Upside Down Strawberry and Banana Crumble

An upside down crumble allows the juices to ooze out of the fruit and moisten the crumble mix, filling it with all those fruity flavours.

It is quick to make and does not need hours in the kitchen making it an ideal dessert to serve with ice cream.

I use a mix of strawberries and bananas but other fruits can be use such as any type of berries, apples, pears and it is delicious with medlars [naspli]


For the crumble:

150g self raising flour
150g ground almonds
100g butter, chilled and cut up into cubes
100g sugar [or equivalent in stevia]
a pinch of grated nutmeg

Sift the flour twice into a large bowl. Add the cut up chilled salty butter and use your fingertips to rub in the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla, nutmeg, ground almonds, sugar or stevia.  Keep aside.

Use a tart dish of 21 cm with a loose bottom and grease it lightly with butter.

Scatter the crumble mix to cover all the bottom.


Before it goes into the oven

For the topping you will need:

1 kilo of mixed fruit [cut up into large pieces]
2 tablespoons honey or agave or maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place the cut up fruit into a large bowl. Add the other ingredients and gently mix in so that they fruit does not break up.

To assemble and bake

Preheat oven to 200C.

Pile the fruit onto the crumble mix and bake in a hot preheated oven for 35 minutes until the top of the fruit starts to barely caramelize.  Drizzle if you wish with more agave/honey/maple syrup or dust with icing sugar.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream in the summer and hot custard in the winter.

I use President Butter available at Rimus Group

president butter

My fruit comes from Big Fresh, baking ingredients from Lamb Brand and kitchenware from Tescoma

Photos: Felix Cesare


Spiralize your way through vegetables

If you like the idea of increasing your intake of vegetables and perhaps find more interesting ways for kids to eat vegetables, then a spiralizer is the answer.

Having tried a number of them, I still go back to my favourite which is the hand held one as it requires very little effort, except of course, that opposed to an electrical one, it needs a bit more effort as you twist each vegetable manually one by one.

Spirilizer 2

But price wise they also offer the best option.  There are some on the market that come as attachments to expensive appliances, others that you need to attach to table tops, but you also need to rinse this one thoroughly and it can be stored in any kitchen drawer without taking up too much space or needing much effort to assemble.

Using a spirializer .jpg

Therefore I think you will get your money’s worth, if like me,  you probably tend to use gadgets of this sort very often as you can easily store it in a handy place and grab it quickly once you need to use it.  A simple wash and wipe and back it goes again into the kitchen drawer.

The best vegetables I found so far that spiralize very well are carrots, courgettes, sweet potato and apples.  These can all be eaten raw once they are spiralized.

My Linguine and Spiralized Vegetables Aglio Olio style

If you are trying to reduce carbs, mix the same volume of spiralized vegetables with cooked spaghetti or linguine.  You can find my very simple recipe here

spiralised vegetables for children
Children associate spiralized vegetables with spaghetti and are attracted to the shape and texture.

I use a spiralizer by Tescoma and vegetables by Big Fresh and Barbuto [organic]

Photos: Felix Cesare and Stefan Stafrace



Spinach Ricotta Picnic Pie

This spinach ricotta pie is the ultimate summer picnic comfort food.  This tart is beautiful when it is cut up after it is cooled down as it exposes the hard boiled eggs and is ideal for outdoor entertaining.

Although the number of eggs in this recipe seem a lot, you can omit the hard boiled eggs but the idea is to cut it up into slices rather than chunks and serve with salads and other side dishes.
Filo Ricotta Spinach Pie 1

You will need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 kilo frozen spinach 
a bunch of fresh parsley
a pinch of nutmeg
500g ricotta [irkotta]
150g grated cheese[I use Gibna Roll]
5 eggs
5  hard boiled eggs
1/4 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 packet filo pastry
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 tablespoons olive oil


Dried mature gozitan gbejna and ricotta [Gibniet/Irkotta]

The filling

Defrost the spinach and leave to drain in a collander.  Keep squeezing out the water.

In a large pan shallow fry the chopped onion in some olive oil on moderate heat until it is translucent.  Add the chopped spinach and stir just until it is heated through for a minute or 2.  Add the dried mixed herbs, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Stir and remove from heat to retain the some vibrancy in the colour of the spinach.  Allow to cool down completely.

In a large bowl place the ricotta.  Add the grated gbejna and eggs.  Season.

Mix well and add the cooled down spinach mixture.  Mix again until it appears consistent.



Open up the filo pastry and brush a deep cake tin [I use an angel cake tin with a hollow centre so that the pie cooks evenly] with olive oil.

Cover with a sheet of filo pastry, then lightly brush the surface of the pastry sparsely with some more olive oil, add a second layer of filo pastry, brush again lightly with olive oil and add a third layer.

Add the tart filling into the pastry case and flatten the surface using a large metal spoon.

Push down gently the whole hard cooked eggs into the filling, one next to the other.  Make sure that they sit in the middle of the filling rather than touching the bottom so that the egg slices are centred once you bake and slice it.   Flatten the surface of the filling again then bring together the overlapping pastry and cover up thet op of the pie.

