John Arne Riise dropped by a couple of weeks ago. He chatted about his career, how he planned to fill his free time in Malta and about what he could bring to Maltese football. His tenure as Birkirkara Football Club’s Sporting Director was short lived as three days after our chat his resignation was announced.
Very endearing – his kids are with him always, tattooed over his arms
John mentioned that his stay at Birkirkara was a ‘stepping stone’ and his target is to become manager at a big club.
A likeable man - complex and thoughtful. All the very best for many good things in his career and for the birth of his new baby in the summer, something he is very much looking forward to. Here is a clip with is interview. Music by Ramona Zammit Formosa [pianist] and Ruth Sammut Casingena [soprano]
And the fans ! waited to meet him and get his autograph. He was extremely polite and patient, posing for endless photos which they will no doubt treasure for many years.
Kindly observe copyright law and simple etiquette with regards to photos. Credit for photos: Sean Azzopardi If you wish to use any of the photos on this blog, kindly ask Lea Hogg for permission :)
Just checking out the fresh produce that seasonal this month, whats new in the market and the best budget buys on the islands.
It is important when we use fruit and vegetables in recipes to use it fresh. It makes a difference in the taste. So best to buy small quantities and more often and this also avoids waste.
The budget buy this week is cauliflower [at Euros 1.20 for 3 from Oscar’s Fruit and Vegetables ] and I will be posting some recipes to make the most of them.
I love the crispiness when they are fresh so much so they make a wonder snack on the side to nibble throughout the day. However freshness is key.
Late harvest of local pomegranates, they may appear pale on the outside but the seeds are bright red, sweet, juicy and succulent.
Of course we are starting the Maltese citrus season, oranges, lemons and those lovely clementines and tangerines. I love tangerine or clementine zest for adding to my baking recipes, cakes, desserts and Maltese sweet. They impart a really special flavour.
Maltese citrus season is here again
Ask your greengrocer for more information about the produce you are buying !
There is this month also a huge variety of onions, from regular white and purple onions and local spring onions and leeks [Basal tar-rebbiegħa / kurrat] are abundant. I like to use these three different types of onions in the same recipe as each one gives a different flavour and the combination in the same dish is nearly like rounding off the taste on different tones.
I’m seeing a lot of the garlic now too with huge cloves. I just love these as it saves you a lot of time from the fiddly work of peeling the tiny cloves.
And my new ingredient this week is bitter melon, so popular in India and Pakistan and all from the countries in the East. We will very soon be making some recipes and learning how to use them more and integrate them into our local diet.
I believe it is important to use seasonal local vegetables whenever possible.
Here is the recipe that we filmed last week in English and the recipe in the footage is in Maltese . But here you will also find the full recipe written in English. Any comments please let me know.
I love St Martin’s feast. It reminds me of Harvest Festival in the UK. I remember how excited my children used to be preparing for Harvest Festival, at the beginning of each school year, a lovely way to welcome the Autumn.
What I particularly like about this cake is the absence of any added oils or fats and that it is sweetened with the dried dates and figs rather than more sugar. For a gluten free recipe you can use ground almonds instead of the flour and add a teaspoon of baking powder. It works !
For the St Marin Cake you will need:
250g dates, chopped
200ml warm water
200g self raising flour
100g dried figs, chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
grated rind of an orange
Grated rind of a lemon
Grated rind of a tangerine
Juice of one orange, strained
Use a 20-23cm cake tin or similar and non-stick baking spray
Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare the cake tin with non-stick baking spray.
Soak the dates in the lukewarm water.
Grease the baking tin and if you are using a frame, prepared the dish covered with a baking sheet and place the frame on top of it,
Add the figs, citrus rind, orange juice and eggs. Mix and add the spices. Finally add the sifted flour and baking powder and stir in using a metal spoon.
Bake in a preheated for half an hour to 35 minutes. Check with a skewer before taking it out.
Kale has taken over the use of spinach and seems universally popular. All types of kale are available locally with some varieties now being cultivated in Malta.
Curly Kale, Tuscan Kale and Russian Kale are cultivated locally
My favourite kale remains the Cavolo Nero or Tuscan kale. It has dark green, textured, flat leaves and a sweeter and milder taste. Flat-leaf kale cooks very quickly and has a more tender consistency than curly kale.
