Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ghagin Tork jew Griek ("turkish" or "greek" pasta, but it's actually Maltese!)

I have no clue as to whether this pasta sauce originates from Turkey, Greece, or anywhere else but Malta, but all I know is that it's absolutely divine, and So ridiculously easy.  You will need at 1.5-2 hours of simmering, so this is not something you make when you're starving after work :)

i love the simple look of this sauce, and the meat is literally melt in your mouth!

Contorni - Side dishes (maltese style!)

Contorni is the Italian word for side dishes, i.e. the veggies and salads that accompany the main meat dish.

Here are a couple of quite traditional Maltese "contorni" - Boiled potatoes and "Qarabali fgati", or literal translation: "smothered Zucchini".

Pork Fillet - slow cooked

This is one of my favourite dishes to make and also eat.  It fills the house with the delicious smell of meat cooking in wine and garlic (similar to Maltese rabbit or Coq au vin), it's really easy, and is soooo so tasty!  I like to serve this in winter with pleny of mashed potatoes, with the winey garlicky gravy poured over it.

In summer, I just boil potatoes in salted water, and dress with some olive oil :)

The most important thing to start off with here is a good quality Pork Fillet.  Make friends with your local butcher, even if it's the local supermarket butcher (for example, in Malta, Prime butchers are fantastic for pork products!).

remove the fatty sinewy bits for extra tenderness.

10 minute pasta - Artichoke hearts

I'm a huge fan of making Pasta sauces that take just about as long as it does for the water to boil and pasta to cook.  Pasta dishes like this are definitely my "2 minute noodle" or "cheese toastie dinner" type meals.. I don't really like to eat take-away, and am not a huge fan of ready meals (unless they were ones that I prepared, at least partially).

You can serve with grated parmesan or (as in this case) shaved bottarga!
This sauce falls under this category.

Figs figs figs!!!

Why August is one of my favourite months despite it's hot humid sticky weather.


Below you can see an example of "farkizzan" and "tin", the 2 types of figs that ripen in August.  Farkizzan starts earlier, and Tin is the one that happens towards the end of August, but as you can see, the seasons overlap.  "tin" are the small green ones, and "farkizzan" are small purple ones.  I'm not 100% sure about this, but the small green ones are the ones that the Turkish use to make dried figs.. but I could be completely wrong about that! 

The season doesn't last long at all, it's really a case of "blink and you'll miss it".... luckily for me, we live in an agricultural haven, and my dad's taken the time to get to know the best produce that each vendor sells, so we get our figs from a lady called "Lippa" (which, if you know Zebbug Malta, is very common, as Lippa is the abbreviation of Phillippa, whch is the patron saint of Zebbug Malta).  She sells very few things, occasionally figs, sometimes capers, free range eggs (woo!), bayleaves... basically, always very seasonal produce, so you never really know what wares she'll be displaying until you get to the market.  I love this!

Anyway, the season is pretty much over, and the unfortunate thing about figs is that they really don't keep well, so I hope that you enjoyed them while they lasted!

I've been eating them plain, the way i love them most, but if you wrap a little piece of prosciutto around them and eat them raw, and possibly even stuff them with some mascarpone and THEN wrap the prosciutto around and bake them for a short while, they would be divine.

Adieu Figs, until next year!! :)

"Tin" on the left, "Farkizzan" on the right.
The next seasonal thing i'll be looking forward to is delicious dark English spinach... mmm just a couple more months! :)  Then Autumn will be upon us, the time of pumpkins, and delicious root veggies, nuts, oranges and spices :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fresh tomato sauce take 2

A slight adaptation from the 10 minute tomato pasta sauce is to take a little more time (lol, d'oh) and allow the sauce to simmer longer, resulting in a rich tasting (yet liquidier!) sauce.

First of all, when I have more time, I make an effort to peel the tomatoes. It takes only a few minutes, and it is really worth the slight effort of boiling a kettle and using 2 bowls :)

This sauce has much less Kunserva in it, and it ends up being a much paler (but still so flavoursome) sauce.

First, to peel the tomatoes. Ok it's important to use the "Roma" or "egg" or "zenguli" tomatoes for this recipe - other tomatoes are simply not good enough. The riper, the redder, the more "bits" you have to cut out cos they are not perfect, the better. These tomatoes are very fleshy, with relatively less pulp and seeds to other tomatoes. Makes them ideal for a tasty tomato sauce!

