Having just returned home from a routine dentist appointment, I thought there was no better time to complete today’s post! This has been sitting around here since last Friday but I couldn’t complete it in time. Today, after having recuperated some much-needed sleep throughout the night, I can say that it’s the first time in a month I feel rested. The sciatica pain is slowly dying down and telling you that I am relieved is definitely an understatement. Cheers to that.
Among the most popular recipes you can find here on C&T is Baked Rice. Yes, it’s already up and has been up for quite some time now. The feedback has been so good – you cannot imagine how pleased I am at how it turned out. Although the photos on that post are decent, I still have a few more I want to show you just because they turned out better.
One evening I just wanted a simple side, prepared without too much faff for a weeknight supper. I must have had some leftover roast from the weekend before; can’t recall much because it has been a while. Proof? Look at the date. Yikes. J was still the one taking the photos for C&T. What I do remember though was that I had around an hour to spare for the prep and the cooking, and in a panic I just couldn’t think properly. Luckily in the nick of time I assembled an adaptation of an easy recipe by Gennaro Contaldo. I read it a few days before in Two Greedy Italians but with no time to find it from the book I tried to make a rough version of it. I have checked his recipe since then and he obviously gives measurement for every ingredient.
During a recent visit to Malta, I went through an old recipe file, still in storage. I wanted to find the very first cake I have ever baked. I flipped through the many sheets of neatly printed papers and there it was. Found it. You see, back in the days when I started to feel at home in the kitchen I was extremely methodical about keeping notes, writing and printing almost every recipe I tried. I had so much time on my hands, enough to feel really lonely…it was unbelievable. (My only regret is that I had no interest in blogging back then.) Alas, things have changed during the past few years and I have not been that good about organizing my notebooks. J came up with a strategy: there is a simple solution to all this, but to me it’s sounding more of a battle plan. So I am postponing what I should have done ages ago. Not good.
I digress so back to the cake. The precious paper (no rings here) contains a recipe for a “Yoghurt Cake”. It has been ages since I made it so I won’t include it here; I might try it next week and take some pics. Right now I want to tell you about a similar bake, found in Nigellissima for another yogurt cake. Now I don’t know about you, but more often than not I tend to have a big pot of plain yogurt on the go in my fridge. I always get a 500g pot at the start of the week with the most basic, or rather, idealistic premise of a healthy breakfast. Of course, this plan goes completely awry by Wednesday, but not to worry: what remains of the pot goes into this cake. Well, 150 grams of it anyway!
When I bought Nigellissima, this was one of the recipes that caught my eye, and admittedly I thought that the savarin mould was irreplaceable. So this recipe was confined more towards the end of my list. However Nigella suggests using a 22/23cm springform pan, which I have; I just don’t like using it. So I used a normal non-stick round tin instead, which I still greased, and it worked well. (I always butter and flour non-stick pans when not using parchment paper.) A couple of weeks ago, I did get a savarin mould and I cannot wait to try it. I definitely will…very very soon…before my Maltese lemons run out. I’d better hurry! (If the lemons you have are not unwaxed, then don’t fret. Just rinse them with cold water, scrubbing them lightly as you go.*)
- 150g plain yogurt
- 150ml vegetable oil
- 3 egg whites
- 3 egg yolks
- 250 golden caster sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- zest of ½ an unwaxed lemon*
- 175g plain flour
- 75g cornflour (or cornstarch)
- 1 teaspoon icing sugar, for sprinkling on top of the cake before serving
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4 and grease the savarin mould or the tin of your choosing.
Whisk the egg whites till you get firm peaks and set aside.
In another bowl, tip in the egg yolks and add the yogurt and sugar, and whisk these well until airy.
Now, slowly add the vegetable oil while mixing the yogurt mixture; then add the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
Fold in the flour and the cornstarch in two or three batches, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. When you have no lumps, stop mixing.
Gently fold the egg whites into the flour mixture. Keep it light. (It’s a bit like flicking and swishing a wand, if you’re a lovable show-off like Hermione.)
Tip the mixture into the greased cake tin or mould and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Place it on a rack to cool. I would wait for another 15 to 20 minutes to remove it from the mould. Serve after sprinkling it with the icing sugar.
Enjoy! R xx
(This recipe is adapted from Nigellissima, Chatto & Windus, London, 2012.)
An Easter feast would not be complete without an impressive piece of meat at the center of the table. For me it just has to be lamb. For me, lamb was an acquired taste. It has a powerful overwhelming flavour and I don’t like to eat it regularly. Although this meat is very popular in Mediterranean countries, I don’t think it’s cooked often enough in Maltese kitchens. Beef is still numero uno, followed by pork. When I was a child roasts were a huge part of my life. Given the British influence on my country, I do think that kids my age grew up with Sunday roasts. Family tradition was important and in this the Maltese are very Mediterranean. We still believe in having lunch and/or dinner together at the table, though this ritual is also undergoing a gradual demise, together with other familial traditions. Unfortunately major celebrations like weddings, Christmas and Easter are the only few occasions where families still get together. Yet, there is hope…
I never roasted or braised anything other than chicken before we came over to the UK. This is only because of that one haunting phenomenon that stops us from doing whatever we want to do: fear. When I started this blog I knew I had to overcome my kitchen anxieties. I have so many more I want to conquer! But I didn’t know where to start. Since there are so many recipes for lamb, I had no idea where to start. My confusion disproportionately grew, until I found the one that broke the irrational cycle. You say drama, drama, drama. I say Oh-God-I-will-burn-the-whole-thing-with-the-kitchen. That’s fear for you.
James Tanner, one of my favourite chefs, has an easy recipe for a braised shoulder of lamb in Takes 5. I wanted to replicate the exact same recipe. As it happens I had to make some changes. (I still used the essential ingredients and recipe from the book as inspiration. His method is a bit chefy and I wish I did what the recipe said but I took some shortcuts.) As a result of my usual and still unexplained absentmindedness, I bought a boneless shoulder, instead of one with the bone in. So the cooking times went all wacky on me, but after the crisis was averted, I was happy with the result. And even happier with the eating, of course. This is what I did.
- 1.5 kg boneless lamb shoulder
- 1 tablespoon of regular olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 large onions, thickly sliced
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 10 large garlic cloves, left whole and unpeeled
- 200ml a good robust red wine
- 300ml vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 230ºC. Rub the lamb shoulder with regular olive oil, salt and pepper, and place it in a hot cast iron pan, on top of the sliced onions. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the oven and take off any excess fat.
Now reduce the temperature to 175ºC. Add the dried thyme and garlic cloves to the lamb, together with the red wine and vegetable stock.* Cover the pan and cook for around 1 hour, or until the lamb is pink in the middle.
As with any roast meat, let it rest for a while before carving on a warm dish covered with kitchen foil. If you want to make a thicker gravy I would stick with James amount of wine, i.e. 500ml.* I will eventually try the full recipe and get the bone in cut. After all, the meat next to the bone is more tender and tastes better. I did like the boneless shoulder though and will come up with a stuffing to go with it. In the meantime buon appetito and Happy Easter.