Fresh Herb Soup with Turmeric Rice and Soft Maltese Gbejna [gluten free, diabetic friendly]

fresh herb soup with turmeric vegetable rice 2

‘Fresh herbs are abundant this month.  And with the exception of fresh mint, basil and parsley many of us worry about what to do with big bundles of fresh oregano, tarragon, marjoram and thyme.  Antida gave me a large basket of mixed herbs from her garden this week which also  included ‘English’ curly parsley and purple basil.  I wanted to make the most of them while they were fresh and use fresh herbs as a main ingredient, rather than as a garnish, nearly an afterthought.  I also used organic seasonal vegetables that are delivered to my door every Thursday from Barbuto in Sicily, 60 miles away from us.

The fertile volcanic soil of Sicily make it an agricultural dream and it is comforting to know that the produce is pesticide-free with no artificial additives to enhance it.

The soup is a puree of lightly cooked fresh herbs and organic vegetables topped with a quick rice stir fry of the same finely diced vegetables that are in the puree and to give a nutritional boost as well as enhance the color and flavors I add fresh turmeric root.  If this is not available, use turmeric powder.  The contrast in the texture of the same ingredients in the puree and stir fry bring out different flavors it makes a great meal in itself, with no second courses required.   To make it more local I finished off the soup with  soft Maltese Gbejna Cheese and a garnish of fresh herbs.  I could not eat enough of it !’

fresh herbs goodfoodeveryday

Herbs from Antida’s garden.  All my photos are taken during a live tv show

For the pureed organic vegetable soup will need:
[Serves 4]

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
1 natural garlic and herb stock cube and 1 litre of water
2 courgettes
2 light green marrows
1 potato
2 carrots
1 pak choi
100g mixed fresh herbs of your choice
a pinch of dried mixed herbs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and Pepper

Barbuto veg 2

Fruit and vegetables in Barbuto’s organic box this week.  For the soup, choose vegetables of your choice or use seasonal vegetables

For the Turmeric Rice Stir Fry you will need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
150g cooked basmati rice
1/2 onion
1 courgette, diced
1 marrow, diced
1 carrot, diced
6 fresh broad beans, peeled
1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric root or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

To finish: 1/2 fresh gbejna per portion, cut horizontally, fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil [if gbejna is not available use feta or ricotta]

For the Soup
Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the roughly chopped onion and vegetables. Stir and cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Then add the stock cube, the roughly chopped fresh mixed herbs and the pinch of dried herbs and cook for another 5 minutes on low heat, then add the water. Bring to a boil then simmer on low heat for around 10 -15 minutes until the vegetables soften. Do not overcook. Season with salt and pepper then use a hand blender to puree to a smooth consistency.

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For the Turmeric Rice
Heat the oil in wok over medium heat. Add the diced onion and vegetables and cook for about 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly until they cook through. Do not overcook. Add the cooked basmati rice and mix everything together very well. Cook until it is heated through for around another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Top with the fresh broad beans.

To serve the soup:
Slice the gbejna cheese horizontally into 2 and allow one slice per portion.
Gently reheat the pureed soup if necessary. Use a ladel to fill individual soup bowls. Spoon some of the turmeric rice on top, then arrange the slice of gbejna cheese and garnish with fresh herbs. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil and serve immediately.
fresh herb soup with turmeric vegetable rice

Lea’s Good Food Everyday airs on Smash TV every day and you can also follow the facebook page

Trade Enquiries:
Basmati Rice by Grandi at J Calleja Ltd
Kallo Stock Cubes at Good Earth
Fresh Herbs by Big Fresh Mosta
Fresh Organic Vegetables by Barbuto in Sicily

Fortifying food with fresh ginger

Fresh ginger is one of the most widely used spices in both eastern and western cuisines and is known for its medicinal properties. I like its versatility as it blends well with breakfast cereals and savory or sweet dishes. It can be pickled, made into tea, gingerbread, cakes, sweets and beer. If…

Source Sunday Times: Fortifying food with fresh ginger

Cooking with borage in today’s Sunday Times

I was delighted to find borage in my organic box delivery recently and I put it to good use. Borage (fidloqqom) is also known as starflower and is easily recognisable by its edible, bright blue flowers with five pointed petals. It attracts pollinators and acts as a natural fertiliser as it…

Source Sunday Times: Cooking with borage

Lea’s new book  Good Food Everyday is available via Midsea Books and major bookshops in Malta and Gozo.

