Category Archives: Maltese Food

From the archives: Lemon Syrup Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake (6900)

A very good friend of mine came over to London for a short work-related visit. I hate not having a cake or some cookies standing by for days like these, but, as is so typical of me lately (don’t ask me why because I have absolutely no idea), I found myself frantically flipping through countless cake recipes and notes, not knowing what to do. After a few deep breaths and one lemon and ginger tea, it became as clear as day. The solution was simple: lemon cake. I love this recipe and I knew it was going to work. It brings so many memories of when I first started this blog. Enough nostalgia though and on with the baking.

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest of a lemon
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt 
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 100g icing sugar

Tin: 23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin (or similar), properly greased and lined

Preheat your oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. When you line your tin with baking paper make sure it comes up to around 1cm or a bit more to the sides (see photo). This will make unmoulding much easier.

In a large bowl whisk together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and lemon zest and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt (you can leave the salt out if you want), and add the milk. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and place it in the oven. In the meantime prepare the syrup (see method below). Bake for around 45 minutes, or until golden and check with a skewer or knife to make sure it’s done.

Prepare the syrup by placing the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small pot over the heat and swirl the pan gently until the sugar dissolves. Puncture tiny holes in the cake and pour the syrup over the cake while it is still in the tin. Make sure the middle part absorbs as much liquid as the sides.

When the cake is completely cold, you can lift it up from the loaf tin onto your serving plate. If the cake is still warm it might crumble.

Incidentally my friend brought me a big bag of Mediterranean lemons from the tree in her garden. These will be very happy days, with many many baking days ahead! Enjoy! R xx

(This recipe is adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.)

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

Aubergines

Stuffed-Aubergines-and-Potatoes-(6375)

For me, the cold weather is all about baking. J loves aubergines and so do I, but you know me and veggies; sometimes we’re not the best of friends. However Maltese cooking has found a good compromise – good wholesome veggies stuffed with meat. You will find that I had already written about this so you will forgive me for not going into too much detail about it in this post. I basically kept the same ingredients and followed the same method. However I used aubergines this time round, cooked them till almost al dente in boiling water before distributing the filling, and also topped them with Pecorino. Goat’s cheese would also work here, and of course, never waste the pulp. It bulks up the filling and make it even more delicious. It’s easy and makes for a lovely informal supper with friends. Enjoy!

Rob x

On Chestnuts

Roasted-Chestnuts-(5239)Just the thought of these makes me want to cuddle on the couch with a mug of proper hot chocolate, with a dash of hazelnut syrup. (I was going to suggest liqueur too.) The Maltese have something else up their sleeve: they are crazy about Imbuljuta of course. I like to think of it as a sweet infusion (rather than soup) primarily made with shelled dried chestnuts, cocoa powder (*not drinking chocolate please*, which I saw aplenty on some other websites), caster sugar and tangerine or orange peel. It has been quite a while since I made this, and miss it’s warmth and chocolatey-ness! It’s really like a big hug and it reminds me of Christmas, when it is traditionally made.

I must try to make Imbuljuta this year, if naturally I can get my hands on the dried chestnuts, and experiment for a bit until I find the right amount of sweetness. Chestnuts for roasting are not the kind you need here but until I find the dried kind we will be roasting these at home, unfortunately not on an open fire! (see photo.) All the recipes I found are either too bitter or too sweet…or too chocolatey…or too thick (as in dense)…and I could go on and on. The one with the simplest and arguably most sensible ingredients and quantities I could find, (just because these are the basic ingredients and it is a good start), is from The Food and Cookery of Malta, a classic by Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia, Paz, 1999. You can add any other ingredient of your choice, but you cannot omit, anything from it. There is no cream in this (thank goodness!) even though they include it in their method as a “contemporary addition”. (My notes are included between brackets as you can see, but more as a guideline to myself than to my gentle readers.) They suggest using the following:

  • 400g-500g dried chestnuts (also known as Qastan tal-Imbuljuta)
  • I heaped tablespoon cocoa powder (I’d like to think of this as the standard 15ml measure)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • large piece of tangerine peel, cut into thin strips or chopped (I wouldn’t chop it or cut it. Whole would do nicely.)
  1. The chestnuts should be washed, any ones which seem off, discarded and the rest are placed in a bowl and left to soak overnight.
  2. When ready to be used, remove the residue or leftover skins. The chestnuts are now ready to be cooked. So place them in a heavy based pan, cover with cold water and let them cook until they are tender.
  3. Add the cocoa powder, caster sugar and the tangerine peel (orange peel will also do here) and continue cooking for around 30 minutes. It could need longer to thicken. (I have also seen recipes with corn starch in them, though I doubt their authenticity.) More sugar and/or cocoa can be added during the cooking process, or even after, depending on taste.

I will include any updates on the Galizia recipe, if there are any, hopefully very soon. Does anyone know where I can get some dried chestnuts in Surrey please?

Rob x

Additional note: My mum sent me another recipe for this which will be posted for Christmas 2013, which is richer and better than this one, if I may say so myself. It’s already tried and tested, so check it out before the 2013 festivities. I know you’ll love it! xx