Monday, November 12, 2012

Lemon & Olive oil Chiffon Cake

The lightest, moistest cloud of a lemon cake you'll ever try! 
This wasn't meant to be one of the softest, moistest clouds of a cake I've ever made.  This was an experiment - using extra virgin olive oil in a cake.  I did some research on the net and thought that Lemon would be the right flavour for this cake, nice mediterranean flavours I guess!  The thing is, normally, olive oil and lemon are something I would use to dress a nice piece of grilled fish, or a salad, possibly some chicken, but never in a sweet!

Anyway, the experiment was a success!  I sourced some lovely Pappa's Organic Liquid Gold Olive oil, a lovely fresh oil that some friends are importing from the South Peloponnese mountains in Greece.

This cake was a dream - definitely not the prettiest of cakes, as it cracks and sinks on the top, but the taste and texture is out of this world!  Delicate and soft, and very moist, with the distinct flavour of olive oil and lemon, brought together to make this lovely snack!!  

I admit, I had a conflict of the senses when the cake was being cooked, as it smelled more similar to a foccacia than a cake!  But I assure you, the cake is lovely!!! I highly recommend it if you are a fan of simple cakes full of flavour!

The oil I used is in the background, I really recommend it for this cake! Just the right amount of lightness and olive flavour!  Wow.  So yum!! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Chocolate Ganache and peanut butter frosting.

Oh yes.  You heard me right. Peanuts and chocolate!  Who doesn't like this combination?  Dead people, that's who! 

I was looking for an idea for chocolate and peanut in a cake, and was wondering.. should i make peanut cupcakes and chocolate frosting?  or the other way around?  then I found the perfect recipe, tried the cake base in another recipe this week, and thought this cake MUST be made, and it MUST be made into cupcakes! :)  
Peanut butter cream cheese frosting topping a dark moist cake.  wow.  wow! 
In the theme of the Ganesh cake I made last weekend, I feel that this one also deserves to be attached to some kind of deity. So I'm calling them "Holy Jesus peanut butter chocolate cupcakes".

I've had quite a chocolate week this week, i've already made one decadent chocolate celebration cake, but tonight's celebration (one of my dearest friends is leaving for a year to do his masters in the UK) also calls for an uber chocolate feast!  Apart from all the cakes, chocolate has made an appearance in savoury cooking this week as a friend of mine made us chicken cooked with port, sage and cocoa the other day, which was pretty amazing! :) I will definitely put my adaptation of this dish up when i finally get around to making it!

Anyway, the base of these cupcakes are the same as the Dulce de Leche cake posted previously. Only difference is that i did not add the coffee, which was actually totally an oversight.  ah well, for next time ;)  Honestly these cakes are so good that I don't think the coffee is even needed, especially not with the fact that these are filled with chocolate peanut ganache (yes.  i didn't even know this could be done.  my life will never be the same!) and then topped with cream cheese peanut butter frosting (this tastes infinitely better than it sounds, and i certainly would not have made it had Deb from smitten kitchen specifically mentioned that it's good!!)...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stop Chasing Ganesh! a.k.a. Chocolate cake with Dulce de Leche filling and Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Layer Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

I know, I know!! The title’s misleading!  There is no Indian elephant god Ganesh in this cake, however honestly if there was to be a cake that represented a god, this would be, at the very least, a contender!

The title comes from a line out of an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer dressed up as Ganesh and tries to stop Apu from getting married.  In turn, my lovely friend Joe always says “Ganesh” instead of “Ganache”, and frankly, that stuff is pretty godly so it does make sense in a way ;)

Anyway, I was looking for a cake that would fit perfectly with one of my best mates – she adores chocolate and toffee like substances, so what better cake for her than a moist dark chocolate cake, filled with lashings of dulce de leche, topped with smooth dark chocolate ganache??  YUM! 

This is definitely, no doubt about it, a celebration cake.  This isn’t something you do on a weekend to have something with tea.  This is a cake to be placed at the centre of attention, shared and enjoyed. 

