Raw Carrot Gluten Free Coconut Balls

‘Sweet potatoes are grown locally and they are becoming more popular as an ingredient.  The variety we used for this recipe had white flesh and if you use sweet potato with yellow flesh instead, the coconut balls will be a brighter yellow.  There are so many varieties of sweet potato and I believe our white ones here are known as the ‘Hannah’ variety.’

fit for a queen carrot

During the kids corner in the kitchen, they made Carrot Coconut Balls

For the Carrot Coconut balls you will need:

3 cups of sweet potato, cooked and mashed
3 cups coconut
5 tablespoons honey
1/2 packet apricots
1/2 vanilla pod
1 cup shredded carrots
a grating of nutmeg
a pinch of ginger
1 pinch of mixed spice
grated zest of an orange
2 cups coconut to cover

Mix all the ingredients together. Use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Leave in the refridgerator for at least an hour. Form balls and roll in coconut. Leave in the fridge overnight before serving.


Fit for a Queen

‘Coconut balls are so popular at Christmas here and we made a variety of gluten free balls during our show.  We used mashed potato to make a few batches and also some dark chocolate and tahini coconut cake pops.’

fit for a queen blog 2

A selection of Coconut Balls, Lifestyle&Co TVM2 every afternoon

For the White Tropical Coconut Balls you will need:
3 cups mashed potato
3 cups coconut
5 tablespoons honey
1/2 packet of dried pineapple
1/2 vanilla pod
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
a pinch of cinnamon
2 cups coconut to finish off the balls

Mix all the ingredients together. Blend to a puree using a hand blender. Leave the mixture in the fridge for an hour. Form balls and roll in coconut. Leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight before serving.

For the chocolate Coconut balls you will need:
3 cups mashed potato
3 cups coconut
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons honey
150g dates
half a pod vanilla
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
And to cover: 2 cups coconut

Mix all the ingredients together. Make into a puree using an electric hand blender. Place the mixture in the fridge for an hour or 2. Shape into balls and roll in coconut. Refridgerate overnight preferably.

For the Chocolate Tahini Cake Pops with coconut you will need:

3 cups self raising flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup tahini with chocolate, I used prepacked
1 cup stevia
a few drops good vanilla extract
4 eggs
Enough water to add to the batter for dropping consistency, keep aside
1 spoon sesame seeds to sprinkle on the surface before baking

Sieve the flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl and the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Give a good stir to mix in the ingredients to an even consistency.

In a separate bowl place the eggs, tahini with chocolate (I use a shop bought mix) and the rest of the ingredients. Use a hand blender to make a puree.

Add the liquid mix into the dry ingredients and fold in using a large metal spoon. Add 2 spoons of water at a time until the mixture achieves a dropping consistency (a thick consistency that drops off the spoon).

Pour the batter into a 23cm springform cake dish with a film of non stick baking spray. Bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 35 minute. Check the center by piercing with a skewer.

Allow to cool completely. Break up the cake. Add 2 tablespooons of tahini with chocolate and 2 cups of coconut. Refridgerate for an hour. Form balls and roll them in two cups of coconut. Place in the fridge for another hour. Melt some dark chocolate and dip the balls in the dark chocolate. Place them on a dish covered with baking paper. Allow to cool and refridgerate until it is time to serve.

fit for a queen blog 1

Which were Brian’s favourite ones? Lifestyle&Co, every afternoon TVM2, Cakestand available at Paperparties, Lea’s clothes: Punt Roma, Styling: Rodianne Borg, Hair: Maria Genovese at Vogue Hair by Maria, Nails: Diane Ghiller

You can watch us every afternoon via live streaming

Celebrating with Xkumvat

xkunvat 3

Xkumvat Preparing for Christmas Lifestyle & Co, every afternoon TVM2

With thanks to my good friend Renato Briffa for the traditional recipe from the days when his father had a confectionery in Old Mint Street Valletta for these maltese biscuits which used to be shared at feasts and celebrations.

Bringing back old traditions during our live show every afternoon, we made them in a rush to fit in with the time frame of our programme. If you are making them at home, leave the pastry in the fridge for a few hours before rolling out.

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You will need:

200g flour
30g vegetable margarine or vegetable lard, I use margarine
30g sugar
3 drops vanilla extract
2 eggs
Aniseeds (I use 1 teaspoon crushed seeds and a few drops of aniseed flavor)

Honey for drizzling
Sprinkles, hundreds-and-thousands, sugar confetti of your choice

Vegetable oil for frying

xkunvat 4

Spirals and knots. Keep the pastry in the fridge before rolling out

Make the pastry dough: Sieve the flour, cut up the margarine into small pieces and rub in. Add the vanilla, aniseed flavor and seeds. You can use both or just the flavor if you want a smooth biscuit as the seeds will add more texture. I use both in mine. Add the egg and bind together. If necessary add another egg. Wrap in cling film.

Leave in the fridge for half an hour to rest.

