Frittata

Frittata (8623)

I wish I was a morning person. (Is anyone out there a morning person? Any good tips of how to be one?) Being an insomniac doesn’t help so as much as I love it when the sun shines on spring and summer mornings, and as much as I love a good sunrise when I manage it, mornings suck the life out of me. There are two main things that make my mornings great though: food and holidays. And somehow these two things always seem to go well together. One of my Italian holiday resolutions is to never miss my cappuccino and cornetto. The guy behind the counter recognised us as the slightly timid ‘stranieri’ later a.k.a ‘Maltesi’ who looked as if they never tasted good coffee in all their lives. Which, by the way, was partly true. The Italians know their coffee, true. And almost everything on holiday tastes great. I did say almost.

Frittata (8627)

Now as lazy as I am with breakfast, I found the solution. Brunch. One of these days I must invite some friends over for brunch. When a friend of mine invited me for ‘brunch’ back when we lived in the US, the concept of going out in the morning for brunch was very new to me. I discovered that brunch is simply a late breakfast, making it ideal for leisurely weekends at home, or holidays…even better. I’m not a breakfast person, but I really really like breakfast food. If I had to eat a bowl of porridge at 7pm or a slice of toast with avocado for tea, I wouldn’t mind it at all. Non-complicated comfort food is my thing. Don’t get me started on pancakes for example. I would live on those, given the chance, which fortunately for me isn’t that often!

This simple frittata is inspired by the Spanish version of what is essentially an omelette. Before any Spaniards out there give me grief, I do know that the traditional one consists of potatoes. Just potatoes. I think that the added ingredients give the omelette that something extra and helps to make it complete. The dry-roasted red peppers together with the garlic make somehow make it fresher and ideal for the coming summer months. Dare I say that the time to spend countless hours in the kitchen has passed here in Malta? Well, for now at least? The members of Breakfast Brunch Brigade (a ficticious project which I might be interested in) will be pleased because your time, and mine, has just begun. Go!

  • 220g potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 4 eggs
  • 75g red peppers, chopped into rough cubes
  • handful of fresh garlic, washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 spring onions, washed and chopped (optional)
  • 75g grated Emmental cheese
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • drop of regular olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper

Boil the potatoes for around 10 to 15 minutes until they are cooked through and drain. Whisk the eggs and set aside.

In a dry shallow non-stick pan, brown the peppers on all sides. This will take a few minutes but be patient. This will make such a difference, trust me. Keep an eye on them and when they’re done just set aside. In the meantime turn on the grill.

Mix the fresh garlic, spring onions and grated Emmental with the eggs. Season the egg mixture with salt and pepper, and add the cooked potatoes and roasted peppers.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-low heat and add the butter and olive oil. (You can use the same pan in which you roasted the red peppers.) When hot, pour in the egg mixture and cook for around 5 minutes.

The bottom of the frittata should be set by then so remove the pan from the hob and place it underneath the grill until the top is completely cooked.

Turn the frittata onto a plate and set it aside to cool slightly. It will continue to cook as it cools.

Slice it into wedges and eat, either with some fresh bread or with a light salad.

Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Express, Chatto & Windus, 2007.)

Outwood: one of my favourite places

Wheat (9615)

It’s nice and sunny once again this morning and this time the fine weather is here to stay, at least for a little while. The blue skies bring back fond memories of Outwood, one of my favourite National Trust places in Surrey. In warm weather it beats being by the sea, at least for me. I loved the woods there, and coming from me that says something! The common is a great place to sit and have a picnic, and walking around the place is relatively easy, with plenty of decent footpaths.

The Parish (9583)

Outwood Common (9563)

The Old Mill (9623)

The Outwood Mill has been damaged by storms a few years ago and it’s not open to the public anymore. There’s no access to the grounds either, but there are good photo opportunities from the common and the parking lot.

Outwood Common (9576)

Around Outwood (9590)

I just wanted to share some photos of the place which have been waiting to be published on this blog for around a year. I just don’t know why I left them sitting there. Technically they are nothing big, but I am quite happy with them, which is probably the result of loving Outwood so much.

