Broad Bean Risotto

Broad Bean Risotto (8030)

When I woke up this morning I kept reminding myself that it’s Thursday (not Sunday) and a public holiday on the rock. It’s not as quiet as one might hope, and to type this I had to close the window in my study. It’s easy to focus now and I *am* calm. Which brings me to a recipe made best when you have a good thirty minutes of peace. So tell your partner in life to babysit the kids and the pets for a little while and spend some time in the kitchen with me.

Broad Bean Risotto (8029)

One of the things I love about Malta is the fruit and veggie trucks you see dotted around the many towns and villages on the island. I love going to the one near to where I grew up in Birkirkara. I love visiting my mum too which goes without saying and of course, going there brings back good memories. I have been meaning to post the following recipe and the above photo for ages so here it is. It’s starting to get warmer here now and we’re already finding plenty of spring and summer produce. I’m finding good quality strawberries too which I macerate in lemon juice, some sugar and pepper too. Delicious.

The other day my mum gave me a good bunch of broad beans which I ate as soon as I arrived home, podded and just sprinkled with a pinch of salt, extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice. (I know that you might be thinking about me having an unhealthy relationship with citrus, but on this island you get the freshest lemons and oranges you will ever find in your life, I promise, and I intend to make full use of that.) I simply ate them with a hunk of Maltese bread and a chunk of hard cheese. Again, delicious. That was one moment when I confirmed that the best things in life are really the simplest. This risotto makes me happy. Hope it makes you happy too.

  • 300g fresh broad beans, shell removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 400g arborio rice
  • around 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 100g grated parmesan cheese

Remove the skins from the beans. Boil the broad beans in a pan of boiling water for around 5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside for later.

In a heavy-bottomed pan tip the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted add the chopped onion and garlic on medium heat and sweat for a few minutes until the onion has turned translucent. Add the arborio rice into the pan and give everything a good stir making sure that the rice is completely covered with the butter and oil.

Add two thirds of the vegetable stock slowly, one or two ladles at a time until the rice has absorbed almost all of it. With risotto all you have to have is some patience to stay with it and stir it as necessary.

Now add the broad beans you have slightly cooked beforehand and continue to add the rest of the stock. Stir and wait for the rice to turn almost of a creamy consistency.

Turn off the heat, squeeze some lemon juice in the rice, add the grated cheese and check for seasoning. Serve immediately in shallow bowls. Serves 3-4 friends.


Archery Haiku

Roberta Briffa:

I have rarely if never reblogged anything from J but I had to for this photo. I was quite surprised when I read the haiku. I cannot get the relishing solitude bit in the middle of nowhere very often. I thrive in company. I don’t like the quietness in the countryside. I have been to this archery field though and I found it good. It’s side by side to the Marsa Sports Club practically surrounded by tennis courts – the sound of rackets smashing the balls echoes throughout the whole place. It’s beautiful on a sunny day like today. At long last the Sun’s out. Let’s hope it stays that way on Friday. It better be – I’ve cancelled all my morning plans! Are you ready for the solar eclipse?

P.S. Just before dinner J told me that he took this photo with his phone. Nice work I say.

Originally posted on Johann A. Briffa:

Archery Haiku

View original

Two Simple Recipes: Vegetable Soup and Garlic and Chilli Kale

Vegetable Soup with Kale (8630)

It’s still reasonably cold in the Med and I’m still nursing a very bad cold. My neighbour’s kid is having a ball running amuck right above my head, most probably sitting on a desk chair and sprinting across the corridor. Either that or playing boċċi. Who knows? Can’t imagine the grief he’s giving his mum, but I can definitely picture the grief he’s giving me!

So just when my head starts to ache I decide to post two recipes on C&T. Simple stuff but they are just the things I want to eat when I’m inside with quite some time to spend in the kitchen. There will be plenty of chances in the future for chips. That’s exactly what’s keeping me going! *Checking my forehead for fever*

When it comes to soups I must confess that I rarely follow any recipes. But this just confirms my belief that recipes are to be used as a guide. Most of the time, soup and minestrone are the kinds of concoctions I make when the time has come for me to visit the veggie market and I want to empty the fridge to avoid waste. Sometimes I do plan to make them in advance mind you, as I did last week. I still have around 4 portions to finish. As in stews, they get better in time.

