Gorgonzola & Pear Canapé

Start off your Christmas meal with something different this year. Pears are in season and i managed to find some nice firm ones which were still sweet on the inside. Mixing pears with blue cheese is aperfect combination as the freshness of the pears will clean your palate from the rich blue cheese flavour.

You can buy some vol-au-vent cases for this recipe or simply use puff-pastry. Some brands of puff pastry are also sold ready rolled out, so all you have to do is cut the circles and bake!

200g puff pastry

200g gorgonzola

2 fresh large pears

1 tablespoon honey

To make the pastry base, just roll the pastry out and cut into neat squares or circles. Make sure to keep the sizes of your pastry base small as these canapé need to be held comfortably in one hand whilst holding your drink with the other.

Once the pastry is cut, place it on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 160C.

Whilst the pastry is still warm, place a small piece of gorgonzola cheese on top, about the size of a teaspoon. Drizzle a bit of the honey and then top with thin slices of pears.

These canapé can be served warm or cold.

This article has been previously published in the Best Buy Supplement, out monthly with The Times.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting David and Isabelle from Buongustai. Apart from talking about the delicious flavours of Italy, in particular Sicily, we also spoke about the range of products that they import themselves.

What I particularly liked about their range is that the selection is handpicked by David and Isabelle and not sent en mass by some agents and they must sell and market it at all costs. One of the advantages of being a small firm like theirs is that they can afford to keep a personal touch with their clients as well as with the items they sell.

As we were casually chatting about the delicious ingredients one finds in Sicily I tried their delicious latte di mandorla which left me speechless. This of course is nothing like the over sugared almond milk we are used to here. The taste is fresh and light and the almond is a soft taste and not an overpowering fake one.

Whilst I was sipping it I was thinking of all the panna cotta I could do with it….mmmm

But the show stopper was definitely their Sillitti Extra Virgin olive oil which is excellent in quality and above all very well priced. For those of you who scour the supermarket shelves looking for a real olive oil, here is the answer to your prayers!

David and Isabelle can be contacted on cardin@maltanet.net or 99424210. A product price list is available on request. Orders can be emailed or phoned in and we will deliver orders over €30.

To sample the extra virgin olive oil, try drizzling some over some fresh tortellini or flavour your chunky soups instead of grating some cheese.


Halloween is celebrated on the last day in October and is a feast to celebrate the dead; or rather the souls that are stuck between the mortal world and the dead. With TV series' like Ghost Whisperer or Supernatural being followed locally, it's no wonder how our fascination with life after death has increased. Being an ancient Celtic celebration in origin, Halloween was also celebrated to commemorate the new harvest. A bountiful time before the harsh winter begins. The festival itself has changed and the way we celebrate it now-a-days is more linked to the souls moving on other than the harvest.

The term Halloween is said to come from all Hallows' Eve which is the evening before All Hallows' Day, or All Souls' Day.

The fireworks displays as well as the bonfires that were originally done on this feast were meant to ward off any evil spirits that might have crossed over into our world. The loud noises coupled with the flashes of light were supposed to scare the ghosts away.

Halloween or different versions of the same feast are celebrated throughout the world. In Latin America and Asia they coincide with local 'day of the dead' festivities. In England, Guy Fawkes day and bonfire fire were originally celebrated at this time of year but with the influence of American pop culture the feast is now also called Halloween. In America, children dress up as ghosts, witches, vampires or even zombies on Halloween night and go from door to door crying 'trick or treat'! If they are given sweets from the houses they visit, then the tenants are spared a trick.

Halloween pumpkins

One of the most prominent decoration or symbol of Halloween is the pumpkin. Pumpkins with smiley or scary faces, lit with a candle from inside are known as jack-o'-lanterns. Pumpkins were introduced into the Halloween tradition because they are quite abundant at this time of year!

Carving your pumpkin can be quite easy but I suggest that you stick to basic designs to start with. In America, Pumpkin designs have become quite intricate and you can get your pumpkin carved professionally in any pattern your wish. Apart from the basic horror faces, you can see pumpkins depicting celebrities, politicians or cartoon characters.

Pumpkins are best carved a day before you want to use them or on the day. If you carve your pumpkin too early, it will lose its shape. Pumpkins start to dry our once they are carved, so it is best to either coat the carved pumpkin with some Vaseline or petroleum jelly or else to keep it soaked in water when you are not using it. If the pumpkin dries out, it will start to shrivel and will not be as attractive to display.

The first thing you will need to do before carving your pumpkin is to prepare the following.

  1. Find a patter you like to carve on your pumpkin
  2. Decide which part of the pumpkin will be carved
  3. Prepare a spoon, sharp small knife and a large sharp knife.

Once you are ready to carve your pumpkin using the large knife, slice the bottom of the pumpkin slightly so that it will sit steadily. Once that is ready, using a pencil, trace or draw your patter onto the pumpkin. Next, cut off the top part of the pumpkin making a large enough incision to allow your hand to enter the pumpkin comfortably.

Using your hands, remove all seeds from the middle and set them aside. Next, using the small knife, carve your pattern making sure to cut deep enough into the pumpkin to allow the pieces of pumpkin to drop out completely.

Now, using the spoon or your small knife, scoop out all the flesh from the inside of the pumpkin making sure that there is enough space for your candle to sit in. Also, make sure that the pattern looks neat from the outside. You might need to trim the pumpkin from the inside in certain areas.