I have accidentally also found one of the best chocolate cake recipes ever!  I will most definitely be using this when I make chocolate layer cakes.  It’s moist, dense, insanely dark (I don’t know what it is about an almost black chocolate cake that just excited me!), wonderfully chocolatey, and yet, somehow, it still manages to be delicately soft and light.… YUM!  For the Maltesers, what I was looking for essentially was a cake I can make from scratch that rivaled the old school Fontanella cake.  Unfortunately, I believe they have gone downhill over the last few years, hence the need to replace it with something! AND.. SUCCESS!!   I have finally found the right cake!  And to top it off, I know exactly what goes into it as I’ve made it myself (always a concern when ordering cakes from out) J

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Zoe's Blue cheese, honey and walnut salad

I love blue cheese.  I'm actually surprised that I only have one other recipe that involves blue cheese on this blog so far, and I assure you that I will make every effort to include more!

I have memories of tasting it for the first time many many moons ago, at a large family gathering (possibly Christmas or one of my many cousins' birthdays), the cheese platter would be presented and there would be all manners of cheesy goodness.  I remember one of my uncles explaining to me that the blue green veins were mould, and that the white velvety covering on a piece of brie was also mould.  It grossed me out, but also totally fascinated me that we would deliberately eat it!  So naturally, I tasted it, and that is where the love affair started!

My love for the blue veined cheeses grew when i discovered certain combinations of flavours.  My first love was blue cheese and cured meat - Salami and Parma ham in particular.  Then came blue cheese with walnuts! then came blue cheese with pears! and then finally, and i must say it was one of those epiphany moments, came the discovery (thanks to Warren, chef at Barracuda restaurant) of the foodgasm that is blue cheese and honey.

Blue cheese is one of those cheeses that I cannot NOT like.  I can not be in the mood for it, but I have loved every single type of blue cheese that has entered my mouth, whether it be pasteurised, cave ripened, sheeps, goats, cow's, speciality, cheapo grocery bought cheese.  I have almost as much love for cheap Danish blue than I have for an unpasteurised speciality Roquefort or a pot ripened Stilton soaked in port.  YUM!

I guess I've been somewhat of a foodie since I was weaned, and one of the main reasons was CHEESE!  I love cheese so much!  My (food) highlight of every family gathering is the cheese platter after dinner, sitting there sipping wine, nibbling on cheese and having the inevitable lively discussion, whether it be politics, religion, or some topic that will raise a few voices and possibly end in someone sulking :P (i adore the fact that we can do this and still have so much love for each other).

ANWAY, I am lucky to have found fellow foodie friends, amongst them my lovely half-Maltese, half-French friend Zoe :)  We bonded over how much we have in common all those years ago, and cemented it with cheese.  We are both obsessed with cheese!  It's so tasty! so delicious, and we have spent many a nights just having one more piece of cheese to finish the wine, or one more glass of wine to finish the cheese, repeat ad nauseum and/or drunken food coma :)

This salad is her creation!  Blue cheese, walnuts, prosciutto crudo, pears, dressed with  honey, served with masses of fresh baby salad leaves... perfection!  All these ingredients go so well with each other, it's only natural that we would bring them all together into one of my favourite salads on this planet!

Sorry about the bad quality camera pic! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Frosting - cream cheese and buttercream.

yumyum cakes!
Frosting is a little funny sometimes, it might work out perfectly one time, and another time it just ends up being a runny mess.  here are some pointers to help you get it right.  

At the bottom of the post, there are a bunch of pictures, including "successful" and "failure" frostings. 

First of all, the most important things - it seems like a stupidly long list, but really, once you've made it once successfully, you'll see it's actually not hard!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild Asparagus and Greens Pasta (Wild, Natural foods take 2)

Springtime is a great time for foraging in Malta.  There are plenty of delicious and healthy options to find just on your weekend walk in the countryside (and sometimes, even just walking around residential areas!)
Happy Spaghetti sauce :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Strawberries are in season.  They are at their best right now!  And it won't be long before you won't find them at the market!  I wanted to make as much use as possible this year, and amongst other things, have found this great recipe for strawberry cupcakes. 
These cupcakes are exactly what I was looking for! So good!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Flourless Chocolate and Hazelnut cupcakes

Sometimes a regular cupcake just won't do.  Sometime, you  need it to be more like a fancy chocolate, decadent, rich, moist and full of sinful pleasures from top to bottom.  Sometimes, you just need an excuse to make the most chocolatey gooey cupcakes.  This day came, when I decided to make a gluten free cupcake for a chocoholic friend.  What better excuse to make a flour-less cupcake?  