I use borage from Barbuto Sicily and Big Fresh in Mosta

Apple Cardamon Loaf

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Apple Cardamon Cake as seen on tv, photo M R Lowell

‘I made this cake during the show a few weeks ago and used local belludja apples from  Antida‘s garden which are very tart and make wonderful jams.  You can make a plain apple loaf but the crushed cardamon seeds make it extra special. I think cardamon is under-used and it blends well with most fresh fruits. As well as having some amazing health benefits, it blends well with most fruits.  This summer, I mixed cardamon with coffee to make some great bbq rubs and marinades.

This recipe also works well with rhubarb and pears but make sure that the fruit is ripe and ready to eat.  I added some sparkling organic apple drink by Whole Earth for lightness of texture.’

You will need:

200g self raising flour
150g soft butter at room temperature
200g sugar [on tv I used stevia]
50 g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamon seeds
1 vanilla pod
grated zest of an orange
a pinch of salt

1/4 cup Organic Apple sparkling drink 
250g belludja apples [or use cooking apples if not available]
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Finely slice the apples, skin on and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice.
Preparing a loaf tin with baking spray.
Sift the self raising flour twice into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add all the other ingredients except for the apples, lemon juice and fizzy apple drink and mix on full speed for one minute. Use a large metal spoon to fold in the fizzy apple drink little by little until you have a dropping consistency. Pour half the batter into the loaf tin and arrange a think layer of sliced apples on top. Pour the rest of the batter and overlap the thin apple slices on the top. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.

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Apple Cardamon Loaf, soft delicious and perfect with a cup of tea.  Photo M R Lowell

Other baking recipes with  Whole Earth Organic Sparkling Drinks available via Good Earth Distributors:
Cranberry and Coconut Muffins,  Vegan Gingerbread

Belludja apples are available at Big Fresh in Mosta
Good Food Everyday airs daily on Smash TV

Quick frozen Desserts to beat this heat

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Quick ice cream in filo cases, photo by Stefan Stafrace during a live tv show.

During these very hot summer days, there is nothing more welcoming than a frozen dessert.

Preparing desserts should be fun, but so many people seem to get overwhelmed about making ice creams.  There are many short cuts without going through a lot of work or indeed without having to use an ice cream maker.  And when you make something at home, you can add all your favourite flavors and leave out everything you do not like or cannot eat.

These recipes are recent ones I made on TV.  The photos are unstaged and taken during the live tv show, the reason that some of the ice creams appear close to melting stage due to the summer heat and strong studio lights.  I hope you will enjoy making these quick frozen desserts and get even more pleasure from eating them.

[Photograpy Stefan Stafrace, Ian Noel Pace, CJ Baldacchino, Charles Vassallo, Andrea Sacco Baldacchino, JLI]

Date Ice Cream with no added refined sugar

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Date Ice Cream with no refined sugar

You will need:

410ml evaporated milk [not condensed]
250g dates
1 tablespoons powdered gelatin
a few drops of vanilla extract or a vanilla pod
100ml water

Chop up the dates into small pieces and put them in a large bowl.  Pour over the evaporated milk and add the vanilla.  Cover with cling film and place the bowl in the fridge overnight so that the dates have time to soak and soften.  [Alternatively you can heat the mixture up in a saucepan until the dates soften and allow to cool down before carrying on with the rest of the recipe]

Remove the date and milk mixutre from the fridge.  Place the powdered gelatin in a saucepan with the water on low heat and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.

Pour the gelatin mixture with the dates and milk and stir.  Cover the container and place in the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours.  Remove from the freezer and use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the mixture until it doubles in volume.  Pour into a container and freeze again for a few hours or overnight before serving.

This recipe is gluten free.

Old Fashioned Maltese Ice Cream

[like my mamma used to make]

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Old fashioned Maltese Ice Cream [just like my mamma used to make] photo Andrea Sacco Baldacchino during a live tv show

1 large tin [410ml] evaporated milk
4 tablespoons sugar [or stevia]
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
vanilla
3 tablespoons glace cherries,cut in half
100 g nuts of your choice
1 tablespoon candied fruit [konfettura]
2 tablespoons dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon gelatin powder

On gentle heat, dissolve the sugar in the evaporated milk. Do not allow to boil.
Place the gelatin in a container and add 4 tablespoons of the warm milk and stir until the gelatin powder dissolves. Add to the milk mixture. Stir and remove from heat. Add the vanilla and cinnamon powder and allow to cool. Freeze overnight and then the next day beat with an electric mixer using a balloon whisk and beat on high speed until the mixture doubles in size. Add the cherries, nuts, candied fruit and dark chocolate. Fold in gently and pour into a container. Place in the freezer overnight.

