Mulled Wine


Preparing drinks over Christmas has now become very common and even though most of us spend Christmas with our family, organising drinks sometime before the 25th is a nice way of spending some time with your friends.

With cold winds blowing outside and the temperatures way down the thermometer its always nice to walk into a nice warm house and even nicer to be offered a nice warm drink.  Mulled wine or Gluewien does that perfectly and in addition gives out a lovely spice scent to fill the house and help everyone get into a Christmas mood! 

Even though you can find mulled wine in bottles now a days, this is really a no-brainer. Just choose a bottle of red wine which is not your best wine as the actually taste of the wine will be masked by the spices that you will be adding.

1 bottle red wine
1 whole orange studded with cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 tablespoons sugar or artificial sweetener

Start off by making the studded orange.  You can also use a clementine for this or a satsumi.  Wash your citrus and pat it dry with a kitchen towel.  Now take some whole cloves out of your little pot and start pushing them into an orange leave the top parts of the clove jutting out and creating a lovely pattern.  You should be using about 8 to 10 cloves for a normal sized orange - less if the citrus is smaller.  

Now for the mulled wine, place all the above ingredients in a saucepan.  Once emptied - fill up the bottle of wine with water and add it to the saucepan.  Turn the heat on low and stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved.  Keep it barely simmering for about 10 minutes.  All you need to do is dissolve the sugar and warm the liquid, it is important that the mixture does not boil since all the alcohol will evaporate.  Pour everything into a punch bowl and ladle into your glasses.
You can also add a tot of Cherry Brandy or Grand Marnier to this recipe to add a little more alcohol.

Merry Christmas!

Crème Caramel

With all the rich food we serve over Christmas here is a lighter ending to your meals.  Fresh Crème Caramel is can be prepared in advance and then baked at the last minute. 
 And since most of you will have your ovens on, this dessert is idea as it can be baked minutes before serving and served warm. 

Here is what you need to serve 6
500ml milk
4 eggs
50g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Warm the milk in a pan until warm but not boiling.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale.  This mixture should have increased in volume too.  Now add the vanilla essence and once the milk is warm pour the eggs into the milk.

In the meantime, you can place a little sugar (about 50g) in a pot and, without stirring, allow the sugar to melt over a low heat.  Now add 2 tablespoons of water just before the sugar turns a dark brown and remove from the heat.  This will be your caramel which is placed over the inverted moulds or usually at the bottom of the moulds before baking. 

Place about 1 teaspoon of the melted sugar into the 6 cups or small oven-proof bowls and top it up with the milk and egg mixture.  You should place enough sugar to cover the base of each mould.  

Now place the moulds in an deep oven dish and fill the dish  with approximately 2cm of water.  The amount of water depends on how deep your moulds are but the water should reach just about half-way up the moulds and not more than that.
Bake the creme caramel in a pre-heated oven at 160C for about 30 minutes until the caramel feels firm when tapped gently with your fingers.  

This dessert is delicious when served warm but can also be stored in the fridge and serve as a cold dessert.

This recipe has been previously published in the Eating & Drinking Magazine, out with The Times of Malta.

Christmas Food

With the weather freezing up like this I got thinking about Christmas food and gatherings. This year will be a different season for me as I will be travelling and spending half the holidays at home and the other half back in Malta.

The amount and variety of food available in shops here is to die for. No need to source different ingredients from a hundred shops, most delicacies are available right around the corner. Then there are the BBC food websites that whet your appetite to put the apron on and start cooking from now till Christmas; if only is had a minion to do all my shopping - that's one thing I hate!! I found this page on the BBC site which I thought would make an interesting read - BBC Christmas

In the following weeks I shall be uploading some Christmas food recipes and some interesting dessert you can prepare for your gatherings, but in the meantime, have a look at this - Vanilla walnut ice-cream  I know that this is an ice-cream, but after a heavy meal I suggest that it's the best way to end it. And walnuts are quite plentiful at this time of the year!


Bread Ring

There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread to fill the house!  Even though this seems like a daunting task, bread is actually very easy to make at home; your only consideration is allowing enough time for the dough to prove.  
I suggest that you try this recipe out if you can bake the bread in 2 hours.  If you are still unsure about the timings, try it out in the weekend.  Best not to start your bread after a days work at 8pm!
Other than calculating the right time, there is really nothing else.

I like to make the dough using my Kenwood with the hook attachment in place.  Of course any other food processor will do. always follow the intruction manual to see which attachment would be best

Here is what you will need to make this delicious and yet extremely easy bread ring.

