Organic Sage Tea

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Organic Sage Tea, photo taken during a live tv show by CJ Baldacchino

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Organic Sage Tea, photo taken during a live tv show by CJ Baldacchino

Quick Weekday Meal: Lamb Koftas

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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 !

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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

Pistachio Brittle… a holiday treat …

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Making brittle is a fun holiday thing to do and I like the vibrancy of pistachios. This brittle is delicious served with coffee after a meal and I am making a batch to last me though the holiday week. I love it also sprinkled on yoghurt. Until a couple of months ago I used Greek yoghurt in all my desserts but now find I prefer the local one. I like its clean, fresh tangy taste and it is a fraction of the price.

You will need :

2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon honey and I use local eucalyptus honey from the winter harvest
1 cup water
½ cup corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 cups roasted, salted pistachios

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, honey and salt.
Bring to a rapid simmer and cook until deep golden for about about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Stir in the butter, baking soda and pistachios.
Continue to stir until the mixture is no longer bubbling and the caramel is smooth
his usually takes about a minute.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread with a spatula
Leave to cool completely then break into pieces.
The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

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I went to harvest the winter honey and these are my photos ….

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Pure honey just harvested an hour before this photo, from the bee straight into the jar …. mmmm
A honey-sweet island known as Melite in ancient times ….

Turkey Coronation with cranberries

Chicken Coronation was created by the Cordon Bleu School in London to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.  My recipe with cranberries or cranberry sauce is delicious with turkey leftovers.

You will need:

300g cooked turkey cut up into bite-sized pieces
1 red chili deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon curry powder mixed with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise and a few drops of sesame oil
1 onion, finely chopped and cooked
Rocket leaves according to preference
2 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander
Handful of cranberries or 1 tablespoon of cranberry sauce
Handful of toasted flaked almonds
1 large peach, peeled and sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the mayonnaise with the curry powder.  Add the lime juice, sea salt and pepper and then the sesame oil.  Mix in well.

Cut the cooked turkey into bite sized pieces and toss in the curried mayonnaise mix.  Refrigerate for an hour or more.

Arrange the rocket leaves on a plate and place the peach slices around the dish. Scatter the cooked onions, then the chopped fresh coriander over the rocket leaves.  Place the curried turkey mixture in the centre of the plate.  Scatter the toasted flaked almonds and dried cranberries.  Cut  the fresh red chili into very thin slices and scatter sparingly over the turkey.

My turkey comes from Ta’Cancu Butcher Zejtun, dried fruit and flaked almonds by Good Earth, spices by Schwartz at PJ Sutters, fresh fruit and vegetables by Big Fresh Mosta

Amon’s Christmas tips ! A happy Christmas………

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Celebrity Chef Peter Dacoutrous , a good friend of mine handcrafted this beautiful crib….

Getting ready for Christmas makes us excited and a good part of the preparations are connected with food. Christmas is all about food and eating.

I had a number of requests to suggest alternatives to the main turkey roast and I spent a day with Amon at Le Meridien planning a special meal using traditional Christmas ingredients for those who choose to have a different main course.

Amon is very creative and he spent a year of his training programme working under Albert Roux who has been one of the most important sources of his inspiration.

As we associate turkey and cranberries with Christmas, Amon prepared pumpkin Ravoli with smoked turkey as a starter and he recommended cranberries with a light lemon tart as a dessert. This will allow families to enjoy their favourite roast on Christmas Day while keeping the Christmas spirit alive with traditional ingredients.

We tried out different alternatives and I am sharing his recipe the Smoked Turkey sauce that is suitable with any pasta. The sauce is very light and full of flavour and will leave you comfortable to carry on indulging for the rest of the day.

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You will need :

2 Smoked turkey breasts, cut up into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 leaves fresh sage, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
100g onion
100g pumpkin purée
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
Maldon Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 glass Prosecco

In a saute pan melt butter and olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion, garlic and sage. Add the pumpkin puree and maple syrup. Cook for a few minutes and then add the smoked turkey and parmesan cheese. Add the prosecco and let simmer over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and serve immediately with Parmesan shavings and rocket leaves.

I loved Amon’s idea of pairing up the lemon tart with cranberries and I used Rachel Allen’s recipe from her book Bake for the lemon tart with Amon’s instructions for a festive cranberry sauce:

For the Lemon Tart you will need:

For the pastry
200 g plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp icing sugar
100 g butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg, beaten
Put the flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor and process briefly.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs then, using your hands, add just enough egg to bring it together.
Place the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
Preheat the oven to 180C
Line a 23cm tart tin with the shortcrust pastry and bake blind for 10-15 minutes.

For the filling:

3 eggs
1 lemon, grated zest
125 g caster sugar
150 ml double cream
3 lemons, juice only
1 orange, juice only
icing sugar, for dusting
Place the eggs, lemon zest and sugar in a bowl and whisk for a couple of minutes until the egg is all broken up. Add the cream, orange and lemon juice. Mix well, skimming off any froth from the top of the mixture. Carefully pour the filling into the cooked pastry case.
Reduce the oven temperature to 160C and bake the tart for 30 minutes or until the filling has just set in the centre.
When it is cool remove from the tin and dredge a little icing sugar over the top.

For Amon’s Cranberry and Date Sauce

2 cups water
3 cups sugar
3 spoons Honey, I use local thyme honey
Grated zest of an orange
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups chopped pitted dates
3 cups cranberries

Simmer water, sugar, zest, honey and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add the dates and cranberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to burst. Add more honey to suit your taste.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our day especially the testing session and I hope you will enjoy these dishes as much as we have. Have a wonderful Christmas !

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And on Christmas Eve, Raspberry Cream Tart …

Very early before sunrise on Christmas Eve in the heart of the Mediterranean today, the strong winds howl and from my bed where I sit with a cup of coffee writng this post I hear the waves splash viciously against the rocks. I close my eyes and dream of summer, I long for the sun, the warmth and the brightness that fills me with happiness but I must not forget that it will be with us again very soon.

And I can smile again as I have Luke keeping me warm and this is what I am looking at

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Impossible not to smile as he is adorable, soon to be 14, sweet and gentle Luke with his Santa hat getting ready for his Christmas treats.

And yesterday I met a group of 4th year culinary students who have so much to look forward to. They were the winners of a professional cooking competition run by a local company to promote creativity and innovation at the culinary school.

I enjoyed chatting with Rodianne, a sweet and gentle natured young lady. She is doing her practical training with the Corinthia Group at one of the local hotels and will be leaving in February for further training at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. I am excited for her as she has her whole life and career to look forward to.

It is her recipe I am sharing with you this morning as I know that there will be a lot of last minute preparations for tomorrow’s meal or even perhaps tonight’s dinner and this is an ideal dessert. I love something fruity after a heavy meal. It is simple, delicious and looks divine. I like Christmas food to be vibrant and colorful.

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You will need:

For the sweet pastry:

• 200g flour
• 125g butter
• 50g sugar
• 1 egg

For the raspberry pastry cream:
• 500ml milk
• 100g sugar
• 60g flour
• 2 eggs
• 1 vanilla pod
• 3 drops of raspberry flavouring

Extra ingredients:
• 100g dark chocolate
• 1 punnet raspberries
• 1 punnet blueberries
• 1 punnet blackberries

• 11 inch fluted tart pan

Method for the sweet pastry:

1. Rub in the butter into the flour until it looks like fine crumbs.
2. Whisk the sugar into the eggs.
3. Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour mixture until it forms into a dough. Add a few drops of water if the dough becomes dry.
4. Rest the dough for 30 minutes into the refrigerator.
5. When the dough has rested, roll out on a floured surface large enough to fit the tart pan. Do not trim excess dough when it is in the pan, in case it shrinks in the oven.
6. Cut a circle out of baking paper bigger than the pan, and put on the dough. Fill the pan with rice and bake the dough in a 175ºC for 8 minutes until cooked.
7. When cooked, remove the rice from the tart shell and leave to cool.
8. When cool, remove from the pan and place on a tart board.

Method for the raspberry pastry cream:
1. Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape the seeds with a knife and add together with the pod to the milk. Heat the milk on a low flame and let the vanilla pod to infuse.
2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour. Whisk vigorously to avoid any lumps from forming.
3. When the milk is warm, remove the vanilla pod. Gradually add the egg mixture to the milk, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook until the mixture covers the back of the spoon.
4. Cover with a baking sheet, to avoid a skin from forming. Leave to cool.

Method of assembling the tart:
1. Melt the dark chocolate on a bain marie. Brush the bottom of the tart shell with the melted chocolate. Place in the fridge for 5 minutes for the chocolate to set.
2. Spoon the raspberry puree` in the tart shell and smooth the top into an even layer.

And here is a lovely photo of Rodianne…… I wish her and her family a lovely Christmas

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