Category Archives: Almonds

Kwareżimal – a traditional Lenten recipe

Kwarezimal (6567)

I must apologise for my long absence! I cannot believe I have not written anything for you here since the 20-something of February. I was in Malta for a short while, enjoying the sunshine. I needed it. (It’s a glorious day today, so I’m done complaining.) Before I left though, I spent most weekends in the kitchen, trying new recipes and also cooking some old ones, which are still going strong. The saying goes if something ain’t broken, don’t fix it. However a little while ago I promised you a good recipe for Kwareżimal, and after a few adjustments here it is. This is the perfect time to try it out.

Kwarezimal (6566)

Kwareżimal is a traditional Maltese biscuit widely found on the island during Lent. The authentic recipe, for lack of a better word, has no eggs and no butter. No one fusses too much about fasting anymore, (few people avoid sweets for 40 days) and anyway, I think that one egg for binding doesn’t do any harm. I use plain flour together with ground almonds, which makes the recipe less of an expense. If you love almonds as much as the Maltese do, then this one’s for you. Makes 4 large rectangular shaped cookies.

  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon orange oil (substitute this with orange flower water if you prefer)*
  • golden syrup, slightly warm for brushing the tops
  • enough flaked almonds to cover the surface of the biscuits

Preheat the oven to 190 ºC and line one or two baking trays with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, place the flour, ground almonds, caster sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and lightly mix with a spoon or a whisk.

Add the beaten egg, vanilla extract, lemon zest and orange oil* and continue mixing, using your clean hands. The mixture will turn into a fragrant dark-ish dough.

Place the biscuit dough onto a floured surface and divide it into 4 rectangular pieces, placing these onto the prepared baking tray as you go. Brush the surfaces with the golden syrup, slightly warmed into a more liquid consistency, and sprinkle the flaked almonds.

Bake for around 20 to 25 minutes, till they turn slightly golden. Take them out of the oven when they feel a little soft to the touch.

This is such an easy one to make. Good, easy with minimal cleaning. What more could you ask for? Enjoy!

Rob x

Easy Almond Biscotti

Kwarezimal-(5471)

Kwareżimal is a Maltese traditional biscuit made and eaten during Lent. Even though many have abandoned the idea of fasting during the forty days (quaresima) leading up to Easter, these simple bakes are still widely found throughout the island on shops and in homes. My friend M makes wonderful kwareżimal which I cannot get enough of. However what I will give you now is something a little different…

What I have for you here is less of a kwareżimal, and more of a biscotti. It wouldn’t be fair to call them otherwise, mostly because these babies contain eggs and butter; it is more a matter of convenience than anything else. I have taken the liberty of naming them “Cheat’s Kwareżimal” though, hoping not to offend anyone here! I have no idea why I tend to eat almonds (and/or bake with almonds) after the Christmas period. They may be rich but in my mind they are still healthy and good for you.

J came up with this recipe while we were still in MI, and since it always works well for us I decided to leave the measurements in cups rather than grams, as they are in my notebook. To be honest I prefer this way of measuring. For me, it’s quicker and more convenient (and I have an affinity for it because that’s the way I learnt) especially when you use large glass containers for storing baking ingredients. I cannot do this anymore due to the lack of storage space in my kitchen, but I know that one day I will find a way to do this again…eventually that is.

OK, enough talk and let’s get down to the really fun stuff…For 4 large rectangular-shaped portions you will need:

  • 2 cups soft light brown sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups flaked almonds
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, beaten as egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 175 ºC/350 ºF and line two large baking trays with parchment or baking paper.
  2. Place the sugar into a large mixing bowl together with the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and almonds and lightly mix these before adding the softened butter. I would recommend using your hands for this (clean, of course!). You risk breaking the flaked almonds if you use a mixer on high speed and I like to see the almonds clearly when cutting into the biscuits.
  3. This mixture will turn into a dough, and when it does place it on a floured surface. Cut this in four approximately equal pieces and roll each one into a log shape.
  4. Place the dough onto the lined baking trays and flatten them into around 1cm thick rectangles. Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake for around 25 to 30 minutes, till they turn golden brown.

Store them in an airtight container and cut as many pieces as you like, as you go. Do not attempt to cut them up before serving since they will almost certainly dry out.To make this even more traditional, you can add lemon peel and a few drops of orange flower water, something found in the Maltese version.

Happy Baking!

Rob x

Kale.

Kale-Salad-(5420)

I really like kale. Pity that I only discovered it a few months back. I’m really not a vegetarian at heart but veggies are good for you, or so they say, so I make an effort. Especially when it comes to salad options. Too much of a good thing is…well…not good. You know what I mean. I grew tired of the same old salad leaves that I bought a bunch of kale on a whim without knowing what to do with it. When I opened the fridge I had the answer. I chopped up some garlic, one shallot, a few grams of cured chorizo, a red pepper, a yellow one and tossed them in a pan with some olive oil. I washed the kale, added it to the pan, heated it up with the rest of the ingredients, placed everything in a large salad bowl, seasoned it with pepper and added some toasted almond flakes. It makes one good side dish, and it’s so quick that you can make it while you chat to your friends in the kitchen.