Once you are ready to light the pumpkin, light a small tea candle and place it inside the pumpkin. You may wish to leave the pumpkin uncovered as the top part of the pumpkin will burn once the candle heats up.

Pumpkin soup

The flesh that has been collected from the pumpkin can be used in a variety of ways. You can create a sweet pumpkin pie with cinnamon and chocolate or a savory pumpkin pie with rice. However I like making soup with my pumpkin!

Here is what you will need to make the soup

1 onion – roughly chopped

2 celery sticks - whole, leaves removed

Pumpkin flesh – deseeded and roughly chopped

500ml vegetable broth

1 tsp fennel seeds

Start off by heating a thick bottomed large pot and once it has warmed slightly add the chopped onion. There is no need to chop your onions too finely as they soup will be blended once it has cooked.

Next add the celery and allow them to cook slightly. If you prefer you may fry the onion and celery in a little oil or butter but I am giving you a fat-free vegetarian version.

Once the onions and celery start cooking add the pumpkin pieces. If you have larger pieces, then it would be best to cut them into smaller cubes. Pour in the broth and give the pot a good stir. Allow the soup to cook and simmer for about 30 minutes or until your pumpkin is cooked through.

At this point you will need to remove the celery sticks. This is best done using a fork or a pair of thongs. Finally add the fennel seed and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and allow the seeds infuse their flavor into the soup for about half an hour before serving.

October Newsletter

I hope you all had a lovely, relaxing Summer! The weather seems to be cooling down a little bit so most of my chocolate items will be back on the menu. If you want to try my chocolate fudge, now is the time to order it.

As of this week I am accepting bookings for my next Cookery Course. This time the theme will be festive meals. The topics covered include Soups, Biscuits, Pates, Pasta and of course Desserts! The course starts on Monday 26th October at 5.30pm till 7.30pm. Seating is limited so be sure to book as soon as possible.

For those of you who follow my recipes on the various media, may I remind you that Kcina Ma' Christine starts this week and I will be on every Thursdays 12pm (noon) on NET TV. Also, watch out for my Halloween recipes in this month's edition of Best Buy Supplement, out with The Times on Wednesday 14th October.

I also want to invite you all to view my blog and the new function that I have. If you click on the
"Follow Me"
button on the right hand side, you will automatically receive updates to the recipes I upload on my blog, so I invite you all to go and click on this new function.

Did you know?......... Varieties!

  • A warm summer followed by a damp September results in a bumper year for funghi. There are close to 40,000 varieties of mushrooms. The largest living organism ever found is a honey mushroom, Armillaria ostoyae. It covers 3.4 square miles of land in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, and it's still growing.
  • There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.
  • There are about 30 species of mint and almost 500 varieties, including peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, orange mint, Spanish mint, pineapple mint, ginger mint, mackerel mint, lamb mint, horsemint, lemon mint, pennyroyal, water mint, chocolate mint, etc.

White wine punch

Most summer punches are based on red wine making them very similar to sangria, a Spanish fruit punch. If you do have some white wine to spare or simply prefer white wine to red, here is an easy punch you can prepare in a matter of minutes.
Here is what you need to serve about 8 to 10 glasses, always depending on the size of the glasses you use.
1 bottle white wine
2 cups peach schnapps
3 large peaches, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 fresh orange
1 fresh, local lemon
Lemonade or Tonic water.
Simple place the peeled peach pieces in your punch bowl and top up with the wine and the schnapps. If you have time, or if you would like to prepare this punch ahead of time, allow the peaches to rest in the wine. You can leave them to rest for a couple of hours or even overnight.
Once you are ready to serve the punch, top up with the lemonade. Now cut the lemon and the orange into thin slices and cut each slice into a minimum of 4 pieces. Place the orange and lemon pieces into the punch so that you will have the peach pieces which have sunk to the bottom and the citrus pieces floating on top.

Sundried tomato, potato and rosemary pizza

Here is what you need to make a Pizza for 4:
To make your dough
500g plain flour
5 teaspoons sugar
5 teaspoons dried yeast
2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons olive oil
For the filling
4 boiled potatoes, skin on
3 sun dried tomatoes
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Olive oil

Preheat your oven at 230C, or at the highest possible mark.

Start off by preparing the dough, preferably a couple of hours in advance. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix them together. Now, make a well in the centre and add the oil. With a glass of luke-warm water in one hand start to add enough water little by little until a soft dough is formed. Place the dough in a floured bowl and allow it to rest for a couple of hours punching it down should it rise too much.

Once you are ready to use the dough, stretch it open with your hands, forget the rolling pin, and place it in a well oiled and floured baking tray.

Give it enough time to find its shape in the dish then with the back of your fingers press the middle down slightly allowing the edges to be thicker than the centre.

Now peel the potatoes and slice them into 1 cm slices. Place them in a bowl and add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and the rosemary. It would be best to chop the rosemary needles slightly but if you are in a rush just slide them off the stalk and add them to the bowl. Now add a generous helping of Extra Virgin Olive oil, some salt and pepper and stir slowly. It is important to coat all the potatoes with the oil but be careful not to break the potatoes up too much.

Next spread the filling in the middle of the pastry leaving a thick boarder around the whole of the pastry. This will allow the pasty to puff up slightly around the edges.

Bake the pizza in the preheated oven at 180C for electric fan ovens for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Curried chicken salad

This salad is also called coronation chicken as it was once created for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation celebration in 1953.

