Quick Weekday Meal … Simple Tortiglioni Bolognaise with lots of fresh basil …

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Back to work for most of us. if you enjoy your work, its a pleasure to return but if you lack the passion for it you may have the Monday blues this morning…. in a couple of days you may hopefully find the motivation again.

I have a very simple dish today, a healthy wholesome and very simple pasta dish with a drizzle of olive oil as the only added fat. Many people I met over the last few weeks mentioned 2 January as the start of their diet. According to statistics, diets don’t last more than an average of 10 days. Personally I find it easier to swap unhealthy ingredients with lower fat ones for our daily meals and I follow a Mediterranean diet which I think is one of the healthiest in the world….

You will need:

Pasta, I use Tortigloni, Barilla No 83

400 g lean beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed. If you do not like garlic leave out.
1/2 glass wine
2 cans tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Dash of olive oil
A drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh basil

And we are also having a green and tomato salad with finely sliced wild apples and fresh oranges from the garden for dessert.

Use lean beef from a good butcher….. this recipe serves four as long as you also have a lovely salad.

Cook the onion in a touch of olive oil. Add the garlic and minced beef and brown.
Add chopped canned tomatoes and a glass of wine.
Simmer for 30 minutes and add the tomato paste. Season and toss with cooked pasta of your choice. I am using
Lightly sprinkle some grated Parmesan and chopped basil.

Cook the past according to the instructions on the pack. Toss the hot cooked pasta into the sauce with lots of fresh chopped basil and a dusting of freshly grated Parmesan if you wish.

Serve immediately.

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And freshly cut citrus from the garden !

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A smooth and spicy guacamole dip …

Still in a mood where I want to see vibrant colors in my food to compliment the holidays, I made a guacamole dip yesterday. As long as the avocados are ripe and you squeeze lime juice straight away to prevent it from loosing its color, you cannot ever go wrong with this dip. I usually like mine with chunks in it, more texture, but my avocados were very soft and I used a hand held blender to get a smooth consistency.

You will need :

2 ripe Avocados , peeled and quartered
2 small fresh limes, squeezed
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chili flakes, adjust according to your taste, we like our spicy
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 small garlic clove
A pinch of ground coriander
Sea Salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of sugar, optional

Place all ingredients into a bowl. I used a hand held blender to make a smooth paste. Adjust seasoning. Place in bowls to serve and I sprinkled more chili flakes and it looks beautiful and vibrant !
Refrigerate in a covered container. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

I like serving my guacamole with tacos and lots of fresh carrot batons and celery sticks …

Another sunny winter’s day

All about Halloween in the heart of the Mediterranean …..

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Halloween is here and this is one of the carved pumpkins made by Reuben’s team !

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So what’s cooking today ? What do Reuben and his team have in store for Halloween ?

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Here is a peek view of what’s coming up today !

20131021-064859.jpg Reuben’s Halloween Risotto

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And have a look at Reuben’s Gluten Free Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

My Nutty Buttery Squash with no added butter

And if you are trick or treating, a very grown up candy with Coconut, Pistachio and Venezuelan Rio Caribe Chocolate and Local ‘Bone’ Cookies for Halloween following Renato Briffa’s recipe.

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And later today, I will be posting a Pumpkin Frangipan dessert I made with Joseph specially for Halloween…

And from the team, Halloween carvings and lanterns for the kids !

Using fresh local produce from the heart of the Mediterranean !

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Nutty Buttery Squash (with no added butter! )

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This dish is all about simplicity, texture and flavor. It is one of my favorite recipes, because it is ridiculously simple and out-of-this-world delicious. It is vegetarian, gluten free and can be used as a starter on a bed of leaves with Parmesan shavings, crumbled ricotta or feta, as a side to accompany any meal or even as a warm or cold salad served as a main course.

And most people look at me in disbelief when I say that I simply wash the butternut squash and leave the skin on, no peeling. The skin is the best part, both nutritionally and in flavor. It softens up when its roasted and just introduces a different texture, with the buttery sweetness of the flesh and the caramelized, slightly charred edged skin. I even leave the seeds and the result is a nutty buttery treat with no added butter and no added nuts. All the natural flavors as they are meant to be….After eating this you will understand why it’s called butternut !

I have a bunch of fresh herbs and I add sage leaves to the roasting pan. They crisp up and I find the combination of these flavors irresistible.

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You will need :

1 butternut squash regular size
Touch of olive oil
Maldon Salt
Fresh sage leaves
Foil to cover bottom of tray

Preheat oven to 170 C

Line an oven tray with tinfoil to avoid a lot of cleaning after.

Remove the stalk from the butter nut squash if it has one and cut off the other end and discard.

Wash the butternut squash and dry it.

Chop up into cubes and leave the seeds and skin on.

Drizzle not more than one spoon of olive oil on the bottom of the tray.

Put the chopped butternut squash and sage leaves on the tray and mix then using your hands so that the oil slightly coats the butternut squash.

I have fresh sage leaves at home but you can leave them out if you do not have them available.

Flatten the squash cubes so that you only have one layer. Add a few more age leaves if desired.

Season with  Sea Salt.

Place in the oven for 45 minutes or until the cubes are cooked through and some of the corners are starting to crisp.

Serve as a salad with arugula or fresh leaves or simply alone as a side. The sage leaves are delicious even eaten alone !

I served mine with fresh local soft cheeses cut into small pieces. It is delicious …

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Couscous with Mediterranean Pomegranates and mint from the garden …

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A very light supper tonight using my peak pick of the week, the rosiest, juiciest pomegranates imaginable and fresh mint from the garden, all nurtured by the Mediterranean sun and goodness of the earth. There is something very Middle Eastern and exotic about the combination of pomegranates and mint. This is a simple, quick meal to prepare and so appealing to the eye that you almost taste it before it is in your mouth….. I like to add a touch of dried mint as I think it adds more fullness to the mint flavor. You can serve it hot as a side and it is also delicious refrigerated and eaten as a salad.

You will need :

Couscous as required
Vegetable stock cube, 1 per 4 portions
Hot water as per instructions on the couscous packet
Juice of half a Lemon
Fresh Mint, as much as you like
Dried mint, 1/2 teaspoon per 4 portions
1 Pomegranate, per 4 portions
Maldon Salt and freshly ground pepper
Drizzle of good olive oil

Immerse couscous in boiling water mixed with some vegetable stock according to instructions. Do not overdo to achieve a fluffy texture. Squeeze some fresh lemon. Stir and cover until liquid is absorbed. Do not put too much water as you want a fluffy consistency.

Tear the fresh mint and mix with the pomegranate.

Add all ingredients to couscous and stir until it is even in appearance.

Drizzle with some olive oil and season with freshly ground pepper and Maldon Salt

Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Give it a good stir.

Now it is ready to serve but you make wish to refrigerate and serve as a cold salad….

As a side, this goes with virtually any meal…

 

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Corn quinoa and feta salad by Jennifer Rodda at www.milk-and.blogspot.com

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I love Jennifer’s food and blog so much that I published one of her recipes in the local press. Her photography is wonderful and she is always available to answer any queries. I am looking forward to trying some more recipes soon.. We had this salad one evening as a light supper and it was delicious. Thanks Jennifer! ….

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Lunch to go: Tuna and sweet corn pasta salad….

My packed lunch for today is a Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad plated for those at home in sundae glasses and packed to go for the rest.

You will need :

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1 spring onion

200g penne

2 cans Kingfisher tuna in brine and drained

1 tablespoon olive oil

200g canned sweetcorn, drained

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon capers

Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop the spring onions. Cook the penne according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and keep aside.

Drain the brine from the tuna and add the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix.

Mix the penne with the spring onion, tuna, sweetcorn, mayonnaise.  Refrigerate for an hour and serve or pack to go.

Two different Watermelon Salads ….. with identical ingredients !

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I always admire photos of beautifully arranged plated watermelon chequerboards and I am trying it out with a combination of avocado and feta, topped with capers and mint.

There is quite a bit of wastage after the cutting process so I am making a second salad using exactly the same ingredients tossed in a bowl.

I am still not sure which one I prefer. I think the rustic salad has more flavor as the ingredients are allowed to absorb the mix of juices. The Watermelon Chequerboard Salad is more time consuming and will make a lovely starter or side for a dinner party, the Mediterranean Watermelon Salad is suitable with any meal, in a large salad bowl with a BBQ or simply taken in Tupperware to a picnic on the beach.

For four persons :

1 watermelon
1 packet Feta Cheese
2 avocados, ripe but firm
Fresh mint
Capers
1 Lime
Olive Oil
Maldon Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

Peel and deseed watermelon.

Cut equal sizes, about 1/2-inch thick square shapes of watermelon, feta and avocado and arrange as a checkerboard on a serving tray or plated individually. Scatter chopped fresh mint and capers. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle some olive oil and squeeze some fresh lime.

And my rustic salad with the same ingredients and a couple of olives …

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Fresh local street food this morning, pasta pies with flaky pastry ! Loaded with calories but absolutely yummy …..20130830-051621.jpg

A healthy Mediterranean Supper tonight … Baked crustless Ricotta and roasted vegetable salad

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As the evening approaches, the weather is cooling down slightly and there is a gentle breeze.

A simple supper tonight and we are privileged to be able to enjoy a really healthy Mediterranean diet on the island. The summers here bring abundant fresh fruit and vegetables and for tonight I am using fresh ingredients with reduced cooking time to retain all the flavors and goodness.

I am preparing baked crustless ricotta in earthenware dishes, a salad of roasted vegetables with local limes and olive oil and to follow a fruit plate of prickly pear slices and fresh figs. We are drinking infused water with herbs and rose peppercorns.

You will need:

Baked Crustless Ricotta

Serves 2 as a starter or side or accompanied with a salad
Preheat oven to 175 C

250g ricotta
1 egg
Fresh Mint Leaves
Dried Oregano
Maldon Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Ovenproof dish lightly brushed with olive oil

Place ricotta in a large bowl. Mash with a fork. For larger quantities use a masher. Mix in beaten egg, fresh mint leaves torn up in large chunks, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle dried oregano on the top. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving. Also delicious cold.

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Infusion of Orange and Rose Peppercorn Water
I use lidded glass spaghetti jars for this water as they fit perfectly in the shelf of the fridge door… This is a totallly natural drink if you are a fan of flavored waters.

You will need:

Two oranges, I used blood red ones but if not available the regular ones are fine
Rose peppercorns
Fresh basil leaves
A large bottle of still mineral water

Squeeze one of the oranges and chop the other one into small segments with the skin on. Crush a few rosé peppercorns to extract the full flavor and leave a few of them whole. On the island they grow abundantly but you can find them in most stores. Tear a few basil leaves roughly, do not chop up with a knife as they will discolor. Fill up jar with mineral water and stir everything into it. Cover with lid and put in the fridge overnight if possible, or at least for 6 to 8 hours. I usually top up the jar twice during the day with water and keep two jars in the fridge at any one time so that I always have the infusion available to drink.

Thirst quenching, full of flavor and a natural source of Vitamin C.
I stopped drinking carbonated and low calorie artificial drinks a year ago and limit them to a treat once in a while ….

20130811-221304.jpg Sliced pink prickly pears and mini figs with a drizzle of fresh lime …

Until next year, prickly pear season is coming to an end….

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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.