Memories of an Easter Sunday and the left overs …

20140420-074659.jpg

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 ?

20140420-081324.jpg

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 !

20140420-081152.jpg

———————————————————————–

Easter Baking with Brian Emmett and our readers
20140419-135854.jpg

Easter in the heart of the Mediterranean and my Figolli
20140416-061235.jpg

A sweet for lent, eggless and fat free, kwarizemal

20140407-115736.jpg

Figolli
As popular as Easter eggs….

20140407-120046.jpg
Natalie’s figolla feast !

20140419-140215.jpg
My hot cross buns

20140419-140331.jpg

Annie’s figolla

20140419-140651.jpg
Figolli by Josianne

Advertisements

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

20140419-134646.jpg

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.

20140419-141521.jpg

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 ….

20140419-150649.jpg

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 !

20140419-152137.jpg
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!

Traditional Irish Stew

20140312-212629.jpg

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.

20140312-174556.jpg

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 :

20140312-215501.jpg

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

20140312-220933.jpg
Brown the chopped lamb in some oil

20140312-221049.jpg
Take the lamb out of the pot and keep aside

20140312-221131.jpg
Chop the vegetables. Sauté the vegetables in the same oil.

20140312-221334.jpg
When they are cooking heat up the stock. Lift them out of the pan and keep aside.

20140312-221502.jpg
Then make a roux in the same pan where you cooked the lamb and vegetables by adding some butter and mixing in the flour.

20140312-221627.jpg
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.

20140312-221925.jpg

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

Good wishes for a happy day, a successful year….Roast Leg of Lamb for lunch …..

20140101-073522.jpg

A new year is a chance for a fresh start. My advice is – Grab It ! Fly with it ! –
I am good at sticking to resolutions and like most people have a little list today to follow. I will certainly be resuming a daily long walk. As I started my blog in July, my walks reduced considerably and as my blog writing friends know, it is a time consuming exercise but as of today there will be time for both.

Norbert starts the new year with the result of his first ever professional photography session finding its way to the front cover of the airline magazine with a photo of an orange tree in our garden. And I so look forward to more photos with him !

20140101-061716.jpg

We will now work our way slowly to more healthy eating habits and today I am sharing with you my recipe for a roast leg of lamb which we are having for lunch. I am using Irish Lamb today and this is a very easy dish to prepare and you will have time to relax, enjoy the day and feed the huge appetites well. You can make exactly the same dish with pork instead.

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. Today I am not organized enough and I am marinating it for an hour only and will still have great results. I cook mine in a slow oven at 150 C covered for 4 hours and then uncovered for the last 30 minutes. The result is tender, moist delicious lamb that will literally melt in your mouth. I garnished with thyme and lemon ….

Apart from roasting some potatoes, I am serving a simple Mediterranean Tomato and Leaf Salad.

I like to leave the lamb to rest before serving and I garnish it with more fresh rosemary. i prefer to take it as it is to the table or side buffet table on a large platter surrounded by The roast potatoes with a huge bowl of salad by its side and everyone can help themselves. What I call stress free cooking !

And a simple salad to accompany any meal… Healthy fresh ingredients with a low calorific value!
You will need:
Ripe cherry tomatoes
green leaves, I love lambs lettuce at the moment but you can also use arugula
Fresh basil
Capers
Black olives (optional)
Seasoning, freshly ground pepper and Maldon Salt
Olive Oil
Juice of freshly squeezed half lemon
Few drops balsamic vinegar

Cut up cherry tomatoes and arrange on bed of lambs lettuce. tear up fresh basil leaves and sprinkle on top of tomatoes. add some capers, season, and just before serving add a drizzle of olive oil all over and some freshly squeezes lemon juice. Do not over do it with the dressing. Add a few drops of good quality balsamic vinegar and garnish with some whole black olives if you wish. this is a simple, traditional salad on the island and is specially delicious with lamb ….

And from an island of dreams, I wish you a happy day and a successful new year…. Tante belle cose! so well said in Italian and let us dream of lots of good things to come ……

20131216-053829.jpg

Everyday I am overwhelmed by your following, especially from you all in the USA, a whole ocean and continent away…

I am truly touched …

From a little island, a spot on the world map, I wish you a wonderful New Year and more celebrations today with those who matter.

I am excited and look forward to get to know you more, to share my food with you and tell you more about this fascinating island where the sun always shines, where people are warm and kind, where family values still matter and where life is especially good…..

Happy Holidays !

20140101-070340.jpg I took this photo taken on my walk early this morning, I live in paradise ….

