And more strawberries with a fennel and arugula salad

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I love the mix of flavors in this salad and the textures. Imagine mouthfuls of crunchy aromatic fennel and fleshy soft strawberries with the distinct bitterness of the arugula.

1 punnet arugula leaved
4 large strawberries
half a bulb of fennel
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper and sea salt

Arrange the arugula leaves on a serving plate.
Slice the strawberries lengthwise and slice thinly.
Slice the fennel bulb into thin slices.
Arrange the strawberries and fennel on to the rocket leaves.
Season with fresnly ground pepper and salt. Drizzle with some olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
This is ready to serve as it is. It is worth buying a good quality balsamic vinegar as it makes a big difference to the flavour especially when using with such delicate flavors of strawberry and fennel.

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My sweet Stevia has found a home in our garden and this is just the beginning of a long journey together …

Memories of an Easter Sunday and the left overs …

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At the end of today, when all the family gatherings and festivities are over, when Easter comes to an end and we are organizing our food leftovers, we will remain with precious memories to treasure and a great part of them will focus on the food we have shared during this celebration…. and how very true it is that life is not how you live it but how you remember it (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

The memories will live with us forever but what about the food left overs ?

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With the left-over lamb, I make a lamb and vegetable casserole which is delicious and will make a good weekday meal for Monday. I chop the lamb into cubes, remove all the bones and fat. I take this opportunity to use up all the vegetables I may have in the fridge and chop them up together with any left-over vegetables from today’s roast and I mix everything together. I then wash some potatoes well, slice them up very thinly with the skin still on. I also prepare a couple of stock cubes dissolved in water. Then I use a casserole dish and oil it by wiping some kitchen towel with a dab of olive oil all over it. I alternate a layer or chopped vegetables, a layer of lamb and a layer of potatoes and I repeat this until I have used everything up ending up with a layer of overlapping potatoes. I pour the stock into the casserole to keep the moistness but do not overdo it. I cook it in a moderate oven at 160 C covered for one hour and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving. You can also add raw sliced onions over your vegetable layer and any fresh hers or parsley that you may have. This is a delicious, wholesome meal with no wastage ….

If you are vegetarian, you and need to leave the meat out, cook the vegetables in the same way. I have also tried this with tofu instead of lamb and the result was very good.

I keep looking at Ann Marie’s colorful Easter cookies and I appreciate so much the work that goes into hand made food as I know how time consuming it is, and from my personal experience I feel that many who are not sweet makers have no idea that it requires a lot of time, talent and skill to produce such beautiful work.

And these Easter cookies will remain with me forever as a memory of today as will my current life here on an island that not only happens to be in the heart of the Mediterranean but i believe it is the very soul of the Mediterranean. I wish you all a wonderful Easter !

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Easter Baking with Brian Emmett and our readers
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Easter in the heart of the Mediterranean and my Figolli
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A sweet for lent, eggless and fat free, kwarizemal

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Figolli
As popular as Easter eggs….

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Natalie’s figolla feast !

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My hot cross buns

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Annie’s figolla

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Figolli by Josianne

My favorite Easter lunch… Leg of Lamb and Roast Potatoes with Bee Pollen, fennel and mint

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I am sharing the recipes for my favorite Easter meal to be repeated again at lunch time tomorrow. As much as I like variety and experimentation with new ingredients, I seem to stick to the same meals for family occasions and I guess it is all about familiarity and wanting to eat your favorite things during the holidays.

I love bee pollen scattered on roast potatoes with mint and fennel. You will need:

Potatoes, washed with skin on
Olive oil
Maldon Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bee Pollen
Fennel bulb
Fennell Seed
Fresh mint
Honey

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cut the fennel bulb and potatoes into thin slices. Wipe the bottom of the fish with some over oil. Then cover the bottom with a layer of chopped fresh Fennel and overlap a few layers of thin potato slices neatly on top.
When the dish is all covered with the potatoes, drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Do not overdo it. Very lightly drizzle honey all over the potatoes, but again do not overdo it. You do not want sweet potatoes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle with crushed fennel seeds and some chopped fresh mint. Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes depending on how crusty you like your potatoes. When you take out of the oven, leave to rest for 5 minutes and then sprinkle some fresh been pollen and garnish with some fresh mint leaves.