500g flour - I suggest you try and find strong flour, alternatively you can use normal plain flour NOT self-raising.
50g butter or margarine
1 packet (11g) yeast
1 tablespoon salt - I prefer using rock salt
300 ml luke-warm water

Place all the ingredients in your  mixer bowl and give it a stir on low speed.  With the engine running and even if the margarine is still in 1 whole block, add the water gradually until you have added all of it.
Turn the engine to full speed and mix until a dough is formed and moves easily around the mixing bowl.  Mix for a few more seconds then stop the engine.

Prepare your work surface by pouring about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and using your hands spread is slightly so that it covers a diameter of about 20cm.

Now place the dough on your work surface and knead it with your hands for about 5 mins.  You can also bring little hands out at this point to help you knead as you cannot really ruin the dough.  Just make sure to give it the last knead yourself and shape it into the smallest ball you can.

Now place the ball of dough back into the bowl and let it rest for about 1hr.

Once your 1 hour is up, remove it from the bowl and knead it into a ball yet again. Now roll it out into a long roll. If you think the roll looks too big don't worry.  Bring the ends of the roll together to form a ring. Allow the ring to rise one last time for about 45 to 60 minutes then bake in a pre-heated oven at 225C. Once the bread is in, lower the temperature to just under 200C.

Your bread should be ready and golden in about 20 minutes. If you prefer a darker loaf, then leave it in for another 5 to 10 minutes.  The best test to check whether your bread is nicely done on the inside is to tap the bottom of the bread.  If it sounds hollow, then the bread will be good.

Allow the bread to rest for about 15 minutes before you eat it as this will cool the bread slightly making the inside nice and light but still allowing you to eat a warm loaf.

Qaghaq tal-hmira

Qaghaq tal-hmira are Maltese tea treats. The name translates into yeast rings; these rings are delicious brioche-type rings topped with sesame seeds and baked for not more than 15 minutes. The longest part of the preparation is the resting time.

Even though we are used to eating these rings in the colder months with some tea or coffee, try making these rings for a day at the beach and they will be devoured in no time!

Here is what you need to make approximately 20 rings of about 7 cm in diameter.

500g plain flour
200g caster sugar
200g butter
11g  dried yeast
½ tsp aniseed
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla powder
Grated zest of 1 lemon lemon
180ml luke warm water
1 egg
Sesame Seeds

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and add the lemon zest. Using your hands, rub in the butter until you have a sandy mixture. You can use a mixer with a dough hook for this.

Next add the water a little at a time to form a dough and knead it for about 10 mins. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place for about 1 to 2 hours or even overnight.

Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a floured surface. Next cut small pieces of pastry and roll them round to form a long pipe. Twist the pipe around to form a ring and place it on your baking dish. Once all the rings have been formed, allow them to rest for another hour. Do not worry if the rings puff up and touch each other.

Now brush the top with eggwash (1 egg beaten with a fork) and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for not more than 15 minutes. The rings should be browned on top but still soft when you touch them.

These rings are best served warm but will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.

Halloween treats

Photo Courtesy of Mark Soler

Halloween is celebrated on the last days in October and is a feast to celebrate the dead; or rather the souls that are stuck between the mortal world and the dead.  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 over time 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. 

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.

Roasted pumpkin seeds 
You may wish to use the pumpkin seeds that have been reserved whilst carving the pumpkin. Firstly you will need to clean the seeds and discard any pieces of flesh that stick on.  Pat the seeds dry and place them in an oven tray making sure to spread them out evenly so that there is only  1 later of seeds. Sprinkle the seeds with some rock salt and bake in a pre-heated oven at 150C for about 45mins.
Once the seeds are cooked and cooled, peel the outer layer and enjoy the seeds inside.

Fried egg blood-shot eyes.

To make the evening a little bit spookier, try this twist on some simple fried eggs.  Fry the eggs into a soft-yolk consistency. Once the eggs have cooked, squirt the ketchup on the cooked egg white as if to have blood-shot eyes!

This can be a fun way to get your children eating eggs!

New house, new recipe

Well seasonal food is somewhat different here than what I was used to in Malta.  So i had to change my cooking and adapt to the fresh ingredients that I am finding.  Since it is already getting cold and we are already in scarfs and jackets, I thought of making some soups this week for my mid-week meals.

My new kitchen leads on to a good sized garden with apple trees so that set me thinking! I also found celeriac which is not common in Malta and so was a new ingredient for me to work with.

