slices. Pile in a colander, sprinkling every layer with salt. Place a weight on a plate on top of the aubergines and put the colander in a bowl to catch the liquids. Leave for about an hour. This step serves  to remove the bitter liquids from the seeds and is not necessary if the aubergines are young and don’t have too many seeds.

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil and fry the garlic and onion on medium low heat for 10 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and the tomato puree and simmer until the sauce thickens, around 15 minutes. Add the basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper and a little wine vinegar (optional).

Meanwhile back to the aubergines. Rinse the slices from the salt and dry with paper towels. Grill in batches on both sides on a very hot griddle and set aside.

IMG_0208

Now we are ready to assemble the Parmigiana. Preheat oven to 2oo°c. Drizzle some olive oil on the base of the baking pan. Spread a bit of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan, sprinkle with parmesan and cover with a layer of aubergine slices placed next to each other. Repeat these layers until the pan is full, topping with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan and torn pieces of the Cacciacavallo or Mozzarella.I also like to add some seeds, in this case sesame and poppy seeds, to give it a bit of a twist.IMG_0217

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Broccoli and Barley Broth

Broccoli and Barley Broth Serves 4

Ingredients

3 Onions chopped

3 Carrots sliced diagonally

3 celery sticks chopped

1 head Broccoli

4 small potatoes scrubbed, cut in half

100g Barley rinsed

1 small chilli (deseeded if you don’t want it very spicy)

1 litre Water

Olive Oil

2 tsp coarse Sea Salt

1 tbsp Pumpkin Seeds

Grated Parmesan

Method

Sweat the onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oi for 5 minutes. Meanwhile cut the broccoli into small florets and set aside. Add the stalk of the broccoli, chili and the potatoes to the pot for another couple of minutes. Add the boiled water, the salt and the barley and simmer for 45 minutes making sure the barley is tender. Remove the stalks and add the florets and pumpkin seeds, simmering for another 10 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan

Black Eyed Beans Stew with Sweet Potato, Squash and Spinach

IMG_0319

Ingredients 

500g Black Eyed Beans soaked overnight and cooked till tender (usually around 1 hour)

1 Large Squash

1 Large Sweet Potato

1 Red Pepper chopped

500g Spinach

6 Onions thinly sliced

3 Cloves Garlic chopped coarsely

4cm Ginger Root

1 tsp Ground Coriander

1/2 tsp Ground Ginger

2 Bay Leaves

500ml Vegetable Stock

2 tsp Hot Chilli Oil

Sunflower Oil

1 Tin Tomatoes Polpa

Salt and Pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 180°c

Peel squash and sweet potato and cut into bite-sized chunks. In a baking tray mix with a little oil and season with salt and pepper, ground coriander and ground ginger. Bake for around 30 minutes, stirring once half way through, until they start to speckle with gold.

Meanwhile saute the onions, garlic, pepper, bay leaf and chili oil and grate the ginger. When it starts to get fragrant ( a couple of minutes) add the stock and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes cooking for a further 25 minutes.

Add the squash and sweet potato and simmer for 5 minutes.

Finally stir in the beans and the spinach, simmering until the spinach wilts and the flavours blend, around 10 minutes.

This is one of those dishes that taste even better the next day as the flavours blend so keep any leftovers.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Olde English Mustard and Wine Reduction

The quintessential festive pièce de résistance; slow roasted pork embodies the spirit of seasonal hedonism, suggesting a refined debauchery that can subvert the structured order of our civilisation. It reminds us of our proximity to our neanderthal precursors. Enjoy it before it becomes illegal.

IMG_0282I used a joint of 3.5 kg for four people. Leftovers won’t go to waste as cold pork makes the best sandwiches ever. Ask the butcher to score the skin and tie the joint. Rub the skin with salt, insert slivers of garlic and rosemary into slits you make into the scored flesh with a sharp pointed knife. Optionally you can make a spice rub.

Spice Rub

1 tsp Coriander Seeds

1 tsp Fennel Seeds

1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds

1/2 tsp White Pepper

1 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes

3 Bay Leaves

Roast ingredients in a dry frying pan and crush coarsely in a mortar and pestle. Rub into the flesh and skin and leave for at least an hour to overnight.