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And for the Roast Leg of Lamb you will need

A leg of lamb, we are big eaters so one medium leg usually serves 4
2 lemons, zest grated and lemons squeezed
Olive Oil, enough to coat the lamb sparingly
1 small tub yoghurt
4 Garlic cloves, whole
A mix of fresh and dry herbs of your choice, I am using fresh thyme and rosemary and dry oregano
Sweet Smoked Paprika
1 onion
Freshly ground pepper and Maldon Salt

Mix the lemon juice and zest with the yoghurt, olive oil some finely chopped garlic and a mix of finely chopped fresh and dried herbs of your choice. Add a spoon of sweet smoked paprika. Place the lamb on a large piece of foil and rub the marinade all over. Roughly chop up the onions and spread all over the lamb. Season and if available roughly cut up sprigs of fresh rosemary and put over the lamb. Wrap the leg in foil and leave in fridge overnight.

I am at the moment marinating my lamb, it is mid-afternoon here and the meat will soak in all the juices and flavors overnight in the fridge and it will taste heavenly tomorrow, moist meat oozing with goodness. I will cook mine in a slow oven at 150 C covered for 4 hours and then uncovered for the last 30 minutes at 180C. The result is tender, moist delicious lamb that will literally melt in your mouth. I will garnish with thyme and lemon ….

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Then for the best part of the feast comes a gift from one of my readers Annie and this is her fabulous cake. It is a cake made of chocolate and ganache and carved into a bag shape, covered in edible sugarpaste, all made by hand and this includes the flowers and chocolates in the bag. I amazed to see such talent. Thank you Annie, you are a big sweetheart and I am so touched !

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And from an island blessed with all the good things in life, I leave you with a view from my window and wish you a very Happy Easter!

Daffodils in the garden and Tunisian Merguez Canapés

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Yesterday 58 years after its independence from France, Tunisia remembered this special day on a little island in the Mediterranean.

I visited the official residence of HE the Ambassador of Tunisia, Souad Gueblaoui in the morning to join her team of chefs while they made preparations for a formal evening reception to be attended by the President.

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The kitchen of this sunny and spacious residence was buzzing as they decorated, stuffed and sliced. And I was only allowed to do some very LIGHT cooking and treated like a Princess ! no carrying and no heavy duty industrial equipment for me this time. I learnt some new tricks about Tunisian cuisine with its Mediterranean roots and a bit of a spicy kick. And I just love the ingredients, the fragrance and the freshness.

I am sharing with you today the special in-house recipe for Merguez Sausage Canapés but more traditional recipes courtesy of the Embassy chefs will be on my feature page in this week’s Press which is devoted mainly to this beautiful country and its people, the culture and the cuisine.

I have only been once to this beautiful country on holiday and I very much hope I will return one day soon as I have always wanted to visit Carthage.

For the canapes, you will need:

Shop bought Canapé Boats
6 Merguez Sausages
2 eggs
1 green pepper
1 onion
1/2 fresh chilli
2 tomatoes
olive oil

Remove the skin from the sausages and mash the flesh with a fork.
Deseed the pepper. Chop it up and put aside.
Skin, deseed and chops the tomatoes.
Deseed the chilli and chop very finely until it is like a purée.
Beat the eggs.
Drizzle some olive oil into a pan.
Pour the egg and make a rough omelette. Chop it up in the same way you would do for egg fried rice
Keep aside.

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In the same pan sauté the onions and chilli. When it softens add the pepper and finally the tomatoes.

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Remove from pan and keep aside. Add the sausage meat and cook.

When it is cooked all the way through add the other ingredients and mix.
Allow to cool. Just before serving, fill up the pastry boats with a teaspoon. Garnish with flat leaf parsley if you wish.

And HE the Ambassador discusses the evening’s plan with her staff. You can see part of the decoration of a special cake being made with Tunisian Flag made out of sugar fondant

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and a tray is prepared with fresh lemon juice and a taste of the evening to come…

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we enjoyed a precious moment of peace in the garden before we both had to rush off again.

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And I drove straight to mum’s for a bit of spoiling while I worked among the daffodils in full bloom.

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Then straight back to Tunisian party at 7pm !

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I wish to thank HE the Ambassador for inviting me to visit during her very busy morning and for allowing me to share with my readers her country’s very special day.