Outwood Common (9573)

Hope you enjoy them! Happy Wednesday!

(Before I leave I just want to draw attention to one question I’m getting a lot these days, which is why am I not posting exclusively on food these days? My answer for this can be found on the C&T About page for those who asked me and care to read it. Thanks.)

Peas with Fresh Garlic and Parsley

Peas with Fresh Garlic and Parsley (0132)

It seems as though the Sun left us for a while this morning, and it could not come back out from the gloomy clouds for the rest of the day. Rain is also on the menu, but I am not minding it one bit. Last week was hectic but absolutely lovely. My friend’s visit was a success. We went to loads of places around Malta and she seems to have enjoyed her holiday here. Now I’m taking a little time to adjust to my routine again, but I’m happy and I have a rest-day planned. I will be cooking though and I can tell it will be good as the temperature also gave me a rest and I will be savouring every second.

For today’s lunch I will make an Indian-inspired recipe for buttered chicken and will work on that as soon as I publish this post. WIth that I plan to make this simple concoction as a side. I think it will pair up well with the chicken and frankly I think it will make a delicious side to any other dish.

For the past few months I have been on a fresh garlic kick. I just love the stuff, and finding it everywhere in Malta has been such a delight. And a relief because I think I cannot live without it! It makes everything taste fresh, like parsley or coriander, but better. The chore of washing it and cutting it is all worth it. I usually buy quite a large amount, but I find that if I wash it it keeps very well in the fridge for quite a few days. I would even dare stretching it out for a good week or so. I place it in a glass container, cover that with cling film and place a lid over it. That way you won’t get any nasty smells in the fridge. This week I am experimenting with keeping it in the deep freeze. We’ll see how that goes.

I have to say I use fresh garlic and everything else really quite liberally, so for this recipe the quantities are completely up to you. I just give an approximation of what I used because I just couldn’t be bothered with measuring here. And you shouldn’t either. Have a taste once in a while and adjust the ingredients and seasoning. Trust me, it’s very difficult to ruin something like this. Just make sure not to burn the garlic; just let it brown and it will give a lovely caramelized flavour to the peas. If you are not a fan of peas then by all means try this with another vegetable. The world is your oyster. I just love it. (Wait…didn’t I say that already?)

  • 1 tablespoon regular olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • a good handful of fresh garlic, washed and cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 teaspoons za’atar or thyme
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • handful of fresh parsley, washed and roughly chopped

Heat a shallow pan over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and fresh garlic. Stir and wait for the onion to turn translucent. Add the frozen peas.

When the peas are slightly heated and turn bright green with the heat, add the za’atar or thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Give everything a good stir.

Remove the pan from the heat and tip the peas into a bowl. Pour in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and add the parsley. Mix and serve warm.

For 2 as a side. Enjoy with your main dish and a cold glass of white wine. Preferably on a nice terrace underneath an umbrella! With friends.

Squidgy Chocolate Cakes

Squidgy Chocolate and Coconut Cake (0055) It’s been warm this week. Warm enough to say something like “I give up on baking until the end of December!” I’ve been busy. Busy means good by the way, although I’m already tired and it’s not the weekend yet. It’s Wednesday and I keep insisting it’s Thursday. Take no notice of me, please! On the positive side though I can finally say that our guest bedroom is almost done, just in time for our friend’s arrival on Sunday. I am happy.

Before I continue I must thank everyone who sent me a kind note on Saturday. I really appreciate all the love. A friend of mine also added that I would never forget a certain baby princess’ birthday either. I didn’t follow the progression of events this time round but that morning I read that the duchess was in labour and I didn’t expect the birth to be so fast. To celebrate the date I made a simple orange and chocolate cake, which I will write about in the next few weeks, I hope. Today I feel that the star of the show has to be this gorgeous chocolate cake I found while browsing the net a few weeks ago. Squidgy Chocolate and Coconut Cake (0056) Don’t worry – I won’t bore you once again with my addiction to chocolate. By now you know the drill. The day I made this was the result of the realization that I didn’t have anything sweet in the house. That doesn’t happen very often and it felt kind of strange, for lack of a better word. What I wanted was very particular: something chocolate-y but light, preferably soft and sponge-y. I doubted I would ever be able to achieve that. It’s always tougher than it seems. There are many chocolate recipes around. Unfortunately many are heavy and quite rich, something I did not want especially during these warmer months. Since moving back to Malta last year I surrendered myself to the fact that baking in the summer is a no-no. I wasn’t that keen to let baking go, but July, August and September are a “killer”, to quote a friend., and the oven becomes the enemy. However I think there’s still a bit more time for us home cooks to do a spot or two of baking until the I-dread-to-spend-time-in-the-kitchen time comes. And it will come, I promise.