Apple and Celeriac Soup
300g Celeriac, peeled and chopped
about 3 small apples or 2 large ones, again peeled, cored and chopped
5cm fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
about 2L stock - to be added slowly

Start off by cooking the onion, garlic and ginger in a little olive oil.  Once the start to cook, stir and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes but until they are still pale.

Add your celeriac and apple chunks and cook stirring continuously until they start to soften slightly. Once the bottom of your pot starts to dry up and sizzle, pour in your stock very slowly.  Add enough stock to cover the vegetables completely plus a little bit more.

Simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are cooked.

Once you are ready to serve the soup, blend it to a smooth puree and serve with some crusty cheese toast!


Bigilla is a traditional Maltese bean dip. Being so healthy Bigilla can be included in our daily diets in more ways than one. Bigilla can be used as a spread with Hobz biz-zejt or as an accompaniment to stuffed artichokes or simply as a dip served with warm ftira or some crudités.

I have gone back to making this dish from scratch after tasting some of the versions on sale. There is some good quality Bigilla on sale, however the home-made version always tastes better. 1 packet of 250g of beans will give you a large bowl of Bigilla to store in your fridge for a couple of days or to add to your summer buffet table.

No need for busy people to panic, I prepare this dish in a couple of minutes. The only thing you need to think about is to soak the beans in cold water, preferably from the night before.
Preparation (if you can call it that) actually takes longer than the actual process of cooking it. What you need to buy is the dried brown small beans known as Ful ta’ Girba.

Once you soak the beans, it is best to change the water as often as possible. This does not mean every 5 to 10 minutes but every 4 hours or when you notice the water turning a dirty brown.
Once the soaking is complete, drain the beans from their water and rinse under running water.

To cook the beans it is best to use a pressure cooker as this reduces the cooking time to 30minutes. Alternatively, you can boil the bean in a normal pot. In this case, the beans will need to be cooked for close to 1 hour. The duration of the boiling also varies according to your soaking process. If you have soaked them for less than 8 hours, then you will need to increase your cooking times. The best test to check if the beans are cooked is to squash a bean slightly with your fingers.

Cooking time is complete when the beans appear to start melting and the water would have taken the dark brownish colour. Should you be using a pressure cooker, stick to the exact cooking time given above.

Next, with the beans still warm, blend the beans in a food processor adding enough cooking water to have a liquid consistency. At this point, the Bigilla should look like the mixture of an un-cooked cake.

Add the following to the beans whilst you are blending. These amounts are correct for 1 packet of 250g dried beans.
1 heaped teaspoon of Maltese sea salt
1 whole garlic clove
1 red chilli pepper (or some dashes of Tobasco)
A large handful of parsley (about 1 cup)
About 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

Place the mixture into a tray or plate, spread it out evenly and allow it to cool. It is very important that the Bigilla is quite liquid when it is still warm as once it starts to cool the beans paste will harden up.

Now chop some more fresh garlic and parsley very finely and spread them over the dish. Drizzle a generous helping of olive oil and serve. This dish can be stored in the fridge of weeks if kept in an air tight container.

Bigilla can also be made with the large type of dried bean however the smaller ones are used in the original recipe. It is important to buy your dried beans in small amounts since the beans will double in size once soaked. Just as a rough indication, 200gr of dried beans will give you up to 6 portions of dip. Enjoy !

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

Fresh Broad Bean Soup

Fresh Beans are well in season now and if you have an abundance of Beans in your fridge, here is a delicious soup you can prepare.  I know that most of us locally use the fresh beans to make "Kosksu bil-ful" pasta with beans, but i have been trying to come up with a simple yet delicious soup for a couple weeks so here goes.  You will need the following -
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 medium potato - peeled and chopped into little bites
1 medium leek - sliced
500g fresh broad beans - podded and peeled.
Chicken stock

Start off by placing a little bit of oil in a pot and add the onions.  Cook until they have softened slightly. Next add the potatoes and the leeks. Add the beans and enough stock to cover the vegetables completely.

Allow the vegetables to simmer for about 30 minutes and once the stock is reduced switch the heat off and let the pot rest in the same burner - now switched off and with the lid on for another 10 to 15 minutes.

This soup needs time for the delicate flavours to seep into the stock so don't rush it.

Even though the recipe calls for fresh beans, if they are out of season, you can replace them with frozen ones even though the taste will be slightly different. Do not use the tinned beans however and the taste is lacking considerably.

Serve this soup with some crusty Maltese bread and some fresh gbejniet - Cheeselets

Should you like to contact me, please do so on

Cherry Almond Cake

I couldn't resist making a cherry cake once I saw the delicious and plump cherries at M&S. these are completely different to the candied cherries we are used to. And the most apparent difference is the colouring!