Traditional Irish Stew

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St Patrick’s day has become very big on the island. When I first arrived here a couple of years ago, I remember my surprise one sunny day in March driving down the coast road during St Patrick’s weekend. I could not get over the crowds, different shades of green gathered for an evening of joviality. As the hype soared the traffic came to a standstill and I sat in my car absorbing the electric atmopshere, the anticipation, the excitement brought on by the sense of expectancy.

So is St Patrick’s big here because of the Catholic connection or is it simply an excuse for more merriment ? I somehow feel that the current Ambassador of Ireland and Mrs Hennessy promote Ireland exceptionally well and as the highlight of the Irish year approaches, I share my pieces with you about Irish food. The Ambassador and Mrs Hennessy are donating a generous hamper to my readers for liking and sharing the Embassy’s Facebook page.

And with pleasure, I have been doing a fair bit of traditional cooking to mark this day so special in the Irish Calendar.

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After all every celebration, irrelevant of culture, revolves around food and for me it is food that makes my world go round !!

I spent Saturday with a team I work so well with. They come as a package, a small team made up of Charles the Manager, Carl the chef and Adriana and Nadia, my two very best girls EVAAAA ! …a pleasure to be with.

I will go straight into Carl’s recipe for a delicious Irish stew and I will tell you more about our assignment in the next few days to come.

You will need :

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800g lamb shoulder cut into cubes
150g onions
150g leeks
150g parsnips
150g celeriac
Finely chopped parsley for garnish
2 large cans Guinness ( ours were 440ml each)
500ml stock, your preference
Rosemary
100g butter
100g flour
400g potatoes
Some oil for frying

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Brown the chopped lamb in some oil

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Take the lamb out of the pot and keep aside

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Chop the vegetables. Sauté the vegetables in the same oil.

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When they are cooking heat up the stock. Lift them out of the pan and keep aside.

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Then make a roux in the same pan where you cooked the lamb and vegetables by adding some butter and mixing in the flour.

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Add the stock little by little and then the meat, vegetables and potatoes. Bring to a boil, season and simmer for 45 minutes.

You should end up with soft potatoes soaking in a full bodied stew of vegetables and lamb that melts in your mouth.

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And her are some more recipes with this lovely team and more

Quick Weekday Meal: Lamb Koftas

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A busy Monday and a quick meal for tonight, a healthy one.

I am using good quality minced lamb for my koftas, no oil required as I bake them on a sheet and they retain all the moisture. The salted watermelon and mint has no dressing.

I bake the koftas in a hot oven on baking paper and then put them on kitchen towel as soon as they are cooked to absorb natural oils. I also use a mix of fresh and dried mint to get more depth in the mint flavor. Preparation time for this meal is under 10 minutes and it is something a bit different. The koftas are delicious hot or cold. I serve them with a local yoghurt with with some torn up mint leaves.

With the watermelon, I only add fresh mint and a good sea salt. You would be surprised how good salted melons and watermelons are. I will serve with a small dipping pot of fresh yoghurt.

You will need :

Preheat oven to 200 C

Makes 12 koftas

500 g lamb
Fresh mint, I use about two sprigs
1/2 tsp dried mint
Maldon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried coriander
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

Prepare an oven tray with a baking sheet.

I like to break up fresh mint leaves manually so that they are uneven in size and the taste in the koftas is more defined.

Mix all ingredients together.

Divide into 12 pieces and roll to a small sausage like shape. Do not add flour, it’s not necessary.

Arrange on baking tray. Bake in hot oven for 20 minutes and turn over for another 10 or 15 depending on how crisp you like them.

Serve hot or cold.

For the watermelon, chop up into neat pieces. Squeeze a bit of lemon. Arrange on plate and sprinkle some sea salt and fresh mint. I love the flavor and texture of Maldon Salt. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Have a good week !

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The Ambassador speaks about Irish food and Ireland

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It was a pleasure to meet HE The Ambassador of Ireland . I started by asking the Ambassador about Rachel Allen as I love her style of cooking and he spoke to me about the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in the heart of the east Cork countryside run by the Allen family which also has lovely guest accommodation.