Here is everything you will need for this particular Vegetable Soup recipe, which I have responsibly written down (I forget to do so occasionally). The one for kale will follow after this.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small red onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • paprika
  • garam masala
  • ground ginger
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 400g butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 1 litre vegetable stock or enough to cover the vegetables
  • 300g cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

In a large pan gently heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, garlic, all the spices, salt and pepper. Stir and let the onions release some of their natural sugars and water. After a few minutes add the peas, potatoes, squash or pumpkin and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, turn the heat off and tip in the cannellini beans. Let the soup sit for a little while and serve. The cannellini beans will thicken the soup slightly and give extra bulk. Serves 4 to 6 friends generously.


Sometimes I add a generous amount of barley and a couple of small marrows to the mix, as shown in the photo above.

Kale and I.

There has been (I don’t know if there is still) a big hoo-ha for kale during the past year and half. As you might already know, I am not a huge follower of food trends. They come and go. I am more of a eat-good-and-moderately kind of person (who overindulges once in a while and in need of exercise) but I am a big fan of kale. Anything dark green in fact. I’m no vegetarian, but I appreciate the benefits of eating healthily. Give me spinach, broccoli, pak choi/bok choi, etc., and of course the curly kale stuff with which I made this simple recipe below. Kale has vitamin C and K, and the all-important calcium among other health benefits. I’m definitely sold on that.

For the Garlic and Chilli Kale you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • olive oil
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
  • 350g curly kale, trimmed and rinsed well
  • ½ cup vegetable stock or water
  • splash of vinegar, optional

Heat the olive oil and butter in a shallow pan over medium heat. Add the dried chilli and garlic cloves and turn down the heat to low. Tip the kale into the pan, give it a good mix and pour the stock over it. Cover with a lid and cook for around 5 to 8 minutes, until the kale reduces in size and  almost all the stock has evaporated. If you have it on hand add just a small splash of vinegar. Serves 3 to 4 people as a side.

Enjoy and Happy Wednesday. Don’t fret too much. It will soon be Friday!

Some fruity photos, a little chat and a strawberry and banana milkshake.

Smoothie (7913)

So I have some time to myself on this lovely Sunday morning and thought I would drop a few lines. This week has been quite a hectic one. What made it worse was another little round of the flu. It’s easing a bit now all due to some rest I had yesterday. J wasn’t feeling too good either and after a bowl of minestra (the Maltese version of minestrone) we had a delightful movie afternoon. My feather blanket and hot water bottle became my best friends. I still managed to bake chocolate cookies *just got up and having one right now*. The Sun’s out today and that makes me happy. (Is Spring around the corner?)

Fruity Treats (9485)

These past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog. It’s something I love to keep up with. Having said that I know that I need to give it even more love and attention because lately I have been slightly neglectful. I had forgotten that moving to a new environment causes a certain amount of confusion. Moving to a new place this time has meant moving countries – again. Moving is expensive, chaotic and very stressful. We moved…let’s see how many times…*counting*…around 8 times (also considering in-house Malta moves) in 13 years. Thinking about just that gives me chills and makes me say things like “I’ll never move again” or “this is it” or “issa daqshekk!” Then I say “never say never!” just because I don’t like to close all life’s possibilities. And we begin again.