Roll out pastry on a floured surface. Cut into strips.
Then tie knots in varying sizes, and you can play around and make bows and twirls.

Prepare them on a tray for frying.

Fill a large pan with oil or use a deep fat fryer. Deep fry the ribbons and drain on lots of kitchen towel to absorb the access oil.

Arrange on platter and drizzle with honey. I like to use the local floral honey that is in season at the moment. Sprinkle sugar confetti of your choice all over.

brian lea xkumvat

Lifestyle&Co Every afternoon on TVM2 and if you are abroad you can watch us via live streaming on http://www.tvm.com.mt  Lea’s clothes: Punt Roma, Styling: Rodianne Borg, Hair Maria Genovese, Nails Diane Ghiller, Make up Inglot


Making the most of tahini – timesofmalta.com

Tahini is a versatile ingredient and I use it in soups, dressings, desserts and in many other ways.  I love the combinations with chocolate and honey and you can find more ideas in this week’s Sunday Times’


Source: Making the most of tahini – timesofmalta.com

Baked all-in-one Macaroni Cheese

all in one macaroni cheese

All-in-one Macaroni Bake as seen on TV, Photo Ian Noel Pace

‘I love all-in-one recipes, be it cakes, soups or anything. Baked Macaroni here usually includes a bolognese type meat sauce and the dish is sometimes encased in pastry to make a kind of pasta pie.  My recipe here is based on American macaroni cheese without the hassle of making the usual bechamel sauce, simply all-in-one, bake and eat !’

You will need:

500g pasta, I use fusilli 3 color
a pinch of smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon grain mustard
1 tablespoon flour
a grating of fresh mustard
250g mascarpone
100ml water
1 egg
1 small onion, chopped and cooked
a grating of fresh nutmeg
fresh ground pepper and sea salt
150g hard goats cheese
150g grated parmegiano

Cook the pasta following the instructions on the packet.
In a large bowl mix all the other ingredients together except for the cheeses. Use a hand held blender to bring it to a smooth consistency. Add half the cheeses.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Fold the cheese mixture into the pasta.
Prepare a dishes or smaller dishes with a baking spray.
Fill the dish/s with the pasta mix.  Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Bake for 45 minutes in the oven or until the top is golden.
Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Baci, italian hazelnut kisses x

As seen on tv gluten free Baci with reduced sugar and reduced fat

As seen on tv gluten free home made italian chocolate kisses x Baci x with reduced sugar and reduced fat

Nearly every Christmas meal finishes with Baci here, either the delicious ready bought ones all the way from Perugia or home made ones made with condensed milk.  We made a version with reduced sugar and reduced fat (and no condensed milk) ! they still taste marvelous.

For my reduced sugar, gluten free and reduced fat baci will need:

2 packets gluten free plain biscuits
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
100g crushed hazelnuts
50g whole hazelnuts
2 tbsp ground hazelnuts
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brandy/rum
100ml skimmed milk
200g melting chocolate
4 tablespoons coconut

baci 2

Hazelnut italian kisses are a must at Christmas x Baci x As seen on TV
Photo: Roger

Crush the biscuits very finely.
In a bowl mix together the biscuits, cocoa powder, crushed hazelnuts, coconut, honey, rum and skimmed milk. Mix well.
Bind the mixture into very small balls. On top of every ball put a hazelnut.
Leave to set for 4 hours or overnight in the fridge before you cover using the melting chocolate.  Leave to set overnight in the fridge before serving.

The baci you see in the photos are from our live tv show which runs for 2 1/2 hours every afternoon.  Nothing is staged and all the food is prepared from scratch, everything you see is made in real time with the participation of a live audience.    If you make these baci allowing the time required for the filling and then the chocolate to set, your hand chocolates will be even more beautiful :)

No Knead Santa Lucia Saffron Buns

good food everyday

For me the Swedish celebration of Santa Lucia symbolizes the arrival of Christmas.   Having been an expatriate within very mixed international communities, we always welcomed the arrival of the pretty flaxen haired girls with the candles.  Good memories of another lifetime.’

I made Santa Lucia  saffron buns this week.  The taste is very distinctive and do not overdo it with the saffron.  Many substitute the saffron for the more economical turmeric but i much prefer the delicate taste of saffron for these buns.

If you prepare the dough and leave it to prove overnight, it will not be necessary to knead it and if you make them on a Saturday night you can enjoy these delicious saffron buns for breakfast.  The buns will not be as smooth on the exterior but the taste and texture is the same.

santa lucia dough felix

Leave the saffron dough to prove overnight

You will need:

500g plain flour
250ml skimmed milk
1 sachet dry yeast (11g)
a pinch of saffron
50g caster sugar
equivalent of 50g stevia
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg
35g butter
35 ml olive oil
1 egg
pinch of salt

24 golden sultanas for finishing off
an extra egg to glaze the surface

Put the milk in a saucepan to heat and add the saffron. Turn off the heat once it nearly reaches boiling point and allow the milk to infuse with the saffron.