This cake is a little gem, not only because it has all the qualities I mentioned before, but also because the end result is not one, but two cakes. Buy one, get one free…or two for the price of one? How about that? As with all cakes, the secret is not to overmix the batter. Stop as soon as the ingredients are just combined, while making sure there are no lumps. If you had a good look at the photo above, you might have noticed that I used one metal non-stick loaf tin and a glass loaf dish. Baking this chocolate cake turned out to be a simple physics experiment! The cake in the glass container took a bit more of its sweet time to bake. 10 full minutes. I couldn’t get my head round it until J reminded me that glass is an insulator and metal is a conductor. Physics 101, duh.

  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 150ml boiling water
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 200g cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 100g dark chocolate chunks
  • 100g desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to170ºC/Gas mark 3. Grease and line two loaf tins. In a large heavy-based pan place the softened butter, sugar, cocoa and water over medium-low heat. When the ingredients are melted through, stir in the dark chocolate chunks. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, measure the flour and baking powder. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the flour, add the eggs and mix until the ingredients are just combined. Add the desiccated coconut and fold gently into the cake batter.

Pour the mixture into the tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cakes will be done when a skewer or knife is inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack in their tins.

The cakes will be have a cracked effect on the surface, so don’t worry.

Enjoy and keep me posted!

(The recipe is adapted from Jo Wheatley’s website Jo’s Blue AGA. Jo gives loads of tips on various flavour ideas, so get creative.)

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Lemon Sherbert Cake

Lemon Sherbert Cake (0121)

Writing about some of my favourite cake recipes at the end of every April has become a sort of tradition here on C&T. It’s my birthday later on in the week so it’s kind of themed, at least for me! It started a few month after the birth of this blog, when people started asking me about the cake or cakes (because yes, there were times when I made more than one) I usually make for the day. I try to vary as much as possible, but I can happily say that more often than not there’s always a copious amount of chocolate involved.

Lemon Sherbert Cake (0118)

With the change in the weather though I think it will be a riff on lemon drizzle, at least for this year. Interestingly enough, when I posted my yoghurt chocolate cake recipe a few days ago, there was a mixed reaction. Some people wrote to me saying that they don’t like chocolate that much shock horror…kidding and requested something interesting with lemons. To be honest, I anticipated the feedback and if you see the beautiful citrus in the Med you will understand why. I love lemons and oranges and always have some in stock, so I found this recipe and tried it out. It is good and I’m very happy I came across it. I had a little re-write to make it more readable and here it is.

I like it because apart from the syrup for drizzle, there’s a lovely icing with a sprinkling of citrus zest to finish it off. It makes a huge difference, especially for those who love icing like me. If not, you can always leave it out but I know I would seriously miss it. So go ahead and give this one a try. As always, it’s easy and relatively quick to make.

For the cake:

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g cake flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For the orange syrup:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • juice of 1 orange

For the lemon icing:

  • 225g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Line and grease well a 20cm springform cake tin and preheat your oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. If you have a gas oven, give it plenty of time, I would say at least 35 minutes for a good preheat.

To make the cake tip 125g caster sugar in a large mixing bowl with the unsalted butter and beat until the mixture turns light yellow and creamy. Crack the eggs into the sugar mixture, preferably one at a time, beating them in as you go along. Add most of the orange zest and keep the rest covered with a bit of clingfilm. Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder. Slowly fold in the ground almonds until everything is just combined.

Pour the batter into your prepared cake tin and bake for around 30 minutes, until the cake is risen and turns into a pretty light golden colour. Always check it by inserting a knife or skewer in the middle. When the cake is out of the oven place it on a wire rack. Leave the cake in the tin.