Quick Weekday Meal: Lamb Koftas

20130722-071030.jpg

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 !

20130722-072833.jpg

20130722-072930.jpg

Quick weekday meal ….. Braised Thyme Lamb Steaks

20131210-061845.jpg

A quick weekday meal today with lamb steaks braised in thyme for a change. I like to make use of all the herbs in the garden at the moment and braising is a cooking method that can be used for any cuts of meat. With cheaper cuts it tenderizes the meat and get rid of all the chewiness, but it can also be used with more expensive cuts. I marinated my steaks in yoghurt overnight as I think it gives such a tenderness to the meat and beings out a really good flavor.

20131210-071052.jpg

You will need:

2 lamb steaks, I used shoulder chops, allow one each or two if they are smaller steaks
1 pot yoghurt, I use local yoghurt
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried mint
Fresh thyme
6 whole allspice, crushed
Maldon Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup stock

Marinate the lamb steaks in the yoghurt and half the quantity of herbs in the recipe.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Sauté the onion and garlic on low heat in the oil for 5 minutes then add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan contents and set aside.

Pat dry the lamb then place in frying pan. Keep the yoghurt mix aside. Brown on both sides. Turn heat off. Mix the onion spice mixture back with the lamb.
Mix together the yoghurt from the marinade with the stock. Add the other half of the herbs and top with fresh thyme.
Place the lamb and pan contents into a baking dish and pour the stock over the lamb then place the dish in the oven. The lamb will need to cook for at least an hour covered with foil. Uncover and carry on cooking until the meat is very tender and breaks up easily. Do not let the baking dish dry out and add a little more water or broth as needed.
Reserve the pan juices and serve as a sauce over the meat.

mmmm Delicious fall-off-the-bone meat….. I am serving ours with a local dish of roast Mediterranean potatoes with fennel seeds.

20131210-072038.jpg
And the trees on the island are heavy with citrus… A mix of tangerines, clementines and oranges to finish off our meal….

An Irish week in the heart of the Mediterranean !

The table is set ….. 20131107-084342.jpg

Following a dinner at the residence of HE the Ambassador of Ireland and Mrs Monica Hennessy to promote Irish foods with The Hon Karmenu Vella, Minister of Tourism and Mrs Vella as guests of honor, I am dedicating the next week to cooking dishes using ingredients from Ireland. My pages on today’s newspaper features Mrs Monica Hennessy at her home with her family. She shares with me her vast knowledge of Irish cooking. And of course there will be more irish ingredients for my recipe in Saturday’s Independent.

I will be using recipes from one of my favorite TV chefs Rachel Allen. I just love her practical creative recipes and her informal style. I was also introduced by Mrs Hennessy to Donal Skehan’s new book Kitchen Hero and I am looking forward to try out some of his recipes too.

20131103-075120.jpg
The Hon Karmenu Vella , Minister of Tourism, me, Mrs Monica Hennessy, HE the Ambassador to Ireland and Mrs Vella

20131104-050522.jpg
Perfect Roast Leg of Irish Lamb for Sunday Lunch

20131104-070100.jpg
I cook with Ronan Hennessy and we make Brown Irish Soda Bread with A Mediterranean Twist adapted from Darina Allen’s original recipe.

20131107-085008.jpg
Mrs Hennessy bakes Irish Foccacia from one of Rachel Allen’s recipes !

20131107-085141.jpg
Amon Baldacchino at Le Meridien… creates a special Mushroon Soup with Guinness

20131107-095347.jpg
Irish Stromboli for the Hennessys all the way from New York

20131107-085403.jpg
And Amon also prepares Braised Irish Lamb Steaks …

20131107-085802.jpg
And my recipe for Mint and Caper Scones …. very local ingredients in a very Irish scone !

And finally Shamrock Cup Cakes by Martha’s Cake and Bake

20131107-091853.jpg

From a glorious island in the heart of the Mediterranean …..

20131107-100525.jpg
An Irish week in Paradise !

Mrs Hennessy bakes Irish Foccacia using Rachel Allen’s recipe !

The table is set for dinner with Waterford Crystal and Newbridge Silver cutlery at the home of HE the Ambassador Jim Hennessy and Mrs Monica Hennessy20131107-084342.jpg

Mrs Hennessy welcomed me to her home and prepared a most delicious meal. She is a person of great warmth and intelligence and a wonderful mother to three children. Her eldest daughter is studying medicine in Dublin and her elder son is away at boarding school in Ireland. Ronan who turned 16 yesterday lives at home and i fell in love with their dog Phebo.

