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!