Tag Archives: Malta

Maltese Baked Rice

Baked-Rice-(5232)

[Before you continue reading this, please be aware that I have an updated version of this recipe with better photos and step-by-step instructions.]

Summer’s almost here so I thought that this will be my last chance, at least for now, to write about another lovely traditional treat from Malta. I wasn’t that keen on this when I was young. I always loved my food, but there were some things which I couldn’t stand. Baked rice was in this list but not anymore. To my mum’s chagrin I didn’t like hers as much as my Auntie M’s! (Sorry Ma.) Somehow my Auntie’s was more seasoned and more flavourful, but that could also be my imagination! (Watch the guilt emerge!) I did discover though that baked rice could be good by making a punchy tomato based sauce; that, to the average Maltese may be a bit spicy, but to me it’s heaven on a plate! When I lived in the US (quite a few years back now) I learned to to use more herbs and spices in my cooking and I never looked back since.

Baked-Rice-(5236)

While on holiday in Washington DC for a few days in 2003, J and I headed over to a Mexican restaurant with some friends. I remember dreading it at first – I didn’t know how I was going to handle all those spices without drinking gallons and gallons of water. (Incidentally drinking water makes it worse, but that’s another story.) However I *really* enjoyed the Taquito (or flauta) and cheekily asked J: “Why didn’t you tell me that Mexican food is so yummy? ey??”

Traditionally baked rice is made with minced beef, but for a vegetarian option you can substitute with many veggies. Courgettes would be one option, but I prefer butternut squash or diced pumpkin for a sweet earthy flavour; also they are more meaty and contain less moisture. Make sure you add more pepper to cut down on any extra sweetness.

With these quantities you will feed 6 to 8 people, depending always on how hungry you all are. For the sauce you will need:

  • 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 (I know, I know but I couldn’t find one eighth of a teaspoon anywhere!)
  • salt and pepper, around 1 teaspoon of each (you don’t need to add loads of salt – remember there’s bacon in here)

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

As a topping:

  • a fair amount of grated cheese (optional but yummy!)
  1. 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. Let these cook for around 10 to 15 minutes. Then add the polpa di pomodoro, 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.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 before you move on to assembling the dish.
  3. Mix the rice with the stock, the sauce and the eggs. Place everything in a large dish and bake for around 40 minutes. At this final stage 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.

Comfort food for cozy nights in…Enjoy!

Rob x

Stuffed Vegetables

Stuffed-Marrows-(5170)

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.

Stuffed-Marrows-and-Peppers-(5157)

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!”

Stuffed-Peppers-and-Mushrooms-(5171)

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!

Rob x

Coronation Chicken

Coronation-Chicken-(5163)One of the things we learnt when we moved to England was to take advantage of the countryside. Even though it’s not really my style, I have grown to love the outdoors because of various reasons. I wouldn’t say that our last trip to the Lake District was a total success but at least it was enjoyable, and the peaceful surroundings were truly priceless. We are lucky because in Surrey there are quite a few National Trust houses with beautiful grounds. Apart from loving the many houses and gardens we also like to visit the shops and most often than not we purchase a couple of books.

During a short trip up to Cambridge I got The National Trust Complete Traditional Recipe Book by Sarah Edington – mostly because I liked the cover. I don’t know what it is with me and book covers. I have bought loads of books for that reason (and I *know* I’m not the only person to do that, so please don’t give me that look). Unlike some other NT publications it looks modern, definitely neater and it’s also a good read. I love reading where each recipe originates from and how it was developed, and there is such a good recipe selection. I am going through some of them very slowly, and was planning to write about this book much further along the way. However I cannot help including the recipe for Coronation Chicken right here. It’s an oldie I know, but hey, the book says *traditional* so you were advised. Traditional does not necessarily mean boring, so with a few tweaks here and there it is possible to make something really tasty. It’s great for when you have people round for lunch or an informal summer supper, and adding coriander makes it even fresher.

For this recipe you need some cooked chicken, either leftovers from a roasted bird or you may prefer to get some boneless and skinless thighs from the store and cook them beforehand, as I did this time round. The quantities given here will make enough for 6 to 8 servings, depending on how hungry you are. I would serve it with rice and some salad on the side. My take on the recipe goes like this:

For cooking the chicken:

  • around 1½ kg chicken, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ginger powder
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • (You might need to add 1 tablespoon of water to all this.)

For the sauce:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • ½ teaspoon ginger powder
  • 2 small cubes glacé ginger, chopped (replace by another ½ teaspoon of powder if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 150ml (½ cup) good quality mayonnaise
  • 100g (approx. ½ cup) plain yoghurt
  • 50g almond flakes, toasted *without any oil* in a small pan
  • a little salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh coriander, to serve
  1. In a shallow pan heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, ginger and curry powders and finally the chicken pieces. Toss together until well combined and make sure the chicken pieces are cooked through. Place these in a large bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. In the same pan add another tablespoon of oil and toss in the onion, both gingers and curry. Cook these together until the onion turns soft and transparent. Scrape this mixture into the bowl containing the chicken.
  3. To the chicken mixture add the mango chutney, yoghurt, mayonnaise, a little salt and pepper. It would be good to taste at this stage. Place in a serving dish and top with the toasted almonds and coriander.

Serve with plenty of rice and some salad. It’s a dish for all seasons.

P.S. I tried this with around 50ml mayonnaise and added more yoghurt to the recipe. It worked out great. The only thing is that the mixture was more of a liquidy consistency but other than that it was fine.

Rob x

Note (11. 12. 2013) : The National Trust are now in the process of updating most of their cookery books. I bought a few lately and they look as good as all those recipe books being published as of late.