Fresh Tomatoes

Tomatoes are plentiful at the moment and hence relatively cheap. This is the best time to stock up on some fresh produce and preserve it for the colder months.
Tomatoes are great to work with as they cook easily and do not require a lot of preparation.
You can preserve your tomatoes as a plain tomato sauce and use them instead of the tinned ones in the colder months. Alternatively you could turn the tomatoes into jam.
This week I shall give you 2 recipes; this first recipe is for preserve the tomatoes into jars and the other for a fresh and light pasta sauce.
To best preserve your tomatoes, I like to peel them and chop the roughly. Now place them alone in a pan. Do not add any oil, onion or garlic and allow them to simmer. Once the tomatoes have softened and achieved the consistency of tomato polpa (tinned tomatoes) place them into sterilised jars, label and store in a cool place.

There are 2 basic methods of sterilising:
Oven Sterilisation: Wash your jars with warm soapy water and rinse and dry them thoroughly. Now place the jars for 5 minutes in a hot oven (around 180C) just before filling up. Once the jars are out of the oven, fill immediately and seal. Allow the jars to cool before labelling or storing.

Pot Sterilisation: Wash your jars as above, and dry them. Fill the jars and close them. Now place a dish cloth around the jars and carefully place them in a large deep pot so that the jars are about 5 cm lower than the edge of the pot. Fill the pot up with boiling water until the jars are immersed half way up. Bring the water to a boil and keep them boiling for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the jars cool completely inside the pot before removing them. Once the water has cooled, wipe the jars dry from the outside, label and store.

Should you have a steam baby bottle steriliser, this too can be used to sterilise your jars. Just wash the jars as above and place them in the steriliser. Once the jars and lids are sterile and still hot, fill them with your jam/chutney and cool completely before labelling and storing.

Spaghetti with fresh lampuki

This is a new way of using the Lampuki fish that are in season. Lampuki, (Dolphin fish or Mahi-mahi) are mainly fried into chunks locally or made into a pie. Click here for my Lampuki Pie recipe
This week I am giving you a different recipe for your lampuki, Pasta with lampuki. This pasta is easy to prepare and also very healthy.
You can also try this dish with swordfish should lampuki not be in season. This is what you will need to make enough sauce for 500g of pasta:

1 large lampuka just under 1Kg
olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
fresh herbs, parsley, thyme, mint, basil
4 large plum tomatoes (tadam cat)
500 grms cooked pasta

This sauce will be ready by the time you cook your pasta so place a pot of salted water over the cooker and in the meantime start preparing the sauce.

Start off by cleaning the fish and cooking it slightly under the grill or steam it. Once the fish has softened slightly and are nearly cooked cut the fish into fillets. The easiest way to do this is to use 2 spoons; remove the head, tail and spines and chop the fish into bite size cubes.

Make sure that the fish isn’t too small otherwise it will crumble on cooking.
Now heat some olive oil in a pan and add the garlic which needs to be chopped finely. Next add the chopped herbs and the peeled chopped fresh tomatoes.

Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes and once the pasta is nearly done, add the lampuki chunks.
Stir the cooked spaghetti into the sauce and serve immediately.

Lampuki (Mahi mahi) Pie

Lampuki are back in season this month! With every purchase I made over the past week the fish seem to be getting larger so it will soon be time to prepare some delicious Lampuki pies.
Lampuki is the Maltese name for Dolphin fish or Mahi-mahi. This fish is considered by some as the only fish during these months as it can be found in abundance at most fishmongers and is also sold by hawkers parking close to home.
Most families like to remove head and tail, then cut into thick chunks, dust the pieces with some flour and fry them in oil. This typical maltese supper is served it with some crusty Maltese bread, boiled potatoes and some kunserva (tomato paste).

Here is what you need for the pie

2 onions
Lampuki fillets chopped – Number depends on the how full you like your pies
400g Spinach leaves (you can use frozen)
1 large tin of peas
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
100g green pitted olives
Chicken or Fish stock – about 250ml
Short crust pastry about 500g – depends on the size of your pies
Start off by frying the sliced onion in a little oil until it is softened. Next add the tomatoes, the spinach and some of the stock.
Now add olives and the peas and stir. Add more stock if it is required. Finally add the fish fillets and gently stir the pot so as not to break your fish chunks.
Allow the pot to simmer for a couple of minutes until your fish is cooked.
It is important that the filling is completely cooled before making you pies. It is best to make the filling a day ahead and rest it in the refrigerator.
To prepare the pies, grease your baking dish and line it with the rolled out pastry. Pour your cooled filling in the dish and spread it around evenly. Make sure that there is no water in the filling at this point. Now cover the pie with some more pastry and bake in a preheated oven at 180C until nice and brown! This should take about 45 minutes depending on your oven.

Tomato Pie

Pies are the ultimate home-made take-away. Since most pies can be prepared ahead of time and eaten warm or cold, this convenience food is ideal to pack away for school or and office packed lunch.

With busy winter schedules just around the corner, over the next couple of weeks I shall be giving you some recipes for you to enjoy. And even if your days are still not busy, you can prepare these pies to take with you on the beach or a picnic.

For the pastry
150g flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar

For the Filling
1 kg tomatoes
Fresh Basil leaves
Olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar

Start off by making the pastry. Place the flour, sugar, salt and olive oil in a blender and pulse until the oil is properly mixed into the flour. Now, with the machine running add the water, a little at a time, until your flour turns into dough.

Topple the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball. Allow the pastry to rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature.

In the mean time, wash your tomatoes and slice them into 0.5cm slices.

Roll your pasty out and place it in a round baking dish of about 23cm. Blind bake your pastry in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes at 160C. Place piece of foil, shinny side down, on the pastry and weigh it down with baking beans of some coins. Spread them evenly so that your pastry will not rise.

Once your pastry is cooked, switch the cooker onto the grill setting.
Take the pastry out of the oven and keeping it still in the dish place the tomatoes in it. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the sugar and some freshly ground pepper and grill for 8 minutes or until your tomatoes start to crunch up.

Remove the pie from under the grill and drizzle with a generous helping of olive oil and fresh basil leaves.