Happy Labor Day USA and chocolate banana cookies

20140831-213031.jpg

We commemorated Labor Day in the newspaper with a photo of Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley and US Ambassador to Libya Safira Deborah at a function to raise breast cancer awareness. Almost 250,000 new cases are expected in the US this year.

20140831-211214.jpg

And with a cup of tea this afternooon, tiny bite size chocolate and banana cookies covered with melted chocolate. They have reduced butter and sugar conent by half and I replaced half the measurement of butter in the recipe with equal weight of banana. If you decide to use butter only you will get a more delicate texture but the banana creates a really moreish flavor and demser texture and they are delicious. These here are not glutenfree but in you want glutenfree cookies simply replace swap the flour with the same weight of ground almonds and of course add the ground almonds in the recipe below.

And for 30 mini cookies you will need:

20140831-223130.jpg

100g butter
100g chopped ripe banana
100g caster sugar
Few drops vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
150g sieved flour
50g cocoa powder
125g ground almonds
1 egg

For the top: 100g dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 180C.
Line two oven sheets with baking paper.
Place the softened butter and chopped up banana in a bowl and I used a hand held beater at medium speed until it reaches a smooth consistency.
Stir in the sugar, vanilla, salt and cocoa powder. Add the egg. Beat lightly. And the flour bit by bit and mix in using a metal spoon. When you have added all the flour, add the ground almonds. Mix until it forms into a dough. Place in a piping bag. I used no nozzle and i piped spirals the same size onto a lined tray.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Leave to cool and remove from baking paper.
Melt the chocolate for a minute at a time in the microwave.
Add one teaspoon of oil to the chocolate to achieve a glossy finish.
Dip one cookie at a time and leave to cool.
As it is hot on the island still, i placed them in the fridge for 30 minutes to help the chocolate solidify quickly.

And for a taste of the vibrant life on the island click here!

20140831-223307.jpg

Minister Brincat’s Filo Pie, yellow-flesh watermelons and lilac butterflies …

For a glimpse of life in the heart of the Mediterranean, for yellow flesh watermelons and lilac butterflies, click here !

20140828-231150.jpg

We welcomed Minister Leo Brincat on One TV during our food segment to raise awareness to his initiative on food wastage in housholds.

20140831-102247.jpg

Together with Mary , we created an attractive dish using the previous day’s left overs and I used filo pastry which has half the calories of puff.

You will need:

4 large filo sheets or 8 small ones
Some olive oil for brushing
ny leftovers in your fridge
Minister Brincat on TV used a mix of minced pork and chicken and a variety of vegetables
I made a second one at home and I used cooked pumpkin, onions and left over pesto
Sesame Seeds for a crunchier top !

A springform tin

20140831-132744.jpg

Brush the spring form dish lightly with olive oil.
Use half the quantity of filo to line your dish. There is no need to use any oil or fat in between the filo sheets.
Spread your chosen ingredients, vegetables or leftovers in layers.

20140831-102208.jpg

i had a layer of cooked chopped pumpkin in mine, then some sauteed onions and i topped it with a thick layer of pesto left over from my spaghetti of the day before.
Close up the loose filo sheets and take the other two that you have saved aside and cover the top. Fold the edges to close up the pie.
Brush lightly with olive oil
Sprinkle semsame seeds on top.
Bake in an oven 180C for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
Remove from the springboard dish and serve hot or cold.

20140831-102225.jpg

Mediterranean Poutine

20140830-200222.jpg

For those of you who have not come across it, Poutine is french Canadian fast food made with french fries and topped with cheese curd and gravy.

I am told that this Mediterranean version which is topped with a gazpachio instead of gravy would be classed as a ‘Gourmet Poutine’

For this dish I used prepacked Parisienne potatoes
1 local soft fresh fresh cheese
1 local sausage and if you do not live on the island use continental sausage
Some oil for shallow frying the potatoes

A loose bottomed oven dish

For the Gazpacho

4 medium tomatoes
1/4 cucumber
1/4 red bell pepper
1/2 slice bread
1 spoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
light grating of a garlic clove
2 spoons water
Salt for seasoning if desired

Place all the ingredients together in a blender and turn on full speed until it is smooth.
Pour into a jar and refridgerate for at least a couple of hours.