Add the butter and the oil. Stir and leave aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, stevia, honey, salt and dry yeast together. Pour in the cooled down milk mixture and the egg. Mix together to form a sticky dough. Put the dough into a bowl and cover with dry tea towel. Set the bowl in a warm place and leave to rise overnight.

Knock back the dough and divide into 12 equal portions.
Roll out each piece into a long strand. Roll up one end into the middle, turn over and roll the other end into the middle, forming the dough into an S shape.

Place the buns on a baking tray and I have started to use baking spray instead of greasing. Leave the buns to prove in a warm place until the size nearly doubles.

Preheat the oven to 200C, brush the buns with beaten egg and press a currant into the centre of each side. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and serve them while they are fresh.

We had ours with orange curd !

Easy Cheese and Bacon Bread (with no yeast)

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hobz bejkon

Bacon Cheese no yeast bread rolls as seen on TV today


Yumm!  These small bread rolls seem to have everyone’s favourite ingredients.  You will need:

3 slices of bacon or equivalent pancetta, chopped and cooked, keep some back for top of rolls
250g self raising flour
100ml olive oil
75g mature cheddar or grated parmegiano (keep some back for top of rolls)
150ml milk
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley and basil, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and Pepper

Sift the flour in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients without mixing, just pile them up on top of the flour but keep back a bit of bacon or pancetta to garnish the top of the rolls.

Then use a large metal spoon to gently but firmly fold in the ingredients. Bring together with your hands to form a dough. Do not knead it but form it into individual rolls. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the middle of each roll. Sprinkle the rest of the bacon/pancetta and parmesan/cheddar on the surface.

Bake at 160C for 20 minutes in a preheated oven.

They are great with soups and for lunchboxes and a light snack.

Saute of Prickly Pear Paddles

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We always await each summer for prickly pears to come into season, so ripe, juicy and colorful.   The cactus features against the rubble walls in most photos that identify Maltese countryside.

The health benefits of prickly pears  are endless and very much sought after all around the world and classed nearly as a superfood. My favurite way of using it this summer was to pick fruits of the same colur and liquidize them, pass them through a sieve and you end up with a vibrantly colured thick juice which you can water down and drink as it is or add to fruit teas and refrigerate. I love red prickly pear juice with rooibos tea, chilled and served over ice with a slice of lime.

The concentrated juice is so attractive when poured over plain yoghurt andserved in individual glasses.

On the island we have a few different varieties and I loved the miniature variety which are rather unusual and produce bite size fruits.

I cooked the paddles this summer to make different dishes but the most versatile one is the saute and you can serve it like you would a vegetable as a side dish. It is a common ingredient in Mexico (Nopales) and I will start to use it more often as I liked the results. I was not keen on the taste of raw pads used as an addition to salads.

For the Saute of Prickly Pear Paddles you will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large prickly pear paddle, freshly cut
1 large white onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 giant cloves garlic or 4 small ones
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper to season

prickly pear pala

Preparing a saute of Prickly Pears

Rinse the paddle under some running water. It is best to wear gloves. Soak the paddle in a large container of cold water for at least an hour. Remove and use tweezers to remove the thorns. Use a sharp knife to remove the bumps, tough bits and uneven surfaces as well as to completely cut around the areas where the thorns were. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the dark green skin. Peel it as you would a carrot, no need to remove all the dark green surface and it gives a good flavor if there are still traces of it.

Place the paddle on a chopping board and cut around 2 cm of all the edges and about 4 cm from the thick base.

Once it is cleaned out you will need to dice it into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan on moderate heat and add the onion and garlic finely chopped. Cook until the onion is translucent but do not let it crisp. Add the diced prickly pear paddle and stir. Lower the heat and cook for around 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. It will ooze a liquid that is slightly gelatinous.

Keep cooking until this starts to reduce. This is a similar process to cooking mushrooms. Remove from the heat and serve. I believe it is an ideal accompaniment to fresh fish.

prickly pears time

Red ones are the most popular here, but surprisingly when cooked they are the least attractive color with yellow and white fruits producing more attractive jams and preserves



Photography: With thanks to Ian Noel Pace and Gino Galea

Devonshire Pork Fillet

devonshire pork

I am using up my supply of quince and the combined flavors of this dish are amazing.  You will need:

800g pork fillet, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 natural stock cube in 50ml water
1 glass white wine
200g mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
salt and pepper
1 large cooking apple or Quince, chopped with skin on
5 tablespoons organic apple vinegar
50g mascarpone
50g yoghurt
1 tablespoon grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 180C
Chop the onions and gently saute in olive oil in a large casserole dish. When softened add the pork and lightly brown. Then add the apple or quince and sliced mushrooms. Add the organic apple vinegar, coriander seeds, mustard, sage and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the stock and wine and cover and simmer for 20 minutes then place in the oven for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Take out of the oven,allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Mix together the mascarpone and yoghurt. Add it to the casserole and stir. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

I served this with buckwheat