To make this tea-time cherry cake you will need –
300g unsalted butter
400g sugar
4 eggs
300g self-raising flour
150g pure ground almonds
200g M&S Morello Cherries

Start off by beating the butter and the sugar together until the butter turns pale and creamy. Next add the eggs one at a time beating well after every addition. Now in a separate bowl sift the flour and add the almonds and stir using a spoon to incorporate the two well.

Add the flour slowly into the egg, butter mixture leaving about a third behind. Now switch the beater off and add the cherries into the remaining almond flour mixture. Stir slowly using a wooden spoon to coat the cherries with flour without breaking them.

Add the coated cherries and remaining flour into the cake mixture and stir gently using the same wooden spoon.

Pour the cake mixture into a 9inch non-stick cake pan and bake in a pre-heated oven at 160C for about 30 minutes.

The pie that made it safely till Saturday

So, what to make that can serve you more than 1 portion without having to prepare anything again.... a pie of course!..  Ricotta Pie is one of my favorite pies but the one I made this week has a little twist to the original recipe.  Firstly the pastry is made with wholemeal flour and secondly I added on "gbejniet" to the ricotta.

Here is what I did:

Place 250g Margarine into your electric mixer and add 1 tsp of salt and 400g wholemeal flour. Sift in 200g plain flour and set the motor running.  Once the margarine is totally incorporated into the flour and you have a nice sandy mixture, keep the motor on and add enough water at room temperature to form a soft dough.  If you want to make this pastry extra cheesy, grate in some cheddar into the flour mixture before adding the water.

Now take out the dough and place it on a floured surface.  

Roll out two thirds of the pastry and line the bottom of your baking dish.

Place 1.5kg ricotta into your electric mixer, add 2 eggs, some chopped fresh parsley and about 1 tablespoon of grated cheese.  Mix these ingredients slowly making sure that the eggs are well mixed in.

Spread the ricotta filling in the baking dish covered with  the dough and set aside. Now slice about 4 to 5 fresh gbejniet and place them over the ricotta filling.

Roll out the remaining dough and cover the pie completely.  Brush the top of the pie with some water and lastly sprinkle some sesame seeds.  
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C (electric fan oven) for about 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry has risen and turned golden.

Ricotta pie can be served straight out of the oven with some side salad or veggies or packed for picnics or as a lunch pack!

Dreaming of Ice-cream

It's funny how I've just come back from a trip to Italy, a food trip to Italy really, and all I can think of ice-cream.  The "devil" I was on holiday with is as bad a fanatic as myself, so it was really hard not to fall in this pitfall!

Even though the temperatures we had were 0C,1C,2C and possibly even 3C we were still happily slicking our ice-cream whilst holding onto our woolen hats, scarfs and gloves!... and even though we were in the northern part of Italy, we ended up discussing and buying "crema di pistacchi".  And no, we weren't the only mad ones in the land. People in Italy buy and eat ice-creams on a regular basis in winter too, and even though at one point we ended up in a some-what empty town and came across possibly 5 people in total roaming the streets, the 2 gelateria in the town were open and also well stocked!

So coming back to Malta thinking that the weather now is even hotter than I left it a couple days ago, I sat on the plane and planned my recipe hunt to then get down to making some ice-cream possibly over the weekend. But of course, my plans went out of the window when I landed in cold wind and rain and instead of taking out my ice-cream machine ( which by the way, has a permanent place in the freezer and ready for any emergencies) I got some wood out of the garage and put on the fireplace once again!

But hey, that's Maltese weather for you... hot in February and cold in March.

So back to warming meals... thinking of stews and soups this week.. will keep you posted with anything I come up with.

Watch out for my Easter Desserts this week. They will be published in the Best Buy Supplement, out this Wednesday 10th with The Times... there is also a cheat version of the Classic Italian Tiramisu without the egg mixture.. so worth a try for those of you who won't go anywhere close to uncooked eggs.

ice-cream recipes on this blog

No fuss food

Over the past weeks I've had to adapt my recipes at home. Portions are smaller and the food preparation is more on the spare-of-the-moment, rather than a planned meal!
Yesterday I had some chicken breast which had been defrosting and was not in the mood of grilling the chicken then cooking some vegetables or some salad, so I opted for a 1 "pot" meal.
So here is what I used -
1 chicken breast - Fresh or simply defrosted
2 medium onions
4 new potatoes - or you can use 2 medium sized potatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lemon, grated
1/2 tangerine, grated. - if these are not in season, you can substitute with an orange
1 cup of water

At this point, put your oven on and set it at 160C

Place the peeled, sliced onions at the bottom of a non-stick oven dish.  Next wash the potatoes and slice them. I like to keep the skin on, but if you prefer you can peel the potatoes before slicing them.  

