Mushroom Almond Pilaf Pie

Mushroom and almond pilaf in Cavolo Vecchio leaves.jpg

Mushroom Almond Pilaf Pie, photo by CJ during a live tv show

‘The mushroom and pilaf pie I made on tv this morning really appeals to me.  The organic leaves of cavolo vecchio encase an aromatic mushroom and almond pilaf fortified with fresh turmeric and with those spices that bring back memories of the Middle East – cardamon, cloves and cinnamon.  The leaves crisp up and the rice remains so moist’

You will need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
200g mushrooms, sliced
100g beetroot stems
100g swede [nevew in maltese], peeled and chopped
100g toasted flaked almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon fresh turmeric, grated
1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs
200g brown rice
1 all natural stock cube
1 tablespoon grated citrus zest
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cardamon pods
salt and pepper to season

To make the pie:  10 large steamed leaves [kale or nettle or cavolo vecchio or chard]
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons hard grated goats cheese
springform cake tin of 18cm

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan, then fry the onion over low heat until it softens and becomes translucent. Add the spices and grated fresh turmeric. Then add the rice and stock cube and enough water according to the instructions of the pack you are using. Add the chopped swede. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered until all the water is absorbed. In the meantime add the chopped beetroot stems and fresh herbs. Cook for 10 mins, then add the grated citrus zest, salt and pepper. Add the toasted almonds. Give it a good stir and remove from heat.

The rice can be served as it is and you can go on to make the pie.

pilaf rice.jpg

Aromatic mushroom almond pilaf with fresh turmeric, photo by CJ during a live tv show

Preheat the oven to 200C. Brush a springform tin with olive oil. Line it with the steamed leaves. Fill the cavity with the rice pilaf. Press down and fill it to the top. Cover the top with a layer of leaves and tuck the ends in. Bake for 25 minutes in a hot oven. Remove from the oven and allow to rest of 20 minutes before serving. This dish can also be served cold.

pilaff rice pie in cavolo nero.jpg

Baked mushroom almond pilaf baked in cavolo vecchio leaves, photo by CJ during a live tv show

This recipe is gluten free.

My vegetables come from Big Fresh and Barbuto [organic], Brown Rice by Flora and spices by Schwartz at PJ Sutters, natural stock cubes by Kallo and flaked almonds by Good Earth, olive oil by Costa d’Oro  Kitchenware by Tescoma, Tableware by Loft

Lea’s Good Food Everyday is available via Midsea Books</p

Jasmine rice with chicken and broccoli


I get cravings from time to time for Oriental flavors and this quick dish is one of my favorites, ideal for those who do not usually cook oriental style meals at home. Always stock your store cupboard with a bottle of soy suave and sesame oil, necessities…. 🙂 You will need:

500g minced chicken
1 head broccoli, cut into florets, immersed in hot water for 20 seconds and drain
1 large clove garlic, grated
1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 spoon good oil
200g jasmine rice
Toasted coconut flakes for garnish
Drizzle of sesame oil
Drizzle of light soy sauce

Cook the rice according to the instructions on the pack. drain and keep aside.

Heat oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft. Add mince and the other ingredients except the sesame and soy sauce. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up mince and lower heat just before it starts getting crispy. Drizzle some light soy sauce. Add the rice and stir gently but thoroughly. Remove from heat. Drizzle with sesame oil.
Top with toasted coconut flakes and serve.


Fenkata with minced meat


We featured this dish on tv this week.

Did you know that rabbit meat is higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol than other meats ?

For this pasta dish, you will need:

75 to 120g spaghetti per portion

250g minced rabbit meat
1 spoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
1 bay leaf
60g peas
250g tinned tomatoes
2 spoons tomato purée
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon marjoram
150ml red wine
Salt and pepper to season
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice

1 white gbejna, grated to top the dish and chopped parsley,

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, add the garlic then the minced meat. Stir and mix through. When the meat starts to brown, add the carrot and then the wine, herbs and tomatoes. Add the bay leaf! Herbs and spices. Lower the heat and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes. During the last 10 minutes add the tomato paste and peas. Season if preferred.

Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet. Drain. Toss into sauce and stir. Arrange on individuals plates and top with grated gbejna and flat leaf parsley !


A warm salad of red rice, zucchini and basil


I loved this salad and I am enjoying experiments with red rice. With more of a bite than regular rice, this is my kind of food !

For this salad you will need:

200g red rice
4 zucchini chopped up
A handful of fresh basil
2 spoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Half an onion
1/4 of a small cabbage, finely shredded
Half a cucumber, chopped up with skin on
Juice of half a lemon
Grated rind of a lemon

Cook the rice as per instructions on the pack. Rinse it firms and cook in water with a touch of salt. I left mine soaking for an hour before I cooked it.

