There’s always a story to tell when it comes to cooking and eating. It’s really not usual for me to mention any particular cooking programme on this blog, but here I just couldn’t resist. A few months ago I was flicking through some tv channels and came across one Hairy Bikers episode which could have angered me if I had not taken it with a pinch of salt…a big one that is.
I’ll have to ask a question to all my Maltese readers. Could anyone of you tell me if you’ve ever heard the expression Qarabagħli bil-Mimli? Please note the “bil-“. I have definitely heard Qarabagħli mimli bil-laħam for example (literally meaning stuffed marrows with meat), but never Qarabagħli bil-mimli. After doing a bit of searching here and there I read that this interesting little mix-up of the very famous Maltese dish didn’t have anything to do with the Bikers themselves. The following is what happened, and I’ll quote from here:
“Avis and her daughter Eiry have strong connections with Malta and Maltese cuisine. One of the dishes they are keen to share is a marrow dish that was passed down to Eiry’s father though many generations of Maltese men.
Now, marrow may not sound that posh an ingredient, but when you hear that this dish is called “Arabali bil-mimly” (a family mispronunciation of it’s original and rather daunting name “Qara’baghli mimli bil-laham”) you begin to understand its poshness potential. Then when you discover that Avis was cooking this dish in the 60s using ingredients such as garlic and tomato puree it becomes clear how posh this must have been when Avis first brought the recipe back to Wales!”
Yes I can see you…yes, the Maltese you, rolling your eyes, and I get ya! But, having said that I must confess that I really loved watching something from Malta being cooked on tv. It was kind of exciting. The following is my version of this classic yet heart-warming bake. There’s nothing complicated here; it’s quick, easy, and takes me back on our little island whenever I want a taste of home. I used canned tomatoes, because they’re good. Also note that the quantities for this version are for long marrows, which I then cut into as many portions as I need. From two large ones I usually get three or four, depending on how many people I have to feed. But nothing beats the medium round ones I used to hate when I was young! How foolish!
- 6-8 marrow halves; their juicy pulp scooped and set aside to use when required
- 1 tablespoon olive oil; another tablespoon if needed
- a small knob of butter
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 4 chestnut mushrooms, chopped
- 500g minced beef
- 400g tinned tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons tomato concentrate
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon curry
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 egg, for binding
- grated cheese (Red Leicester or Cheddar), mixed with some breadcrumbs for topping
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4.
Cut the marrow into as many portions as you need (see photo), scoop out the pulp and place this in a bowl until needed later. Leave a thickness of around 1cm at the sides of the marrow. Place these onto a baking dish, lined with kitchen foil.
To prepare the sauce, heat the oil and butter in a hot pan and add the chopped onions and garlic. Add mushrooms, minced beef and spices. Cook gently and stir occasionally. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato concentrate, sugar and seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce, always tasting as you go along.
When it starts reducing, turn off the heat and tip in the marrow pulp that you set aside beforehand. Mix well and add the egg to make sure the sauce binds when it bakes in the marrow shells. Divide this mixture into each of the marrow halves. Create a topping with some grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes minutes in a preheated oven or until everything is cooked through.
Serve with anything you like. I love them best cold in between two slices of crunchy Maltese bread! I know many of my friends would agree. Enjoy!