It is an easy salad to prepare and will make a prefect fresh dish for your summer entertainment or as a side dish to your BBQs. Here is what you need to serve 2 persons as a main course

2 Chicken thighs
200g roasted unsalted peanuts
1 tablespoon Medium curry paste
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 x 180ml natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon Mango Chutney
Mixed salad leaves

Start off by cooking the chicken thighs. You can do this by boiling them with some root vegetables until they are cooked through.

Once your chicken is done, allow it to cool then cut it into small, bite-size pieces.
In the meantime prepare the sauce. Mix the mayo, yoghurt and curry paste together in a large bowl. Add the mango chutney and finally stir in the chicken pieces.

Make sure that you do not break the chicken whilst stirring it, so mix slowly.

Once you are ready to serve, prepare your presentation bowl and line it with the mixed salad leaves. If you do not find mixed leaves, then you can just use some lettuce leaves.

Next pour in the chicken mixture and spread it evenly around the bowl. Finally sprinkle with the roughly chopped roasted peanuts.

This salad is best served at room temperature. Do not keep for more than 3 days after the salad has been prepared.

Vanilla Walnut Ice-cream

Summer is the perfect time to experiment with new ice-cream flavours. With every flavour I try finishing in no time and vacating space in my freezer, I get more of an incentive to try out new variations... of course, the freezer must be kept busy especially in the hot summer months! This, of course cannot be said of my fellow foodie who packs her freezer with all kinds of delicious ice-cream, cakes and sweets, only to enjoy them at her own pace!
If you like vanilla based ice-cream, just like I do, then here is a delicious ice-cream you must try making. Here is what you will need:
4 egg yolks
750ml double cream
75g walnut pieces
350g honey

Using an electric beater on full speed, beat the egg yolks until they are light and paler.

Now, in a thick bottomed place the cream and heat it until just before it starts to boil. Whisk in the eggs and pour it into a bowl.

Cool the bowl then place it in the fridge to chill completely. Once you are read to churn your ice-cream in the machine, stir in the honey and pour into your ice-cream machine.

Just before the ice-cream is completely ready, add the walnut pieces. Make sure that the walnuts are cut into small pieces since larger ones will make it difficult to scoop out the ice-cream once it’s ready.

Make sure to use the full fat cream and milk when making ice-cream. This will give you a creamier result. Should you opt for a lower fat dairy, then the result might be more of a slush then an ice-cream consistency.

Rocky Road Knicker Bocker Glory

Here is what you need to make 2 cups:

4 Chocolate digestive Biscuits
2 scoops Rocky Road Ice-cream
2 tablespoons Belgian Truffle sauce
180ml Fresh cream
10 Marshmallows
6 fresh Strawberries

Start off by beating the fresh cream and set it aside. Now prepare the cups you will be using to serve the dessert in.

Slice the strawberries into thick slices and place them around the bottom part of the cup. Place the cream in the middle and press gently so that the strawberries will stick to the sides. Next cover the cream with 1 chocolate digestive biscuit.

We used the dark chocolate digestives to give a deeper chocolate taste to the cup, but if you prefer, you can use the milk chocolate ones.

Place the Rocky road ice-cream on top and dot with marshmallows. We tore the marshmallows slightly before placing them on the ice-cream.

In a microwave proof bowl, place the Belgian chocolate sauce and warm slightly until the chocolate is melted.

Drizzle the ice-cream with the chocolate sauce and serve immediately. If you are serving these cups as desserts, then place them in the freezer until you are ready to serve. Allow the cups to rest for 5 minutes at room temperature before serving. This will soften the ice-cream and will bring all the different chocolate flavours together.

Rocky Road Ice-cream as well as the Belgian Truffle Sauce are available from Marks & Spencer outlets.
This recipe has been previously published in the Best Buy Supplement, June 2009


Caponata is essentially a tomato based cooked salad. You can prepare copious amounts of this dish and store it in the fridge. Caponata is usually served as a side-dish but you can also use it as a pizza topping.

Very low in calories, this dish is great as part of a calorie controlled diet.

Here is what you need to make enough for a 2 litre bowl
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 medium onions
1 medium aubergine, peeled and diced
1 thick celery stick
2 tablespoons tomato paste (kunserva)
2 tins x 400g chopped tomatoes (polpa)
100g green pitted olives
50g capers
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
1 heaped teaspoon dried Oregano or some fresh leaves chopped
1 teaspoon sugar

Start off by placing about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. Now add the onions and sizzle until they start letting off their aroma. Next add the aubergines and the celery sticks which needs to be cut roughly the same size as the aubergines that is in small cubes about 1cm.

Once the aubergines start softening, add the tomato paste and the tinned tomatoes. Now fill 1 of the tins of the tomatoes that you have just added with water and add it to the pot.

Add the olives and capers. You could chop these roughly if you prefer. Now, bring the tomato sauce to the boil and add the balsamic vinegar, oregano and the sugar. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.

Let the Caponata simmer for about 45 minutes until it is thick and the vegetables can be seen through the sauce. This dish can be served warm or straight out of the fridge. Caponata can be stored refrigerated, in a sealed container for a couple of days.

Aubergine Parmiggiana

Serve this dish as part of a buffet or as a meal on it’s own. This makes a very nice and filling vegetarian main course. For those of you watching you fat intake, you can grill the aubergines can be instead of frying them. For those on a low carb diet, good news; this dish is naturally now in carbs so you can indulge!

