Gurbell [meagre in English] is one of the most delicious fish that is available locally. It has a firm and fleshy texture, with a mild taste that
Bing uses local Maltese pork. He loves the taste and texture and combines this with the freshest of ingredients. He believes that fresh ingredients contribute to success of this dish.
‘Eating fish during lent is associated with the Greek word for fish, ichthys, which is an acronym for Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, meaning Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. There are many interpretations of why Catholic tradition favours eating fish on Fridays, but the version that appeals to me most is found in the 15th Century Book of Festivals which says that when Adam sinned, God cursed the land – however, he did not curse the water and, therefore, it is lawful for man to eat what comes from the water during Lent.
Fish used to be the economical choice for families but, today, it is considered a treat, sometimes nearly a delicacy and often expensive. However, eating fish on Fridays is not about economics – the reasoning behind it is fascinating. After all, it is not exactly a penance eating fish, for most people.
This month we see a large variety of fresh local fish becoming available at local fishmongers; you should be able to find red mullett (trill), grey mullett (mulett), red rock fish (ċippullazz), white bream (sargu), moray eel (morina), octopus (qarnita) and gurbell (brown meager) and many more. When it comes to fish, the fresher it is, the better the flavour. To source the best fish, find a trusted fishmonger or hawker and stick with them. I usually ask for advice on fish from Saviour at Bottarga.
You can disguise the taste in chicken and meats that are not fresh, but the same does not apply to fish.
In today’s recipe, I use skate. It is soft, remains moist and still is under-rated.
The skate (ħamima in Maltese) needs very little cooking time and, for those that do not like the idea of picking bones, it is an ideal choice. Succulent, soft and moist flesh literally slides off the cartilage.
The flavour is delicate and, to retain its natural moistness, the fish is best cooked at a high temperature for as little time as possible.
This recipe is simple and easy to prepare and I hope you will give it a try.
Fresh fish should smell of the sea and the gills should be bright and moist, not just from being sprayed for display. When preparing it, the scales should flake off easily and the flesh remain firm. It is, sometimes, hard to judge when fish is ready and cooked and it may be easier to invest in a kitchen thermometer, rather than waiting for the flesh to turn from translucent to opaque. For perfect fish, the internal temperature should read at between 125ºC to 150ºC.
Eating raw fish has become very popular since the introduction of sushi. And cooking fish by merely soaking in lemon juice to make a ceviche style dish is another option. Unlike with poultry, eating fish raw does not carry the same risk of salmonella – however, raw fish may carry parasites and should be avoided by the elderly, pregnant women and children.
I like the simplicity of cooking fish al cartoccio, wrapped in a parcel with a slice of lemon and a few drops of olive oil, salt and pepper and baked in a hot oven for a few minutes. Fresh herbs, olives and capers can be added to serve it.
Filippo Berio Olive Oil available at Rimus Group
Olives and Capers available at Quality Foods
Saxa Salt by Premier Foods available at George Borg Ltd
Kitchenware by K & Co, Telephone 79415384
Fish by Saviour Deguara at Bottarga in Balzan
Fresh Vegetables by Big Fresh Mosta, Oscars Fruit and Vegetables and Barbuto [Organic]
For these traditional Maltese almond vegan biskuttini I use chickpea water [aquafaba] instead of egg to bind them
What would you expect Paradise to be like ? I ask myself this question from time to time and wonder if it is similar to the tiny island in the Mediterranean where I now live. A heaven on earth, blissful, serene, surrounded by natural beauty…
The sun shines nearly everyday and it is hot, very hot at times, but I love the heat. We are surrounded by the sea and it is bluer than blue can be and life passes by, one day into the next and it is a dream. Plentiful fresh food, the freshest fish that can be eaten nearly underdone, a feast every day, good food every day….This is an island blessed with all the good things in life. How lucky can we be to find ourselves here ?
Fresh fruit is abundant, lots of it, fat ripe fruit bursting with flavor and goodness, just perfect, needing to be eaten on the day. All kinds of citrus, summer berries and plums…..the colors are sensational, the smells intoxicating.
This week marks my first visit to the main fruit market, somewhere isolated in the centre of the island. It is too tempting and I want to buy it all.
I can perhaps make some jams. My mother is a brilliant jam maker but i am quite clueless. She gives me a lot of advice and I decide to take the plunge. Inspite of my vast cooking experience, I am a little bit nervous when I hear about setting points and sterilization. This is going to be a learning curve for me.
My first attempt results in the strawberry jam I posted last week and now it looks like jams are becoming part of the weekly routine and yesterday I make two more jams.
I have all sorts of ideas I want to try out as these jams are divine, like I have not tasted before. It must be the goodness of the succulent Mediterranean fruits rooted in the earth of this paradise island, nurtured by the Mediterranean sun.
I am quite excited as there is something satisfying about knowing what has gone into every jar. No additives, nothing artificial, just pure fruit, and sugar laced with honey and whenever possible pectin that comes naturally from squeezed lemons. Here are my two recipes of the week and I hope you will enjoy making them as much as I have.
You will need:
2 kg figs
1.8 kg sugar
4 spoons honey
Grated rind of 2 lemons
4 lemons squeezed
Wash the figs and remove any hard bits and bruising but keep skin on.
Place them in a large pot with the lemon juice, sugar and grated lemon rind. Bring to a boil on moderate heat.
Bring the figs to boil until they are a golden color and the jam reaches setting point. Stir in the honey and mix with wooden spoon.
I use the saucer method for testing the setting point. Place a saucer in the freezer and test the jam by putting a few drops on the cold plate. If the jam wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it has reach setting point. If it is still runny, return to heat, boil and retest. The best color is achieved when the jam is not over heated for a long period of time, but this is a matter of preference.
Now you will need to sterilize the jars. Rinse them in clean warm water and allow them to drip dry and place upside down on an rack in the oven at 140C for half an hour.
Pour the jam into the jars preferably through a funnel. I wear latex gloves to prevent contamination. I like to the jam into warm jars while it was still warm.
If you are going to store the jam, I suggest placing a disc of waxed baking paper onto the jam before covering with a lid.
You will need to store the jam in a cool dark place. This is a lovely thick jam. More like a compote or what they call an extra jam.
Zucchini Ginger Jam
This is a wonderful consistency and color and is very good served along a strong cheese and some plain water biscuits.
2 kg zucchini, skin on, chopped
1.8 kg sugar
4 teaspoons pectin
4 squeezed lemons
4 spoons honey
Zest of 1 lemon
2 knobs fresh ginger, 1 left whole, the other peeled and grated
Place zucchini into a preserving pan with the lemon juice, then cook on a medium heat, stirring often, until the pieces are turning translucent and soft but do not let them get mushy. Add the sugar zest, pectin, grated ginger, whole ginger knob and stir. At the end of the cooking you will need to remove the knob of ginger. It is just for flavor.
Bring to a boil and stir. Simmer and keep a gentle steady boil until the jam reaches setting point. Mine took a good 45 minutes.
Pour the jam into sterilized jars and secure lids tightly.
It’s delicious, the color of honey. Serve with a selection of cheeses. Such a good consistency !