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.)
- The chestnuts should be washed, any ones which seem off, discarded and the rest are placed in a bowl and left to soak overnight.
- 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.
- 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?
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
A few weeks ago a very kind friend gave me some runner beans. Shame on me I didn’t know exactly what they were! I know it’s stupid. I can see you rolling your eyes. In my defense though, I never really seen them, or ate them, neither here nor in Malta. (I could have been living on Mars…) On the rock (what we *Maltese*, not *Maltesers* please, sometimes affectionately call our little island) you can get broad beans, known as ful, almost everywhere. Many like to eat them raw, shelled of course, with their outer coating removed. There’s something therapeutic about doing all this while watching your favourite tv show. (Like CSI perhaps?) In Malta you can find them cooked in minestra (a variant of the Italian minestrone), simply cooked with garlic and tomatoes, or in our famous bigilla, a tasty concoction which has cooked beans as the base ingredient, crushed, to which you add olive oil, garlic, chilli if you like spice and any herb you fancy. Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia suggest using either marjoram or mint – the latter grows like you wouldn’t believe in Malta. (See The Food and Cookery of Malta, Pax, 1999.)
We were talking about runner beans…? Yes. So I didn’t know what to do with them. J kept telling me that they don’t need to be shelled, but I would’t listen. I did eventually though and after doing some quiet research (quiet because he didn’t see me, ha!) I simply washed them, sliced them diagonally, sort of diamond-shaped, finally chopped an onion, squashed two cloves of garlic, chopped some chorizo and some fresh parsley, lightly cooked everything up in a pan and bam, it’s ready.
In the meantime I had a couple of rainbow trout in the oven and there you have a great meal on the table in 30 minutes. The same method and ingredients can also be used with any kind of green vegetable. Kale is fantastic and full of good things, and broccoli too. You won’t have any excuse not to eat your veg or 5-a-day. Enjoy!
These are some more photos taken in Malta. I don’t get to go often, simply because visiting the rock is never completely a holiday. What was different this time round is that I did a fair amount of cooking and of course, learning. Cooking rabbit was like an adventure. Sounds a bit silly I know, but I felt like a kid in a candy shop. All it took was a bit of white wine, onions, garlic and spice (sweet mixed preferably but recipes differ in nature), firstly seared in a large pan. My big mistake: not having my trusted notebook with me in case I wanted to write the recipe. I have a bad long-term memory. I learnt my lesson. Same goes for the Bigilla (a typical Maltese dip made out of beans). I still have to find someone who doesn’t like it as much as I do, but you never know.
Enjoy the pics!
Don’t worry – I will keep it short. Hand-held electric beaters are perfectly fine for baking but I love my KitchenAid. I really really miss it because I don’t have it with me here in Surrey. (Before I continue please note that this is *not* a promotion, but it’s a piece of news which will make you cringe, especially if you’re watching the pennies like every other person on the planet.) Listen to this…
Last April, J and I were out and about with my mum. As we entered Forestals (Malta) I noticed that they had some KitchenAid Artisan mixers on display. Price? €831. In April…2012. Yes. Now…in July…on their website: €640. Spot the difference. Is this reduction a fluke, or perhaps due to ‘competitive’ trade fair prices? Or maybe it’s because no one is buying anything these days? Kindly also note the brushed nickel one: €852!
Last week I was somewhere in Surrey, window shopping for some kitchen stuff, and there it was (the mixer that is), in a charming little kitchen shop. Price: £154. Nice! You can stop rubbing your eyes now. Compare and contrast. Done? Incidentally a friend of mine told me that you can find it at around €450 from Italy. Mah…
In Comfort & Spice, Niamh Shields says that potato became her one of her favourite pizza toppings since her first trip to Rome. Not to worry – I *did* tell Niamh that the Maltese love that too. I remember a visit to Gozo a long time ago (I must have been around 21 I think..I did say ‘a long time ago’) while looking for somewhere to eat I was directed by a local to a lady who made the “best pizza”. I really cannot recall where this was, and I don’t know if it really was the best pizza. To tell you where you can find that I would have to get back to you. What I will say now is that it was really good.
When I’m homesick I love to recreate recipes which take me back to the islands for a little while and a really quick way of doing that is to make a basic pizza dough and put plenty of thinly sliced potatoes on top. Make sure it doesn’t dry up on you, so add plenty of olive oil. I do have a recipe for pizza dough in this blog. Whatever you put on your pizza is up to you. Traditionalists will pull their noses up and not look at these pics, but I don’t really care. Apart from the classic Napoletana, which I think is similar to the Margherita, I love it with Maltese sausages and/or potatoes. That’s how we roll in Malta.
I’m also posting here some photos taken on a recent visit to Malta – I managed some to do some cooking, including some pizzas for lunch. A few were made with goat’s cheese (ġbejniet) and the traditional zalzett Malti. Hope you enjoy them as much as much as I did.