Thursday, September 1, 2011

Of vintage China and (almost!) impressing the hubby

Barratts Vintage Tea Set

I've been bad recently! And for a number of reasons too... For one thing, I haven't been updating this blog at all. My only excuse for that is that I started my summer internship, working 6 days a week in a restaurant. Not a very good excuse I know. Still, I'm sticking to it. I'm hoping it will get better once I'm back to school in a month's time.

Wedgewood Enoch and Adams Coffee Pots

I'm also using the same excuse for the second thing. I have not been taking any photos of anything I've cooked so far this summer. Moreover... the fridges are bare, the cupboards empty. I simply have no time or energy to go shopping. The hubby ain't too happy (more on that later!).

Royal Grafton Favourite trio

One thing about working in a restaurant till the early hours of the morning is that on getting back home you can't really go to sleep. Everyone else in the house is asleep. I had to find a way to pass the time... and I came up with online shopping.

That's where I've been awfully bad. No apologies either. I've been buying some beautiful vintage china. Complete sets, mismatched sets, teapots, coffee pots, cake stands. And today I received the last delivery. They're all here. My beauties :)

Some of the purchases
M. was as excited as I was... opening boxes and exclaiming on the beauty of the items. We took a few photos and then we got hungry. That's when problems began. I took out some noodles and M. gave me the "You're-a-chef-and-you're-feeding-me-packaged-noodles" look. I knew at that point, that reminding him that I'm still a student would be futile. I needed a better plan. So out came the grill pan and some chicken breast, the lonesome spring onion sitting in the bottom of the fridge, the tired carrot, two beautiful bowls. 

Turkish handpainted bowls
With not much of a selection of items, I chose to stick with the packaged noodles. I first dry rubbed the chicken and grilled it together with the spring onions. The noodles were cooked in a miso soup and I then added the chopped grilled chicken, the onions, carrot shavings and some frozen peas. One minute later we were eating a faux sort of ramen.

Grilled onions and sweet carrot shavings

For such little effort and for such a quick fix-up, this result was surprisingly good. I could see that M. was almost impressed, but not quite. I had still fed him packaged noodles, after all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Maltese Sausage & Prune risotto

Maltese Sausage & Prune Risotto 

Last week C.S. presented me with 4 sausages... Something between nicely spiced maltese sausages and salami. Her brother makes the Maltese sausages himself and then hangs them to dry, giving them a wonderful texture. We ate one straight away, then forgot about them in the pre-Patches madness, until today. I saw the package when I opened the fridge as soon as I woke up this morning and I must guiltily admit I ate a whole one for breakfast. YUM! I know my blood pressure will not be low for a while now :)

Dried Maltese Sausage

I was wondering what to do with the rest of the sausages... (lest I be tempted to finish off the remaining 2 all by myself) until I remembered another forgotten ingredient: Vialone Nano rice, kindly given to us by Eatmania at the end of the Rice Degustation event, a few weeks back. Photos of the event here.

The Rice Sample we were given by Eatmania

Since that event, my mind has been mulling around ideas of how to best use this special rice, and today I decided that combining it with another special ingredient (the sausages) sounded like a good idea. Which, may I humbly say, it was!

Chopped Sausage

Maltese sausages are all made to the same basic recipe, however each butcher will spice it to his own liking... these had a definite taste of cumin seeds and I decided that they would pair up nicely with prunes. So here it goes: dried Maltese sausage and Prune Risotto. Delicious!

Ps. I noticed that the Vialone Nano is actually much creamier than any other rice I tried before... My previous favourite was Carnarolo, but I believe this might change. The rice also remained nicely separate, despite the creaminess, and retained a nice bite.I might need to get myself a good stock of this rice!

Chopped Prunes

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The "30 minute Mini Cafe" experience @ Patches

Just a quick blog to let you know that Handz by Patz is presenting the "30 minute Mini Cafe" experience, next Sunday 1st of May at the Patches Market. Join us for a cuppa and a selection of mouth watering delights.

Click here for more info!

Thanks :)
Patz ◦

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tiny figolla bites... with recipe

Anyone taking a look at my hands might think I've been dipping my fingers in paint of something of the sort... but all I've been doing is baking and decorating "Figolli"

Nice rows of "figures" ready to be popped into the oven

"Figolli" are a traditional Maltese pastry eaten at Easter time... apparently the name come from a corruption of the word figure (or figuri in old Italian) and usually in the shape of a lamb or something of the sort. Figolli are usually also large... about 7 to 10 inches in lenght (or width, depending on the shape :p )

So what's different about my figolli? Well they're small... tiny actually. Not more than 1 inch across. One bite and they're gone!