Here is what you will need to serve 6 as a main course:
Olive oil
3 medium aubergines
Rock Salt
2 cans x 400g chopped tomatoes
1 garlic clove
400gr grated Parmesan cheese (hence the name)

Start off by washing and slicing the aubergines lengthwise, peeling is not necessary however if you prefer them peeled then this won’t effect the dish. Next, place the slices in a colander and sprinkle generously with rock salt between the layers. Now place something heavy on the colander to weigh the slices down and let the aubergines drip for a couple of hours or even overnight. I like to place a bowl with my pestle and mortar in it, it makes the tower heavy enough!

Once the aubergines have dripped, discard the dark liquid and rinse them clean of the salt. Pat the slices dry and set them aside.
If you are frying the aubergines, heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the aubergines until they are golden in colour. Once they are cooked, place the slices on a plate lined with some paper

towels to absorb the excess oils.

A healthier option would be to grill the slices on a griddle pan or even uur oven grill. Make sure to keep an eye on them if you are grilling as they will burn in no time and will become hard and bitter.

In the meantime, prepare your tomato sauce by placing some garlic cloves in a pot with a little bit of olive oil. Once the garlic starts to cook, add 2 x 450g tins of tomato cut in pieces. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally.

Once the aubergines and the sauce are ready all you need to do is to compile the dish.
Start off by preparing your oven dish; spread some olive oil on the base making sure that all the corners are well oiled. Next place some of the sauce on the bottom of the dish to just about cover it. Next place a layer of aubergine slices to cover the dish completely, place some of the sauce and spread it to cover the aubergines and sprinkle some of the cheese over the sauce.

Continue to assemble the dish in this manner until you have run out of you aubergines and sauce. Make sure to leave enough sauce for the top layer. The last layer needs to be covered in sauce and sprinkled with a generous helping of cheese. Season with salt and pepper and your parmiggana is done.

At this point to you can refridgerate until you are ready to bake.

Cook the parmiggana in a pre-heated oven at 150C. Cooking time should be around 30 to 40 minutes. Your parmiggana is ready once the middle of the dish feels firm. Don’t worry about the sides becoming a little bit overcooked; it’s part of the charm of eating a rustic dish!

Should you like to make the dish a little bit more cheesy add 1 layer of mozzarella half-way through your layering.

As all other baked dishes, this dish improves with time, so you can bake it a day ahead and re-heat in an oven before serving. Parmiggiana can also be served cold.

Cooking in June

June is the month where I write about salads and about how glorious it is to serve dishes that can be prepared in advance. Let’s face it, cooking your food at the very last minute is definitely tastier but serving dishes that can be prepared in advance is so much more convenient! I like to enjoy my guests when I have people over and even if it’s just a family meal, spending time around the dining table is quality time in our family.

So this article will be no exception!

Over the next couple of weeks I will be giving you recipe for some different salads you can serve instead of the standard lettuce and tomato salad. These dishes can be prepared in advance and can also be served as part of a buffet.

Don’t think of buffets solely for large gatherings, dinner for 8 can very well be a valid excuse. Serving a summer buffet for your guests is not as time consuming and definitely impressive.

Make sure to have the following:

1. Large buckets full of ice to keep your drinks. I suggest you have one bucket with soft drinks and another one with wine (if you are serving white) and beer.

2. Roll your cutlery in a napkin; should you be using paper napkins, buy the thicker ones and roll the required cutlery in the napkin so your guests can just pick one and hold it under the plate whilst helping themselves with the other hand. Roll only the cutlery required. It is useless including a spoon of there is nothing in the buffet that requires a spoon to be eaten with!

3. Prepare your glasses. If you are using glass cups, then buy thick rubber bands and write your guest’s names with a marker on each one, then just loop the rubber bands around the glasses. This is a safe way to keep your glass if you rest you glass on a table or ledge. If you are using plastic cups, then just write then names directly on the cups.

4. Make sure to have a good balance between hot and cold dishes. Whilst cold dishes are conveniently prepared in advance and stored in the fridge, you should also include some items that are served hot. These can be dishes that are also prepared in advance but can be warmed or baked at the last minute!

Should you like to contact me, please do so on concita@demicoli.com

Classic Caesar's Salad

What can you cook on hot days like these? Salads, of course!
Here is a recipe for the Classic Caesar’s salad. Try serving this for supper on hot summer nights and the dishes will be wiped clean!

I like to prepare the dressing and the croutons but I leave the chicken for the end so that I can serve it warm. If you are having a BBQ, you can also cook the meat on the BBQ then add it to your salad.
Here is what you need to make enough salad for 4 persons.
To make to croutons
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small Maltese bread cut into cubes
½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano

To make the dressing
1 garlic clove
4 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Natural Yoghurt

For the salad
1 iceberg lettuce
1 romaine lettuce
Or 2 bags mixed salad leaves
Parmesan cheese shavings
1 chicken breast

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Toss all the ingredients for the croutons together in a bowl and spread them in a baking tray. Bake until stiff and crunchy.
2. Place the garlic, anchovy fillets in a bowl and mash to a pulp. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce then stir in the mayonnaise and the yoghurt.
3. Place the washed salad leaves in a bowl.
4. Cook the chicken breast, then cut it into strips and place on top of the salad leaves.
5. Pour the dressing over the chicken and finally decorate with the Parmesan shavings.