When it is steamed, the colour brightens and becomes vibrant and if you are in a hurry, simply soak the kale in boiling water for five minutes until it wilts.
Kale is an acquired taste. I cook kale at least once or twice a week. Unlike lettuce, and other leaves that just provide bulk and texture, the addition of kale leaves to salads does improve the taste. You can buy the very popular, ready-made kale chips, but it is also very quick to make them fresh. The edges of the leaves cook faster and you need to make sure that you bake them at the right temperature to avoid over-crisp kale chips with soggy centres.
To prepare kale, wash well, then remove the tough stem and cut the leaves with a pair of scissors.
Kale Soup with Cannellini Beans
You will need:
8 cups boiling water
1 all-natural vegetable stock cube
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
4 cloves garlic
10 kale leaves
1 medium onion
300g cooked or canned cannellini beans
4 slices Maltese Bread
4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Grated zest of one lemon
Allow one fresh ġbejna per portion
Freshly ground pepper
Peel and crush the garlic. Finely chop the onion.
Place the onion and garlic in a large pot and sauté them in some olive oil. Remove the tough stem from the kale and cut the leaves up with a pair of scissors. Add the kale pieces to the pot and top up with boiling water until the leaves are fully immersed. Allow to boil for a minute, then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour. Add half the lemon juice and grated lemon zest. Stir and turn off heat. Allow to cool. Add the cannellini beans keeping some aside for garnish. Use a hand blender to puree the soup. Use the pulse setting and do not over-blend as the soup is more delicious with a coarse texture. Brush some olive oil on to the bread slices. Rub the bread with some garlic. Bake the bread slices at 200°C for around 10 minutes until just golden.
Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each soup bowl. Pour the heated soup onto the bread. Place a fresh ġbejna in each soup bowl and garnish with more cannellini beans.
This is a diabetic-friendly recipe.
Kale Chips with Walnuts
6 leaves kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Wash, dry and trim the kale leaves. Remove the centre stem.
Roughly tear the leaves into pieces or use scissors to cut them up.
Mix the olive oil with the leaves until they are evenly covered. Toss the leaves in smoked paprika and salt.
Spread the leaves on an oven tray covered with baking paper.
Bake for 10 minutes and keep an eye on them as the cooking time required depends on the variety of kale you are using.
Turn the leaves over and bake them for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the tray. Transfer to a serving dish.
Steamed Pork and Kale Parcels with Red Rice
You will need:
250g lean minced pork
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 onion, finely chopped and cooked
1 tablespoon fresh herbs of your choice, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon Provence herbs
1/2 teaspoon coriander, crushed
A pinch of ground cloves
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
10 large kale leaves
Mix the pork, lemon zest, onion, garlic, fresh and dried herbs, egg, oats together; add all the other ingredients to make a consistent mixture. Allow to rest for an hour in the fridge so that the oats absorb all the liquid. Roll into small balls and place them on a large dish covered with baking paper.
Remove the centre stem from the kale and cut the leaves into long strips. Steam them for 2 minutes in a steamer until they are barely soft. Do not over-cook them.
Immediately wrap the minced pork balls with the strips of kale to make small parcels and tuck the loose end of the kale leaf underneath. Prepare a steamer with water and add pieces of fresh turmeric, 2 whole cloves, a few leaves of fresh marjoram, a cinnamon stick and a garlic clove. Place the pork and kale parcels on the steamer tray and cook them in the infusion for 20 minutes.
Serve the parcels with red rice and drizzle with olive oil before serving.
To make the red rice with hazelnut oil you will need:
200g red rice
50 g finely chopped hazelnuts
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil
¼ teaspoon lemon rind
Salt and pepper
Soak the rice in water for a couple of hours. Drain the water and rinse. Place the rice in a large saucepan and completely immerse in water. Add some salt and bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down and cook for 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary and do not let it dry out.
Drain the rice. Immediately add the lemon juice and zest. Mix and add the hazelnut oil. Season and serve with the kale and pork parcels and garnish with finely chopped hazelnuts.
This is the quickest way to make a simple base for a fruit tart and once it has cooled down to pile it with your favourite fresh fruit in season. Scatter some nuts, drizzle honey or agave and you will make it again and again.