Fry the onion in a touch of oil. Add half the fresh basil chopped up and the cucumber. Stir in the dried basil. Toss and remove from heat. Mix the vegetables with the rice. Finally add the lemon rind and the lemon juice followed by a drizzle of olive oil. Mix in the raw shredded cabbage and toss.

Garnish with some lemon zest and some fresh basil leaves. We ate this salad warm but it is also delicious cold served the next day.


And in Maltese on INEWS

Pumpkin harvest and a pie


‘A traditional local pie associated with the northern village of Manikata and the town of Mosta’


For the Sesame seed crust you will need:

800g plain flour
A pinch of salt
125g butter
125ml olive oil
2 eggs
25g sesame seed.
cold water to bind

1 egg for pastry egg wash


Sift the flour and add the salt. Add the chopped up bits of butter and rub in. Mix. Add the olive oil and rub in. Add the eggs, in eat a time and if necessary add cold water, a spin each time to bind the dough. Knead in the sesame seeds. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1/2 hour.

For Elizabeth’s filling you will need :

1 kilo partially boiled pumpkin, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, chopped up
1 garlic clove, chopped up
12 olives, stone removed, chopped
25g raisins
25g anchovies
169g canned tuna
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
200g rice
1/2 tablespoon good oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Heat up the oil and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the pumpkin and cook on low heat. Add the rice, cook for two minutes and mix in the anchovies and olives. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat until the pumpkin softens up. Do not let the mixture dry up and add more water if necessary, a few spoonfuls at a time.

Take out pastry from fridge. Roll it out on a clean floured surface.


Grease a deep pie dish. Roll the pastry round the rolling pin and drop into the pie dish. Press it in gently. Trim it. Scatter a spoon of raw rice onto the bottom of the pie dish so that the pastry remains crispy as the raw rice will absorb any liquid.

Spoon the filling into the dish. Flatten. Cover with pastry.
Beat an egg and brush on some egg wash onto the exposed pastry parts.
Bake at 160 C for an hour, the first 30 minutes on the bottom shelf so that the bottom of the pie cooks to a crispy texture, otherwise it will end up being soggy. Transfer to middle shelf after half an hour.


My flour comes from St Georges Brand, sesame seeds from Schwartz and organic pumpkin from Barbuto in Sicily.

And this is Pumpkin month…


Pumpkin month is here. So much choice and variety and at the end of this month we will see them adorned with lights, made into decorative carvings and used in all recipes imaginable, from soups to risottos and also desserts.

And we start our pumpkin bonanza of useful recipes here on the blog today using this very versatile ingredient. Here is a recipe for risotto that features in Smart Supermarket Magazine this month.


And they are prepared …


… to be delivered


And transformed, my favorite one last year was Angryface !


A delicious plate of risotto featured in Smart Supermarket magazine this month.


If you are on the island do remember pumpkin feast in Manikata on Saturday 26th !

A taste of Soul with Miss Joyce Yuille


Miss Joyce Yuille performed at a concert hosted by the US Embassy on the island to commemorate the end of Black History Month. I had the pleasure of meeting with her on Friday afternoon.

I instantly warmed up to her. It is one of those things, some people take time to grow on you… with Joyce we clicked straight away. She probably has the same effect on most people with her high energy levels and incredible charisma shining through, the star quality with the empathy of a very human touch. And we both agreed that this is the start of a friendship…

Joyce was born in New York City and grew up in El Barrio in Manhattan also known as Spanish Harlem. She began life in Europe as a runway model in Paris but her love of soul, jazz and blues led her to Milan to pursue a career in music. She studied performing arts and music at the prestigious Fiorello H La Guardia School in New York, which was featured in the cult classic FAME in 1980.

Joyce performed as a backing singer with Gloria Gaynor and considers herself fortunate to have worked with Ronan Keating, Donna Summer and Italian jazz artist Enrico Intra. Joyce will be releasing her first solo CD in September this year.

We speak about Milan where she spends most of her time when she is not traveling. She tells me all about the culinary pleasures she experiences every day from living in Italy and she loves both Northern Italian and Sicilian food. Joyce enjoys cooking but eats mostly salads and healthy food on a daily basis and follows a diet to protect her singing voice avoiding some favorite foods like chocolate which she adores.


Although it is evident that Joyce has integrated into European life with great ease, she still dreams of real soul food, the bread puddings, tapioca, apple pies with lots of cinnamon and fried chicken. She shared with me some recipes that are her childhood favorites and although I cooked her Southern Baked Barbecue Chicken for dinner yesterday, I had to make it again for lunch today by special demand. It was incredibly delicious and totally devoured by everyone (even the fussy ones) and I was criticized yesterday for not making enough. So we have eaten Joyce’s soul food two days in a row! !

Joyce will be on the island only for a few days this time and she will not have much opportunity to savor local food but she hopes to return very soon.

