Going Irish in this week’s Sunday Times

fresh broad beans

‘Look out for an Irish food in tomorrow’s Sunday Times with multi-award winner Conor Bofin’s preparation for St Patrick’s. 

During our tv show this week, I prepared one of Conor’s recipes and served oat crusted fish fillets on fresh broad beans instead of the peas in his recipe. I baked instead of frying them, just 20 minutes in a very very hot oven. What a treat it was…’

Sunday times big

A taste of Ireland in this week’s Sunday Times

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Catch of the week: Roasted Skate

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Catch of the week: Roasted Skate

‘Another great advantage of living on a small island is fresh fish and skate (‘Hamiema’) is very underrated.  

It needs very little cooking time and for those that do not like the idea of picking bones this is ideal.  Succulent, soft and moist flesh literally slides off the cartilage; a delicate flavor and to retain its natural moistness, it is best cooked at a high temperature for as little time as possible.’

skate seabream and bass

Catch of the week available at Farmers Market

And for my roasted skate you will need:

1 skate wing
100g cherry tomatoes (I use yellow and red)
5 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon capers
5 black olives chopped
some chopped basil for garnish

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Toss the cherry tomatoes in some olive oil. Season the skate with salt and pepper and place on the roasting dish. Top with half the tomatoes, half the capers and half the olives. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Roast for 10 to 15 minutes in a very hot oven.

Garnish with the rest of the fresh tomatoes, capers and olives, more freshly ground pepper and some chopped fresh basil.

skate baked

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving

It is delicious as it is or you can also make a light dressing of 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard, juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil and some more capers. Whisk them all together and pour over the skate just before serving.

‘We are so lucky here, fruit in our kitchen bowls and vegetables on our dinner plates on the same day of harvest and fish available to us on the same day of the catch.

It cannot get much fresher than this.’

Simply grilled rosy red mullet with orange zest

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I was advised to clean the fish, cook it whole and serve it on the bone. It was so fresh cooked the day after the catch when we featured it on TV.

You will need:

4 red mullet, allowing one per person. Mine weighed around 250g each
1 spoon dried bread crumbs
1 spoon capers
1 spoon olives
1 orange, juice and zest
1 spoon chopped parsley
1 spoon chopped mint
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper if required to season

Clean out the fish and remove the scales. Rinse it and keep it in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients.

Prepare the dressing: Place the capers, parsley, olives. Mint, orange juice and half the zest and use a hand blender to break it down to a smoothies consistency. Taste and season if required.
Keep in the fridge until you need it.

Take out prepared fish from the fridge. Mix the breadcrumbs with a spoon of the dressing. Place a small amount of the mixture in the cavity of each fish. brush the fish on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle some orange zest.
Grill on both sides.
Serve immediately with some of the dressing and more orange zest garnish.

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Featured on Favourite Channel and I News

Legendary seas and a Mediterranean fish supper

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The Mediterranean is made up of a variety of cultures integrated into one region which is defined by the Sea of so many legends and tales.

And a diverse cuisine that is sought after all around the world has been created from this integration based on the freshness of the produce in the region. See how the sun shines here nearly every day of the year and the long extended summers produce the best flavors that need very little cooking to keep the taste of freshness alive.

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And this month brings a fish that is very much part of the island’s heritage and the season opened with a blessing of fishing boats by the parish priest of a Southern fishing village.

Lampuki are more commonly known abroad as mahi mahi and dophinfish but nowadays the word mahi mahi is preferred to avoid confusion with dolphins (mammals) as they are not associated in any way. Here they are lampuki. The blueish outer skin glistens when they are fresh and on the bottom they are flecked with pale yellow. The flesh is firm and dense and can cope with stromger herbs and flavors.

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There are various ways of cooking them but we are having them simply fried today and serving them with the lovely variety of lettuces that come in all sorts of fancy shapes and sizes this month.

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For the fried lampuki you will need:

1 kg lampuki
a fresh lemon
Flour
Fresh Marjoram
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
Oil
Vinegar
Some olive oil to drizzle on top

Yoi can ask your fishmonger to clean your fish.
Start by removing thr head and tail.
Rinse the fish and cut it into portions.
Cover a flat dish with a layer of sifted flour
Add the salt and pepper and fresh marjoram
Heat the oil in a heavy pan.
Shallow fry the fish on both sides using low heat so that it cooks inside,
Sever with a slice of lemon. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil and vinegar.
Garnish with olives and capers.
Serve immediately.

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Thanks to Benny Scerri for some of the photos.

Bacalaitos at Mum’s for lunch…..

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A light crispy crust and a soft and creamy inside…..and they call them Bolinhos de bacalhau, frittelle di baccalà and here on the island Sfinec tal-Bakkaljaw, and bacalao in Mexico served on Christmas Eve.

Salt Cod fritters are one of my favorite childhood memories. Mum is the best bacaliatos maker and knowing that I needed to drop in today to pick up something, she surprised me with a bacaliatos lunch…. What a treat, I love it when someone else cooks for me.

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She told me today all about the street vendors she remembers as a young girl selling these salted cod fritters and local bean purée on carts with wheels around the villages…. street food that has now evolved to nearly a delicacy. Salt was a cheap method to preserve the fish in times of limited refrigeration space. I’ve seen recipes using baking powder for the fritters. Mum uses yeast and this means that the next day if you have leftovers they are moist, soft and doughy rather than inedible as they would be with a baking soda mix. I just adore them.

