Tag Archives: Maltese recipes

Stuffed Baked Aubergines

Baked Aubergines and Marrows (8213)

This week will be a stay-in week. Lucky you, I hear you say. Honestly, I would love to be out and about though, instead of being stuck with a very painful ear and throat infection that’s really making me lose both my patience and hours of precious sleep. I wasn’t even going to post anything for the next few days, but C&T really needs some love, care and attention right now, so here I am. I love being here, sharing recipes and cooking tips, and writing. Also I learn so much by reading comments and blogs by my favourite people. It’s totally worth being here. Even if half of my face is a mess and telling me to rest. Now.

However it’s going to be a rainy week they say, and what better excuse than to spend some time in the kitchen and bake. A very good friend of mine and her daughter gave me a couple of cake recipes which are the bomb. They are so good that I plan to share very soon. I just love it when people share their favourite recipes with me and in turn allow me to share them with you. I will give them a mention of course when I do just that, because that’s my style and I like to keep it that way. Come back for more later, but in the meantime onto today’s dish.

Continue reading Stuffed Baked Aubergines

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Christmas Log

Christmas-Log-(6474)

Unlike the traditional Christmas cake, which I only made a handful of times, I’m a huge fan of mince pies, the crustier the pastry the better, and this log. Now I must honestly say that the Maltese recipe for Christmas log wins hands down here, at least for me. The British chocolate sponge version doesn’t really do anything for me. I still prefer it over the pudding though, which on the other side of the spectrum is too rich, again for my taste.

Christmas-Log-(6461)

I use this recipe year after year, and is exactly how I like it. My mum makes a mean log, moist and it’s basically yumminess personified, which she gets by adding more alcohol than I do. I like mine a little bit more mellow, reflected in my version. If you want to add a bit more, so be it. I promised my friends this recipe by the end of the week, so without further ado here it is.

Makes approximately 3 x 20cm long logs, and it’s a no-cook assemblage! Please note that the recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk – the gloopy sticky stuff. The mixture will turn out to be too liquidy if you use any other kind of tinned milk.

For the log:

  • 300g rich tea biscuits
  • 125g chopped almonds
  • 200g walnuts
  • 400g candied cherries
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 75ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 530g sweetened condensed milk

For the topping:

  • Dark chocolate, melted for covering the log
  • icing sugar, for sprinkling

Lay 3 sheets of parchment paper or cling film on your worktop, one for each log.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients for the log, preferably using your clean hands. You should basically end up with a sticky mess, but trust me, this is what you want.

Divide the mixture into three, and roll each one in parchment paper.

Put them in the fridge and leave to set overnight.

When you are ready to decorate, unwrap and place them on flat serving dish. Cover with the dark molten chocolate. When the chocolate is completely set, liberally dust the logs with icing sugar.

My countdown to Christmas has officially begun! Enjoy!

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

Images: More Maltese food.

Bigilla-(5502)

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.

Rabbit-(5499)

Rabbit-(5505)

Enjoy the pics!

Rob x

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