Next place the chicken breast over the potatoes. You can cut the breast into portions - you should be able to get 4 portions out of each whole breast, or you can leave it whole.

Finally season the chicken with the herbs and the lemon and tangerine zest. you can also add some fresh pepper if you prefer. Pour the water into the roasting dish, try and find a corner where there is no chicken to pour your water so that you do not remove any of the dressing. Cover the pan tightly with some baking paper or some foil and cook in a pre-heated oven at 160C for about 20 minutes.

A new era - Part Deux

I think the time has come for me to change the title to this blog. Sadly there are no more cakes to order! Hopefully, though the recipes will still keep coming.

The address to the site will still remain the same so you need not change your links, bookmarks etc!

Time to move on though.... so please excuse me if my posts become less regular.
As I always, if you need any recipes or if you wants to tips, do not hesitate to post your comments on the site and i'll be more than willing to help you out!

Lovers' Day - St. Valentine

It's amazing how many heart-shaped chocolates, boxes and all other kinds of items pop up at this time of year. I'm sure that giving someone a heart-shaped box of chocolate will show them that you love them or care about them.  In Italian the words used to distinguish have a deeper meaning - ti amo (I love you), ti voglio bene (i wish you well) but the latter, even though the actual translation means i wish you well means that i care for you, I'm fond of you.

So even though most shops and card adverts specify that Valentine's Day is not just for lovers, i do agree with them even though their motifs behind this generous feeling are completely different.  Valentine's Day is there to take a moment and reflect on the people we love. There is really no need to go overboard and spend hundred and thousands of Euros but it's nice to actually have a day where we celebrate love in all it's permutations.. love between partners, siblings or even colleagues! 

I just happen to be in the capital of chocolates this week so there is an extra dose of heart-shaped chocolate delicacies around me this week.. and even though I'm sure they are delicious and that they might be using the finest ingredients, I always preferred flowers on this special day.

The thing with chocolates is that we are quite accustomed to buying chocolates on a regular basis and I'm sure that most of you have bought chocolates for yourself... maybe even hid them to enjoy alone! Well it is quite rare for me to buy flowers for myself, so that is a kind of treat for me!

Having said all this I must also add that I always stay away from restaurants on this "Special Occassion!"... the set menus are so off-putting and I always preferred a nice home-cooked meal even if it a simple plate of pasta!  For those of you looking for inspirations on what to cook on this lovers day, I had some recipes published in the Best Buy Supplement which was out with The Times on Wednesday 10th.

Being a Sunday though, how about impressing your partner with a breakfast in bed?... some pancakes spread with Nutella would be nice or even some warm toast and a nice coffee served on a tray!

post a comment below if you need some inspirations.... I'll be more than happy to give you a helping hand!

Baked Curry

I was looking for something easy to prepare with a packet of 500g minced beef. I wanted something simple to prepare and yet delicious; something that is low in fat, low in Glycemic index and at the same time something warming for these cold winter days.

As I searched through my stash of recipes I came across a curry recipe there was no turning back. A little tweak here and there and this is the end result.

As I write this article I'm sampling it and I can assure you that if you love curry and have little time to cook your mid-week supper, then this dish is for you. Here is what you need to make enough for 2 to 3 or to make a dish for 1 which you can eat over 2 days.

500g minced beef

1 large onion – finely chopped

3 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons curry paste – medium

2 tablespoons of mango chutney

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon rock salt

½ cup sultanas

1 cup oats

2 eggs

1 cup milk

4 beef tomatoes - sliced

Cook the onion and the garlic in a pot and once they start to soften, add the minced beef. Make sure to mix the mince whilst it's cooking so that it will not clump up.

Now add the curry paste and cook for about 2 minutes before adding the mango chutney and the dried herbs and spices.

Lastly add the sultanas and remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the oats and place the mixture into a baking dish about 20cm x 15cm. Arrange the cut tomato slices over the mixture.

Now in a separate bowl, mix the milk and the eggs together and pour the mixture over the tomatoes.

You can bake it at this point or else you can allow it to rest for about 1 hour and bake later.

Once you are ready to bake, preheat your ovens to 160C and bake until the top custard has hardened and is nice a golden.