Filo Pastizzi with naspli and soft gbejna

naspli gbejniet pasties 4

Using left over filo to make these medlar [naspli] triangles.  In the picture with village biscuits [biskottini tar rahal]

‘The filo pastry I use is the best.  You will find it in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.  

I made these pastries using filo from the leftovers of a pie 5 days before.  It refrigerates well and unlike other filo pastry does not tend to dry up.  The pastizzi [diamond shaped pastries] are flaky and a healthier alternative to the shop bought ones.   If you make them using fresh filo you will have a much smoother finish.  

The combination of soft gbejna, medlars [naspli] and honey is amazing’


You will need to make a fruit compote and some other ingredients:

2 soft fresh gbejna, chopped up into small squares
6 sheets filo pastry cut into long strips

For the compote you will need:
12 medlars, pitted and roughly chopped with skin on
1 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 vanilla pod
3 tablespoons water

Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir and bring the mix to a gentle boil.  Continue cooking until the liquid in the pan has reduced.  Taste and add more honey to suit your preferences.  Allow to cool.

naspli gbejniet pasties 2.jpg

Preheat the oven to 170C.  Brush a baking tray with olive oil.

Cut the filo pastry into strips and lay out each strip onto a clean surface.  Brush it with olive oil.  Place a teaspoon of the medlar compote in the corner of the filo strip closest to you.  On top of that place a small piece of chopped fresh gbejna.

Fold the pastry diagonally to create a triangle shape.  Continue folding into a triangle shape.  Brush the surface with olive oil and place on the baking tray.

Continue making the pastizzi until you have used up all the filling and gbejnas.

Place in a preheated oven and bake for around 20 minutes until they are cripsy.

Take out of the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Serve warm with more honey if desired.  They are also delicious cold.

 

Raspberry Plum Clafoutis

clafoutis 1

As seen on TV plum and raspberry clafoutis [Photography, Illumina Media]

‘Clafoutis is so easy to make.  The best result is to make the batter and leave it to rest for an hour before using.  If you are expecting guests, prepare the fruit and the batter in advance and just before dinner you can mix the clafoutis and bake it to serve warm with ice cream.  I like to use self raising flour and this makes it more cakey but still retains its pancake texture’

For the clafoutis you will need:
250g plums
150g raspberries
3 eggs
1/2 cup self raising flour
the seeds of one vanilla pod
a few drops of almond essence
a pinch of cinnamon
a few drops of rosewater
4 tablespoons stevia
330ml milk

a shallow oven proof dish prepared with baking spray

Preheat the oven 180ºC.

Prepare the fruit.  Cut up the plums into thin slicing leaving the skin on.

Use a hand blender to mix the eggs, vanilla, almond extract, stevia and milk.  Add the flour and carry on blending until  you have a smooth consistency.  Allow to rest for an hour if you have time.

Arrange the plums on the dish and pour the batter over the plums.  Then add the raspberries.

Bake the clafoutis for around 35 to 40 minutes until it sets.  Because I use self raising flour it will rise slightly.  For clafoutis the traditional way use plain flour.

Serve hot with ice cream or cold with a cup of tea.

mini clafoutis.jpg

I used the left over batter to make mini clafoutis in a muffin tin [Photography Illumina Media]

Cooking with stevia

Blueberry Traybake [Photo: Felix Cesare]

Stevia is the answer if you want your sweet treats with less calories.

For the past few years I have focused on creating recipes that eliminate the use of processed sugar and unnecessary fats.

Although there are a number of alternative natural sweeteners available, such as agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar and honey, stevia is the natural plant-derived sweetener that contains no calories. It is an ingredient that can be used to satisfy sweet cravings without adding the extra calories and is, therefore, ideal for diabetics or anyone wishing to watch their weight.

Some classic dishes still need the bulk that sugar provides to achieve the right consistency of what we are traditionally used to.

In Japan, stevia has been the number one sugar substitute for a very long time. Stevia is a high-density sweetener that is about 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. It has been around for hundreds of years and was originally cultivated in the mountains of Paraguay. The plant is easily cultivated and uses less water than sugar cane (about one seventh).