Returning to (this little 4 year old baby of mine) Chorizo & Thyme, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to make it better. One thing people tell me is to write more frequently, but at the minute I cannot commit to a one-a-day post, be it photo or recipe. I wish I could, believe me, but I cannot make promises I cannot keep. My aim is to post at least once a week, with a random bonus photo or chat  – as in this one. There’s no excuses to slacking so I won’t make any, except one thing: life. C&T will continue to be – that will not stop – and the recipes and photos will keep on coming. Lately I have taken to Twitter to post stuff when I’m cooking. Having a smartphone is so handy but mine isn’t anything special and its camera is in no way good, especially when I zoom in. But it does a basic job and I’m happy with that. What I like best is when I post a picture on there and get an instant reaction from someone. It’s still a thrill! I don’t tend to put pictures up on Facebook as they have the rights to anything on there, so I stay away. I’m still very active on that though since that’s how people write to me with queries these days. If I don’t accept your friend request don’t be offended – that just means I don’t know you personally, but you can follow me and most of my updates are public anyway.

I know this has been quite a random chit-chat post but I cannot leave you without some photos. They are taken very randomly while still in my Guildford kitchen. Most probably I was trying out things like composition or something of the sort, which in that small space came more naturally to me. I had everything I needed on hand. Fun times. And now I need to make one of these.

Strawberry Milkshake (7470)

It’s just a basic strawberry and banana milkshake. All you need is:

  • one large ripe banana
  • a handful of fresh strawberries
  • any kind of milk you want

Blend it all up and there you have it. Quick, easy and delightful. Happy Sunday everyone!


Baked Rice Revisited and Better Photos

Baked Rice Revisited (8362)

Among the most popular recipes you can find here on C&T is Baked Rice. Yes, it’s already up and has been up for quite some time now. The feedback has been so good – you cannot imagine how pleased I am at how it turned out. Although the photos on that post are decent, I still have a few more I want to show you just because they turned out better.

Baked Rice Revisited (8346)

Baked Rice Revisited (8347)

This time you have a kind of step-by-step photographic guide on the process, which can take some more of your time than you would like. It is worth the effort though. You get a huge dish out of it meaning you can feed many friends, especially if you serve a salad and/or soup with it. Now is the time to preheat your ovens since it’s still cold-ish on the rock.

Baked Rice Revisited (8348)

Baked Rice Revisited (8351)

The recipe stayed the same – if it ain’t broken don’t fix it, or so I’ve learnt – but I have included it right here for the sake of completeness. You know me – fancy and yours truly just don’t go together. Luckily for me Maltese cooking thrives on rustic, as does Mediterranean cooking in general.

Baked Rice Revisited (8353)

Baked Rice Revisited (8356)

Baked Rice Revisited (8358)

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and a knob of butter if you like
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped finely
  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 4 rashers back bacon
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons saffron, infused in some stock (optional – you will only need the liquid)
  • 580g polpa di pomodoro (I use two 390g cartons/tins)
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, around 1 teaspoon of each
  • splash of Worchestershire sauce

For the rice:

  • 3 cups/24oz rice (I mix white and brown together but suit yourself)
  • 6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock depending on personal preference)

For binding it all together:

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the topping:

  • a fair amount of grated cheese

Place a heavy-based saucepan on the heat. When the pan is really hot, tip in the oil and butter, together with the garlic, onion, minced beef, bacon, all the spices, except the nutmeg, and the saffron-infused water. Cook for around 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the polpa di pomodoro, bay leaf, sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper. You may also add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce if you like. Leave it to simmer to let it reduce. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 before you move on to assembling the dish.

Mix the rice with the stock, the sauce and the eggs. Place everything in a large dish and bake for around 40 minutes.

Add the grated cheese on the top to cover the rice and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes till the cheese turns golden.

Baked Rice Revisited (8359)

You will easily feed 6-8 people with these quantities. If you are feeding a bigger crowd, all you need to do is to make one or two more baking dishes. And good luck!

As always, enjoy!

Aubergine Chermoula

Aubergine Chermoula (9562)

Thank goodness and everything or anyone you and I might believe in, Christmas came and went without a hitch. I promised myself I wouldn’t worry too much about it but in reality J and I spent the best part of the week before feeling sick about the whole thing. At one point I even thought I had some sort of stomach ulcer. Part of it was my fault I’m sure – but looking back I cannot see what was all the fuss about the cooking, since I spent two days prepping everything beforehand. But you see, it was not all about the cooking. Anyhoooo, everything turned out just fine.

