Amaranth Porridge Bowl with Berries

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Amaranth Porridge with berries and cashew milk.  This photo was taken by CJ Baldacchino during a live tv show

I love Amaranth because it is such a versatile ingredient.  During our tv show I have recently popped it, serve it instead of mash and use it to thicken soups.  I particularly love this amaranth porridge.  As a rough guide use 1 part amaranth to 3 parts liquid and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.  Remove the mixture from the heat to prevent it from becoming overcooked and gummy in texture. Is there a better way to start the day during a cold winter?

You will need:

1/2 cup amaranth
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cashew milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave or stevia [or honey for non-vegan]
vanilla
1 cinnamon stick
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Top with:  200g mixed berries and I use blueberries, strawberries, pecans, hazelnuts, mint leaves

Soak the amaranth overnight in water if you have the time.  Rinse then place in a saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups water.  Add the vanilla, cinnamon stick broken in half, lemon juice and a pinch of salt.    Bring to boil and reduce to heat.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes stirring constantly.  Add the cashew milk and cook for another 5 minutes.    Remove from the heat and add the agave/stevia or honey.   Stir and add the lemon zest.

Pour half the mixture into a bowl.  Puree half the berries and add to the other half of the amaranth porridge.  Mix it in then pour it into the bowl and use a fork or knife to make some swirls to create a marbled effect.  Decorate the amaranth bowl with a mix of berries, nuts and mint leaves.  Serve while still hot.

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My fresh fruit and vegetables today come from Oscar’s Fruit and Vegetables in Paola.  My Tunisian fresh dates come from Deyma Shop Gzira

My cashew milk by Alpro and amaranth come from Good Earth.  My daily selection of fresh fruit and vegetables comes from Big Fresh in Mosta, Oscar’s Fruit and Vegetables in Paola and Barbuto in Sicily for organic vegetables.

Super Fruit Salad

blueberry fruit salad noberasco

I love Super Frutti by Noberasco, photo Illumina Media 

For a fruit salad with a difference, scoop out the flesh of a dragon fruit and use the shell as as serving bowl.

Source: Recipe: Super fruit salad by Noberasco

Oat Soup

broad bean and pea soup with poached egg

Fresh pea and broadbean minty yoghurt soup with poached egg [Tableware by C&H Bartoli, photo Yan Schembri]

‘I use fresh seasonal ingredients for my soup today and in its simplicity this makes a wonderful meal.  The freshness of the peas and broad beans laced with mint leaves reflects the genuine and honest produce of this island blessed with so much.
For the creamy consistency I use oats, not too much, just enough that when cooked and pureed  result in a creamy consistency without the richness. And to finish off a crimson fruit salad of pomegranate, blueberries, strawberries and more, vibrant and so refreshing’

You will need:
1 tablespoon olive oil and extra for drizzling
1 onion, roughly chopped and sauteed in the olive oil
2 handfuls of  very fresh mint leaves
2 handfuls of very fresh flat leaf parsley
some other fresh herbs if desired and I used a sprig of fresh basil too
1 bay leaf
500ml water with one all natural vegetable stock cube
300g fresh broadbeans, peeled
200g fresh peas, peeled
50g oats
125ml yoghurt or if lactose free use unsweetened almond milk
1 lime, juice and zest
1 poached egg per person poached in water and 1 tablespoon of apple organic vinegar
salt and pepper
Place the water in a large pot with the stock cube and bring to boil.  Add the sauteed onion (do not allow it to brown when you are cooking it in the olive oil, cooked slowly on low heat to soften it up and bring out the sweetness).

Cook for 5 minutes on a low boil, then add the oats.  Lower the temperature.  Stir constantly and cook for 10 minutes.  Add half the broad beans, half the peas, and a quarter of the fresh mint leaves, parsley and other fresh herbs if you are using.
Cook for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and white pepper, add the dried mint and cook for another 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow to slightly cool down.  Add the remaining herbs keeping some back to garnish and blend to a smooth puree using a hand blender.  Add half of the remaining broad beans and peas and reheat.
Place a poached egg in each soup bowl.  Pour over the hot soup and scatter some more broad beans and peas on top.  Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


And to finish off a fruit salad.  We will be celebrating Strawberry Festival in the Northern village of Mgarr very soon and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this feast and from today you can follow my daily series of new strawberry recipes.

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Fresh Strawberry Muscovado Heaven

muscovado heaven

As seen on TVM2 #goodfoodeveryday

I give credit to Prue Leith as her muscovado heaven has been adopted by many of us cooks and the combination with local sweet strawberries that cannot be fresher is heaven multiplied by 2.

You will need:

Equal amounts of double cream and yoghurt
For 6 persons I used 500 ml of cream and 500ml of plain yoghurt
strawberries
150g muscovado sugar

Whip the double cream and fold in the yoghurt using a metal spoon. Pipe or spoon the yoghurt mixture into clear glasses or a clear bowl.
Sprinkle the muscovado sugar on to the surface.