I made them by preparing two pieces of dough, on top of the other, separated by the almond filling in the middle, then used cookie cutters to cut out around 250 small figolli.

It did take some time... and patience... but the upside was that I had loads and loads of off cuts, which I baked seperately and we enjoyed even before the "pretty ones" were iced. YUMM!

I packed the figolli in packs of 3, a little ribbon and a home made tag and star.. and off they go, my little ones, on their own into the outside world.

The recipe I used for these figolli was given to me by one of my teachers, Mrs. Nathalie Barbara. I have to say I was not disappointed with the results. I particularly liked the dough, which resulted in a softer figolla than usual.

I made the dough by hand, and it was easy. I love rubbing the flour and the butter together... the smell reminds me of happiness. Maybe it's because it reminds me of my mother, making figolli, when I was a kid... and how happy and excited we were to eat these goodies.

Recipe is below. Let me know if you make it and what results you get.

In the mean time, Happy Easter to all!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strawberry festival & a recipe for a chocolate cake with strawberries!

Last week was a hard week... and on friday I was at school till 1:30am, whilst I woke up at 5:30am on Saturday morning, to bake goodies for the evening's "Cuisine, Cultural & Artisan Festival", which was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Brownies & Kwarezimal at my stall

Despite the interesting exhibition and the varied amount of stalls displaying their wares, attendance to the event was very sparse, which was also positive, because it gave me time to speak to some very interesting people. Sales weren't too bad either. It seems that wherever I am, the brownies will be grabbed up immediately. So were the kwarezimal. Most of the pudina was sold to my family and friends who came over en masse and spent the evening chatting around my stall. Some locals bought some of the pudina too, and said they liked it. (They might have been trying to be polite though... :p) On Saturday night I fell asleep much before my head hit the pillow!

My version of the traditional Pudina (bread pudding)

So it was with great effort that I woke up early on Sunday morning, in order to beat the traffic and the crowds attending the "Festa Frawli" (Strawberry Festival). I made it a point to go, because I had heard good things about it, on previous years.

Festa Frawli: Waffles with strawberries and ice cream

But oh! What a disappointment! The stalls were few, the traffic was terrible, even at 10:00am and there was only a single point from where you could buy fresh strawberries! 
Festa Frawli: Mqaret with strawberry sorbet

Festa Frawli: Strawberry lolipops

It wasn't all bad... the strawberries I managed to buy from there were sweet and tasty, the goodies prepared with the strawberries looked nice, and the onee I tasted were also good. There were really beautiful displays of strawberries and flowers and some interesting, cultural entertainment. 

Festa Frawli: Strawberry and flower displays

Unfortunately, the small bottle of "imbid tal-frawli", a strawberry liquor of sorts, I bought for €4.50 from one of the stalls, wasn't too good. 2 sips of it (the second sip was to confirm that it was complete and utter rubbish) gave me a bad case of heartburn and the rest of the bottle went down the drain. All in all I'm not sure the whole trip was worth it at all!

Festa Frawli: Entertainers in traditional maltese dresses

Festa Frawli: Entertainers holding traditional instruments

Apparently there were other things going on in the area, other than the stalls, but I did not see any signs anywhere so we must have missed all of them!

Talking about strawberries, here's the recipe for last week's pictured chocolate cake with fresh strawberries. It was a huge hit and altough I baked it at 7:00pm, not a crumb remained for the next day! So I guess it's worth a try. Recipe adapted from Larousse Gastronomique.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cakes I baked this weekend

Just a quick post today, to share with you 2 cakes I made this weekend. The first one was for a twins Christening party and the second one was for welcoming back C. who was away on work for the last 2 months or so.

Both cakes have a chocolate base (click here for recipe) with a chocolate frosting centre. The chocolate frosting was especially lip licking good! The twins cake had a layer of rasberry jam whilst I put fresh strawberries in the plain chocolate cake.

 Spent the whole day baking and decorating... and absolutely loved every minute of it :-D

This week is an especially busy week. Apart from working at the ITS restaurant, in the bar area, during a theme night next Friday evening, I will also be participating in a Cuisine, Culture & Artisan festival on Saturday evening... so I will be baking all day. Bring it on!!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Rabbit Burger Recipe

Rabbit burger topped with pancetta

For the benefit of my foreign friends, let me start by saying: Yes, we do eat rabbit in Malta. No! It is not a cheap substitute for chicken! No! It's not like eating "Bambi" at all! (Bambi tastes more gamey :p ).