Some time ago I spoke at length with internationally- known nutritionist Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He believes that stevia is quite safe for children and also acceptable for pregnant women.

Check the label on your jar of stevia to convert the equivalent weight of sugar you require, as the conversion depends on the brand you are using.

Blueberry Tray Cake

250g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 vanilla pod
A pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
A pinch of salt
Stevia equivalent of 150g sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp apple organic vinegar
300g blueberries

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. I like to sift my flour twice. Add the salt, vanilla, nutmeg and stevia. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, use a hand- held blender to beat the eggs, olive oil, apple and apple organic vinegar. Blend until the mixture is smooth.

Prepare a square ovenproof dish with baking spray. Use a large metal spoon to quickly and gently fold in the liquids into the dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Dust half the blueberries with flour and then add them to the mixture.

Pour the batter into the cake tray. Do not fill it to the top to allow room to rise. Put into a hot oven to bake, immediately after topping the cake with some more blueberries.

Bake at 170°C for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and before it cools down brush lightly with some organic maple syrup.

Rhubarb and Apple Jam

500g apples
500g rhubarb
Juice of 2 lemons
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 vanilla pod
Stevia (you will need the eqivalent of 100g sugar for this recipe)

rhubarb apple jam with stevia

Rhubarb and apple jam with stevia

Rhubarb is now easily available in Malta and I love the taste and colour of this jam.

As it has a low pectin content, I add the same quantity of apples to produce not only a sugar-free jam but one that is also free from artificial pectin.

Peel the apples. Mix together with the chopped rhubarb and lemon juice.

Cook over moderate heat until the fruit starts to soften. Add the lemon zest and vanilla. Stir frequently. When the fruit has softened, add the stevia.

Continue to cook until the jam has reached a thick consistency. The elimination of processed sugar produces a different consistency. Once this is achieved, pour the hot jam into sterilised jars while still warm.

Because of the absence of processed sugar, I like to store this jam in the refrigerator. I also love this jam puréed with a hand blender, leaving a bit of texture.

I use ingredients by Good Earth Distributors and fresh fruit and vegetables by Big Fresh Mosta

Pasta e Ceci

Pasta e ceci 8

Used a mix of fresh and dried chickpeas.  To add texture and heighten the flavor I cook half of the fresh chickpeas and add more during the last 5 minutes of cooking time and of course raw chickpeas are added to top the dish just before serving.  Tableware: C&H Bartoli

This dish is made with ordinary ingredients found in nearly every Mediterranean kitchen.

The fresh chickpeas [ciccri tal-qatta] are in season right now, a very short season. I use a mix of fresh and dried chickpeas and when fresh chickpeas are not in season, this pasta is just as delicious with dried chickpeas.

Pasta e ceci 1

Fresh chickpeas are sold in large bundles.  You need patience and time to shell them but it is worth it.

Use approximately equal amounts of fresh and dried chickpeas.

Cook the dried chickpeas in plenty of water.  If you have not soaked them, add 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda once the water starts to boil, then lower the heat and cook until they soften.

You will need:
500g pasta
200g fresh chickpeas
200g  chickpeas (cooked and drained)
4 large tomatoes, chopped
70g pancetta, chopped
2 anchovy fillets
natural no-additive stock cube
1 large onion finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, grated
150g canned chopped tomatoes
a handful of fresh mint leaves
a handful of parsley
olive oil
salt and pepper
freshly grated pecorino cheese to serve

Drizzle some olive oil into a heavy pan and gently cook the chopped garlic and onion on low heat. Add the pancetta and anchovies, cook for 5 minutes.  Add half the cooked chickpeas, then half the parsley and mint. Add the stock cube and 400ml water. Cook for 10 minutes.

Add the pasta and top with more water just to cover the pasta. Stir and add the tinned tomatoes and half the fresh chickpeas.
When the pasta is nearly cooked add half of the rest of the chickpeas and keep some aside to garnish the dish.
pasta e ceci 9
Drizzle some olive oil. Garnish with fresh mint and parsley, some fresh chopped tomatoes and some fresh uncooked chickpeas.  Season with ground pepper and serve immediately with grated pecorino cheese.