I was totally in control on the day though and this was partly due to the help given by Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana. I had so much fun in the kitchen, cooking, taking pictures and doing some tweeting. I made a variation of the recipe as a side dish to serve with a roast pork loin, together with other veg. It was a hit. I made it once before for a trial run and served it simply with rice, which worked wonderfully well. Since then it became a favourite. This is it with how I changed it (albeit slightly) to cater for what I had in my pantry at the time.

  • glug of olive oil
  • 2 aubergines, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • salt
  • 2 red onions, roughly sliced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed or very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
  • handful of sultanas
  • 1 large can of chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml water
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and tip in the aubergines. Gently fry them until they turn golden brown. Season with some salt to draw some of their water out half way through the cooking. Take them out of the pan onto a warm dish and set aside until needed later.

Using the same pan, turn the heat to a low setting and add the sliced onions. Cook them until caramelized, stirring occasionally, making sure they don’t blacken. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon and paprika and give the onions a little stir. Add the red pepper and cook until it turns a little soft.

Add the sultanas, tomatoes, water, vinegar, sugar and honey. Mix everything well and let it come to a simmer. At this point, reintroduce the aubergine into the pan and continue to cook until softened. Switch the heat off and let it sit on the hob to cool and to let the flavours mesh together.

This dish is best prepared a day or two before you want to eat it. Like a stew, it will taste even better.


(This recipe was slightly adapted from Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond, Mitchell Beazley, 2014.)

Around Ghent

Yellow House in Ghent (9948)

Last year I was lucky enough to join J on a very short trip to Ghent, Brussels. It was cold. I felt it in my bones, more so after still wearing my t-shirts back home. It was the first time I wore my winter clothes after a sweltering summer in Malta. On our first day in Brussels I underestimated how cold I would feel, and I didn’t wrap up properly. I learnt my lesson that evening though and geared up the next morning. I spent the day exploring the town on my own while J was away giving his lecture. It was rainy and gloomy but I still enjoyed it immensely. I love spending time alone sometimes. I walked and walked and walked, city map glued to my gloves in case I got lost  – one of my all-time fears. I always manage to find my way back though. Faith in myself restored!

As I was finding my way around the square, trying to find a decent place for coffee (which I eventually found) a woman in a big black Mercedes drove up to me asking me if I spoke French. I said I did…just a little to get by and understand but nothing that would resemble a decent conversation anyway. Does Madam speak English I asked meekly? I barely get by she said, but it was clear to me that she was lost. She told me she couldn’t find her way back home and there my heart sank. I didn’t know her at all and yet I was so worried about her. By the time I stopped a family to ask for help, she just drove off. I tried to call out but nothing. In the evening, while on the tram (and to this very day) I just couldn’t stop wondering whether she got home safely. I hope everything was all right for her in the end.

I took this photo on one of the bridges across the river. That gorgeous pale yellow caught my eye, but I didn’t quite get the snap how I wanted to. Somehow, as in most of my photos, what I see is not what the end result is. Shows I’m not a pro. On the whole though I’m pretty pleased with it. The sky though, don’t make me rant on the whiteness. I almost ruined the picture. At first I thought the couple at the bottom got in the way, however looking at it they show the scale of the building, plus, at the risk of sounding cheesy, they contribute to the romantic feel of the town itself. Unfortunately I only edited two photos from our stay in Ghent. I took many photos but the majority didn’t make the cut. A good excuse to go back then!

On a more foodie note, since tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, known also as Pancake Day in the secular world, I have this and this recipe to share. I made mine today, since I will be in a bit of a rush in the morning. I was up at stupid o’clock today so what the heck, today is the day I thought. The recipe for French toast can be found here.


Browse through 4 years of C&T:

One year ago: Chocolate Pasta with Pecans and Caramel Sauce

Two years ago: Cornbread

Three years ago: Stuffed Vegetables

Four years ago: Mouclade


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