Farfalle with Tuna and Mushrooms

400g farfalle pasta
200g mushrooms – finely sliced
1 x 400g tinned tuna in oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole garlic clove – finely chopped
2 sun-dried tomatoes - diced
Fresh parsley

It is important to make the sauce once you start preparing your pasta. As soon as your pot with boiling water is placed on the heat, place the oil and garlic in a pan.

Heat the two together until they start to sizzle and then add the mushrooms. Stir in the finely chopped parsley. You should be very generous with this and it should really be chopped very finely.

Add the tuna which needs to be strained from the oil before adding and then stir in the sun-dried tomatoes. At the point you should have already added the pasta to the water and it should have re-boiled. Add 1 ladle full of the starchy pasta water to the sauce and stir.

Once your pasta is cooked and strained stir in the sauce and add a little more olive oil whilst mixing.

Chocolate Orange Fudge Cake

225g margarine or butter
225g dark chocolate
200g caster sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
4 eggs
100g plain flour

Start off by melting the butter and chocolate together in a bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir the chocolate occassionally until the chocolate and the butter has melted. Now add the orange zest

In another bowl beat eggs and sugar until they are pale and fluffly. Add the chocolate mixture to the eggs then stop the whisking and slowly fold in the flours.

Do this using a scraper and mix until all the flour is incorporated into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the mixture into an 8 inch cake dish and bake at 160C for about 30 minutes. .

All ovens vary, so your cake might take a little longer to cook. Always make sure to check your cake by insterting a skewer before deciding whether your cake is ready or not. Make sure that your skewer comes out completely clean when you test your cake. Even though melted chocolate is used in the recipe, the skewer has to be clean for the cake to be cooked through.
This recipe has be previously published on Kcina ta' Christine on NET TV

Leek and Cauliflower Omelette

I hope you all managed to have a happy Easter! With the amount of chocolates and figolli eaten over the weekend, it was no wonder that Gyms and fitness clubs were all jam packed!
This week I'm giving you a recipe which is very low in carbohydrates and is also excellent for those of you who are watching their fat intake.
This leek and cauliflower omelette makes a delicious meal for one but can also be doubled in quantity and served as a vegetarian main course or as a crustless pie!
Here is what you will need:
1 medium leek - sliced
half a small cauliflower cut into tiny florets
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper
grated cheese (optional)
In a non-stick pan, place a little butter and cook the leeks until they are just about to start softening. Next add the tiny florets and cook for about 3 minutes.
Now, in a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork and season with the salt, pepper and the cheese.
Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cover the pan. Cook the omlette for about 5 minutes over medium heat until the egg is cooked through.
Serve this omelette with some rocket salad and some grilled mushrooms!

Sugar Free Figolla

I'm sure that most of you will be baking your figolli this week. So here is something for you to prepare for your diabetic family members!

For those of you who are diabetic and would like to try this recipe make sure that the chocolate and sugar substitute you buy are suitable for diabetic. It is not good enough to read “sugar free” and definitely not suitable is there is “no added sugar” on the labels. These two labels do not make the product suitable for diabetics.

The sugar substitute I use is called Fibre Sweet and is available from Cilia Products in Hamrun, right next to the Parish Church.

Here is what you need to make around 5 large figolli. You can also make these using normal sized cookie cutters and serve them as a dessert!

300g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g butter
200g ground almonds
100g sugar substitute
2 – 3 eggs depending on the size, so add them one at a time
200g blanched almonds

To decorate
150g sugar free chocolate
100g flaked almonds

Sieve together the flour and baking powder in a bowl and add the butter. Rub the butter in with your hands and when all the butter has been worked in add the sugar substitute and ground almonds. The sugar here is not just for taste but it is require for consistency.

Next add the eggs one at a time to form a dough. Once the dough is hard enough to be rolled out but not too hard, take it out of the bowl and place it on a lightly floured working top. To check your dough, you should be able to leave a finger make when you press the dough.

Once you are ready to make your Figolli, pre-heat your oven to 160C. Roll the pastry to about 1cm in thickness and cut using the large Figolli cutters. If you are not planning on coating them with chocolate you could brush them with a beaten egg before baking, if you will be covering with chocolate there is no need for this. Press the blanched almonds into the pastry and bake your figolla in a pre-heated oven at 170C for about 10 minutes.

Once your Figolli are baked to a light golden colour, take them out of the oven and cool on a cooling rack.

Now, to cover your Figolli, melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. If you are preparing this recipe for someone who is diabetic, make sure that the chocolate you use is suitable for diabetics. Cover the Figolli with the chocolate and whilst the chocolate is still runny sprinkle your flaked almonds all over it.

I wish you and your family a relaxing long weekend and a Happy Easter filled with Figolli, chocolates and on a healthier note, Flowers!!

Easter Figolli

Figolli are essentially almond pies baked in different shapes to be eaten on Easter Sunday. Originally decorated with fondant icing but now-a-days you may also find Figolli coated in chocolate.
Although modern additions to Easter such as chocolate eggs and the Easter bunny can be found in most Maltese shops, Figolli are still very popular.