Raw peeled beetroot

Now that I've taken that load of my chest,  let me state that I did not always love to eat rabbit myself. Maybe because when I was young, the rabbits themselves were too old and therefore the meat was tough. Maybe it was the cooking method. I did love my father's rabbit stew though.

Sliced mushrooms & courgettes... later dipped in tempura batter and deep fried

And the garlic fried liver! I have quite clear memories of Sunday mornings, when I was woken up at 6:00 by the smell of garlic and liver wafting through the house. Running to the kitchen I would find three plates, one for each of us kids, laid out with the rabbit liver equally divided between them and a slice of freshly baked maltese bread on each.

Shaped rabbit burger

My dad would then proceed to fry the rabbit in garlic and then stew it. Being an impatient man, he probably never let the stew simmer for long enough (therefore the tough meat). Still the resultant stew was delicious and I keep striving to make my stews taste the same, knowing it will never happen since my dad always threw in random amount of all herbs and spices he had at hand!

Rabbit burgers on the grill

These days, I buy rabbits which are still young, from a trusted supplier and altough rabbit stews start to smell good a short while after they are left to simmer, I usually manage to restrain myself until the rabbit starts falling off the bone.

Beetroot Aioli

The recipe here is not for my dad's rabbit stew. I am not ready to share it yet, because it's still not perfect. One day... maybe soon. Instead I am sharing one of my favourite recipes for a moist and tender Rabbit mince burger. Serve with sweet potato wedges and tempura mushrooms & courgettes. Recipe after the jump

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A wonderful sunny Sunday!

It's late, on a school night and I'm dead tired... but I was really excited to share the day's activities :)

The location

Today, I went to Gozo with M, C.S, and two friends, together with around 200 other people from my husband's workplace, to visit Ta' Mena's Agriturism in Gozo. Agriturism is something I was always interested in and Ta' Mena is a first in Malta... so I was really looking forward to this day, with some trepidation, lest it was a let down.

I was also dreading the fact that I had to wake up at 6 in the morning, on the day when the clocks moved forward! WAAAAAAAAA!! I am NOT a morning person. I love my bed and my sleep, but I have to say it was worth disturbing my sleep pattern for a day like today.

Orange picking, squeezing and drinking

After crossing over to Malta's sister island, Gozo, and arriving at Ta' Mena, we were greeted with gozitan coffee, pastizzi & qaghaq ta l'ghasel. We were soon on our way to pick oranges from the trees which were then squeezed for us to drink the incredibly sweet juice. It was great watching a little boy throw out his crisps in favour of oranges and tangerines! Maybe showing our kids where their food comes from might help them make healthier choices?!
Strawberry picking

We were then led on for a 15 minute walk through the country side, to a lovely orange grove surrounded by cane, were we ate more oranges and some tangerines... and then went on to an area where we were instructed to pick strawberries. I don't know whether it's because of the effort I put in to find ripe strawberries while feeling incredibly hot... but I believe that those strawberries where sweetest ones I have ever tasted. During the walk, Joseph, our tour guide for the day, was very forthcoming with information about the locality and about farming methods.
Focaccia making
Back at the estate we were offered a much needed cold drink together with bruscetta made with their own olives and sundried tomatoes, together with a romesmary focaccia baked in a woodburning oven, prepared in front of my very eyes. What fun! The method of preparation was also explained for whoever was interested :)
The winery
After a particularly large and delicious meal, we were invited to take a tour of the estate, but we declined... opting instead to lounge in the garden and enjoying a very nice breeze. Later we were given a tour of the winery. Incredibly interesting especially the part where we were allowed to enter the store where french oak barrels are maturing some very lovely wines. What a wonderful smell!

My companions in adventure :)
One thing to complain about - 200 people was just too many to really get involved... so we're planning to return with a group of no more then 30 people. I am sure it would have been that much more informative! Still... a day to remember and we left the estate laden with their home made "kunserva" (tomato concentrate paste), olive oil and liqueur.

Joseph was continuosly, enthusiastically, explaining everything we wanted to know!
What got me thinking was that Joseph was telling us how he used to work in a bank for a number of years, but then quit to help set up this project... He did say it's hard work and that he must be crazy, but at the same time it is quite obvious how excited he is when talking about nature and how happy he looks. I can't help wondering whether this will be the trend in the years to come. More people leaving their 9 to 5 jobs to do what they really want to be doing. More people thinking more about sustainable living and being happy. I really do hope so!

Anyway... good night! I'm off to sleep with a smile on my face!

PS. I am in no way related to the Ta' Mena estates and this is in no way a paid advert...I am a person who usually complains a lot about the products or services being offered, so I'm always very happy to find something I can't really complain about. ◦