Kulfi Style Ice Cream

quick ice cream credit jli photograph

Kulfi, quick easy and a touch of the exotic, photography JLI during a live tv show

Kulfi is traditionally made by simmering milk for many hours and reducing it until it becomes creamy with a hint of a taste of caramel.  It is a time-consuming process and this is a great shortcut. To make a kulfi-style dessert use a good quality ready-made ice cream.

You will need:
250g pistachio ice cream
100g raw pistachios chopped
30ml almond milk
1 cardamom pod
1 tbsp rose water
1 fresh mango
Honey to serve

Place the pistachios on a baking sheet and roast them for 5 minutes. Toss and roast them for a further 2 minutes.

Allow to cool completely.

Heat the almond milk in a small saucepan. Open up the cardamom pod and crush the seeds. Add to the milk and bring to boil. Turn off the heat. Add the rose water. Allow to cool completely.

Chop the pistachios. Use small tumblers to make the kulfi.  Line the tumblers completely with large pieces of cling film so that it hangs over the side of the glass. Remove the pistachio ice cream from the freezer and allow to soften up a little without allowing it to melt. Put the ice cream into a large bowl. Add the cooled down milk mixture, three quarters of the chopped pistachios and mix using a large metal spoon. Immediately, fill the prepared tumblers with the ice cream mix, press it down with a spatula and place in the freezer for a few hours or preferably overnight.

To serve put the ice cream in the containers in the fridge for 15 minutes, then pull the cling film to remove the ice cream from the tumblers. Arrange on a plate, garnish with honey, more pistachios and cut up fresh mango wedges.

This recipe is gluten-free.  For lactose-free and vegan options use a dairy-free ice cream.

Quick Pineapple Turmeric Ice Cream

Not only is it delicious, this iced dessert is healthy and quick to prepare.  I have given it a boost of goodness by adding a small quantity of fresh turmeric.  And to finish off some Maltese grapes, in season now.

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Pineapple Banana Ice Cream with Turmeric

You will need:

3 large bananas
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 fresh pineapple
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric root
1 teaspoon agave [optional]

Peel and chop the pineapple.  Peel and chop the bananas and coat them with the lemon juice.

Place in the freezer for a few hours until they are completely frozen.  Then put all the ingredients together with the turmeric and agave [optional] in a high-speed blender and process until the mixture is creamy.

You can serve immediately [soft serve] and I usually use a piping bag to serve in individual glasses or refreeze in a large bowl as I did on tv and once it is frozen use an ice cream scoop to serve.

This recipe is vegan, lactose free and gluten free

Ice Cream in Baked Filo Crust

Photo: Stefan Stafrace

You will need:
4 large sheets of filo pastry
3 tbsp olive oil
200g ice cream
60g fresh strawberries
40g mix of raw pistachio nuts and almonds
60g mixed fruit of your choice to decorate
You will also need a muffin tin.

Prepare the ice cream filling by mixing the ice cream with a large metal spoon. Add the strawberries, the almonds and pistachio nuts and return to the freezer to solidify.

Prepare the muffin tin by brushing it with olive oil.

Open up the filo pastry and use a pair of scissors to cut into wide strips and then cut the strips into squares.

Brush each square of filo pastry with olive oil and cover the bottom of each mould in the muffin tray.  Repeat with another layer of filo squares, each time brushing with olive oil and add them on top of each other to make another layer of filo squares.

Repeat again with the rest of the filo pastry and gently push the top layer with the tips of your fingers so that the pastry takes the form of the mould.

Preheat the oven. Place the muffin tin on the middle shelf and bake for 5 to 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they will easily burn.

Remove the muffin tray from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Once you are ready to serve, place the pastry cases next to each other on a large platter or use individual plates.  Fill each pastry case with a scoop of ice cream and top with fresh fruit.

For a gluten-free option use gluten-free pastry and roll it out very thinly, with one layer required for the crust. Replace the nuts with chocolate chips for a nut-free option and, for a lactose-free and vegan recipe use a dairy-free ice cream.

Pina Colada Ice Cream Slice

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Preparing frozen Pina Colada Slice, photo George Aquilina during a live tv show #goodfoodeveryday #icecream

You will need:
1kg vanilla or coconut ice cream
100g coconut or coconut flour
150g tinned, chopped pineapple
50g maraschino cherries
1 vanilla pod
6 pineapple rings and 6 maraschino cherries for assembling the ice cream
Cling film and a large loaf tin

Soften the ice cream by leaving it in the fridge for 15 minutes. In the meantime, line a loaf tin with cling film and let it overhang from the sides. Place the pineapple rings next to each other on the bottom of the loaf tin. In the centre of each pineapple ring place a maraschino cherry.

Put the coconut in a blender and grind it until it becomes very fine. Instead, you may wish to  use ready-made coconut flour which already has a very fine texture and  is easily available in most supermarkets.