To make the syrup put 100g of caster sugar into a small pan together with the juice of the orange. Turn the heat on to medium and wait for the sugar to dissolve into the juice. It’s important not to stir this mixture. (Stirring will cause the sugar to crystallize. We want a smooth syrup here. So be patient.)

Poke the cake with a thin skewer or even a strand of dried spaghetti or a cocktail stick to create small holes. Pour the syrup as evenly as possible all over the cake. Again, leave the cake in the tin. This will help contain the syrup until it is absorbed by the cake.

To make the icing tip the icing sugar in a bowl and add most of the lemon zest. Cover what remains with clingfilm. Pour the lemon juice into the icing sugar and mix vigorously, adding more lemon juice if need be, depending on how thick you want the end result to be. Keep the icing to one side until the cake has completely cooled. Cut a piece of parchment paper and place it on a serving plate or cake stand. Place the cake carefully on it. Pour the icing onto the cake, evenly spreading it onto the surface. Sprinkle the remaining orange and lemon zest and you’re done.

Keep me posted on how this works for you and enjoy!

(Adapted from Jamie’s Great Britain, Jamie Oliver, 2011, Michael Joseph.)

Flora’s Coffee Shop and Tea Room

Mirror (0141)

One thing I thought I would miss, since moving back to Malta last year was a good place for coffee and conversation, and perhaps for some reading. I’m sure there are a few places dotted around the island where you can do all that, but I haven’t come across anything till now. From this week though, I’m happy. In fact, this post could easily be part 2 in my love Malta series. From this week, my lovely readers, there’s a new kid on the block I like – a place so charming you will want to visit very soon. It’s called Flora’s, a small but beautiful coffee shop and tea room in Naxxar. So central, so on point. At least, for me. With an address like 1, Victory Square, you cannot miss it, and it’s right by the church. That’s exactly where I decided to go on Friday. They opened on Wednesday, and I wanted to see how they would manage the usual teething problems a new place faces during its first few days.

The Stage (0154)

Cupcakes (0156)

Tea and Conversation (0146)

There was a beautiful stillness to the place when I arrived a little after 10am. I was greeted by Emily and Richie at the counter, both in bright green, smart, polite and relaxed. (Wish I had some good shots of them working but they were whizzing past so quickly with trays and trays of coffees and goodies, I didn’t want to be in their way in case of any accident!) I also met owner Dani, who welcomed me with a huge smile and instantly made me feel at home. As soon as I went in I couldn’t keep my eyes off the beautiful counter. Everything was so pretty and colourful. Just look!

Cupcakes (0155)

Countertop (0157)

Cupcakes (0161)

I ordered a cappuccino, a slice of Victoria sponge and a sticky toffee pudding cupcake, which let me tell you *now* (I just can’t keep these things to myself) was delicious.

Coffee Shop Humour (0140)

Sweet Treats (0160)

I was shown to the seating area, and obviously went for the most comfortable place in the room: the cushions. The place is cosy and intimate, as in don’t-talk-about-anything-too-personal-because-you-will-be-heard type of thing, but that doesn’t take anything away from the charm. I was alone (I didn’t mind at all, and I was in blogging mode anyway) so I took some snapshots of the place and put my camera down in order to soak up the environment.

Quiet Corner (0139)

Pretty Deco (0151)

Just after Opening Time (0133)

I looked up at the high ceiling, and my eyes rested on the peaceful colour palette of grey, soft daffodil yellow, pastel pink, green, white and small touches of blue. Very reminiscent of English tea rooms I think. I kind of forgot I was in the middle of a very urban island. In the meantime, people started to arrive and in no time at all the place was almost full.

On the Piano (0150)

Sugar Jars (0149)

My coffee and cakes were now on the table and I could dive in. And what a dive it was. Coffee: good, creamy and well-made. Victoria sponge: sweet and delightful. (And not salty! yay!) Sticky Toffee Pudding cupcake: absolutely gorgeous. To be honest I was a little hesitant at first about my choice of cupcake, because they’re not usually my thing. I could have ordered another slice of cake, but cupcakes at Flora’s seem to take centre stage so I went for it. I wasn’t sorry – the sticky toffee in the middle made it all worthwhile.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcake (0136)

Victoria Sponge (0134)

I’m already thinking about what I might choose the next time I’m there. (It’s my birthday week, from today, so there’s another reason to go.)