If necessary use another sheet of filo pastry to cover the top by scrunching it up lightly and then brushing with olive oil.

Scatter some sesame seeds on top.

Cook in a preheated oven at 180C for 50 minutes to an hour.




Gibniet nixfa

I use ricotta and fresh mature gbejna [gibniet] by Hanini distributed by Whats in Store
Kitchenware by Tescoma
Photos: Felix Cesare and Stefan Stafrace

Fig Coffee Walnut Rose Trifle

What makes a dessert decadent ?

The ingredients, the flavours and the expectation as soon as you set eyes on it, stirring the imagination of what is yet to come. And this one does not disappoint and is certainly just decadent.

The rose and fig flavours mingled with coffee and walnut are Mediterranean flavours with an influence from from Persia. The succulent figs are drizzled with honey and sprinkled with rose petals, layers of Greek yoghurt and ricotta are separated by soft sponge’

fig honey pudding

You will need:

250g Greek yoghurt
250g ricotta
120g sugar or equivalent in Stevia
200g dried figs
350g  sponge ladies fingers
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vermouth
2 tablespoons rose water
2 tablespoons instant coffee mixed with 1 cup hot water

fig honey 4

Close your eyes and savour every mouthful

To finish off: honey, rose petals, dry roasted walnuts and figs

Blend together the Greek Yoghurt and ricotta using an electric hand blender. Add the vanilla and sugar or stevia and stir. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Mix the coffee and hot water. Allow it to cool then add the vermouth  and the rose water.

To assemble: Use a trifle dish. Dip the ladies fingers into the coffee mix and layer the bottom of the trifle dish. Then cover the biscuits with a layer of ricotta and mascarpone. Top with a layer of stewed figs. Then repeat with a layer of ladies fingers and ricotta mix Place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to set.

To finish off just before serving, top with a layer of ricotta mix. Decorate with some poached figs, drizzle some honey and scatter some dried rose petals on the surface.


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I use Greek Yoghurt by Kolios at  Quality Foods Marketing

Kitchenware by Tescoma   Dried fruit and nuts by Natureline and Lamb Brand


Do these beautiful edible flowers grow in your garden?

These delicate white flowers that grow in our garden are edible garlic chives or Chinese chives [Allium tuberosum [Latin], gau choy 韭菜 [Chinese] and nira [Japanese].

I remember seeing them in abundance in outdoor vegetable markets in Asia.

The stems are a great flavour enhancer and the white flowers are perfect to finish off a salad.  If you do not like the idea of flowers in your food, break them up into petals.

This plant can be cultivated very easily, even in window boxes, and they need a lot of direct light.


Edible flowering chives.jpg
Flowering chives are a good source of Vitamin K, Magnesium, Calcium, Folate and Potassium











Quick oriental style Beef and Broccoli and how to cook perfect Basmati

This is one of the quickest dishes you can possibly prepare.   For the best result I cut up the beef into very small pieces and cook it well before adding the other ingredients. Broccoli need to be just barely cooked.



You will need:
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
500g chopped beef (I use rump)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 small cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
a pinch of chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup stock
1/2 head broccoli broken up into florets, lightly steamed
150g mushrooms

Mix together the soy sauce, cornflour, honey until the cornflour dissolves. Cut the beef into small strips.

In a large saucepan heat up the oil and cook the beef strips well until they start to brown.

Then lower the heat, add the garlic, ginger, chili flakes if you are using it.

Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

Add half the cooked mushrooms, cook for a minute then add the cornflour mix followed by the stock.

Stir on low heat until it starts to thicken.

If it is too thick add 2 tablespoons of water at a time until it is the right consistency.

Then add the steamed broccoli and the rest of the mushrooms.


Quick oriental meal


How to cook perfect Basmati

perfect basmati.jpg

How do you achieve that perfect basmati rice.

Firstly, soak and rinse, rinse and rinse.  You can soak for 10 minutes to overnight.  The longer you soak, the quicker it cooks

Then place in a heavy pot and add enough water to soak the rice plus 2cm extra over the level of the rice.

Add some salt and a few drops of sunflower oil.

Bring to a boil with lid on.

As soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a bare minimum and allow it to cook in its own steam.

The rice will steam perfectly.  Tip - do not uncover the pot until you need to serve.  Turn off the heat after 30 minutes and keep it covered.
I use basmati rice by Himilaya Gold available at Whats In Store Beef by Churchill Master Butchers and Fresh Vegetables by Big Fresh and kitchenware by Tescoma



‘God bless this year’s crop’ – Victor Tonna [farmer]

Local produce is so fresh on the islands.  The short distances make it possible that within less than 24 hours after harvest,  vegetables and fruit can be found in retail outlets and vegetable vans all over the islands.  It is not possible for the consumer to find any produce that is fresher. The entire process of the food chain is transparent and sustainable.

This month I met three generations of the Tonna family who are full time farmers in their land in Attard.


artichoke fields mgarr malta


I am a full time farmer, here from sunrise to sunset.  I’ve been coming here since I was a child.  Now I am am in charge.  God bless the crop this year.  When you look after it well, you have great results.  We have wells and use the borehole to water the crop, use organic pest control.