Pie crust using bananas

‘this crust is perfect for a Banana Cream Pie and I eliminate butter, oil and dairy products for this pastry. The result is crispy and light and you can roll it out to a very thin pastry. It is easy to work with and I demonstrated it on tv this week. The secret always is not to over knead the pastry. This one certainly does not need it and to leave it in the fridge for an hour before using. Try to use on the same day.’

You will need:
500g plain flour
250g very ripe or over ripe bananas (it does not work with firm bananas)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon apple organic vinegar
cold water
3 tablespoons stevia
vanilla (optional and only if you are making a sweet pastry)
grated zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon

Start by sifting the flour twice into a large bowl. This produces a lighter pastry. Peel the bananas and drizzle the lemon juice. Mix. Add the bananas to the flour mix.

Use the tips of your fingers to rub in the bananas into the flour, just as you would with butter. Work quickly and lightly rubbing in small amounts of the banana.

Add the beaten egg, vanilla, lemon zest, stevia and mix with the knife. Bring the pastry together using your hands. If the pastry is still dry, add cold water, one tablespoon at a time.

I did not need to add water in mine but it depends on weather and humidity levels.

Wrap the pastry in baking paper and allow to rest in the fridge for an hour.

To roll out the pastry, dredge your working surface lightly with flour. Rub your rolling pin with your floured hands. Place the pastry on the work top. Work gently and firmly. You can roll out to have a very thin curst.

Heat the oven to 180C. Use a brush dipped in olive oil to coat your tart dish.

Roll your pastry loosely around your rolling pin. Drop it into the prepared tart dish. Tap it gently with your fingertips into the dish. If you have time allow the pastry to rest in the dish for 5 to 10 minutes in the freezer.
Pierce the pastry all over with a fork if you are baking blind. No need to use beans or weights.

Cook in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

When you take it out of the oven and while it is still warm, use a rolling pin to apply pressure on the edge of the tart dish to trim the pastry.

Allow to cool. Remove from the dish and place on an oven proof dish covered with greaseproof paper. Return to a hot oven preheated to 200C for 5 – 10 minutes if you are looking for a crisp pastry.

Allow to cool before adding the filling.

For my filling this week I used:

600ml coconut milk
2 ripe bananas
100g coconut sugar
1 vanilla pod
Separately, 80 g cornflour mixed in 100ml water
And fruit to decorate and I used physalis

Mix together the coconut milk, bananas, coconut sugar and vanilla and use a hand blender to bring to a smooth consistency. Gently heat the mixture and bring to a gentle boil stirring with a wooden spoon. Before it reaches boiling point, add the cornflour mix and stir while bringing to a gentle boil. Remove from heat immediately and carry on stirring. Pour over the filling into the crust.

Decorate with fruit of your choice before it cools down completely so that the fruit will set in the tart.

Salad Tart

salad tart

‘And I used the ricotta and hazelnut crust  to make another salad tart.  Simply allow the crust to cool, crumble up 200g ricotta  and arrange it on the crust, top with a mix of finely chopped fresh herbs and chopped nuts and I used a mix of pistachios and hazelnuts  .  Then simple layer hard boiled eggs and tomatoes, a sprinkle of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.  It makes such a lovely meal’

Date and Pistachio Filo Tart [Vegan]

date-pistachio-tart-in-filo

Date Pistachio Filo Tart.  This photo was taken by George Aquilina during a live tv show

‘If you are looking for a change from mince pies, especially to serve at the end of a meal, this date and pistachio tart is perfect to end a festive meal.  You can serve it warm just as it is or with ice cream or custard’

You will need:

1/2 packet filo pastry
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g dates
juice of 6 oranges or mixed citrus [I used oranges, clementines, tangerines and a ruby grapefruit]
grated zest of 1 tangerine
150g ground almonds
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of mixed spice
Fresh grated nutmeg
vanilla
100g pistachio nuts
1/2 tablespoon agave [for brushing the top of the tart after baking]

Place the dates in a large saucepan on moderate heat with the citrus juice.  Add the tangerine zest, pinch of salt, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg and vanilla.  The dates will start to break down.  Stir until they turn into a mushy pulp.  Then remove from the heat. Stir and add the ground almonds.

