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.

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

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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.

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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

Winter Lentils with Sweet Potato and Courgette

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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!

 

 

 

 

Poached Horse Mackarel (Sawrell)

Many people say that they are scared to cook fish as they don’t know where to start. I find this way works with most fish with delectable results.

sawrellScore the flesh in a line parallel to the dorsal fin. Stuff this crevice and other cavities with garlic and herbs such as parsley or mint. Place fish in a roasting pan and cover with water. Add a bay leaf, an onion and two peppercorns.IMG_0143

Bring to the boil and turn off. Leave to rest for five minutes. To chech if it’s cooked see if it comes off the bone easily. This is where the score on the back comes in handy. You can serve like this or you can brown it under a hot grill or oven. With the roast Mediterranean vegetables. Mmm!

Easy peasy!

If it’s the bones that put you off ask the fishmonger to fillet it for you

Roast Mediterranean Vegetables

With an invitation to a sail tomorrow my contribution will be roast Mediterranean vegetables. These are a perfect accompaniment to freshly caught fish (optimistic!) but also can be eaten with fresh bread, pasta, rice or couscous (more realistic).

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Serves 6-8  

Duration Prep 20min, Cooking 1 hour (approx)

Ingredients:

Aubergine 1

Courgette 3

Peppers 4

Tomatoes 2 (optional)

Onion 1

Garlic 1 large clove

Chili 1 small

Olive oil 4 tbsp

Salt and Pepper

Method:

Wash and prepare vegetables into bite sized chunks. Place into a roasting pan, add garlic and chili, salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil generously.IMG_0138

Place into a very hot oven 200°- 220°C and leave until the vegetables start to brown    (around an hour depending on oven).

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Quick and Easy Egg Fried Rice

fried rice warm
This recipe is authentic in its simplicity and takes about fifteen minutes to concoct even if you do the rice from scratch. (I often use it as a way to use leftover rice the next day). You can add anything else you fancy such as prawn, chicken or roast pork or duck. Or just enjoy the delightful simplicity of fresh peas as in this recipe.

Serves: 2             Duration: 15-20 min

Ingredients:

Thai Jasmine or Basmati Rice: 1 cup steamed in two cups of water

Eggs:  2  Lightly whisked with a fork

Peas ( Fresh if possible): 200 g

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Soya Sauce  ( I used Thai)

Sunflower or peanut oil: 2 tbsp

Thai sweet chilli sauce

Method:

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Cook oil to a high heat. Add egg. When it starts to solidify after one minute tear it into strips with your spatula. While continuously tossing or stirring throw in the peas.

Keep moving for two or three minutes and throw in the rice.

Stir for two more minutes and add soya sauce to taste. (The strength varies from one make to another).

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A squirt of Thai hot and spicy sweet chilli sauce gives it a nice tang.

For Prawn Fried Rice Simply add Prawns with the peas

Prawn Fried Rice


Chicken Curry bubbling away

IMG_0028I might have given the impression from previous posts that I am a vegetarian. My passion for food does not allow these limits to my taste buds. I am, however, quite conscious of the brutality of factory farming and the health implications of too much red meat and try to balance my diet and source my meat accordingly. I am still a sucker for a nice juicy steak once in a while.

I cannot really give a precise recipe for this curry as it was improvised on the fly.

What I did basically is I browned the chicken thigh in a deep pan and set aside. In the same oil I fried an onion, a carrot and some celery with a bay leaf. When they started to brown I added some curry powder, masala powder, cumin, dried coriander leaf, one fresh chili, tomato puree and grated ginger. I put back the chicken and added water to cover three quarters of it.  Threw in one chopped marrow and one sweet pepper that I had in the fridge. I covered it and let it simmer for forty five minutes.

I used one cup of Basmati rice boiled in two cups of water with a bay leaf and simmered for ten minutes. I leave this to rest for five minutes before using.

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Curries are excellent for using up ingredients which are getting close to their sell by date in the best possible way 🙂

Melange of Marrows with Quinoa

As we draw into autumn pumpkin and other members of the marrow family become more evident at the vegetable markets and greengrocers. This recipe is a take on a traditional Maltese autumn soup “Soppa tal- Qarghat” made from the different marrows; qagħra hamra (pumpkin), qagħra Tork (white pumpkin), qagħra baghli (courgettes) and qagħra twil (long marrow). Any combination may be used. Squash is fine as well but I prefer vegetables that have been grown locally as this is more sustainable.IMG_0012 White Marrow was not available at the market so I used what I found.

Ingredients:

Pumpkin, Marrows and Long Marrows in roughly equal quantities. In all 1.2 Kg

Leek                                                                                  1

Organic Quinoa                                                            100g

Cumin Powder                                                               2 tsp

1 small chili pepper

Olive oil                                                                          2 tbsp

Vegetable Stock                                                          500 ml

Method:

Wash and chop the leek.

Tip: To remove soil and compost from leek remove the two topmost layers and quarter lengthwise leaving the root. Rinse thoroughly under running water and dry with paper towels.

leek quartered

Easily chop into 1.5 cm  lengths.   IMG_0017

Heat oil in pot and gently fry the leeks. When they start to get translucent add the cumin and the chili and fry for one minute to release the flavour. Add the washed and chunkily chopped marrows to the pot and barely cover with the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Add Quinoa, cover and simmer for fifteen minutes. Leave to rest for another fifteen minutes during which most of the liquid will be absorbed.IMG_0024

I served this with grilled flat bread such as flour tortillas.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

I made this traditional recipe  for some very special guests. I will introduce them in good time. Ratatouille is a stew of the vegetables that are so prevalent in the Mediterranean in the summertime; aubergines, courgettes and sweet peppers, which originated in Nice and has been adopted by the Provence region. The circumstances dictated that I prepare a copious amount of the stuff, roughly enough for twelve portions but it is easy enough to calculate how much you want to prepare. Just keep in mind that you need approximately an equal amount of all the vegetables, maybe slightly less tomatoes.

ratatouille

The secret of a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself.
—Joël Robuchon, The Complete Robuchon
Ingredients
  • Aubergines                                      1Kg
  • Italian Zucchini                              1Kg
  • Green and Coloured Peppers  1 Kg
  • Onions                                               1 Kg
  • Tomatoes                                       900 g
  • Garlic                                       one head
  • Olive Oil                                         300 Ml
  • Basil                                             a bunch
  • Salt                                                      2 tsp
  • pepper                                           1/2 tsp

Method

Wash the vegetables and cut them into 2.5 cm cubes. Start sauteing the vegetables one by one on a high heat in a large skillet or wok. Start with the aubergines,IMG_9985

brown them in some of the oil and move them with a slotted spoon to a casserole dish or a large pot. Repeat the process with the courgettes, making sure there is enough oil as the aubergine absorbs a lot of oil. Repeat with the peppers and onions together.IMG_9992

If your skillet or wok is too small do them in batches so you can get enough heat. Once these vegetables are all in the pot add the tomatoes, peeledIMG_9993 Continue reading Ratatouille