Bright skies, blue seas and Anton’s ricotta flan

Bright skies and blue seas, this is where so many visitors come to bask in the glory for a few days. But for some lucky ones, this is life every day, breathtaking and nearly unreal …

Anton’s recipe for this ricotta flan is delicious and he was my guest during our show last week. I adapted it and used Stevia instead of sugar.

You will need:

1 ready made Sponge and I found a sugar free one
800g ricotta
100ml yoghurt
100g Stevia
300g candid peel and chopped dark chocolate (ratio according to your preference)
A handful of almonds and hazelnuts, chopped up and dry roasted in a pan
Grated zest of a lemon
Liquor of your choice, a couple of teaspoons to moisten the flan
A pinch of nutmeg
Glace cherries and grated chocolate to decorate the flan

Prepare the filling by placing the ricotta and yoghurt in a large bowl. Mash it up and then use a hand blender to whizz it to a smooth consistency. Add the candid peel, grated chocolate and dark grated chocoate as well as some chopped up cherries and nuts.

Mix and then add the grated lemon zest and nutmeg. Mix well until the consistency is smooth and even.

Place the flan on a large plate and drizzle the liquor to moisten it. Fill the flan with the ricotta mixture. Do not pipe it, Anton tells me that it must look causal and informal. Decorate the top with more nuts, cherries and grated chocolate. Place in the fridge for a few hours before serving

For the recipe in Maltese, click here :)

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Penne Gorgonzola with Walnuts and a visit to Farmers Market

With two Farmers Markets on the island we are spoilt for choice. Local fruit and vegetables are available for the consumer on the same day of harvest and distributed all over the island within a few hours. I visited Doreen this week

at her stall in Ta’Qali and she explains that although peaches are graded according to their size and the prices varies, the taste and flavor is the same irrelevant of the size, making it so economical to stock up on the smaller ones when using them to cook with.

I made a quick supper last night of penne with gorgonzola and walnuts, all ready to eat in under 10 minutes and you will need:

Penne (75-120 g per portion, depending on appetite)
¼ cup gorgonzola, crumbled, and a few small chunks to garnish
6 walnut halves, broken roughly
¼ tsp dried oregano
4 flakes dried flaked garlic, soaked and chopped up
2 tablespoons light single cream
6 tablespoons white or rose wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Drizzle of olive oil
Parsley to garnish, if desired

Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions.
In a saucepan, heat up a touch of olive oil and cook the flaked garlic gently.
Add the oregano and cook further. Add the wine, cook and reduce.
Add the single light cream and the Gorgonzola. Stir until the cheese melts and everything has smoothly combined. The sauce should have a satiny texture.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Drain the pasta. Add the sauce and mix.
Add half the walnut chunks and toss together.
Plate and garnish with the rest of the walnuts, the small pieces of Gorgonzola, and parsley if desired.
Serve immediately.

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Baked Ricotta and Peach “Cheesecake”

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I love this new bake which we featured this week on TV. Simple and straighforward to make with a light texture, much lighter than that of a traditional baked cheesecake. This has no added processed sugar, no gluten and no butter. You will need:

250g plain biscuits, i used gluten free and sugar free

750g ricotta
125 plain yoghurt
200g stevia (check the converstion table on the jar and you will need the equivalent of 200g sugar)
few drops vanilla
grated rind of half a lemon
grated rind of half an orange
3 tablespoons cornflour
4 eggs, separated and egg whites whisked until stiff
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Fresh peaches, sliced and skin on to decorate the top
1 teaspoon warm honey and à brush to glaze the top after you take the cheesecake out of the oven

A springform cake tin of 23 cm

Pre heat the oven to 160 C.

Place the biscuits in a large bowl. Crush them lightly then use a hand blender to grind them to a fine texture. keep two spoons aside to cover the cake dish. Add the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to this mixture.

In another bowl, place the ricotta, add the egg yolks, yoghurt, stevia, vanilla, citrus zest and cornflour and use the hand blender again to break down and mix to a very smooth consistency.

Prepare the cake tin by lightly brushing with some good oil and taking two spoons of crushed biscuits to coat the surface and sides.

Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and whisk until stiff.

Fold in the crushed biscuit mix with the ricotta mix. Do not over process.

Finally gently fold in the egg whites without over mixing,
Pour the batter into the cake tin.
Decorate the surface with sliced peaches.
Immediately place in the oven top shelf and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven for 10 minutes more before removing. This prevents the surface from breaking.
Dip the brush into the warmed honey and lightly brush the surface.

Allow to cool before removing from tin.

If you would like the recipe of Peach Cheesecake in Maltese, please click here

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Quick Gazpacho with basil

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For soup lovers, hot summers call for cold and refreshing soups. This gazpacho takes uner 5 minutes to prepare and just chill for a few hours to also allow the flavors to combine. You will need:

3 kilos ripe tomatoes, washed, roughly chopped with skin on
1 small white onion
3 small garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A large handful of fresh basil
5 spoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Galletti to serve

Simply wash and roughly chop the tomatoes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and use a hand blender to puree to a smooth pulp.  If you prefer it more liquidy, simply add more water and whizz with the hand blender until it is the consistency that suits you.

I have left out the bread that you find in some recipes and the bell pepper as many people tell me they cannot digest bell pepper while raw.  Simple, summery and with very ltiiel time spent near a hot stove.

For those of you abroad you can watch my new summer programme today via streaming at 6.10 pm local time.  One of my guests today is The Ambassador of the USA and she will speak about how she spends Independence Day this year.

And from an island blessed with so many good things, I wish you a happy week x

heaven

For the recipe of Gazpacho with white pumpkin in Maltese click here

Blueberry Cheesecake with a baked digestive base

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As seen on TV every so often a luscious treat is a necessity. My food photos during our live shows are completely unstaged and preparation and cooking is live and in real time.

For this cheesecake I baked the digestive biscuit base with a filling of of a mix of mascarpone and bufala ricotta , twice baked very lightly in a moderate oven, first pressing down the crust and baking lightly then topping the crust with the filling and baking again. I have tried other alternatives but the best flabor and texture is with butter. I have however reduced the amount used in traditional cheesecakes.

For the crust you will need

2 cups ground McVities Digestive Biscuits
1 cup ground almonds
half a cup stevia

4 tablespoons melted butter

zest of half a lemon
Mix all the above ingredients together and press into a 20cm tart dish with a loose bottom. It is important that the crumbs are completely pressed down, as compact as possible. Bake for 15 minutes at 160C. Allow to cool before adding the filling.
For the filling you will need
200g Gabani mascarpone
200g bufala ricotta
1 cup stevia
grated rind of a lemon
2 spoons lemon juice
few drops vanilla essence
4 eggs
2 spoons cornflour
A punnet of blueberries for the surface
Mix all these ingredients together. I use a hand blender to get a smooth paste. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C. When the crust has completely cooked down, pour in the filling. Add half the punnet of blueberries. Bake for 20 minutes making sure that the crust does not burn. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the oven. This avoids a cracked surface and allows the eggs to bind the mixture leaving it soft and moist inside. Once it cools you can serve it immediately but it improves in flavor when left in the fridge overnight. Decorate with more blueberries before serving.

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And every day I wake up and appreciate breathing the air here on an island blessed with all the good things life offers and sunshine nearly every day of the year .

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Click here for the recipe in Maltese.
A good weekend to you my friends x

Pork Belly with tahini and crackling

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The secret of the best crackling is to simply scald the skin with boiling water. You will see it shrivel. If you are in a rush you do not need to do anything else and you will still get a perfect crackling.

The best pork can be found right here in the heart of the Mediterranean. Local pork is a premium grade product and i have visted many pig farms. The pigs are pampered and live happy lives getting a lot of individual attention. Their food is flavored with vanilla, they enjoy warm and clean conditions during the winter.

Today we cooked pork belly with the best crackling ever and you will need.

Pork belly
tahini paste
Olive oil
Salt
Boiling water

To make the best crackling, simply scald the skin with boiling water. You will see it shrivel up while you are pouring the water. If you are in a hurry as we were today, you do not need to score the skin nor to pat it dry, simply put it int the oven.