Victor Tonna, Farmer


I come here with my dad.  We cultivate vegetables and fruit.  At the moment we have eggplants, basil, tomatoes.  When I am not at school I come here with dad and grandad.  It is hard work but I love it because nature is beautiful, we have a lot of fun together, the air is clean and fresh.

Jean Tonna, aged 12


Local produce

Here I find my inner peace, quiet.  I prefer to be here than at home.  I used to come here with my own father, now I come with my son and grandson.

It is a shame that people sometimes prefer to buy imported produce and it makes me very sad.

John Tonna, 82 years



Very quick no-bake ricotta and greek yogurt flan

For a very quick summer dessert that requires no time spent in a hot kitchen this is a sweet that can be prepared in under 5 minutes provided you have all the ingredients at hand.

You will need:

1 ready made Sponge flan
800g ricotta
100ml Greek Yoghurt
100g Sugar or the equivalent in stevia
300g candid peel and chopped dark chocolate (ratio according to your preference)
A handful almonds and hazelnuts, chopped up and dry roasted in a pan
Grated zest of a lemon
Liquor of your choice, a couple of teaspoons to moisten the flan
A pinch of nutmeg
Glace cherries and grated chocolate to decorate the flan

Prepare the filling by placing the ricotta and yoghurt in a large bowl. Mash it up and then use a hand blender to whizz it to a smooth consistency. Add the candid peel, grated chocolate and dark grated chocolate as well as some chopped up cherries and nuts.

Mix and then add the grated lemon zest and nutmeg. Mix well until the consistency is smooth and even.

Place the flan on a large plate and drizzle the liquor to moisten it. Fill the flan with the ricotta mixture. You can of course pipe it, but I like the casual and undressed appearance. Decorate the top with more nuts, cherries and grated chocolate.

Place in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

I use Greek Yoghurt by Kolios at Quality Foods Marketing 

Kolios greek yoghurt authentic

What do you think about the square neckline?

The square neckline that I am seeing so much at the moment reminds me of beautiful ladies in Jane Austen books.   It makes an attractive neckline for wedding dresses.

wedding dress square neckline .jpeg

The square neckline is suitable for all body types.  It is also good for ladies with a big bust as it provides a diversion and are a good frame for the decollete. This type of neckline helps to elongate the neck and make shoulders look more narrow. If you have a small bust it gives the illusion of curves but remember to wear a padded bra.

Maria Bonavia, Image Consultant and Stylist



This neckline is a favourite of  the Duchess of Cambridge.   And it is versatile and can easily be worn causally with jeans or shorts.


the casual way with square neckline

See the new Autumn Collection by Maria Bonavia

Maria Bonavia is an image consultant and stylist.  She can be contacted at Ange Paola






Baked Pasta Caprese

The salad that originated in Capri is a classic and in this pasta bake I use the same ingredients. It is lightly baked and then before it is served, I top it again with more of the same fresh ingredients.

Baked Pasta Caprese with Fresh Mozzarella Balls
Baked Pasta Caprese

You will need:

500g Pasta shapes of your choice
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
200g chopped canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
a pinch of dried basil
a pinch of dried oregano
1/2 glass white wine
3 tablespoons grated mozzarella

Cook the pasta shells according to the instructions on the packet but reduce 2 minutes cooking time as the cooking process will carry on in the oven.

Prepare a simple tomato sauce by gently cooking the garlic in olive oil.

Do not allow it to brown and add the canned tomatoes and carry on cooking on a gently heat.


As soon as it reaches boiling point add the wine and reduce the heat.

Stir and add the tomato puree and dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook for 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta shells. Prepare an oven proof dish with baking spray.

Place the pasta and sauce in the dish and sprinkle the grated mozzarella on top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 190C for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest before adding the rest of the ingredients.

After baking and just before serving:
150g cherry tomatoes, halved or sliced
250g fresh mozzarella balls
A spoonful of fresh basil, chopped and a few extra leaves 
a few  rocket leaves
a pinch of dried oregano and dried basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste and salt if required
a few drops apple vinegar to drizzle

Scatter the rest of the ingredients on the surface and serve immediately.

I use fresh mozzarella pearls and grated mozzarella by Fior Di Vita available at
Quality Foods Marketing
Fresh vegetables and herbs by Big Fresh and kitchenware by Tescoma
Photos: Felix Cesare

Summer Life and Style on demand


You can find the current series of Summer Life and Style on demand via this link





Marie Benoit’s Diary: Distinctive and creative dishes on the menu

Doesn’t she do anything but eat, you must be saying to yourselves. It is far too hot to sit and enjoy a concert especially when parking is difficult.

carl zahra 1

Accepting an invitation to a restaurant is different as there is the enticing prospect that I would not have to cook. Much as I enjoy cooking, in the summer months it seems less attractive.

Source: Marie Benoit’s Diary: Distinctive and creative dishes on the menu –

The Malta Independent