Preheat oven to 200°. Place joint on a rack in the roasting tray. Roast for 30 minutes until the skin starts bubbling than lower the temperature to the lowest mark on gas mark ovens, around 90°. Cover with double aluminium foil. I allowed it to cook gently at this temperature for 15 hours. A meat thermometer can prove quite handy when preparing a large joint like this as it is quite difficult to ascertain how much it has cooked on the inside. Ovens vary and one may cook much faster than another. Pork should be 85° on the inside to be ready to be served. Âround two hours before dinner is to be served remove foil and turn up heat to 200°. After an hour check internal temperature and if its 85° remove from oven.

Red Wine Reduction:

250ml Red Wine

English Mustard Powder

Rosemary and Thyme

Once the meat is completely cooked remove from baking tray and cover with foil. While it rests remove most of the fat from the baking tray, place the pan on a brisk flame and add 250ml good red wine, a sprig of rosemary, some thyme and a teaspoon mustard powder. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula and cook until the sauce thickens to a gravy consistency. If you like lots of gravy add some chicken stock.

Pork and Veg

Freshly made English mustard fiercely complements the succulent pork with a heady bite. Just mix 3 tbsp mustard powder to 3 tbsp water in a bowl and whisk to a paste.

Accompaniments:

Pesto Potatoes with added Pork Fat

Red Cabbage with Apple and Vinegar

Brussel Sprouts tossed in Olive Oil and Bacon Julienne

Roast Sweet Potato and Beetroot

Raw Garden Mix

Pure indulgence. Just once a year. Promise

Vegetarian Lentil and Nut Roast

Nut roasts seem to have become the staple for a vegetarian Christmas. I have tried to pick and mix my favourite ingredients from various recipes and this is the result.

Happy Christmas x

IMG_0237

Serves 4-6       Duration: Prep 45 min Cooking 1 hour

Ingredients:

4 Cabbage Leaves

Nut Mixture

100g Pecan Nuts

100g Brazil Nuts

100g Walnuts

50g Almonds

200g Red Lentils rinsed

450ml Vegetable Stock

100g Breadcrumbs

2 tbsp Parsley chopped

1 large clove Garlic minced

2 Eggs beaten

Mushroom Mixture

250g Mushrooms roughly chopped

1 medium Onion finely chopped

1 clove Garlic finely chopped

1 tbsp Butter

1 tbsp cooking oil

Sweet Potato Topping

400g Sweet Potato scraped and cut in cubes

100g Parmesan grated

100g Creme Fraiche

1 tbsp Chives

Whole nutmeg to grate

White Pepper

1 tbsp each Pumpkin Seed, Sesame and Almond Flakes

Method

Preheat oven at 200°

Plunge cabbage leaves in salted boiling water until water breaks into a boil again. Cool immediately by plunging in cold water. Set aside.

Bring the lentils to a boil with stock. Simmer for 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Toast the nuts in a dry pan until golden. Leave to cool and chop roughly with a knife.

In a bowl mix the lentils, nuts, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs and egg and season with salt and pepper. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Drizzle the sweet potato with olive oil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. When soft, mash or process with the creme fraiche, chives, freshly grated pinch of nutmeg and half a teaspoon white pepper.

Fry the onion in the butter and oil until golden and add the garlic and the mushrooms. Cook for about 8 minutes until brown. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt.

Brush the roasting tin with olive oil. Cover the bottom and lower sides with the cabbage leaves. Fill with the lentil and nut mixture. Cover with the mushroom mixture and top up with the sweet potato mixture. Sprinkle the seeds on top. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Take off the foil and continue roasting for another 30 minutes until it reaches a lovely golden colour. Enjoy

Falafel Burger with Spicy Salsa

This deliciously healthy burger will only take a few minutes of your time. And it is worth every second!

felafel burger warm
Falafel Burger: 8 Patties

Ingredients:

800g Chickpeas ( Tinned are fine)

2 tbsp Garam Flour (Chickpea Flour)

1 tbsp Tahini

2 tsp ground Cumin ( grinding at home from toasted cumin seeds achieves superior result)

Generous pinch Cayenne Pepper or Harissa to taste

1 large clove Garlic finely chopped

Handful finely chopped Coriander Leaves

Olive or Sunflower Oil

Method: 

Combine all ingredients and blitz in a food processor

Form patties by hand. Mixture should be quite stiff.