Leave in the fridge overnight.

The muscovado sugar will melt into a fudgy syrup, then top with fresh strawberries.

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

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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

Bakewell Cake with Mincemeat

I’ve just finished writing a piece on the history of Victorian baking and the good old bakewell came to mind again.  This week I used more or less the same ingredients of the tart filling and with the addition of my homemade mincemeat and made a Bakewell Cake. I reduced the sugar and fat content but still left enough to give that rounded taste.

Apple Bakewell Cake

Apple Bakewell Cake

You will need:

200g ricotta
35g butter, melted (just)
250g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g ground almonds
50g finely chopped almonds
grated zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
a little bit of vanilla
1 tablespoon apple vinegar
Enough water added a little at a time until you achieve dropping consistency
4 eggs

For the surface
9 x 1/2 teaspoons mincemeat
35g flaked almonds
1 spoon warm honey to brush the surface after baking

Use a non stick baking spray to make a film over a loose bottomed cake mould. I used a square 18 cm loose bottomed tart dish here.

Melt the butter. Remove from the heat. Mix the lemon juice and zest. Add the vanilla and stir.

Beat the eggs. Add the ricotta and use a spoon to mix until the mixture is consistent. I used sheep’s ricotta that is so creamy and mild and stirring it in is enough. If you use a ricotta with a more compact consistency mash it beforehand. Add the apple organic vinegar stir and leave aside.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds and the nutmeg. Make a well in the middle and add the butter mix. Stir and fold in the ricotta mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish. Put 9 teaspoons (over an 18cm square dish) of home made jam on the surface spread evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the flaked almonds around the apple jam and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 170C.
Before the cake cools down brush with a thin film of honey.

My flour comes from St Georges Brand, flaked almonds from Good Earth, apple organic vinegar by Fiorentini, spices by Schwartz

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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Back to blog: No added sugar jam with Stevia

Its been a while with something missing in my life. How can I live without my blog? Inspite of my features appearing over a number of publications and a book coming out shortly, I feel the void of blogland. Tomorrow we carry on working with Stevia. Our special education feature started on Friday with the participation of Dr Jan Chircop, an incredibly popular familiy doctor.

Kalamita with Alfred and Dr Jan Chircop

Most of my desserts and sweets this week will feature Stevia and during Monday’s programme I will be making Apple and Strawberry jam with no added sugar.

You will need:

Half kilo of apples, Half kilo of strawberries, 2 lemons, extract the juice of 2 lemons,  grated zest of 1/4 lemon, 2 drops vanilla extract, 50g Stevia.

Choose ripe strawberries, then wash thoroughly.

 

Peel the apples . Mix together and add chopped fruit with lemon juice . Cook over moderate heat until the fruit starts to soften.  Add the lemon peel and the vanilla . Stir frequently . When the fruit has softened, add the stevia. Continue to cook until the jam has reached a consistency that pleases you.   The elimination of sugar produces different consistency.   Once finished , pour the hot jam into sterilized jars. (And to sterilze jars, i have a prefer this  method. You need to boil the jars and lids in a large caldron for 20 minutes, then using tongs take two sets of jars and lids, fill, cover immediately with lid and turn upside down down to seal for a few minutes. Keep the water temperature on a low boil until you finish the process. It is true that this is a long process but I feel more satisfied with this method of sterilization somehow.)

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

We will have this tomorrow with some bran cupcakes and we will also try it out added to yoghurt.

If you would like to watch the show, it is available via streamlining live every Monday and Wednesday afternoon by clicking here.

 

Temptation, this photo reminds me of Adam and Eve, but Genesis makes no reference to an apple ( could have been a pomegranate :))

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Cakes without butter and refined sugar

I love baking, especially when I develop new recipes and try to perfect them. It takes time and patience but over the past few years I have developed a range of cakes and bakes with no added butter or processed sugar.

Cakes should be fluffy and light. The bulk of processed sugar and the flavour and consistency of butter is often needed to achieve the right consistency in cakes. I am sharing some of my favourite ones this week. I featured them first on television last winter and, to my delight, they were such a success with the audience that many who never made cakes before were sending us photos of their results.

The big secret to achieving that light and fluffy texture is not to overmix. You will not need any electric mixers or gadgets. Simply sift the flour and dry ingredients into a large bowl and the liquid ingredients into another bowl. Then, gently fold in the liquids into the dry mix and fold in firmly, yet gently, as though handling something very fragile, until the batter is barely mixed.

Then just pour the batter into your cake tin and place in the middle shelf of a preheated oven immediately. I use a 23cm cake tin. I have included some recipes using cup measurements… it speeds up preparation and it is a great investment to your baking equipment at home.

Chocolate Rose Cake

250g self-raising flour
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 level tsp baking powder
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp oats
1 tsp corn flour
A few drops vanilla essence

You do not need a mixer for this cake, gently fold in the dry ingredients into the liquids and, after baking it, pierce all over with a skewer and sprinkle with rosewater.