Empty the ice cream into a large bowl and mix it with a large metal spoon. Chop up the pineapples and maraschino cherries into small pieces and add to the ice cream. Add the coconut. Use a large metal spoon to mix the ice cream until it is consistent. Pour the ice cream mix into the loaf tin and press down by using a spatula.  Top with pineapple rings next to each other and a cherry in the middle. Cover with cling film. Freeze to firm up for at least 4 hours but leaving it in the freezer overnight is better.

Photo: Charles Vassallo

To serve, take out of the freezer and remove from the loaf tin by pulling the cling film. Place on a serving dish, allow it to soften for 5 minutes before slicing it. At this stage the ice cream could be stored in the freezer again for a few hours before it is served.

This recipe is gluten-free and nut-free.  For lactose-free and vegan options use a dairy-free ice cream.

Lea’s Good Food Everyday airs on Smash TV and you can follow the page on facebook

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For more Healthy frozen desserts:

Apple Mango Blueberry Ice Lollies for Kids

Frozen Yoghurt

Simply Banana Ice Cream

Trade Enquiries:

X Kidz 100% Fruit Smoothie by Plasmon at Vivian Corp

Plant based drinks by Alpro at Good Earth Distributors

Fresh fruit and vegetables from Big Fresh Mosta, Oscar’s Fruit and Vegetables Paola and Barbuto for organic

Organic Borage Pesto with Linguine and Spiralised Vegetable Noodles

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Linguine with Organic Borage Pesto, photo taken by George Aquilina during a live tv show

‘I am always pleased to find borage in our organic box from Sicily by Barbuto. I have made several dishes using borage recently and this pesto is also delicious and freezes well. Cook the leaves in the same way as you would cook spinach. The hairy leaves become smooth and tender’

For the pesto you will need:

1/4 cup blanched almonds
4 cloves garlic
4 cups cooked borage leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmegian
1/8 teaspoon grated lemon zest
salt and pepper

Dry roast the almonds in a hot and dry pan on high heat. Toss and remove from heat. Allow to cool.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it is a consistent paste. Season and add water if necessary to adjust to a consistency of your choice.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack. Drain and toss the pasta with the borage pesto. Serve immediately

On tv, I also made spiralised courgettes, cucumbers and carrots. The taste of cucumber blends particularly well with that of borage. Place the spiralised noodles in a large bowl and immerse them in boiling water for a minute. Drain and then toss with the borage pesto. Serve immediately.

zucchini-and-carrot-spaghetti-with-borage-pesto

Zucchini and Carrot Spaghetti with Borage Pesto, photo taken by George Aquilina during a live tv show

I use organic borage by Barbuto, blanched almonds by Good Earth and my spiralizer and kitchenware come from Tescoma.

How much fresher can it get? I visit a local chicken farm !

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I visited Katy at her poultry farm this week and I meet her wonderful family.

I am left speechless by her drive and ability. This is an amazing family who against all odds have reached achievement brought about by a lifetime of dedication, sheer hard work and the benevolence of new funding.
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I am honored to know them, salt of the earth, hardworking and resourceful, the world should be full of people like them. This is my first of a series of visits and I have started to feature them in today’s paper.

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We will be able to see the transparancy of the food chain in local produce. How can you compare food that is so fresh, where the source is known, the process vetted and where you can be assured of cleanliness. As well as being well managed, the place is pristine.

And speaking about chicken, we are having some boneless chicken legs on the bbq today.

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I have marinated them in orange juice from the last of the Sevilles, now at the very end of their season, a bit of olive oil, fresh rosemary and tulbaghia also known as posh garlic from the garden, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and i cannot wait for this evening.

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I love the combination of orange and poultry and if you do not have a bbq try my baked Chicken with Caramelized Oranges . I make this often using very similar ingredients.

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And with the end of citrus season, comes my last batch of marmalade, a mix this week of sevilles and lemon. The result is fantastic, more like a jelly with absolutely no pectin, gelatin or setting agents, all natural but with a lot of sugar too. Instead of cutting the rind into slivers, I have used a flower plunge cutter and I am thrilled with the result to share with you at some point this week.

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Next on my list is a jam of fig using Stevia. Figs are so naturally sweet and rarely need any pectin and I think they make a wonderful jam with stevia. But of course sugar is a preservative and I will have to storie it in the fridge..

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I sense the excitement in the kids as Katy and the family prepare for the celebratory opening of the new building next week and It seems to be a double celebration for them as I drive away through the village also in the swing of preparations for the feast of the village patron saint which falls on the same weekend.

And from the glorious heart of the Mediterranean, I wish you a wonderful Saturday!

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