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
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
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
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.
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