Heat the oven to 200C.
Lightly brush a spring form cake tin [I used 20 cm square] with olive oil.
Line the bottom of the cake tin with a layer of filo and leave the pastry to overlap the edges of the tin.
Brush the filo lightly with olive oil and lay a second sheet on top.  Repeat with a third sheet.
On top of the pastry layers either place some almond flakes OR scatter 2 tablespoons of ground almonds.  This is to avoid a soggy bottom crust.
Then place all the date filling into the tart dish.
Use a spatula to flatten the top of the date mixture.  If you have enough pistachio nuts, scatter a few on top before covering the tart [optional]
Cover the filling with the overlapping pieces of filo.  Brush with olive oil and place some flaked almonds and sliced pistachios on top.
Lightly brush the top with olive oil and decorate the surface with halved pistachios and more flaked almonds..  Bake in preheated at 200C  for 25 minutes.
Brush lightly with agave before while it is still warm.

date-pistachio-tart-in-filo-2

This photo was taken by George Aquilina during a live tv show.

For this recipe, I use agave, dates and nuts by Good Earth and citrus from Big Fresh in Mosta and spices by Schwartz via PJ Sutters

Seasonal produce from Mġarr

Seasonal fresh produce from the Northern village of Mgarr, [Photo Stefan Stafrace]

Besides strawberries, the village of Mġarr offers alluring natural beauty, history and heritage, as well as a wide variety of fresh produce. A visit to this year’s Strawberry Festival, now in its tenth year, is a must today. Mġarr is a showcase for Maltese farmers and the local…     Source: Seasonal produce from Mġarr

Quick Strawberry Strudel with Tahini

STRAWBERRY FEAST 7B

Easy strudel with strawberries and tahini

‘Do not miss Strawberry Festival in Mgarr today!  and here today you can get a  glimpse of the preparations for today’s feast.  With thanks to Stefan  for the shoot’

For my easy strawberry strudel you will need:

70g pistachios
1/2 packet filo pastry
2 tablespoons tahini mixed with 4 tablespoons honey
5 tablespoons olive oil
300g strawberries
1 pod vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon citrus zest


Preheat oven to 220 degrees C). Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Toss together cinnamon, vanilla, citrus and pistachios. Brush an ovenproof dish (20cm) with olive oil.


Place two sheets of filo in the bottom of the prepared dish.
Lightly brush with olive oil. Top with sliced strawberries. Drizzle half of tahini and honey then scatter half the pistachio mix. Repeat by placing 2 more sheets of filo pastry. Brush with olive oil Add a layer of strawberries, then the nut tahini mix and nuts.

Cover with 2 sheets of filo and brush with olive oil. Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

No Bake: Cardamon, White Chocolate & Tahini Cookies

no bake cardamon cookies

No bake cardamon and white chocolate cookies [Photo: Illumina Media]

 

‘Although I love to bake, I also really enjoy making the no-bake healthier cookies and cakes and these cookies freeze well and can be taken out for the occasional treat.  White chocolate and cardamon are amazing together’

You will need:
3 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons agave (of if you wish to use processed sugar 2 cups or equivalent in stevia)
200g white chocolate
a pinch of salt
1 stick vanilla
1 cup coconut


 
Simply melt the white chocolate.  Remove from heat and add the coconut oil. Crush the cardamon seeds.  In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients together.  Add the white chocolate mixture.  Stir until the mixture is consistent.
Line a dish with baking paper.
Wet the tips of your fingers and use a scoop to measure out equal portions of cookie dough.  Form cookies and lay on the baking paper.  Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight or in the freezer for an hour.  Serve when required and they keep well in the freezer for a couple of months.
no bake cardamon cookies 2

No bake chocolate cookies 🙂 so quick, so delicious ! [Photo: Illumina Media]