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.
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A traditional simple pasta dish in Malta is tubular pasta (rigatoni, penne or sedani) in a plain tomato sauce with a mixture of ricotta, parsley and egg. A less common version uses fresh ġbejniet, sheep cheeslets. I omitted the egg so it’s less heavy and substituted basil for the parsley.
1tbsp Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic finely chopped
1 Chilli Pepper sliced
1 Can Tomato Polpa
4 Fresh Ġbejniet (medium size). You can substitute 100-150g ricotta
Heat a pan and add the oil and after a minute the garlic and chilli.
Add tomato polpa, rinse the can with a bit of water and add to the pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes. Add a few basil leaves.
Meanwhile put plenty of salted water in a medium pan and bring to a boil for the pasta. Cook as instructed on package.
When sauce is ready blend with a stick blender. This step is optional.
Put the ġbejniet in a bowl with a handful of chopped basil leaves and season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork.
Mix pasta with the tomato sauce. Serve in plates and top with ġbejna mixture.
The quintessential rural staple for large families, soppa tal-armla is essentially a way to combine different available veg from the field and turn them into a hearty soup with the addition of poached egg and sheep cheese. This simple broth is extremely tasty and easy to make and has enough protein for a full meal
1 Onion chopped
3 cloves Garlic minced
2 Carrots sliced
1 stick Celery sliced
1 large Potato cubed
1 Kohlrabi cubed
200g Cauliflower florets
200g Pumpkin cubed
1.5L Vegetable Stock
1tbsp Kunserva (tomato puree)
1 Tomato chopped
Peas and Broad Beans if available (I had peas)
Free range eggs
Fresh Ġbejniet (fresh sheep cheese)
On a low heat sweat the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil till translucent. Add carrots and celery and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and dry cook for five minutes. Next goes the tomato puree and the chopped tomato. Barely cover with the stock and leave to simmer for 45 minutes.
Add the peas, eggs, cover and after five minutes the ġbejna. Keep covered for another ten minutes barely simmering. It is now ready to serve
My favourite way of stuffing calamari is to create a little risotto using the tentacles and stuffing the body with this. Then I roast the whole thing in the oven until tender.
2 Calamari about 1kg tentacles set aside and minced
1 small Onion minced
3 cloves Garlic minced
Half glass red Wine
200g risotto Rice
2 eggs whisked
350 ml Fish Stock
1/2 tsp Chili Flakes
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Mild Curry
1 tbsp Marjoram
Heat oven to 220°C. Saute onion, garlic and tentacles in a little olive oil. Once sealed add rice and dry roast for two minutes. Add spices and herbs and mix for another minute. Add wine and deglaze with wooden spoon. Mix in stock gently and lower to a simmer. Add all the stock and peas and cover. After 15 minutes the stock should be absorbed and the rice cooked al dente. Allow to cool, mix in egg, adjust seasoning and stuff the squid with the risotto using a spoon. Make sure to press right to the bottom and fill to the top. Close the end using toothpicks. Put in a baking tray, sprinkle with sliced garlic, season with salt and pepper and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Place in hot oven. After 15 minutes add a generous helping of wine in the dish, and bake for another 30-45 minutes, basting occasionally until the skin is easily pierced with a fork.
Several variations can be used such as adding raisins and pine nuts, stewing in a tomato sauce instead of baking, the possibilities are endless 🙂
This recipe is only wonderful if it’s really fresh. You can get powdered ink but it is not as tasty. Seeing that they are in season it’s a good time to try it. I like to add tomato to give the sauce more body but these can be omitted to get a more jet black colour.
The anatomy of the cuttle fish is a bit confusing so it’s best to ask the fishmonger to clean it, remove the cartilage and detach the ink sacs. I like to put the sacs in a little bit of hot water to dissolve and remove from the membrane. The beak and eyes need to be removed and the rest cut into strips. Otherwise it’s pretty straight forward so enjoy!
250g Cuttle-fish, cleaned and cut in strips with ink sacs detached.
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 pinch Chili Flakes
1/2 cup White Wine
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped a small tin can be substituted
200g Spaghetti or Linguine
Heat a pan to medium high. Add oil and saute the cuttlefish for a few minutes. Add garlic and chili and stir for another minute. Add the wine. Keep your face away as this might flame up which can be impressive to your guest unless you light up your facial hair!
Add tomatoes, lower heat, cover and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile cook the pasta aldente. Check the cuttlefish and when tender add the ink, stir and simmer another couple of minutes. Toss the pasta with the sugo in the pan and plate
Calamari are extremely tasty but can be awkward to cook as they vary by age, freshness and ways of cooking. The adage is that you either cook them very quickly on high heat or slow cook them on liquid. We all love crispy deep-fried Calamari in batter or patted in flour, semolina or breadcrumbs. Stewed slowly in wine and loads of garlic they are to die for.
600g Calamari cleaned and cut into squares 2 large cloves Garlic minced 1 chilli finely chopped 1 glass White Wine 1 tsp Kunserva/ tomato puree 1 small can Tomato Polpa 1 large fresh Tomato grated 3 tsp Capers 1 tbs + EV Olive Oil 250g Sedani
Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan on a medium high flame. Add olive oil and saute the calamari until they start to colour. Add the garlic, chilli and tomato puree and toss for a minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and add the tomatoes. You can use either fresh or tinned subject to availability, I used both. In winter sometimes tomatoes are grown indoors and are not as tasty. Grating them through the big holes separates them from the skin and creates a passata.