Choose your tomatoes and make a thinly slit cross with a sharp knife at the opposite end to the stalk end. This will help with peeling once you have loosened the skin.

Place them in a large pyrex or metal bowl. Boil a kettle and pour the water directly over the tomatoes and leave for a couple of minutes.

the blanching tomatoes

Salad - Mustard/lemon/olive oil dressing

Apologies for not focussing on salad... i completely forgot to take a pic of it before it was served.. but essentially you won't be able to see the vinaigrette anyway :)

I adore simple salads. ON the other hand, I deplore ready made dressings. I have this thing for artificial flavours, I'd always much, MUCH rather have something made from scratch with ingredients that I recognise. All these thickeners and emulsifiers can't be good for us, and it just doesn't make sense when it's so blindingly easy to make a fresh one from scratch.

Grilled Pepper Chicken

This was adapted from a recipe for Pollo al Diavolo by Rick Stein - which means "Devilled Chicken"...

The recipe is originally from Puglia, a region in Italy famous for its olive oil, pretty much everything from there is soaked in the stuff. The original recipe called for 175mls of oil, but i highly reduced that amount (although i put a decent amount in anyway) and added extra lemon juice. I also didn't have dried crushed chilli flakes, so used powder (will def use heaps of chilli flakes next time though!), and I used boneless thighs rather than a whole spatchcocked chook.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Aubergines, sicilian style

Mmmm... am love love LOVING aubergines/eggplants/brungiel at the moment. They are lovely, and I've discovered (thanks to mum) a way that one can cook them without them absorbing huge amounts of oil.

Very easy, once you slice them, place them in water with heaps of salt,and soak them for at least minutes, or even a couple of hours. You might need some kind of weight to keep them from floating... i put empty glass bottles on top to weigh them down into the water.

Really felt like a "parmiggiana", i.e. layers of eggplant, mozzarella and tomato sauce baked to golden, bubbly, melty, tomato-ey, gooey, perfection. But at the same time, I felt like something a little different.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

baby balls of meat

Today and yesterday I took on the task of sorting through everything we had in the fridge and freezer, throwing out expired stuff, and arranging the rest so that it's easily accessible and ready to be used in time for it to still be good.

Sorting out the freezer was interesting, have found lovely packets of fresh artichoke hearts that my dad lovingly prepared when it was artichoke season, some delicious looking pumpkin ravioli, amongst so much other stuff like desserts, meat, veggies and a heap of ready chopped garlic and ginger :D very handy to know :D

I took out 500 grams of pork mince, as i had an idea brewing when I'd cleaned the fridge yesterday and found some pork stock (leftover from a roast this weekend - recipe to follow!) and leftover 10 minute pasta sauce (well, my dad's version of). Plenty of the other ingredients are also leftover, or bits that were found in the freezer that i thought would be nice to add.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wild, Natural foods

I was really inspired for a moment yesterday when on my way to the beach, when i saw just how much wild fennel is growing.

Baia Beach

I know I don't normally review restaurants etc, however I felt that I must mention a lunch we had the other day :)

We discovered this little beach club at Armier Bay, in the north of Malta. As far as I know it only recently opened, it's called Baia Beach Club. Fantastic little place, what attracted us was the pretty white and blue decor, the fact that it's not crowded (a true rarity on a Saturday at a Maltese beach in summer!) and that it had that little touch of class that girls' days at the beach truly deserve :)

Sarah and I got there around lunchtime, so we decided to have a proper lunch at the restaurant before going down to settle on our luxury sun-beds!

And what a lunch it was! I am a huge fan of simplicity mixed with excellence, and both the dishes we ordered were a perfect example of this! The kitchen is run by a Tuscan chef who's also opened his own Michelin star restaurant (more info on their website)

I ordered Linguini with Vongole (clams) and zucchini, and Sarah ordered a Calamari salad with roast potatoes.

Papardelle with Mixed Forest Mushrooms

Wow... Sister's wedding is over, and life has started to resemble normality once again. Yesterday decided to have some of the ladies over, to relieve them from cooking duties on a Monday after work. I know I'd love it if people did that to me on Mondays :)

After agonising at what to feed them, I decided that our freezer (yet again!) is really full, so wanted to use something out of there. I found 2 packets of mushrooms - one was only porcini, the other was mixed forest mushrooms. We also have some truffle oil that we never get to use so I thought this would go smashingly with it! Opened the cupboard, and Voila! Papardelle Al Ouvo! (egg pasta!) even better! And so a dish was made: