Renato’s Maltese Figolli

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My figolla decorated with sugarpaste

I am sharing Renato Briffa’s recipe for Maltese figolli.

And for the figolli pastry you will need:

2 kilos flour
25 g baking powder
450g butter
1 lemon zest
4 drops vanilla extract

Rub in butter into flour add the rest of the ingredients.

Separately mix together 800g sugar
1/2 can evaporated milk
1 litre water
Mix with wooden spoon until sugar dissolves

Add the liquid to the flour mix and form a dough. Leave to rest in fridge for at least an hour.

Prepare the almond filling
1 kg ground almonds
800g sugar or equivalent in stevia
2 grated lemon zest
3 drops vanilla extract
8 eggs

You will also need marzipan, icing and chocolate to decorate the figolli

To make the pastry, sift together the flour, baking powder and icing sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers till mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the citrus zest, the fresh orange juice and egg yolks and mix together till you have a smooth  pastry. Wrap up in cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Prepare the almond filling by placing all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Mix and bind together.  Make sure the mixture is not sticky.

Prepare the figolli by rolling out the pastry on a floured work surface, to a thickness of about 1/2 cm.

Using figolli cutters, cut the figolli pastry shapes (2 per figolla) and place on baking trays covered with baking paper.
Roll out the almond filling and cut out one shape per figolla. Brush ½ of the pastry shapes lightly with water, and cover each piece with the almond filling. Brush the almond filling with water and cover with the remaining pastry shapes. Each figolla will end up with a pastry top and bottom, with the layer of almond in the middle. Bake the figolli in the oven at 160`c, for 40 minutes.

Allow to cool completely overnight and then decorate, using chocolate, marzipan, confetti, icing and mini easter eggs.

Natalie’s figolli…

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And Miriam’s

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Annie’s Beautiful Figolli

Popped Amaranth

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Popped Amaranth  This photo was taken by CJ Baldacchino during a live tv show

‘a great alternative to popcorn.  If  you dip fruit and bananas into a bowl of popped amaranth, it forms a thin coating and makes a crunchy and tasty snack.  The first time I tried to make popped amaranth, it was  not very successful.  You need a very hot pan and to make it is small quantities, a spoonful at a time.  You need patience but its worth it :)’

 

You will need:

3 Tablespoons of raw amaranth

Heat a heavy pan over high heat until it is extremely hot.  Add one tablespoon of raw amaranth.  Cover the pan with a lid, lift the pan from the burner and shake it from side to side.  Provided that the pan is very hot, it will take around 12 seconds for the amaranth to pop.  Remove from the pan immediately to avoid it burning.  Add the next tablespoon of raw amaranth, repeat the process and then pop the last tablespoon of seeds.  The process will not work if you add more than one tablespoon at a time.  The popped amaranth can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month in the fridge. This recipe will give you 1 cup of popped amaranth.

This is a vegan, gluten free, nut free diabetic friendly recipe

Amaranth is available via Good Earth Distributors and you will also find it at Big Fresh in Mosta

 

Flying to the Mediterranean… March issue

This is from the February issue of the island’s airline magazine …

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Presidents, popes and honeycomb candy … its all about chemistry

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I made honeycomb candy with Adriana and its all about chemistry, action and reaction. It’s ideal for breaking up and scattering over ice cream and desserts and surprisingly very easy to make. I love watching the mixture react and bubble with the baking soda.

And today we wait to see President Obama have his first audience on the world stage with Pope Francis and I wonder how the chemistry will work? How will Pope Francis react with Obama’s charisma?

Popes meet Presidents and Presidents visit Popes.

It was only 6 days ago that our own President had a similar audience with the Pope. So animated is everyone in this picture here that it almost reminds me of a family photo, a celebration of the end of a Presidency with just nine more days to go.

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And I wonder about the chemistry of President Obama and Pope Benedict? What was it like ?

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And back to our honeycomb candy! you will need:

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3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon glucose, if you do not have it, leave out

Grease a baking sheet.
I use a non stick spray.
Add the sugar, honey, and water to a saucepan. You can stir the mixture, but it isn’t necessary.
Cook the ingredients over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 300°F. The sugar will melt, small bubbles will form, the bubbles will become larger, then the sugar will start to carmelize to an amber color.
When the temperature reaches 300°F, remove the pan from heat and whisk the baking soda into the hot syrup. This will cause a reaction and it will bubble up.
Stir just enough to mix the ingredients, then dump the mixture onto the greased baking sheet. Don’t spread out the candy, as this would pop your bubbles. Let it spread naturally.
Allow the candy to cool, then break or cut it into pieces.
Store the honeycomb candy in an airtight container.

And I close today with a more personal picture of another Pope meeting not another President but a monk, my own uncle…. The unique charisma of John Paul II may be a hard act for other Popes to follow.

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Quick Pork Traybake for feeding a crowd

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Pork Traybake, photos CJ Baldacchino during a live tv show

‘There are just over 100 pig farms on the island and local fresh pork is amazing in flavour and texture.  You cannot get fresher than local as the size of the island facilitates the distribution of pork to village butchers and shops within 24 hours of slaughter.

This is an all-in-one quick meal, ideal for feeding a crowd.   I like to line my dish with foil, then baking paper to avoid a lot of cleaning afterwards.   What I like about this dish is that you do not have to worry about measuring and simply use the quantities that suit you.  The fresh fruit in this dish caramelise in their own natural sugars, without any need to baste or do anything.  I make this dish using plums or apricots or apples.  Combine with fresh sage and this dish is a winner’

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You will need :

Pork loin chops, allow one or two per person depending on appetites
Olive oil OR cooking spray [on tv today I used Garlic infused cooking spray]
[Ham or bacon, optional and I left it out during today’s show]
Apples OR plums OR nectarines
Potatoes and root vegetables, calculate half per person, washed and thinly slice with skin on [during today’s show I used swede, parsnip, turnip, a sweet potato and a regular potato]
Fresh herbs such as sage OR rosemary

Fresh Parsley
Red chili flakes OR rose peppercorns [optional]
Chopped Hazlenuts OR Cashew Pieces
Juice of half a lemon
some grated lemon zest

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Preheat oven to 200-220C.

Use a baking spray to coat the dish.
Cover the bottom of the dish lined with baking paper with very thin slices of the mixed root vegetables.
Arrange the pork chops on top of the rot vegetables.
Combine the finely chopped parsley and some of the sage with a little bit of olive oil and rub over the pork.
Cut up the apples [or fruit of your choice] and arrange neatly around the pork.
Squeeze half a lemon all over the pork. Scatter the lemon zest over the top
Season with sea salt and pepper.

If you are using ham or bacon, scatter the chopped ham/bacon all over the dish followed by more fresh herbs and parsley, some chopped nuts of your choice and the red peppercorns or  chili flakes which are optional ingredients.
Bake in oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, depending on how crispy you would like your pork. The apples or fruit that you use will caramelise naturally. Leave to restfor 5 minutes. Garnish with some more chopped hazelnuts or cashew pieces and serve.  I served mine with brocoletti and red quinoa. The colours make this dish look wonderful and it is delicious.

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

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Trade Enquiries:
Fry Light Garlic Oil by Rimus Group

Spices and nuts, red quinoa by Good Earth Distributors

Pork by Majjal ta’ Malta

Fresh Fruit herbs and Vegetables by Big Fresh Mosta and Oscar’s Fruit and Vegetables Paola and Barbuto [organic]

Spilt Pea and zucchini soup

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The soup today is mum’s recipe. It is made with zucchini and dried green split peas which I always have in my store cupboard. Split peas are very high in protein and low in fat and they give the soup a distinct earthy flavor. All you need to do is soak the split peas overnight and if you wish to speed up the time they take to soften add 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to 125g of dried split peas during the boiling process, not before when you are soaking them as this destroys the vitamin content. When you boil the split peas use a large pot with plenty of water on medium heat to prevent sticking. It may sound like a lot of trouble but it is worth it and if you are at home anyway, they can boil away while you do something else.

Mum uses off-the-bone gammon in hers.

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You will need:

125g dried split peas, soaked, boiled, softened and rinsed
1 kg zucchini, chopped up
1 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Drizzle of olive oil
Fresh thyme
Squeeze of lemon
100g off the bone ham or if you are vegetarian, substitute with a vegetable stock cube
Water, enough to completely immerse everything plus 3 cups

In a large pot drizzle some olive oil and sweat the onions, add the garlic, stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini, potato, bay leaf, thyme and softened split peas, salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock or water, the chopped up gammon (this is optional), squeeze of a lemon and bring to boil. Simmer and cook on low heat for an hour. Do not forget to keep stirring occasionally.

Remove the bay leaf.

Transfer the soup to a food processor. I use a hand blender and puree until smooth, processing in batches until you have a smooth purée. If it is too thick, add more water. If you would like a richer texture add milk or single cream. We tend to avoid this especially during the week !

To serve, reheat the soup but do not boil.

Serve the soup into individual bowls and if you like garnish with crispy bacon ..

This soup freezes well.

Sunday lunch: Rib Eye Beef Tagliata, oregano potatoes and sautéed mushrooms

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For the Steaks you will need

Depending on size and appetite, allow 150g to 300g of beef per person
Salt and Pepper
Oil

Always cook the steak from room temperature, never straight from the cooler.
Preheat pan by placing it on high heat.
Brush both sides of the steak lightly with olive oil.
Place steak on a very hot pan.
Turn it over and never cook a steak more than once on each side otherwise it will become tough.
I tend to season my steaks after they are cooked, especially when it is a good cut like this one as I want to make the most of its natural favors.
For my 300g steak, I cooked it 3 minutes on one side and 4 minutes on the other side and my guests have requested medium to nearly cooked all the way through.
Remove from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. This is important.
I serve the steaks sliced at a diagonal angle against the grain with a fine serrated knife. I think it’s so much more appealing than a slab of cooked meat thrown on to a plate. However there is a time and a place for everything and I know most of the boys usually love their meat slabs left as they are, but after all this is Sunday lunch !

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And for the Oregano Roasted Potatoes you will need

 

1 kg potatoes, washed and peeled
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 175C.
Cut potatoes into large chunks and place in a single layer in a large baking dish. Add the oregano, salt and pepper; olive oil and lemon juice and toss around using your hands or a wooden spoon to coat evenly. Do not use a metal spoon.
Bake for about an hour or until potatoes turn crispy. I love this recipe as they remain soft and mushy inside !

For the sautéed mushrooms you will need

 

250g mushrooms, chopped or sliced
2tablespoons olive oil
Herbs of your choice, today I am using finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to season

It is important to use a large pan so the mushrooms are in a single layer and will brown. Otherwise they will steam instead and release all their juices and flavor.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Sauté the sliced mushrooms for 3 minutes until they start to brown. Add 1 tsp of herbs of your choice. Season and saute for another 2 minutes. Garnish and serve.