Lower flame, add the capers and simmer while you cook the pasta. Roughly it should be ready in twenty minutes but check at intervals as cooking time can vary Bon appetit
Spinach is a wonderful vegetable which I look forward to when the weather starts to cool. This is a dish I had tried many years ago when I was working with some Turkish chefs. Since it was for a sizeable amount of people it was baked in the oven but I later discovered that it can be swiftly cooked on a skillet.
It works well as a rich brunch or lunch. It is usually garnished with Aleppo pepper and cumin powder. Since I didn’t find Aleppo pepper I substituted a pinch of paprika and one of chilli flakes. I skipped the cumin. I also used spring onion instead of the traditional onion. It may be served with a dollop of yoghurt
Heat oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat. Add onion and toss till soft. Add spinach, season with salt and pepper and cover for 2 minutes till spinach wilts but is still bright green. Some like to add a knob of unsalted butter at this stage but I’m battling my waistline at the moment so I didn’t. Make two wells in the spinach and crack an egg in each of them. Cook until white sets but the yolk is still runny, about 3 minutes if covered. Garnish with cumin powder and Aleppo pepper, or in my case paprika and chilli flakes
So yesterday I opened a can of Mayor’s butter beans by mistake. I thought ok I’ll have ftira but didn’t make it to the bread van. So I decided to create a plate of pasta with ftira ingredients. What could be more Maltese?
For pasta I used garganelli all uovo
2 tbsp EVOO
1 large clove Garlic crushed
1 pinch Chilli Flakes
1 tsp dried Mixed Herbs
4 fillets Anchovy
1tbsp Kunserva/Tomato Puree
1 can Tuna
1 tbsp Maltese Capers
10 Black Olives smashed and stoned 🥴
1 can Butter Beans
1 dry peppered Cheeselet/ Ġbejna tal-bżar
If available freshly chopped parsley or basil to garnish
Bring salted water to a boil and add pasta. Set mobile timer for al dente. Put a pan on low heat and add the olive oil, garlic, anchovy and herbs. Once it starts to release the aromas add the ġbejna and kunserva. Toss well and add the tuna, capers, olives and butter beans. Add a little of the pasta water. By this time the pasta should be ready (around 5-6 minutes). Strain and toss with the remaining ingredients in the pan. E voilà! Ready
Now that summer is coming to an end and we’re witnessing some wild thunderstorms it is time to change tack to more heartwarming invernal concoctions. This stew balances the bite of chili and ras il-hanout with the sweetness of sweet potato. I served it with rice but spelt could be a nice alternative.
1 Onion chopped
1 large clove Garlic chopped
2 Green Peppers sliced
1 Sweet Potato cubed
2 Zucchini cubed
2 bird’s eye Chilies
2 Tomatoes chopped
1tbsp Tomato Purée (Kunserva)
1 tsp Ras il-Hanout
1 tsp Coriander powder
1 cup Water
Sweat the onion with a 1/4 tsp salt till it starts to soften. The salt helps draw out the moisture and cooks it faster. Add green peppers and stir for a few more minutes. Add garlic, chili, coriander powder and ras il-hanout. Add tomato puree and stir for another minute. Add tomatoes sweet potato and zucchini. Add a cup of water and lower the heat to a simmer. Add peas and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for half an hour. Meanwhile prepare rice or spelt
Traditionally, lampuki are fried in flour or semolina. Today I tried using a mixture of breadcrumbs and semolina with lovely crunchy results
Basically it’s very simple. Dip lampuki fillets in a half half seasoned semolina breadcrumb mixture and shake off excess. Heat vegetable oil (about 1-2 mm) in a heavy based pan and add a large smashed clove of garlic. When the garlic starts sizzling properly add the fillets skin side down and leave for a couple of minutes until the skin develops a nice colour. It’s difficult to specify a time as it depends on the size of the fish but normally, when the skin looks nice and crunchy it will be about three quarters cooked and only needs another minute or two on the other side. This can be served with salad, caponata or a tomato caper sauce with thin round chips 😋
Of course I didn’t let the heads and bones go to waste and made a lovely Aljotta or fish soup, but that’s another story…
PS Oh dear! Had a case of late night malnutrition and put the leftover lampuki fillet on a slice of Maltese bread rubbed with ripe summer tomato, drizzled with olive oil and topped with kapunata. Mmm mind blowing 🤯
Thai salads are delightful concoctions of freshness, bright surprising flavours and colours. Perfect for hot weather, they are often a meal in themselves
In this recipe I used a Polish rib-eye. Although it turned out pretty well next time I think I’ll use fillet as it is more tender and contains less fat and sinew. Flank and sirloin may also be used, use your favourite steak basically.
The secret of this salad is in the flavoursome dressing which is sweet and fragrant with a lot of bite.
1 Clove Garlic crushed
2tsp Ginger grated
1 Small bunch Coriander, stalks separated and finely chopped
2 Limes juiced
1tbsp Palm Sugar (I used brown)
1tbsp Fish Sauce
2tsp Sesame Oil
1tsp Soya Sauce
1-2 Chilli Bird’s Eye sliced diagonally
300-400g Beef Tenderloin
200g Cherry Tomato (Pachino) halved
1 Cucumber, halved and thinly sliced diagonally
1 small Onion
Handful Basil Leaves
Handful Mint Leaves
Handful Coriander Leaves, (previously seperated from stalks)
Handful Peanuts, toasted and chopped
Put the dressing ingredients in a mortar and pestle and pound, or else whisk everything in a bowl.
Season the meat and place on a very hot griddle, 3 minutes on each side. The meat should be quite rare. Leave to rest on a plate for 10 minutes covered in foil.
Place the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl. Slice the meat finely and marinate in half the dressing. The lime juice cures and tenderises the meat. Add to the salad and drizzle the remaining dressing. Toss the salad with the peanuts