Ham-and-Kale-(5423)

Enjoy!

Rob x

Moist Almond Cake.

Almond-Cake-(5255)

This recipe goes quite a few months back. I had an unusual number of lemons lying around doing nothing. This is not the norm in this house. As any good Mediterranean foodie I really really love lemons…in anything, not just in baking. That makes it perfect for use all year round.

Now how about this: the following recipe has almost nothing to do with lemons, so why am I rambling on about them you ask? It’s because the *original* recipe used the zest and juice of two lemons, but being such a klutz in the kitchen I zested my lemons, juiced them, placed the zest and juice into two small ramekins ready to go into the batter…yes…and of course I forgot about them!  I tipped the batter into the cake tin, into the oven it went and by the time I went about doing other things like checking any mail and cleaning the kitchen in between prepping other dishes, it was too late to add the lemons. This is definitely not the first time something like this happened, but nonetheless I was still angry with myself. I thought that the cake would lose out too much on flavour and maybe it would have lost some of the moistness. I am happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. One has to admit one’s mistakes! The cake was good and moist. Thinking back, how couldn’t it not be?

This recipe is taken from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Nigella says: “It is a plain cake, but gloriously plain.” It’s not meant to be a warning – this cake is meant to be made and enjoyed like all the simple things in life. It’s a cake for all seasons with or without the lemons. J preferred it without because he loves almonds. I think that it’s great either way. One thing I love here is the minimal amount of flour used; there are only 50g. The ground almonds take care of the rest. Here’s the recipe without the lemony element. I will make a note for those who would like them to be included as I go along. Here it is then!

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened or slightly melted
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 225g ground almonds
  • ½ teaspoon almond essence (I used ¼ teaspoon almond extract instead)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons if using*
  • a piece of kitchen foil big enough to cover the top of the cake**
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and line or grease a 23cm springform tin. (I tried this cake twice also using a normal round cake tin. Make sure you *really* grease the tin well. But be careful; this cake is damp and very fragile.)
  2. In a large bowl beat the sugar and butter together till you have a white mixture. Be patient – it *will* turn white. Beat in the eggs one by one and also add the flour, one quarter of it at a time. (Beating the eggs properly ensures some rise in the cake as there is no raising agent here.)
  3. Now add the ground almonds, the almond essence, and if you like tip in the zest and juice from the two lemons at this point.* Stir very very gently. This is important to keep the air in the batter.
  4. Tip the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for around an hour. This is only a rough estimate (as you can see in the book). Mine took 55 minutes exactly in both cases. So always keep an eye on it. After around 25 minutes cover the top of the cake with some kitchen foil to avoid burning.** You want it to turn a nice golden colour. Any more than that and it could burn. When the cake is done the skewer should come out clean. Don’t worry if there is a little gooeyness stuck to the knife or skewer. It’s ok if there’s just a little!
  5. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the tin for a little while. Then turn it on to a wire rack and let it cool completely. What I did at this point, and this is totally up to you, is to melt around 100g of dark chocolate with a knob of butter on a small pot of steaming water. Drizzle this over the cake. It’s an unfussy way of putting a little decoration. I don’t bother with anything else at this point – it will be gobbled up anyway! Nigella has some great tips on how to serve this cake too: either with some lemon ice cream or with raspberries or both! Enjoy and tell me what you think if you try it.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Soggy muffins – slight improvement but…

Apple-and-Cinnamon-Muffins-(5414)

…I’m not there yet. However I was definitely happier with the result. I did make some changes, one reason being I didn’t have any flaked almonds left. Also I had some Braeburn apples instead of Pink Lady on the suggestion of my neighbour, which I have to say have worked better I think. Braeburns are slightly firmer, even though I grated the apples this time round. This could have made the muffins soggier but actually they didn’t. Go figure.

Even though it took a teeny tiny bit more of work I avoided the use of muffin paper cases. After a little research I found that pros don’t favour their use because it makes the muffins wetter and keeps loads of moisture in, which makes the texture unpleasant to say the least. A disaster in fact, which was what happened to me before. All you have to do is to butter the tin and coat it with a thin layer of flour. A bit messy but worth it. You will have to be gentle as you take them out of the tin. Let them cool for a while but not too much, then using a soft spatula go round the edges slowly and remove each of them carefully. I’m saying this because a couple of them ended up with a split top. Don’t worry though – you can add some flavoured whipped cream in between!

As far as the cooking time goes it obviously varies from oven to oven, but I tried baking them at 180ºC for the first 25 minutes, then for 160ºC for 10 to 15 minutes. I know it may seem a long time but frankly I preferred to let them crunch a little instead of having loads of undercooked cakes. I should also say that these keep best in the fridge especially if you don’t plan to eat them within 2 days.

These are the ingredients I used this time. I *will* try to make them again just because I don’t like to give up. But these muffins are full of flavour anyway so why not? Why not indeed.

  • 2 Braeburn apples, grated, set aside in a bowl and sprinkle on some lemon juice
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 125ml honey
  • 60ml runny yoghurt (not Greek)
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 35g ground almonds

For next time I have a list of some more changes I want to make. Stay tuned.

Rob x