Flourless cakes are my favourite.  I can't go past a small slice of moist, dense cake.  Putting them into cupcake form was a great idea.  These cakes are not the kind of cakes you just keep on eating.  They are very rich!  I made them into fairy cake size, which is halfway between a mini cupcake/muffin size, and a "normal" cupcake (muffin) size.  I would say this is ideal, they are a decent hit of chocolatey goodness, and yet, you could probably have 2 and get away with it ;)  I will not judge you if you had to eat more than that! 

Don't be fooled by the light colour, under the delicate crust lies a dark, moist chocolate experience

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spaghetti with Artichokes and Tuna (Carciofi e Tonno)

You can choose to make this sauce with the flesh from leftover stuffed artichokes, or plain boiled artichokes, or artichoke flesh collected when in season and frozen; For more information about this, please see the previous post (or click here!)

Depending on whether you use plain or not will make a difference to the sauce.  I always add a bit of extra garlic, fresh garlic stems when in season.

This really is a sauce that you can adapt to whatever you fancy, but I'll give you the recipe of what I did this time, with some additional notes as I go along.  :)

I used leftover stuffed globe artichokes, which were simmered with plenty of fresh flat leaf parsley and fresh garlic (click this for a link to what i mean by fresh garlic).  If i had used plain simmered artichokes, I would have added a bunch more parsley and garlic.

Nutella Chocolate Chip cookies

Here goes!  a gooey, chocolatey cookie, delicious after they've cooled for 10 minutes, enough to crisp up the edges and still be warm, chocolatey and gooey in the middle. If you don't have hazelnut meal, just replace with the same weight with more flour.   :) 

I've made variations of this recipe over the years, sometimes i replace some of the flour with quick cook oats, used

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Have your Artichokes and eat them :)

Artichokes - I love them SO much!  I love the idea of eating a flower bud, I love the idea of something so fleeting and seasonal!  The only problem I see with seasonal food is that I always want to enjoy it when it's out of season, without the added burden on our planet of unsustainable farming methods.

In Malta, I love how in just a few weeks, I'll be seeing a small field of these lovely plants, being allowed to mature fully so that the farmers can collect the seeds for the next year.  An artichoke in full bloom such a beautiful sight!!  The size of your head, a MASSIVE purple pall, just like your regular thistles, only much larger! :)  I drive past it every year, and it always seems to be at sunset, when the purple flowers look so pretty in the fading light :) 

When you think about it, the fact that Artichokes are a type of thistle really shows!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Apple berry oat crumble :)

This is an experiment to try making a somewhat healthy dessert, that's can still warm the cockles.  It was a total experiment, but I think it turned out well.  It was awesome served with some Greek yoghurt, but you could also use warm custard, cream, or even a nice vanilla ice cream! 

The berries released their delicious red juice into a lovely sauce, and dyed the apples bright red.  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the ready product, oops! :)
Just as I put it in the oven, when cooked it turns into a golden crunchy oaty topping with a delicious saucy red base :)
2 Granny smith apples
1 cup mixed blueberries and raspberries (I used frozen, use fresh if in season and available)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Crumble topping
2 tablespoons butter (I used "can't believe it's not")
a cup or so of quick cook oats
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core and slice the apples finely and place in a pie dish
Throw the berries and sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon on top, and mix until evenly spread around. 

To make the "crumble", melt the butter and then add the sugar, oats and cinnamon.   Sprinkle/spread on top of the fruit and bake until the fruit is cooked and the top is lovely and brown.  Mine took about 25 minutes in a hot (200C) oven.  Let sit for a few minutes before serving.


Thursday, February 2, 2012


Oooh!  Tartiflette!  I love the name, and I love absolutely everything about this!  It's a lovely dish, a DEFINITE winter warmer, and the whole of this dish, from beginning to end is all about decadence! :D  This is definitely not a "diet-friendly" meal, in any way, shape or form.  It's originally from Haute-Savoie a tiny part of France tucked away between lake Geneva and Mont Blanc (also, incidentally, the first ever Winter Olympics were held there, in Chamonix).