Sieve the flour and mix all the dry ingredients together until the appearance is consistent.

In another bowl mix:
4 eggs
1 tbsp apple organic vinegar
250ml ricotta
1 medium, cooked beetroot, peeled and chopped

200g dates chopped into small pieces, or stevia (check the jar for conversion and add equivalent to 200g of sugar)

Use a hand blender or liquidiser to bring the mixture to a very smooth paste. Fold in the dry mix into the liquid mix, gently, a little at a time and work fast. Pour the cake batter into a prepared cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven ay 160ºC for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and, while still warm, pierce the surface all over using a skewer or a toothpick and sprinkle 5 tbsp rosewater. Allow to cool before removing from the cake tin.

Carrot Orange Cake #goodfoodeveryday

Carrot and Orange Cake

Mix these ingredients together in a large bowl:
200g self-raising flour
100g oats
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix these ingredients together in another bowl:
180g grated carrots
Grated zest of 2 oranges

Blend these ingredients together until the mixture is smooth and consistent:
100ml olive oil
200g golden raisins
4 eggs
Juice of 2 oranges

The cake is moist, sweet with natural sugars from carrots and oranges and laced with the flavour of cinnamon, it is simply divine.

Method

Preheat oven to 160C. Prepare a 23cm cake dish and grease it, if necessary. Add the carrot mix to the flour mix and combine making sure that the carrots are covered with the flour. Add the blended liquids. Fold in using a large metal spoon.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40 minutes without opening the oven for the first 25 minutes. Check with a wooden skewer and, if required, bake for a further five to 10 minutes.

Banana Coconut Cake #goodfoodeveryday

Banana and coconut cake

3 cups self raising flour
2 cups coconut
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Few drops vanilla extract or half a vanilla pod
1 cup ricotta
4 eggs, separated, egg whites beaten until they stand in peaks
4 bananas
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp corn flour

Instead of processed sugar, use 1.5 cups golden raisins soaked in just enough water to cover for a few hours or overnight.

Then, simply use a hand blender to process to a pulp.In a large bowl sieve the flour and cornflour.

Add the bicarbonate of soda and coconut; mix.

In another bowl, use a hand blender to process the bananas, lemon juice, egg yolks, vanilla, ricotta. Add the puréd golden raisins.

Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix in using a metal spoon. Finally, add the beaten egg whites. Fold in gently.

Immediately pour the cake mix into a prepared cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 170ºc for 35 minutes.

Granny’s Fruit Loaf #Goodfoodeveryday

Granny’s Fruit Loaf

250g self-raising flour
100g ricotta
1 spoon olive oil
1 spoon cornflour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 apple, peeled and roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon
3 eggs separated
6 tbsp stevia or 150g golden raisins soaked in water overnight and pureed
250g dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, candid peel, cherries, currants)
A few drops good vanilla extract or half a vanilla pod
Grated zest of a lemon
Grated zest of an orange
A pinch of mixed spice

Sift the flour. Add the ricotta chopped into pieces and olive oil and use the rub in method as you would do with butter. Add the vanilla, the citrus zest and mixed spice. Then add the dried fruit. Puree the apple with the egg yolks and lemon juice. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Add the bicarbonate to the ricotta and flour mix. Then add the apple and egg yolk mix and finally fold in the egg whites using a metal spoon. Pour the batter into a cake mould or loaf tin. Bake for 40 minutes at 170ºC.

I use ingredients by Good Earth Distributors

Fresh Maltese gbejna with figs

Fresh Maltese Gbejna and Figs goodfoodeveryday

Simplicity is always best and this dessert takes advantage of the freshness of local ingredients, combining flavors with amazing results without any need of cooking.  I believe there is too much focus these days on food styling with flavors often forgotten. Fresh gbejna comes immersed in water and has a short shelf life.  It can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. 

For this recipe you will need:

1 fresh soft gbejna per portion
1 ripe fig
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon grated zest of a lime
Some lightly toasted chopped pistachio nuts to garnish

To assemble. Cut the gbejna horizontally in half.  Wash the figs and cut a small cross in the centre of the fig.  Place  a gbejna in the bottom of a glass.  Slightly squeeze the fig to open up and expose some of the flesh.  Place on top of the gbejna.   Drizzle with honey and top with the grated lime zest and lightly toasted almond flakes.

Tip: For a vegan option, use firm tofu.  Dice into small pieces and use maple syrup instead on honey.  Place the tofu pieces in a container with the maple syrup and a pinch of nutmeg. Cover.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.  Then follow the recipe above simply replacing the gbejna with tofu and the honey with maple syrup.

I use fresh gbejna from Alexandra Spagnol at Farmers Market, honey by 3 leaves, lime and fresh fruit and vegetables from Big Fresh and pistachio nuts by Good Earth.