I like to prepare the dough the night before as this gives the pastry time to rest as well as it reduces your preparation time on the day. Here is what you will need:

Makes 10 large figolli
For the dough:
800 gr. Plain flour
400 gr. sugar
250 gr margarine
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 teaspoons baking powder

For the filling
600 gr. Sugar
600 gr. Ground Almonds
4 to 5 egg whites depending on the size

Start off by preparing the dough; sift the flour into a large bowl and add the baking powder. Now, add the margarine and rub it in with your hands until it has been completely dissolved into the flour and you are left with a sandy mixture. Next add the sugar and vanilla and make a well in the centre of your crumbs. Add the eggs and mix the ingredients together to form dough. Set it aside to rest on a floured surface or place it in the fridge overnight.

For the filling, place the ground almonds and sugar together in a bowl and add the egg whites a little at a time mixing after every addition. Once the almond turns into a paste, your filling is done. You should be able to hold the almond paste in your hands and shape it just like you would with pastry.

To prepare the figolli, just roll out the dough to about 0.5 cm in thickness and cut two identical shapes. Place a layer of filling on one of the shapes leaving a boarder around the edge of approximately 1 cm. Make sure not to press the filling too much when spreading since this will cause your pastry to lose its shape or widen and the top (identical) layer will not fit.

Now brush the edges with a little water or apricot jam and place the second shape over it. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for approximately 30 minutes or until the figolli have nicely browned.
Repeat the process until you would have used up all your dough.
Coat your Figolli with melted chocolate or icing and decorate with silver balls.

Banoffee Sponge Cake

Here is a recipe that I’ve been asked to give out on numerous occasions. This recipe for a banoffee sponge cake apart from being simply delicious also makes an imposing centre piece for your teas, should you like to lay a table.

The Banoffee we are used to having in restaurants is presented over a biscuit base but the rest of the recipe remains the same.

Here is what you need for the sponges
5 eggs
300g sugar
300g self-raising flour
300g melted STORK margarine

1. beat the eggs and the sugar together with an electric beater
2. in the meantime, melt the margarine.
3. with the motor running, add the margarine to the egg mixture
4. next fold in the flour
5. Now pour the mixture into 2 cake tins about 20cm in diameter and bake in a pre=heated oven at 160C for about 25mins

For the Toffee
100g sugar
75g Stork margarine
125g Double cream
You will also need
2 medium bananas
250ml double cream

1. Whilst the cakes are baking, make the toffee. Place the sugar in a thick bottomed pot and heat gently without stirring. Once the sugar turns a light brown stir slightly to make sure that all the sugar caramelises.
2. Once all the sugar has caramalised, now add the margarine and mix until it is completely melted.
3. beat in the cream and once a toffee consistency is achieved, remove from the heat.

To assemble the banoffee cake, place one of the cakes on a cake plate. Now in another bowl, whip the 250ml double cream and spread it over the cake. Now place the banana slices over the cream and cover with the second cake. Pour the toffee sauce over the cake and allow it to drizzle all over the top and the sides.

This cake need to be stored in the fridge and is best eaten within a maximum of 3 days.

April Newsletter

Easter is now around the corner and I will be having a small number of Figolli on sale this year. Should you like to order any, please email me on concita@demicoli.com . My Figolli are made with pure almonds, coated in chocolate and decorated with almonds. Each sells at EUR6.00

This month I am also placing my strawberry cakes back on the menu; namely, the Hazelnut Meringue (picture above) and the Strawberry flan (below). Visit my list of cakes on my blog.

I am also pleased to inform you that I have finally concluded arrangements on my cooking course. This 8 week course will run from the 21st April till the 9th June, 2009 (every Tuesdays). The course will be held at the Domestica Showroom in Msida between 6pm and 8pm. For those of you who have little children, babysitting services will also be provided. Email me on concita@demicoli.com to book your place.

For those of you who have been asking for my TV recipes, I shall soon be uploading them all on my blog. In the meantime, you can view the ones I make on Net TV, Fil Kcina Ma' Christine on the maltarightnow website; whilst the PBS recipes I make on BONGU are available on their website

Finally I would like to remind you all about this weekend's activity at Villa Arrigo in Naxxar. A Toon tea-party is being organised in aid of World Water day on Sunday 22nd March from 2pm till 6pm. Entrance fee is EUR10.00 for adults but children go in free. The day is packed with fun activities for your children such as go-carting, face painting and a chocolate egg-hunt to name a few! My cakes will also be on sale on the day so I hope to see you all there.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are English sweets which now now form part of the Lenten sweets on display in most shops. Hot Cross buns are sweet bread with raisins and decorated with a cream cross at the top. The method of making these buns is very similar to making bread since these too need proving before baking.

With the weather settling down to longer days with less rain, I am sure that most of you are organising picnics or BBQs to make the most of the weekends. This recipe is ideal to prepare and pack-up for a picnic. Home-made Buns are nutritious and being slightly sweet are the ideal treat for tea time!