And for Joyce’s Spicy Southern Baked Barbecue Chicken

you will need:
4 large chicken pieces or 8 small (for best result use thighs and legs with bone on)
Salt and ground black pepper

Barbecue Sauce
3/4 cup Ketchup
1/2 cup Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoons Worchester Sauce
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1/2 cup soft Brown Sugar (or 1/4 cup brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons Carob Syrup, this is my addition but you can simply leave out)
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Dash pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Sprinkle the chicken pieces generously with salt, pepper and store bought chicken seasoning OR alternatively paprika OR herbs of your choice. Add the Worcestershire sauce and allow to marinade for a minimum of two hours to overnight.

In a saucepan blend together the barbecue sauce ingredients over a low heat on the stove, bring to a gentle boil, simmer for a minute, switch off heat.

Arrange the chicken piece with skin side facing down in a deep roasting pan. I always line my pans with baking paper. Cover chicken with half the sauce. Make at 180C for 25 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up and pour over the rest of the barbecue sauce. Bake for another 25 minutes and if you like a crispier skin grill it in the broiler for the last few minutes.

I served the chicken for dinner yesterday with Smoky Potato Wedges


and you will need:

Allow one large potato per person
Olive oil, just enough to cover the wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Smoked paprika, allow half a teaspoon per potato
Mature cheddar cheese, 25g per potato, finely grated
I also used fresh marjoram from the garden but this is optional

Wash the potatoes and chop them into wedges, skin on. Drizzle some olive oil,madd the smoked paprika, sal and pepper and use your hands to mix them so that the oil and seasoning is equally distributed. Add the herbs and bake at 175 C for an hour. Take out of oven. Drain any access oil. Scatter the grated cheese over the potatoes. Return to the oven for 3 minutes. Take out, transfer to another dish and I scattered some more fresh marjoram over it but you can simply leave this out.

And we had Peach Cobbler for dessert. I made individual cobblers and featured them in yesterday’s Independent

and more soul food in this week’s newspaper


And you can also find more recent soul food recipes from The US Ambassador, Ms Gina Abercrombie Winstanley and Jueseppi Baker

And to Joyce, a huge thank you, tante belle cose !

Black History Month in today’s paper and beans and rice for supper …

I featured Black History Month in the newspaper today as it is being commemorated by the US Embassy with a varied program including some exhibitions and a concert by gospel singer Joyce Yuille who is making a special visit to the island.

I was so pleased to receive a detailed history about the origins of African American food from Jueseppi Baker and it brought back good memories of the wonderful teatime treats I was offered during my visit to the residence of the US Ambassador HE Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley just before Thanksgiving.

I am very familiar with eating African American cuisine especially while I was living in South London but I have not seriously attempted to cook it so far. This is going to change though and I am scheduled to make Mrs Flo’s Sweet Potato Pie and other delicious specialities from HE the US Ambassador’s childhood that I featured in the newspaper for Thanksgiving in November.


Today I am sharing with you my recipe for Beans and Rice which we had for supper yesterday. And how delicious it was! This is true Soul Food, warms your heart and leaves you purring with contentment …. The leftovers were delicious as a cold salad at lunchtime today. The addition of local bacon gave it an incredible flavor. I still believe that the island has the best pork ever….

You will need :

500 g Rice, I used Uncle Ben’s
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans Red Kidney Beans, drained and washed
A handful of parsley, half finely chopped and have torn into small pieces to garnish the dish
A drizzle of olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
8 rashers bacon, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

Sauté the onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil. Add the bacon. add the rice and stir. Add water according to the instructions on the packet. Add the bay leaves and let the rice cook. Add the rest of the herbs and spices before the rice is fully cooked and stir. When the rice is cooked, stir in the kidney beans and finely chopped parsley. Spoon onto a serving dish and garnish with the rest of the parsley….

And Black History Month is featured in today’s newspaper on the island…


Quick and easy sticky chilli ribs


I find with this marinade that you do not need to leave it overnight, if you have forgotten to prepare something for tonight or are not organized enough, two hours with this one is enough to bring out all the delicious flavors.I serve this with a huge dish of egg fried rice to satisfy all those hungry appetites and extra baked potatoes, especially a big hit with the boys

You will need:

For the marinade: mix all these ingredients together
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, optional
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 racks park spare ribs, serves 2 to 4 persons depending on appetites.

Coat and cover the pork ribs, cover and leave in the fridge for at least two hours.

Cook in a very hot oven at 200 C for 45 minutes to an hour and baste and turn over often.


And for the special fried rice, all you need to do is cook the quantity of rice according to the instructions on your pack.
Finely chop up some onion and garlic, quantity according to your taste.
I always add sweet corn, chopped mushrooms and a chopped up omelette.
And any other ingredient that takes your fancy that is in your fridge or store cupboard.
Stir fry the onion and garlic. Ad the rice and other ingredients leaving the omelette to add last.
Some soy sauce and another stir.
And it’s ready to serve