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
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
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
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 🤯
What I love about Sicily is that when you go for a stroll by the sea you encounter a bewildering variety of delicious, yet simple, food offerings. Using just a few but fresh and tasty ingredients they combine them in the best ways possible to titillate your senses as you sit by the sea and enjoy its fruits
More known for the Sugo Nero di Sepia, Cuttlefish is also very tasty without the ink. Inspired by the ingenious simplicity of Sicilian cuisine this recipe starts off with the cuttlefish sautéed with garlic, chilli and olive oil, deglazed with white wine and simmered with tomatoes and a touch of capers.
If you want to make Sugo Nero add the ink sacs from the cuttlefish
Cuttlefish 500g cut in 1cm squares. You can ask fishmonger to clean cuttlefish and save the ink if using. If doing yourself make sure to remove the cartilage and innards
Garlic 2 cloves crushed
Chilli Flakes 1/2 tsp
Olive Oil 1tbsp
White Wine glass
Tomatoes 3 chopped. I used very ripe beef tomatoes but long cherry tomatoes cut in half are good as well
Capers 1tbsp preferably Maltese
Spaghetti or Linguine 500g
Heat olive oil on medium high heat and add garlic and chilli for 1 minute. Add cuttlefish for about 5 minutes until the translucent bits turn white then add the wine. This might flame a bit don’t panic! Turn down heat add tomatoes and capers and a dash of water. Cover and simmer until tender about 20-30 minutes. If it gets dry add water from pasta, if it’s too liquidy take off lid and turn up heat towards end of cooking. Meanwhile cook spaghetti al dente in lots of well-salted water. Drain and mix in the pan
Due to the circumstances I have been availing myself more of the ambulatory services that prowl the streets of Mosta. Every morning the bread van brings its freshly and traditionally baked bread from Qormi at 10.45 on the dot. I bought some lovely ftira this morning.
Today I also chanced a mobile fishmonger who had some nice fresh tuna for sale. It is the season for wild tuna. My first thought was to make ħobż biż-żejt with fresh tuna. This would also have been lovely, with a mix of kunserva, tuna, butter beans, olives, capers, tomatoes and olive oil but I had that not so long ago so instead made a simple chickpea salad with tomatoes, spring onions, basil and a balsamic vinaigrette.
250g Fresh Tuna
1 Chilli chopped
1 Clove Garlic chopped
Few mint leaves
1 Tomato cut in half
For the Salad
1 Can Chickpeas drained and rinsed
3 Tomatoes Chopped
1 Spring Onion sliced
6 Basil Leaves thorn roughly
In a plate place garlic, mint, chilli and a tablespoon olive oil and set aside
In a bowl mix the chickpeas, tomatoes, basil and spring onion. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.
Season the tuna and add a tablespoon of olive oil making sure it is smeared on both sides. Heat a heavy-based frying pan on high heat and sear for one minute on each side. Place in the chilli and garlic mixture and allow to rest.
Meanwhile cut the ftira in half, rub half the tomato on each side until red and drizzle with olive oil. Spoon on some of the salad and the thinly sliced tuna (tagliata style).
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
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.