Before doing so, i rubbed the flesh with tahini. Do not put tahini on the skin but use olive oil to rub the skin lightly. Simply put in a roasting dish and place in the oven. Preheated at 200 C for 4 hours. Check it from time to time.

You cannot get better flavor then pork belly although I prefer slow cooked belly, at a lower temperature and for at least 7 hours, it simply slides off the bone this way.

But when you are short of time, this works very well.

and we made tahini and sesame seed potatoes again and served thm with the pork belly. so yumm…

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Carrot and Banana Cake (and they call it passion ! )

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I made a carrot and banana cake this week and Alfred decorated it. Luscious, great combination of flavors and I eliminated processed sugar and used golden raisins ground to a pulp .

You will need:

In the first bowl, add all these ingredients and use a hand blender to bring to a smooth paste
100ml olive oil
125 ml yoghurt
4 egg yolks
250g golden raisins (soaked in water overnight)
2 ripe bananas, chopped

In the second bowl, mix together :
300g self raising flour (sift)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
50g chopped walnuts
50g coconut

mix the above together then add 100g grated carrot and stir to coat in flour.

In a third bowl:
Beat together the 4 egg whites until they are stiff

Preheat the oven to 160C.
Fold in the dry ingredients into liquid ingredients. Then fold in the egg whites.
pour the cake batter into a prepared cake dish. i used 2 disposable cake moulds of 17cm each.
Bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes.
Allow to cool. We left one plain and we topped the second one with melted chocolate and decorated with sugar roses.

For the cake recipe in Maltese, click on this link :)
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Twistees with Kale Chips

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Twistees are an icon here, almost part of our heritage. And my boys at ONE loved this mix of twistees with kale chips. You will need:

1 packet Twistees
6 leaves Kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cayenne pepper, but optional, if you do not like it, leave it out
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 175 C.
Wash, dry and trim the Kale leaves and remove the center stalk.
Roughly tear into pieces or use scissors.
Rub two tablespoons of olive oil into the leaves makng sure they are evenly covered.
Toss the leaves n the cayenne pepper and salt of you are usng them.
Spead the leaves on to an oven tray covered with baking paper.
Bake for 10 minutes and keep an eye on them as different varieties of kale require dfferent cooking time.
Turn them over and bake for another 10 mnutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.
Mix with a packet of twistees and serve immedately.
Yum! As seen on Kalamita

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Roasted potatoes wth Tahini and sesame seeds

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As seen on Kalamita
yesterday, a must-try recipe. You will need:

500g potatoes, skin on, partially cooked by chopping and boiling for 5 minutes
2 spoons tahini
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 spoons sesame seeds
Sea salt to season
2 spoons olive oil

Drain the cooked potatoes well. Prepare an ovenproof dish by brushing lightly wth a spoon of olive oil. Mix the tahini with the other spoon of olive oil. Mix in the finely chopped garlic and dried oregano and toss the potatoes in the tahini mix. Spread the potatoes in over the baking sheet, season with sea salt and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Roast in the oven at 200 C for half an hour.

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We welcomed yesterday during Kalamita Anna Zahra the President of the Farmers Markets. We cooked her amazing fresh produce and Anna made her own recipe of roasted Kaponata !

Spaghetti Shakshuka

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I featured Shakshouka on this blog two years ago but made Spaghetti Shakshouka on tv recently and this is another diish that you must try. You will need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

A large onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

1 large can plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 teaspoon cumin seeds,

crushed 1 fresh local gbejna

4 eggs

Lots of finely chopped fresh leaf parsley

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Spaghetti, cooked according to the instructions on the pack, around 75g per portion

Heat the olive oil in a large non stick pan and add the chopped onion. Add the crushed cumin seeds.. Cook on gentle heat till it softens up. Add the canned tomatoes, chili and the garlic and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste.   Add the spaghetti, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes always on gentle heat. Add the eggs one by one and carry on cooking gently. Add the chopped up gbejna, cover and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Turn off heat. Add the chopped parsley and i garnished ours with chopped up cherry tomatoes, pink peppercorns and semi sundried tomatoes. Its great with lots of freshly ground black pepper if you like it.

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