Lightly cover the bottom of your frying pan with oil and fry patties 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Spicy Salsa:

Ingredients:

400g Tinned Tomatoes

2 tbsp Olive Oil

Juice from 1 Lime or Lemon

1 tbsp Jalapeno Peppers from jar with some of the juice ( make sure it has some bite to it)

1/2 tsp salt

1 small Onion finely chopped (optional)

1 Clove Garlic finely chopped

1 tbsp chopped Coriander Leaves

Method:

Combine ingredients and and emulsify the oil into the salsa using a potato masher. A hand blender can be used as well.

Serve with wholemeal warm pitta bread and green leaves.

Wild Lampuki and Angry Prawns

It is the height of Lampuki season in Malta. Known as Dorado, Mahi Mahi and Dolphin Fish, this remarkable fish starts to migrate along the Mediterranean in the end  of August until November when it reaches a nice hefty size ( 1- 2 Kg ) and is quite plentiful.

Lampuka
Lampuka borrowed from http://fishidentificationblog.blogspot.com/

It is caught in a traditional manner practiced since Roman times using rafts woven out of bamboo and palms known as ” Kannizati”. The fish go to seek the shade of the raft and are surrounded by a net. Because of its abundance at a certain period this tasty fish sells at a very good value and is very sought after. It is cooked in a number of ways, with the most popular being simply frying them dipped in flour or semolina but it can also be roasted, grilled, cooked ‘in bianco’, poached and, when it gets bigger towards the end of the season, baked in a Lampuki Pie. When it is fried it can be served simply with lemon or/and mayonnaise or with a tangy caper tomato sauce.

The other day,a friend dropped by with a sizable Lampuka and a few fresh prawns. I decided to take the simple approach as I believe that the fresher the fish the less you should tamper with the flavour and it looked very fresh.

Lampuka

I fillet the fish so I can use the bones and head for fish stock.

I prefer to use semolina to encrust the fillets as this tends to burn less than flour on high heat and has an irresistible crunchiness. This can be seasoned with salt and pepper.

A huge clove of garlic is squashed and and placed in a frying pan with a generous layer of sunflower oil on a high heat. When it turns brown it is removed and the semolina encased fillets are placed skin side down into the oil. Leave it untouched for a couple of minutes and turn down the heat to medium. When it turns golden brown turn over and leave to fry gently for another few minutes until it reaches a nice golden colour as well. It is difficult to specify a time as there are a number of variables such as thickness of fillet, freshness of fish, oil temperature etc. However the colour seems a good way to judge if it at the right point to eat unless the oil is too hot and it burns the outside before cooking the inside.

IMG_0166

The Prawns

The prawns are the local smallish, red variety, very sweet tasting. They are sauteed in two tablespoons of olive oil, a clove of garlic and one chilli, both chopped, and a star aniseed. Two minutes on each side should be enough. The star aniseed gives it a pleasant liquorish sweetness while the chilli gives the dish its bite.

Serve with lemon wedges

Fast and Furious Munchies: Slow Cooked Rasher with Free Range Fried Egg.

You can’t always be pedantic about food!

munchies

Now approaching midnight and only things in sight in the fridge are a rasher of bacon and a free range egg. Oh! and a frozen baguette in the freezer. Perfect!

Place rasher in frying pan and warm up gently without any oil. The fat will ooze out and when it starts to get a bit too dry add a drop of sunflower oil and turn over. Let it cook slowly until nicely crispy. Add egg and if required a bit more oil (depending on frying pan). Meanwhile the baguette is warming in the oven. Combine with some Mayor Ketchup, or, if unavailable, Heinz.

Wash down with a nice Medoc.IMG_0189

Winter Lentils with Sweet Potato and Courgette

IMG_0152

This hearty winter soup can be prepared in 20-30 minutes yet will warm you up from the inside. Let it rain!

Serves:  2                       Duration: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Sweet   Potato

2 Marrows

1 potato

50g Red Lentils well rinsed

1 onion

1 Carrot

1 small Chili deseeded

1/2 tsp Curry Powder

1/2 tsp Ground Cumin

1 litre Chicken or Vegetable Stock

50g Cappellini Noodles broken in 3cm pieces

Method:

Gently fry the chopped onion and carrot in a knob of butter for four minutes until soft. Add the spices and fry for an additional minute to release their fragrance. Stir in potatoes and add the stock. Bring to a boil and add the marrows and the lentils.  Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the noodles and cook for three more minutes. Rest for another five minutes to let the flavours mingle. The noodles and lentils will absorb most of the liquid making this a thick soup that goes down very easily on a winter’s night.

Enjoy!