This dish is such a great dish to serve with a couple of friends, it's lovely and simple, and so tasty! You could easily adapt this recipe (say, using mushrooms, or using different cheese to Reblochon) to become something that is not Tartiflette, but Tartiflette based.  I have no issue with this.  I'm sure that it would be awesome, and to be honest now I just want to try the recipe with mushrooms and Brie/Port Salut.  But that is not Tartiflette.  This is Tartiflette :)

Tartiflette!  What a great word <3

Mushroom mushroom soup :)

This soup is so mushroomy, I had to put it in the title twice! :D

so tasty, and SO ridiculously simple and quick!
I'm always on the look out for recipes that I don't need to plan ahead for.  I love cooking things that take lots of time, but I also work a 9-5 job, and sometimes, I just don't have the time or inclination to plan ahead.  This means that I either end up eating at 930pm sometimes, or I need to find things that don't take long to cook. 

Enter - the humble mushroom!  Mushrooms cook in a jiffy, are available ALWAYS (but especially in the colder months, when they thrive, even outdoors!) and can be made into so many different things.  I love a soup that's fast to make too, because all my favourite ones apart from this one actually take a while. 

Additionally, I've just started a Weight watcher's diet, so am trying to adapt recipes to fit into my daily allowance.  Essentially, I'm still eating low carb (although I'm allowed to have carbs on this diet), but now with additional low fat! 

This soup can be adapted to be as creamy and decadent, or as low fat as you like.  Really though, the low fat version doesn't taste all that different!  I'll give you the recipe for the low fat one, and will comment in the actual method of how to make it just a little extra decadent and rich, ideal for a soup starter for a wintry dinner party. 

You will need a blender (either immersion or stand alone) for this soup.  I've never tried it without blending it, but I'm sure it'll taste great too! Just slice the mushrooms a little neater if you are planning not to blend it :) 

Qaqocc Mimli (Stuffed steamed Globe Artichokes)

The start of the Artichoke season to me means a few things (apart form deliciousness!)

Ready stuffed and packed tightly into the pan for cooking

1) The start of the really cold part of winter
2) Those brilliantly sunny but crisp cold days of January (hiking!)
3) The urge to squirrel away these delicacies to bring them out at the height of summer.
4) The excitement I feel when the farmers leave a field of them to flower so that they can use the seeds for next year.  Anyone lucky enough to have seen these fields, they are simply spectacular. The flower grows to be the side of your head, and when they are in bloom, you really see the fact that they are, in fact, a thistle!

What we call the "choke" in an artichoke is in fact the hairy mass of immature petals that would otherwise bloom to become that purple mass in a mature flower.  In culinary terms, the globe artichoke is the bud, which is edible just as it's been formed, and before it starts opening up to bloom.

Here in Malta, they are a seasonal delicacy, even though you can prepare them (and I will let you know how in a later post!) to freeze and store for later on in the year.  Currently, the price is still "high" as it's right at the start of the season, but in a few weeks, we'll be buying a box load for summer use :)

The preparation of artichokes starts from the selection;
They need to be as tightly closed as possible (especially the inner leaves). 
Firm to the touch and feel heavy. 
They need to be as round as possible, not tapering to a point at the top. 
Ideally, choose them from a Green grocer who keeps them on the full stalk, and only ask him to trim it down to 10cm if you are using them on the day. 
If you plan to use them the day after, keep them on the stalk as long as possible, and you can even do as I do and chuck em in a vase as a decoration until you need to use them (keep them only a couple of days though)

This recipe is based on the typical Maltese way of stuffing artichokes.  There are many variations, and this is most certainly not completely traditional.  I made do with the breadcrumbs, mostly because i didn't have any bread in the house, however they do keep the stuffing lovely and absorb much of the delicious, delicious liquid.  if you choose to add them, just crumble up some day old Maltese bread (or a good firm sour dough if unavailable), and soak with a splash of vinegar (the vinegar i added to the recipe anyway and mixed with the other ingredients.  Then add the rest of the stuffing ingredients to that. 

The method below is actually completely vegan (as long as you don't serve it with tuna hahah)  Bonus!

Many other Maltese recipes call for Tuna.  I like to serve my tuna on the side.  But really, the tuna is lovely when added to the filling too.  next time i'm making these, i'll chop a few anchovies into the stuffing.  I think it will be delicious!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thai red curry with Coconut rice

I was at Mint the other day, and noticed they have are selling a few items, such as limes, chillies and my favourite Thai curry paste, the wonderfully named "cock brand" :D  I love this paste because it is actually a lovely thick paste, full of tang and spice, not an oiled down watery sauce.