Mrs Hennessy also made Foccacia for us using a recipe by Rachel Allen. I love Rachel’s books and her creative and informal style of cooking. Mrs Hennessy also introduced me to a new book Kitchen Hero by a young and dynamic Irish Chef Donal Skehan and I am looking forward to trying out his recipes which I will post on my website.

This is a fantastic foccacia recipe using the same dough as Irish soda bread without any yeast making it very straightforward to prepare. It is very interesting to see such a traditional Irish recipe paired with local ingredients of smoked sausage and freshly preserved olives.

20131107-123410.jpg

For this recipe you will need :

20131107-124156.jpg

Olive Oil
450 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
400 ml buttermilk or if not available use Maltese yoghurt

And for Mrs Hennessy’s special topping which she created to make it appealing for both Irish and Mediterranean cuisines, you will need:


Local Smoked Sausage
, chopped into squares
Fresh Rosemary
Local Black Olives
Tomato, chopped into squares
Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
dried Oregano

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. Brush a baking tray generously with olive oil.

Sieve the plain flour and the bread soda into a large bowl, add the salt and 50g of grated cheese and mix with your hands.

Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk. With your hand stiff and your fingers spread out like a claw, start mixing the flour into the buttermilk or yoghurt using a circular motion. Add the remaining buttermilk and keep mixing like this until you have soft dough. Do not knead it but work it very gently to bring it together.
Transfer to a floured surface and roll out to about 35x20cm. Sit on the oiled baking tray and brush the top with some more olive oil.
Make dimples all over with your fingertips, on the top of the dough.
Push a small piece of sausage, rosemary, olive and tomato into each dimple.
Then drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan and dried oregano.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 C until the bread is nice and golden on the top and bottom.
When the focaccia is cooked but still hot, drizzle just a little more olive oil over the top and allow to cool slightly before serving.

20131107-124102.jpg
At home with the Hennessys …

Perfect Roast Leg of Irish Lamb for Sunday Lunch !

20131104-045420.jpg

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.

Healthy and hearty Shepherds Pie …

20131002-101003.jpg

On the island we are starting to see the slow approach of fall. Summer lingers here for another month or so, but gone is the intense heat and heavy humidity. The sun shines, the sun always shines, this is the island of sunshine and of all good things in life.

When we lived in the UK, Shepherds Pie was my family’s firm favorite in the fall and winter months. Good unpretentious food, comfort food that does not make you feel too guilty.

Shepherds Pie is made with lamb and in a very old cookbook, I found that the pie dish was also lined with mashed potatoes with the meat sandwiched in between two layers of mash.

This recipe was passed on to me by my Scottish in-laws and I find that it makes the most flavorsome shepherd pie so I always stick to it now. I use as little added butter as possible and no added oil.

You will need :

1 onion
1 carrot
1clove garlic finely chopped
500 grams good lamb mince
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
Two bay leaves
2 cups stock
1/2 cup wine
2 tablespoons
Bisto
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

5 large potatoes
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup skimmed milk, add more if necessary
Mature cheddar chesse, quantity as desired
Maldon Salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel and chop the onion and carrot.

In a non stick pan cook the minced lamb then add the chopped onion, carrot and garlic and carry on cooking until everything is soft but not browned.

Add the stock,bay leaves and wine and simmer on low to medium heat until the liquid reduces by about half.

Add the Worcestershire Sauce and dried herbs and stir.

Finally add the Bisto granules and the sauce will thicken. Bisto somehow always reminds me of Scotland.

Season with a very little salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove bay leaves. Scatter the choped parsley on top. Spoon into a non stick ovenproof dish and allow to cool before you top up with mashed potatoes.

Peel the potatoes, chop into quarters and place in a medium saucepan with cold water just covering the potatoes. Add a little salt to the water and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. When the potatoes are cooked, drain and place back on the heat for a few seconds to let any extra water evaporate. Mash the potatoes with the butter and add the skimmed milk. Season.

Preheat the oven to 190°Cor gas mark 5.

Spoon or pipe the mashed potato over the mince. Sprinkle grated mature cheddar cheese on top if desired and bake for 20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is heated through.

20131002-101050.jpg
Cooking the lamb and vegetables

20131002-101448.jpg
Preparing the lamb in the ovenproof dish

20131002-101648.jpg
Grated mature cheddar and ready for the oven

20131002-101809.jpg

20130928-021622.jpg
A glass of champagne and I am celebrating today with Andrew and team…… the finish of the tallest chocolate project in the world. All packed and ready for Dubai ! Well done Andrew…