For the poutine, shallow fry the potatoes.

20140830-204553.jpg

Place on kitchen towel to absorb oil them arrange them in a loose bottomed oven dish that has been greased very lightly with oilive oil.

20140830-203415.jpg

Top with sausage meet and then with the crumbled soft fresh cheese.

20140830-203459.jpg

Place in a preheated oven 200C until the sausage cooks. Mine took 20 minutes.

20140830-203425.jpg

To serve, lift the base out of the container. Pour the desired amount of gazpacho and serve immediately.

20140830-205534.jpg

Gluten Free Coffee Toffee Cheesecake

Image

20140829-210625.jpg

This is a gluten free sweet that combines the popularity of two of the best loved American desserts with an added Mediterranean twist of fresh figs. Blums coffee toffee tart brings nostalgia to many Americans and this is combined with a layer of baked New York cheesecake, two favorites with the addition of Mediterranean figs. It is suitable for anyone who follows a gluten free diet too. On our island we have two types of figs, some are pink inside and these are the sweeter yellow ones and taste of jam.

You will need:

For the no-bake topping

5 Doves Gluten free Chocolate Biscuits, crushed
100g Doves Gluten free Chocolate Rice Crispies
100g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon instant coffee
100g butter
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 large fig chopped up (or substitute with the fruit of your choice)

8″ spring form cake tin

20140829-212104.jpg

Melt the butter in the microwave, not too hot until just melted.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, one minute at a time, mix in the oil and stir. This makes it more workable and gives it a glossy finish.

20140829-212036.jpg

Add to the crushed biscuits mixed with the rice crispies. Cut the fig and add it to the mixture.
Line the tin with cling film. Pour the mixture in and press down with a metal spoon. Refridgerate.

20140829-212048.jpg

For the cheescake base

4 eggs
250g ricotta
200g single cream

150g cornflour
150g sugar

1 fig
Few drops vanilla
1 teaspoon instant coffee

Beat the ricotta in a mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the instant coffee. Turn the speed down to low, then add the eggs keep beating until combined and there are no lumps. Add the cream and the rest of the ingredients.

Pour the cheesecake into the springform tin.

Preheat oven to 180C. Remove the springform tin lined with pastry from the refrigerator, pour the cheese mixture into the tin.

Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 35 minutes. Then let the cheesecake cool in oven. Remove from tin and transfer to refrigerator to let it set overnight.

To assemble

50 g dark chocolate
1 spoon Butterscotch based syrup
Figs
icing sugar

20140829-211515.jpg

place the two layers of Chocolate base and Cheesecake near each other. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave. Brush the chocolate layer with butterscotch syrup. Brush onto bottom of the cheesecake and immediately place the chocolate top layer over it. Decorate with sliced and whole figs. Dust with some icing sugar.

20140829-211605.jpg

Spaghetti with Basil, Feta and Roasted Chickpea Pesto

20140826-191217.jpg

Just put yourself in the shoes of someone who is in pain or suffering from a long illness or trauma. Imagine watching a circus of healthy happy people perform on a hot summer day, some by poolsides and in sunny gardens being cooled off with a bucket of iced water.

If I were in that person’s shoes, I may feel inadequate somehow and it would bring me no joy, irrelative of the size of donation that accompanies each ice bucket. Helpless, with an illness out of control, unable to escape clips of those glowing with good health, wealth and happiness frolicing in the summer, but perhaps i am boring…

Back to my wonderful environment on an island in the sun where it is so very hot that ice buckets this month would certainly be a welcome relief especially if one is in suitable attire.

And today I am making a delicious new pesto using ingredients found in every Mediterranean kitchen.