I found David Tanis’ piece on Salt Cod in the New York Times very informative and cannot agree more that I like mine chunky and rustic. We ate our fritters fresh served with olives from mum’s garden and a simple salad… This is what I call heavenly…

You will need:

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1kg salted cod
vegetable oil for frying
500g water
500g all-purpose flour, plus some extra for dredging
10g dry yeast
a pinch of salt
Dried Oregano and Mint (mum used her own dried herbs from her garden)

Soak the cod in the later overnight,
Change the water and rinse twice
Boil the cod until soft, drain and remove bones.

Make the batter. put 10g of yeast together with the flour and dry ingredients,
Add luke warm water leave to rest and rise.
Dip the cod pieces into the batter and deep fry until crispy on the outside.
Leave to rest for 5 minutes. Serve

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A Mediterranean winter with rays of sunshine ….

Salmon, Fior di Latte and Walnut Tart

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Supper tonight is a simple tart with fresh poached salmon, Fior di Latte and Toasted Walnuts accompanied with a simple mixed leaf salad.

I like the texture of the finished pastry of this recipe. Always willing to try something new, I added a whole egg rather than an egg yolk to the dough and I ended up with a very workable dough with literally no cracks and no shrinkage.

For a 12 inch salmon and Fior di Latte tart, you will need:

For the pastry:

200 g plain flour
100g soft butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
Pinch of Sea Salt
Water a few spoonfuls, add one at a time until the pastry is the right consistency

Rub the flour and butter until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the salt. Break the egg and mix in using a knife. Add water, a spoonful at a time until you achieve the right consistency. Leave it in the fridge to rest for 10 minutes. Roll it out on a floured surface, roll it loosely around the rolling pin and ease it into the tart mould. Pat the pastry gently into the tart tin with your fingers. trim the edges leaving them to hang out of the edge of the tin. Follow my instructions for baking blind . Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, trim the edges with a sharp knife and allow to cool.

While the pastry cooks, prepare the filling.

You will need:

400g fresh cooked Salmon
4 Eggs
250 ml Single Cream
200 g Fior di Latte, cut into slices
6 spoons Parmegiano Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
Walnuts, a handful, broken into pieces and pan toasted

Flake the salmon into bite size chunks and lay at the button of the tart. Season with freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle three spoons of Parmesan on top of the salmon.

Mix the eggs and cream, pour over the salmon and neatly arrange the fior di latte slices on the top. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan on top.

Bake in an oven at 180C for 10 minutes, take out and top with toasted walnuts. These will sink slightly into the mixture but they will remain visible and make the tart look very appetizing.

Return to the oven for around 20 minutes until golden but watch it carefully as all ovens are different.

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Gurbell al Cartoccio..so fresh it can almost be eaten underdone

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Gurbell  [Meagre] Al Cartoccio, photo by C J Baldacchino during a live tv show

Gurbell or ‘meagre’ has firm fresh and a milky soft texture .  When cooked it almost melts in your mouth.  This is another healthy and quick meal, a low fat choice and the fish retains all its moisture and bursts with flavor from the herb infusion in the parcel.

With fish I usually allow 150 to 200g per portion for filleted fish and double that if the fish is left whole.

In this post you will find recipes for the fish, crispy potatoes and Mediterranean Salad with wild apples.

You will need :

150 to 200 g per portion filleted white fish
Lemon, today I am using local summer lemons that look like limes
Drizzle of olive oil
Maldon Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh herbs, today I am using mint and parsley
Baking paper or foil

Oil a generous piece of baking paper or foil and place the fish fillet on top. Squeeze a little bit of lemon and arrange some fresh herbs of your choice on top of the fish. Cut a few thin slices of lemon and place neatly on top. Drizzle with olive oil, season and neatly close parcel.

When you are ready to eat it, preheat oven at 175C and bake for 15 minutes. I like to parcel individual portions as it reduces the cooking time. Take out of oven and allow to rest with the parcel unopened for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Roast Crispy Potato Slices with fennel seeds

The flavors of the Maltese traditional dish of roast potatoes with fennel seeds are wonderful.

The potatoes are finely sliced and I also add fresh mint after the potatoes are cooked.

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Roasted fennel potatoes.  This photo was taken during a live tv show by C J Baldacchino

You will need:

Potatoes, washed with skin on, allow one potato per portion
Olive oil, a drizzle

Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fennel Seeds, crushed
Fresh mint leaves, whole

Grease an ovenproof dish with olive oil. Cut the potatoes into thin slices and using your hands mix in some olive oil, sea salt and crushed fennel seeds. Overlap the slices neatly in an ovenproof dish.

Drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Do not overdo it. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle more crushed fennel seeds and cook in oven for about 30 minutes depending on how crusty you like your potatoes.

Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Mediterranean Salad with Capers and Wild Apple
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I am serving the fish with a Mediterranean salad with capers and wild apple and thinly slice potatoes with fennel seeds

You will need :

Rocket leaves or Lambs Lettuce
Ripe Tomatoes
Fresh Mint
Fresh Parsley
Freshly Ground Pepper
Maldon Salt
Drizzle of olive oil
One Apple
Juice of half a lime
Capers

I was lucky enough to use Mediterranean wild apples which I cut myself from the countryside in the afternoon.

Thinly slice the apple with skin on. Squeeze some lime juice over it to prevent discoloration and it also adds to bring out flavor.

Arrange the leaves in a suitable container.
Cut up the ripe tomatoes and arrange according to preference.
Add some capers.
Cut up mint and parsley, I do not chop them as I think they look gorgeous when so fresh.
Scatter the thin apple slices on top.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

My fish comes from Adam’s Gourmet Fish Shop Mosta and fruit and vegetables by Big Fresh, Mosta.  Kitchenware by Tescoma.