The process of making these buns is long due to the fact that the buns need to rest, but other than that, there is little work to prepare them, so give this recipe a try this weekend!
Here is what you will need to make around 16 buns:

For the Buns
500 gr. Plain flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
75 gr. sugar
11g dried instant yeast
100 ml milk – luke warm
200ml water – luke warm
150 gr. sultanas
Grated zest of 2 oranges
80 gr. mixed peel (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Cross
4 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons water
For the glaze:
100 gr. sugar
100 ml water

Start off by making the dough. First, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast together in a bowl. Mix the ingredient together and whilst doing so, drizzle the water and milk until your mixture forms a dough.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead well (with your hands) for about 5 minutes then set aside and allow the dough to rest in a warm place for about 1 hour.
Once your hour has passed, place the dough back onto your working top and knead in the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest and cinnamon. Knead again and set aside for another hour.
Once the dough has rested, prepare your baking dish and divide the dough into small buns, you should be able to make around 16 buns. Place the buns on a baking tray and allow them to rise again for about 30 mins.
In the mean time, prepare your cross mixture. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well until you have achieved a thick paste or a soft dough. Place the cross over the top of the buns and set aside until the full 30 minutes are up. Place the buns in a preheated oven at 180°C and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Whilst your buns are cooking, prepare the glaze by mixing the sugar and water.
Now, keep a pastry brush handy and once the buns are out of the oven glaze immediately.
As the name suggested, Hot cross Buns are best served warm, however can be reheated in a microwave for a couple of seconds. You can also toast them slightly and fill with jam, marmalade or simply butter!

Octopus Stew

This week we have started Lent and since I have received some email asking for no-meat recipes for you to prepare during these 40 days, this week I will be giving you the recipe for Octopus Stew. Even though we might consider this as a summer dish, stew can easily be served warm as a mid-week supper.

Octopus are found fresh all the year round in our fishmongers and most supermarkets also stock pre-packed frozen ones. If you’ve never cooked octopus, don’t be discouraged. It’s very easy to handle and not difficult to clean, should it be the case. Most fishmongers are happy to clean them once you have chosen the ones you will be purchasing and the frozen ones come ready cleaned.

Should you be buying fresh octopus, always freeze it for a couple of days before using. This method, be it an old tradition, will help your octopus remain nice and soft during the cooking process and not go all chewy.
So, here is what you need to make the stew for about 2 – 4 persons depending on your portions !

1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 Kg Octopus cleaned and chopped
1 small Tin Kunserva (tomato Paste)
1 pinch of sugar
2 x 400g tins chopped Tomatoes
1 fish cube
bay leaves
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons black pitted olives – It is best to buy the big black olives (bone-in) and cut around the bone. These olives have more flavour than the pitted ones.
Chilles – Fresh, dried or ½ tsp of harissa, Optional

Start off by peeling and chopping the garlic and onions. Place them in a pan with a little oil and heat slowly until the onions start to soften. Next add the tomato paste and stir well until all the onion is nice and red, allow it to cook for a couple of seconds, then sprinkle a pinch of sugar over it.

Next add the tomato pieces and octopus together. Stir well, adding the fish cube and about 2 cups of boiling water. Make sure not to pour any water over the octopus at this stage, since this will result in boiling your tentacles.

Now add the olives, capers and bay leaves and chillies (if using). Before adding the bay leaves, wash them properly and tear at the sides for a stronger taste. Bay leaves can be found in little jars just like other dried herbs and spices.

Now, lower the heat and allow the stew to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you allow the stew to simmer, the better your end result will be. Once the sauce is reduced to a thick consistency, your stew is ready.

You can also use this recipe as a sauce and serve the stew with some spaghetti. If you wish you can also substitute the octopus for calamari.

Spinach Soup

Temperatures will drop quite low this weekend and what better way to warm up than with some hearty soups!

Spinach soup is very easy to prepare and now that fresh spinach is in season, you can use that. If you prepare this out of season, you can opt for frozen spinach instead.

I must admit, before I start, that with regards to presentation, this soup leaves much to be desired. The colour is a dark green, but the taste is delicious. Here is what you need to make enough soup for 4 persons.

1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 chicken cube – for those of you who suffer from high blood pressure, you can opt for the reduced salt variety
700 ml of boiling water
500 g cleaned spinach
Pinch of oregano
1 tablespoon plain yogurt.

Start off by placing the onion and garlic in a warm pot. Stir continuously to avoid burning. Once the onions start to soften add the chicken cube and a little of the water, just enough to cover the onions. Keep on cooking until the onions are cooked through.

Now add the spinach and the rest of the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about half-an-hour. Once the spinach is cooked take the pot off the stove and give it a good whiz with your hand blender or any other liquidiser.

Once you are ready to serve, place 2 ladles of soup in a bowl and to improve on your plate presentation, place a tablespoon of plain yogurt in the middle of your soup. Now with a tooth pick drag strands of the yogurt into the soup and some of the soup back into the yogurt. This will have a spider web effect.

Fresh Orange Sorbet

Oranges are quite plentiful at the moment so this is a good way to use up your stocks! Local oranges will be great for this recipe as most of them are not too sweet.

You can serve this sorbet as a dessert or mid-way through your meal to freshen the palate. You can also add it to your choice of desserts as this sorbet will keep in your freezer for over 1 week!

There are no raw egg whites in this recipe, so this is suitable for both children as well as pregnant women.
750ml of water
300g sugar
300ml of fresh orange juice

You will need to start by placing 750ml of water in a pot with 400g of sugar. Place the pot over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. In the meantime, wash your oranges and using a zester, remove some of the peel, set aside. Next squeeze the oranges; you will need 300ml of juice which is roughly 8 to 10 oranges.

Once the sugar has dissolved, add the orange juice and the zest and stir. At this point you can churn the sorbet in an ice-cream machine or else you can place it in a shallow container and place it in the freezer.

Churning should take you around 30 minutes. If you are freezing the sorbet, set your timer for 3 hours. Once your timer rings, whiz the sorbet in an electric blender then place it in the same container and re-freeze.

Repeat this process for another 3 times until the sorbet is soft and flaky on the last check.