Basil is at the peak of its season right now and instead of pine nuts, I use roasted chickpeas and I am swapping the parmessan with feta.

And you will need :

20140826-234120.jpg

A bunch of fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup roasted chickpeas
1/2 cup feta cheese, cut into small pieces or crumbled
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water

I use a hand blender

Blend all the ingredients in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
Taste and adjust the flavor and texture by adding more olive oil and water as necessary.
if you are using it with pasta, it should not be too thick.
I like to serve mine immediately.
Cook the spaghetti according to instructions on the packet. Allow 80g to 110g per portion depending on appetites.
Drain and add the pesto while the pasta is still hot.
Serve immediately

20140827-002929.jpg

Parsley and Tomato Couscous Salad

20140826-104915.jpg

It is very humid here and vegetables need to be prepared within two days that they are purchased as they do start to wilt away. I had lots of flat leaf parsley this morning and with every intention of making tabouleh i found we had no Bulgar in the store cupboard. Instead I made this couscous salad and served it with local black peppered cheeses and it made a great light lunch.

You will need:

200g Couscous or as require
Boiling water as per instructions on the couscous packet less 20%
Parsley, I used a large quantity but use as much or as little as you wish.
Juice of half a Lemon
Fresh Mint, a few sprigs
Dried mint, 1/4 teaspoon
6 tomatoes, chopped, skin on
1 clove grated or minced garlic
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
Generous drizzle of good olive oil

I bought my first mezzaluna when I was in my teens in the Middle East. It is a necessity for chopping parsley very finely and effortlessly. The rocking action to chop up a large quantity is very therapeutic !

20140826-105432.jpg

Pour boiling water onto the couscous but reduce the water measurement by 20% of the amount to allow for the lemon jiice and oil addition. This gives a much better consistency to the end result and allows also for the juice that comes naturally with the tomatoes and parsley.
Squeeze the fresh lemon and add. Stir and cover until liquid is absorbed.
Chop up very finely the parsley and mint with a mezzaluna if you have one.
Add all ingredients to couscous and stir until it is even in appearance.
Drizzle with some olive oil and season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.
Refridgerate for at least two hours.
Fluff up with a fork before serving

And I leave you today with this beautiful church in a wonderful village from my assigment with Ian Noel Pace last week.

20140826-110329.jpg

Nina Maria Rallis makes Galaktoboureko on One TV today !

20140825-075511.jpg

For my feature in English on Ambassador Rallis and his family click here

Remember to tune in today to One TV at 17 40 to see Nina Maria Rallis, in the picture above with her mother Stella Rallis.

For Nina’s Galaktoboureko, you will need :

1 packet filo pastry

For the custard
1 cup fine semolina
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 liter of whole milk
4 eggs
3 tablespoons butter
2 drops vanilla
Plenty of orange zest (optional)
Melted butter for brushing the leaves

For the syrup
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
peel of one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Oven dish 20cm square or equivalent

In a saucepan, place the milk, semolina, eggs, sugar and vanilla
Lower heat and stir constantly until the custard thickens
Once thickened remove from heat and add the butter
When the butter melts into the cream, stir until it is consistent
Add the orange zest if you are using this
If cream is very thick dilute with some water
Cover with cling film while you prepare the filo sheets, you need to work quite quickly before the cream solidifies
Grease well the bottom and sides of a baking dish
Spread half sheets of packing, well buttered onto the bottom and sides of the dish
Pour the custard
Spread the remaining sheets buttered one by one
Collect all sides of the leaves and fold them to the bottom
Divide the galaktobureko into pieces
Drizzle with butter
Bake in moderate a oven at 180 degrees until it browns for around 35 minutes

Simmer ingredients for the syrup
Cover, bring to a boil and skim the froth.
Pour onto the sweet as soon as it comes out of the oven

20140824-212143.jpg
Above, the recipe in the newspaper earlier this month and below fun in the kitchen at One TV !

20140825-075558.jpg