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I told him how I made a local Marmurat Tart, Cherry Pastini and Xkunvat a few months ago and how delighted I was to receive a message from Rachel Allen saying that they looked lovely and that she has always wanted to visit the island. She also said she loves Cherry Pastini! It would of course be a pleasure for us to welcome her to our island. HE the Ambassador also spoke to me about another popular cookery school incorporating a guest house in Ashford Co Wicklow run by Catherine Fulvio.

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Xkunvat

Irish dairy products such as Kerrygold are very popular locally. I asked the Ambassador about Artisan Irish Cheeses which are varied and innovative. I am told that Sheridan Cheesemongers in Dublin have a huge selection of irish artisan cheeses and do air mail delivery. I discover that Mrs Hennessy’s favourite Irish cheese is the soft and mild Cashel Blue. Of course we all know that Irish beef and lamb is delicious, the livestock having benefited from grazing on the reknowned green pastures of Ireland and this is widely available locally from good butchers. For those with a sweet tooth look out for the handmade Butlers Irish Chocolates and products now also widely available outside of Ireland in airport duty free shops.

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The Ambassador spoke to me about a number of food festivals in Ireland such as Taste of Dublin at Iveagh Gardens and Bloom in Phoenix Park, which although primarily a wonderful outdoor garden festival, also has a significant food dimension. September is the season for the oyster harvest and this is celebrated in particular in the village of Clarinbridge in Co Galway.

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Marmurat Tart

The Ambassador also made reference to Ireland’s exquisite exports including Newbridge Silver, ranging from cutlery to jewellery to giftware and Waterford crystal glassware crafted by master cutters. Both Newbridge and Waterford have excellent visitor centres and are worth a detour if you are in the Kildare or Waterford areas.

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The Ambassador also spoke to me about Ireland. Recent events involving cooperation between the Embassy and the island include the highly successful Green Economy conference organised by Minister Leo Brincat and Education Minister Evarist Bartolo. Ireland’s Presidency of the EU was a very hectic period for the Embassy and these responsibilities continue as Ireland is in the trio of EU Presidencies and is already working closely with the government and Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg to prepare for the island’s EU Presidency in 2017. The Ambassador was delighted that under the Irish Presidency , the EU agreed the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) from 2014-2020, which allocated €1.128 billion for The island.

The Ambassador spoke about the forthcoming meetings he has arranged between Minister Anton Refalo and the Irish cabinet Minister. There are so many areas in which Ireland is very active locally and this includes financial services, ICT and the creative arts including film and music. The Embassy is delighted to support the Department of English at UM, which plans to host a Tribute to world renowned Noble prizewinning poet Seamus Heaney who passed away recently. This will take place at the University on the evening of 6 December.

The Embassy is very pleased that the work on the restoration of the organ at the St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral is proceeding to completion given that the Irish firm Kenneth Jones was awarded this contract against stiff international competition. Music lovers on the island are impatient to hear the restored organ resound again in the Cathedral.

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And this week’s newspaper

It was such a pleasure to spend an afternoon cooking and baking with Mrs Hennessy and Ronan at the home of HE The Ambassador Of Ireland.

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For Irish food see http://www.bordbia.ie
For Festivals and cheap flights to Ireland see http://www.tourismireland.com, http://www.dealsireland.ie and http://www.ryanair.com

Perfect Roast Leg of Irish Lamb for Sunday Lunch !

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A perfect Roast Leg of Irish Lamb for lunch.

You will need:

1 boneless leg of lamb
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 spoons chopped fresh herbs of your choice
Additional fresh herbs of your choice for garnish
Maldon Salt and freshly ground pepper

Use a paring knife to make small slits in the lamb and slide in thin garlic slices into the slits. Place the lamb in a baking dish.
Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and herbs with some salt and freshly ground pepper.
Coat the lamb with the marinade.
Place on a dish and seal it with cling film. leave overnight on the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Uncover lamb and baste it with marinade. Season again and place in the oven.
Baste it every 20 minutes.

Allow approximately 40 minutes per kilo for cooking time but this also depends on your oven and how you prefer to eat your lamb. As an example if you are using a probe thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the lamb not touching the bone, should read 65 C when the lamb is medium rare

Remove pan from oven and cover to let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Garnish lamb with fresh herbs and parsley.
Remove the fat from the juices.
Carve lamb, and arrange slices on a large warm platter; drizzle with the juices just before serving.