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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This is a vegetarian take on the Mexican favourite Chilli con Carne. This basic sauce can be served with nachos or rice, wrapped in a large tortilla sprinkled with cheese to make a Burrito or in a smaller tortilla to make a Chilli Taco. I tend to use quorn mince but soya mince works as well
1 Onion peeled and chopped
2 Cloves Garlic
2 tbs Olive Oil
2 Red Peppers deseeded and diced
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbs Tomato Puree
1 Chipotle Chilli soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and chopped if available
1 or 2 Red Chillies to taste chopped
400g Quorn or Soya Mince
500g Cooked Red Kidney Beans or 2 cans
2 Cans Polpa
1/2 Bunch Fresh Coriander chopped
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat and add the onion, peppers, cumin seeds and 1/2 tsp salt for five minutes. Add garlic, stir and continue cooking for another two minutes. Add the kuorn and stir for two minutes. Add tomato puree for another minute and add the tomato polpa. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the beans and leave for another five to ten minutes.Taste for seasoning. Make sure it is not too liquidy. Stir in the coriander leaving some for garnish.
I had stopped updating the blog due to work commitments. Now with the social isolation taking place and more time at home it seems a good time to start playing with my food again. Also, more hands on deck for peeling ful and pizelli!
Kusksu is a hearty traditional Maltese soup that celebrates the flavours of spring. Pasta shaped like giant couscous is cooked in a simple vegetable broth with broad beans and peas. Towards the end eggs and sheep cheese are dropped in to be poached. In a break from tradition I added some Swiss Chard which needed to be used which added to the colour and the flavour.
The name and shape of the pasta seems to indicate that this dish originates from the period of Arab occupation between the 9th and 11th century. However kusksu has a different texture to couscous and its heavier body lends itself better to slow simmering. It is best to use Maltese kusksu but if unavailable the Italian Tempesta is a good substitute.
If possible use the freshest free-range eggs and unpasteurised ġbejniet. Since this is spring food go for the freshest ingredients including fresh garlic and onion if available. For people not residing in Malta the Ġbejniet can be omitted and for vegans the eggs as well. Still tastes delicious!
Serves 4 (actually finished it between two of us!)
1 Onion chopped
6 Small Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped
1kg Ful peeled (Broad Beans. Frozen works as well)
500g Fresh Peas peeled (or frozen)
6 Leaves Swiss Chard chopped
1 tbs Kunserva (Tomato Puree)
1.5 L Vegetable Stock
100 g kusksu ( You can substitute Tempesta or Israeli Giant Couscous)
4 Ġbejniet (Sheep Cheeselets)
4 Free-Range Eggs
Grated Parmesan optional for serving
Sweat the onion in a generous swig of olive oil on a medium low heat. When translucent add garlic, stir for a minute and add kunserva. Add ful, peas and chard. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Put in the couscous, cover and after 10 minutes stir and drop in the eggs gently. Cover for another 5 minutes, drop the ġbejniet and leave for another 5 minutes. If it looks too dry add some water and if too liquidy leave uncovered. Throughout the process check the pasta for doneness as different brands might vary in cooking time.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan
A 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.
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
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.
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.
4 large Aubergines
1 Onion, Peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of Garlic, finely sliced
3 tins Tomatoes Polpa
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
Freshly ground Black Pepper
A handful of Basil Leaves
150g grated Parmesan Cheese
200 g shredded Cacciacavallo or fresh Mozzarella Balls
Sesame and Poppy Seeds
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.
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.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
1 small chilli (deseeded if you don’t want it very spicy)
1 litre Water
2 tsp coarse Sea Salt
1 tbsp Pumpkin Seeds
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
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
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
1 Tin Tomatoes Polpa
Salt and Pepper
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
Pesto Potatoes with added Pork Fat
Red Cabbage with Apple and Vinegar
Brussel Sprouts tossed in Olive Oil and Bacon Julienne
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
Serves 4-6 Duration: Prep 45 min Cooking 1 hour
4 Cabbage Leaves
100g Pecan Nuts
100g Brazil Nuts
200g Red Lentils rinsed
450ml Vegetable Stock
2 tbsp Parsley chopped
1 large clove Garlic minced
2 Eggs beaten
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
1 tbsp each Pumpkin Seed, Sesame and Almond Flakes
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
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.
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.
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.
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.