Artichoke Ravioli

If you want to prepare something a little special but that will not keep you slaving in the kitchen for hours on end, here is a simple recipe for fresh ravioli. The pasta recipe can be used to make any type of pasta such as lasagne or cannelloni.

Even though making fresh pasta might sound laborious, it is very easy to prepare and it will only take you about 30 minutes to prepare this recipe from start to finish! Here is what you need to make enough ravioli for 2

For the pasta
300g Plain flour 00
3 egg
1 tablespoon little olive oil
A pinch of salt
For the Artichoke Filling
2 artichokes
1 onion
30g butter or some oil
Salt and pepper
Parmesan or grated cheese
1 egg

Start off by making the pasta dough. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until you form the dough. You can do this with your hands or by using an electric mixer. Once the dough is ready set it aside and prepare the filling.

Start by cleaning the artichokes. Remove the outer leaves from the globe artichokes and using a sharp knife chop off the top half of the leaves. Now slit each artichoke in half and remove the hairy choke which sits right on top of the heart. Peel the stem slightly so that you may use it too.
Now, in a pan, heat the oil or butter and fry the onion. Add the chopped artichokes and cook until the artichokes soften. It is best to chop the artichokes into little pieces before adding them to the pan.

Don’t worry if the artichokes turn dark after you peel them. This will always happen and can only be prevented if you soak the artichoke in a bowl of water and fresh lemon juice until you are ready to use. In this recipe it is not important to have white artichokes as they will be used to fill the ravioli.

Once the artichokes soften, place the cooked artichokes and onions in a blender and bliz to a paste. Now add the egg, parmesan and season with salt and pepper.
To prepare the ravioli, roll out the pastry till it is very thin. An easy test is to lift the pastry up against the light. If you can see the light through, then it is thin enough. Make sure that there are no holes in the pastry as this will make it unusable.

Cut the pastry into circle or squares, depending on the shape you want the ravioli. Circles will give you semi-circle ravioli which squares will give you rectangle ravioli. The diameter of the circles should be around 4cm. Now, place about a levelled teaspoon of the artichoke paste in the middle of the circle and brush the edges with a little water. Fold the pastry over to seal the ravioli making sure that there are no gaps which would allow the filling to escape.

Cook the ravioli in a pot of salted, boiling water for about 4 minutes. You can serve these ravioli with a drizzle of olive oil or some melted herb butter. Make sure to keep your sauce as simple as possible so that you may enjoy the delicious filling.

February Cakes

I hope you all managed to have a lovely Christmas and New Year. With this newsletter being the first of 2009, allow me to wish you all the very best for 2009.

This first newsletter for 2009 features a new cake. Sticky Toffee Pudding(picture above) comes on a 20cm base and is delicious served as dessert or with your tea. The toffee comes in a separate container so that you may warm the sauce prior to drizzling it over the cake.

Also, don’t forget the Fig & Almond cake which comes in a 26cm base and will serve over 16 portions. This cake is also dotted with dark chocolate. View my list of cakes for prices and sizes!

Did you know?

In the colourful jargon used in cooking, 'zeppelins in a fog' are sausages and mashed potatoes.

The fuzzy melon, also called fuzzy squash, hairy melon and moqua, is a winter melon that is 6 to 10 inches long with green skin and fine hair-like fuzz that disappears when the fruit matures. The shape varies from cylindrical to dumbbell-like. It's mild subtle flavor is described as somewhat like a cucumber or summer squash. They are originally from southern China and have been cultivated there since antiquity.

Louis XIV, known as the Sun King was reported by his sister-in-law to having eaten at one meal: "four plates of different soups, an entire pheasant, a partridge, a large plateful of salad, mutton cut up in pieces with garlic, two good pieces of ham, a plateful of cakes, and fruits and jams."

More of my recipes will be published this month in the Best Buy Supplement out monthly with the Times on Wednesday! Next issue will be out on February 11th

The E&D Magazine will also be out in March as well as the brand new STYLE On Sunday Magazine.

Pasta Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli)

Now that we have finally finished our drinks, gatherings and dinners, we can all relax to some serious hearty food.

I love post festive meals because they tend to be the simplest and warmest during the year. The cold weather we have been having over the past days has surely helped inspire me to make some soups and piping hot meals!

So this week, here is a delicious soup which doubles up as a whole meal in itself. This soup is also low in GI since in includes and good amount of beans. Here is what you will need to make enough soup for 4

100g dried canellini beans
100g pasta (ditali / zibbeg)
1 x 400g tinned tomatoes (polpa)
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
2 celery sticks
3 cloves of garlic

Start off by soaking the beans the night before you want to prepare the soup. Then, once you are ready to start, place the beans in a pot and cover with water. Use clean water and not the one the beans were soaking in the night before. Allow the beans to cook for about 1 ½ hours.

Should there be some white foam accumulated at the top, remove it with a spoon. Make sure to keep the water well topped up so that there is constant rumbling boil for the beans to cook in.

Once the beans are cooked, add the carrots, onions and celery which has to be cut into small cubes around 0.5cm x 0.5 cm allow them to cook for 10 minutes then add the tomatoes, garlic and top up with enough water for the pasta to cook. Now cover the pot and allow your water to boil. Once the water is boiling well, add the pasta and switch the heat off.

Cover the pot and allow it to rest for about 20minutes or until you are ready to serve.

Once plated, drizzle some olive oil in each plate and serve with some Maltese bread.