I use ready made short crust pastry and for the filling you will need:
200g ground almonds
100g sugar or equivalent in stevia or 4 tablespoons honey or agave
grated zest of half a lemon
grated zest of half an orange
a pinch of salt
[2 extra tablespoons ground almonds and 1 beaten egg]
To decorate: Piles of your favourite fresh fruit, nuts and more honey or agave
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Put the ground almonds in a large bowl
Add the honey or agave or sugar or stevia and a pinch of salt
Add the citrus zest and vanilla
Add the eggs
Add the ricotta
Use a fork to mash the ricotta and combine the ingredients together. Keep the mixture aside.
Scatter some ground almonds on a baking tray covered with baking paper.
Place the ready made pastry on top of the baking tray and scatter some more ground almonds [to avoid sogginess]
Place the ricotta mixture over the top of the pastry
Spread the ricotta mixture over the top leaving 3 cm around the edge of the pastry
Beat an egg to brush the edges and top of the pastry.
Brush the edge of the pastry with beaten egg.
Seal the edges of the pastry and brush with beaten egg.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 45 minutes
Ready to eat or pile up with fruit, nuts and drizzle with honey or agave
Kefir is an Eastern European ingredient that I fell in love with as soon as I started seeing it on the shelves of the Bulgarian and Polish specialist shops and Russian deli a few years ago.
It is an ancient ingredient and has been used for over 2000 years. The taste is tangy and fermented and it is a stronger version of a drinkable yoghurt. This drink is high in protein, calcium, vitamin D and probiotic cultures which is known to be good for the digestion.
On the island this ingredient is becoming a household name and variations of it can be found in most supermarkets and large stores.
I was given a lactose free Kefir with walnuts and oats to try out. It has a yoghurt consistency and makes a great dessert replacement if you are craving something sweet.
It can also serve as a lunch replacement with a piece of fruit or with some extra walnuts if you are on the go and in a rush.
I froze mine in the same way we would freeze a yoghurt in the pot. The secret is always not to overfreeze and depending on the efficiency of your freezer, it would take between an hour and an hour and a half to form a thin frozen layer on the surface. When you crack the think layer on the surface with a teaspoon, the creamy kefir is just below freezing point and is a very creamy consistency, just like a soft scoop ice cream.
Green lentils keep their texture and have a richer flavour than the orange variety. For this soup I use a hand held blender [pulse setting] to puree the soup lightly and the final result has a mix of whole green and pureed lentils.
It is very quick to prepare, no chopping and served with a Gozitan fresh goat’s milk gibna, it makes a very satisfying one-dish meal.
You will need:
250g green lentils
3 medium potatoes
4 medium size carrots
1/2 onion, peeled
1 vegetarian stock cube
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
Start with 2 litres water and top it up as it cooks Salt and Pepper
Rinse the lentils, no need to soak and place in large pot together with peeled potatoes and carrots roughly chopped. Add the onion, chopped tinned tomatoes and stock cube. Top up with two litres of water. The vegetables need to be fully immersed so add more water if necessary.
Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Give it a stir and keep doing this from time to time to makes sure the contents do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Keep adding water throughout the cooking time to keep the contents moist and make sure they do not dry up.
Keep the soup simmering on low heat until the potatoes are fully cooked. Test one of the potatoes with a knife. When they are cooked, use a hand held blender on pulse setting and leave the soup in a textured consistency.
If necessary add more water. Add the lime juice, salt and pepper and stir.
To serve garnish with a fresh goats cheese gibna. Garnish with more parsley and lime zest.
This is the type of salad that you can make for supper and take the rest for an amazingly nutritious and delicious lunch-at-work. It is one of those wholesome salads that are substantial enough for the autumn and winter months.
For this salad you will need:
1 cup quinoa, cooked
150g cherry tomatoes, cut up
1 avocado, cut up
150g feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh mixed herbs, chopped
salt and pepperFor the Dressing:
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 extra olive oilsalt and pepper
a pinch of sugar or stevia
To make the dressing mix all the ingredients together.
Make the Salad:
Place the cooked quinoa, sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Toss the salad lightly. Add the avocado and toss again. Just before serving, finish off with the feta cheese and cut up mixed herbs.
This is a treat and for me sweet enough, but blueberries are quite tart and if you require it sweeter brush the top with some barely warm agave or honey just before serving. This is another quick and easy recipe and it will not take too long to prepare.