Another bonus about this brand is that it doesn't include shrimp paste, and even though this is supposed to be an essential ingredient in the curry pastes, the taste is still just as intense and powerful, and it's suitable to make a vegetarian curry with also!  WIN!  You can taste the fresh herbs and spices that go into this.  It's so intensely lovely!  Quite spicy, so if someone isn't a chilli fan, probably avoid the red, and definitely avoid the green. And add a little extra fish sauce to make up for the lack of shrimp paste. 

This recipe is based on the instructions on the tub.  I have added my own little embellishments, but have tried to keep it as authentic as possible.  

Incidentally, I also found it (along with many, MANY Asian foods and things that i've been searching for) for half the price at Asia Supermarket in Gzira, and if you're overseas, any Asian supermarket should have it!

Incidentally, this is another one of those dishes I make for friends, and unfortuantely keep on forgetting to take pics of it until it's been devoured.  Until then, I've stolen a pic off the internet to show you what it looks like:

From (note how the oil sits on top!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sticky Ribs

I've always been somewhat scared of cooking ribs.  I have no idea why, although I would imagine it's because mum never ever cooked them at home. I love them, and since pork is so damned tasty in this country, thought I'd try them.  Read up a bit out of them and decided I'd try and find "babyback" or "loin" ribs rather than spare ribs, as they have more meat and less bone and fat (even though apparently it's harder to get them as tender, but hey, I'm a big believer in the slow food movement, and understand that even the toughest cut of meat can become the tenderest when treated right!)

This recipe is just an idea more than a fixed thing.  The sauce is completely your choice, it's the method I'm actually focussing on here. 

Just to make this clear, this recipe has 2 parts.  You can choose to make these 2 parts over a few hours, but I highly recommend making part one the night before, or even 2 nights before as I did.   I believe this is the reason they turned out so incredibly fall off the bone tender and juicy :)

Regarding the spices I used for flavouring, it's really a matter of choice.  I had a jar of Char Siu sauce so I decided to stick to Chinese flavourings, but really, it was a complete gamble.You have the freedom to choose whether to simmer (part one) in plain water, or add some flavourings, you have the choice of whether to make your own sticky sauce for afterwards.. As I said, this is essentially the method, but I will tell what spices i used because dayammmm, they be tasty sticky ribs! :D


Part one:
Baby back ribs, 1/2-1 racks per person
A good sprinkling of Sichuan peppercorns (maybe about 20)
Ground ginger and Chinese 5 spice, a good teaspoon of each.
Garlic, couple of cloves, chopped roughly
A couple of tablespoons of dark soy
Sauce - I used Char Siu sauce as I had a jar of it in the fridge.  But you can use Bbq sauce, or make your own, or use honey/soy/hoisin sauce mix, it's completely up to you! 

Place ribs in a large pot, so that they sit comfortably.  Fill the pot with water until the ribs are just covered.  Add all the spices and bring to a boil.  As soon as it boils, cover, turn the heat to the lowest (maybe even change to the smallest burner), and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Take the ribs out of the water, and place into a large ziplock bag. Pour enough sauce over them to cover well, mix around till they are all coated, seal the bag (if not using ziplocks, I would suggest placing the bag into another bag to ensure they are sealed, and place in fridge to marinade for at least 1 hour but ideally at the very least overnight.  Every now and then, when i'd open the fridge to get something else out, i'd mix up the bag a little just to make sure the marinade was really getting in everywhere.  This step will help the sauce really get in there, as well as make the meat super tender (even though the simmering would have made them pretty tender already!)

Part 2
This is the easiest step in existence.
Turn the oven on 200C
prepare a roasting/baking dish by lining it with foil (makes clean up so much easier, sticky sauce is annoying like that!)
I took the ribs out of the fridge about an hour before to bring them as close to room temperature as I could.  I believe meat cooks better when you start it off at room temperature. 
Open the ziplock bag, chuck the ribs into the baking dish, and place in the oven for 30 minutes until they are lovely, sticky and heated well all the way through.  I turned them around once to ensure even stickyness and deliciousness.

I served them with steamed spinach as I'm trying to watch the carb levels, but ideally, these would be served with new potatoes that have been boiled until fork tender in salted water, and then the potatoes are thrown with the ribs into the baking dish to turn a little golden. 


Remember!  Serve these with a little bowl to place the bones in, napkins and ideally even a finger bowl to rinse off your sticky finger (after you lick them, because this is the kind of dish that requires a good finger licking :P).

yum yum! :D