Table Setting (0143)

Cappuccino (0138)

Everything is fresh and baked on site. The plan to start serving pies and sandwiches is in the works so that’s already being taken care of. Once that is done Flora’s will be complete. They open from Monday to Friday 10am to 8pm, Saturdays from 10am to 6pm and Sundays from 10am till 2.30pm.

Pay Flora’s a visit and Enjoy!

Update on the 30th April: As of this week Flora’s added a number of savouries on their menu.

*This is NOT a sponsored post.*

Yoghurt Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake with Yoghurt Frosting (9980)

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe for chocolate cake. Now I can tell you that I have another one for you coming soon, apart from this one of course. I don’t know about you but there are times when only chocolate will do and for me there’s no better way than a good homemade sweet. I have said before and will say it again that I am one of those few who still resists adding salt to chocolate. True: salt enhances the taste of everything. However I believe that if you use good quality strong dark chocolate you don’t need anything else. I also find it drying. And contrary to what many in the industry say, I don’t find chocolate without salt to be flat in taste. Also, I have found adding coffee to be totally unnecessary. These sound like fads to me. And if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

Chocolate Cake with Yoghurt Frosting (9979)

This recipe is a riff on a cake recipe I have posted a few years ago. I made it towards the end of last year when I still couldn’t get the hang of cooking around my Maltese kitchen. I found myself so lost sometimes that I almost gave up on baking. Which would have been a pity, because I just love it. One day I decided  that the best way to start familiarizing myself with my “new” oven was to make a simple cake which I have made lots of times before. So I decided to go for this one. I didn’t have any sour cream, so I used a tub of yoghurt I had in the fridge instead. The taste was completely different, though for me it worked well. I hope it works well for you too. After all you might have some plain yoghurt in your fridge that you might want to use up. Tell me how you get on.

For the cake:

  • 200g ’00’ cake flour or plain flour
  • 200g sugar
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150ml plain yoghurt

For the icing:

  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 175g dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 125ml plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping the cake:

  • red sugar sprinkles or hundreds and thousands, optional

Take out all the ingredients that are stored in the fridge to let them reach room temperature, that is if you’re not baking in the hot Maltese summer weather.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas mark 4. Line and grease two sandwich tins.

In a large bowl mix the the flour, sugar and baking powder, and beat in the butter till you have a soft and creamy mixture. In another bowl whisk the cocoa, yoghurt, vanilla extract and eggs together (you can do this by hand), and add this to the flour mixture in the large bowl. Give it a good mix until everything is just combined.

Divide the cake batter into your two tins and bake for about 50 minutes. Every oven is different so start checking your cakes after around 30 minutes with a skewer or knife. When completely baked, remove the cakes from the oven and put them on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes in their tins. When they are cool enough for you to handle turn them out completely and onto the rack.

For the icing, melt the chocolate together with the butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. (I find this way is better than melting in the microwave because you have more control.) When the chocolate has completely melted remove it from the heat and leave to cool. In the meantime, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl.

Add the golden syrup into the melted chocolate mixture which has now cooled. Then add the yoghurt, vanilla and the sieved icing sugar. Whisk the lot. Depending on how you want the icing consistency to be, you can now add around a tablespoon of boiling water for a thinner icing, or some more icing sugar for a thicker mixture. Your icing should be easily spreadable and not too runny.

Place a piece of baking paper to cover the base of a plate or cake stand (for any excess icing that will surely drip) and start assembling your cake: first one layer of cake, then a layer of icing in the middle, then the other cake on top. Cover with some more of the icing.

Top the icing with loads of red hundreds and thousands, or sprinkles, or with whatever sugar decorations you like.

Enjoy!

P.S. For those asking me for another lemon cake, watch out for it in the next post or two. It’s going to be a good one.

(This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast, Chatto and Windus, 2006.)

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