You will need :
300g butter, soft
300g eggs, beaten and weighed
300g pure ground almonds
110g self-raising flour
200g cream cheese [regular or light][For a gluten free cake use 410g ground almonds and leave out the flour]
With an electric hand whisk mix all the ingredients thoroughly together until you have an even consistency.
Pour the batter into a 21 cm tart dish or use individual moulds. Flatten the surface with a spatula dipped in water.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25 minutes, but you need to adjust cooking time depending on the size of dish you choose. Allow to cool. Gently ease out of the mould.
Soften the cream cheese by using a fork. Spread over the frangipan tart and flatten with a spoon dipped in water
Top with blue berries and serve. If you have a sweet tooth pour some warm agave or honey just before serving.
Kids are always more eager to eat something when they help to prepare it. I particularly like making ice lollies with them because the process keeps them occupied for a while and during the hot summer these have been a treat for all the family.
We start off with preparing the moulds on the tray provided. Then simply use one of your children’s favourite smoothie or yoghurt or kefir to make frozen yoghurts, quick ice creams or sorbets.
Here we use organic smoothies that contain no GMS and are gluten and dairy free. I particularly like them as they have no artificial colouring and are preservative free with no added sweeteners.
We tried 4 different flavours of blueberries, pear and banana, mango and mixed fruit.
Pour the smoothies into the ice lolly moulds once they are on the stand.
Cover with the lolly holder and place the tray in the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours.
Once they are solid, remove the tray from the freezer and dip each lolly into a bowl with hot water just for a few seconds. The lollies will slide easily out of the moulds.
Ready to eat, enjoy and cool down.
And the moulds can be washed in a dishwasher and we like to store them back in its own box.
An activity enjoyed by all - and lollies were so yummy !
I made these quick muffins on tv and they are ideal for putting into your kids’ lunch boxes or to send in to share for a celebration.
Use gluten free flour if they are meant to be for sharing. I usually omit the brown sugar when I make mine as I find the sweetness from the carrot and apple is enough but it depends on personal taste.
You will need:
2 cups wholemeal flower
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
a pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup grated apple with skin onvanilla
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Prepare a muffin tray with baking spray or cover with paper cases.
Sift the flour twice into a large bowl together with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
Add the salt, cinnamon powder, vanilla and brown sugar if you are using it.
In another bowl beat the eggs and sunflower oil together with a fork.
Add the grated carrot and apple to the flour mixture and use a spoon to distribute evenly and make sure that all the pieces of fruit are covered with the flour.
Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and use a large metal spoon to fold in the ingredients together without over-mixing.
Pour the mixture into the muffin dish and bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Allow them to cool in the tin before removing them.
You can decorate with some simple icing or a dusting of icing sugar but suggest that if you are sending them to school, you leave them as they are.
The paddles of prickly pears are a common ingredient in Mexico and are sold in the vegetable section of supermarkets with spindles removed.
Although prickly pear trees are all over the island, the paddles have not made their way to the supermarkets yet, nor to our kitchens. I encourage you to try them out and they are best when the fruit is in season.
How to prepare the paddles
Try to choose the smaller paddles as they are more tender.
Use a knife with a sharp point to scoop around the spindles and a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin. Cut off the base of the paddle before you chop and cook.
For the Kapunata with Prickly Pear Paddles you will need:
250g prickly pear paddles, prepared as above and chopped
1 onion, chopped/diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 eggplants, chopped/diced and cooked
2 large courgettes, chopped/diced and cooked
4 tomatoes, chopped/diced
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons fresh mixed herbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stock cube
400g tinned tomatoes
a pinch of steviaSalt and PepperTo finish off:
1 tablespoon fresh mixed herbs, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
fresh mint leaves
2 tomatoes, cut into slices
50g black olives
1 tablespoon apple vinegar
1 tablespoon capers
some grated fresh lemon zest
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.
Add the onion and saute on low heat until it is translucent.
Add the prickly pear paddles and cook for 5 minutes. Add the stock cube with water. Keep cooking on low heat until the gelatinous appearance disappears. Add the tinned chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil, still on moderate heat.
Simmer on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the paddles are tender. Then add the rest of the vegetables and herbs and all the other ingredients from the first part of the ingredient list above. Cook for another 15 minutes until the liquid reduces.
Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
Transfer the kapunata to your serving dish and finish off with slices of fresh tomatoes, olives, capers, apple vinegar, olive oil, fresh herbs and parsley, mint leaves and some grated lemon zest.