Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baked Macaroni

There are certain foods that evoke good memories. There are other foods that bring back nightmares, like fish bone stuck in one's throat.
Some foods will put you off for life, and other foods will be on the menu for years to come.
I always liked dairy. Cheese, milk, yogurt, you name it, I love it. So it doesn't come as surprise that this dish is one of my all time favorites. It is really easy to make, doesn't cost much and it is delicious. No complicated sauces, endless stirring and exotic spices. Just plain old cupboard and fridge staples.

For 4 persons you will need:

400 grams macaroni
300 grams feta cheese, crumbled
4 eggs
750 ml milk
salt to taste
little oil to grease the baking dish


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Boil the macaroni al dente according to packet instructions, drain and set aside. Lightly oil a baking dish taking care to oil the sides as well.
Put the drained macaroni and crumbled feta cheese and mix with a wooden spatula and let them bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Whisk the eggs and milk together with little salt and pour over the macaroni.
Return to the oven and bake until golden and the milk has evaporated.
Enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Be careful what you wish for! (Blueberry Muffins)

Few days ago, I stated that I love rain. I still stand by that statement, as long as it doesn't rain indoors.
We were waterproofing the roof and done some other works, ready for the raining season, however, the rain found a way to creep up from other unexpected places.
So, I'm sleeping nicely last night, thunders, lightening bolts and all the trimmings, but ultimately, I had to face the music of mopping endless buckets of water in the bedroom and the ground floor as they were quite flooded this morning.
Finally, after drying the floors (thank goodness, no carpets or parquet flooring, just plain old ceramic tiles), I went to the charity shop to drop off some donations and in the process got ingredients for blueberry muffins. Of course, that was premeditated!
I need to make clear that this is not my own recipe. The original recipe is found on Joy of Baking.com and the author of the recipe is Gail Sher. ("From a Baker's Kitchen". Aris Books. Berkeley: 1984).
However, I had made little change and instead of using white, I used brown sugar.
So, here's the original recipe as written by Gail Sher:

Blueberry Muffins:

240 ml. plain yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
60 ml. corn or canola oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
260 grams all purpose flour
100 grams granulated white sugar (I used 80 grams brown sugar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
100 grams fresh or frozen blueberries (I used frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Position rack in center of oven. Butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the yogurt, lightly beaten egg, oil, and vanilla extract.

In another large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Remove 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients and toss it with the blueberries. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Gently stir in the blueberries. Do not over mix the batter or tough muffins will result.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Piroshki (Pirozhki)

I love rain. Let me rephrase that. I really love heavy rain, thunderstorms and lightening bolts that rip through the sky and in night time they cast daylight in my rooms.
I'm not a summer person, and everything that is not summer puts me in a good mood. Especially a good thunderstorm.
As luck would have it, yesterday was one of those days. Although it was not severe thunderstorm, it did the trick for my mood.
In a lovely evening like that, there's nothing better than staying in and getting busy in the kitchen.
It was Piroshki evening then :)
This recipe is kinda old, and when I say old, I mean more than 20 years old. It was printed into a booklet by the company "Podravka", while they were promoting 2 of their products: "Vegeta" and "Digo yeast".
It was lovingly prepared by my mother and I still have the recipe in the original, unedited version.

So, for 12 medium sized piroshki, you will need:

1 sachet (7 grams) instant yeast
1 tablespoon "Vegeta"
2 tablespoons of milk at room temperature (to 'feed' the yeast)
150 grams potato, boiled and mashed
50 grams of cubed butter at room temperature
150 milliliters of milk
2 egg yolks
350 grams all purpose flour.

And for the filling you will need:
120 grams cubed Cheddar cheese
120 grams cubed ham
120 grams Greek strained yogurt (or soured heavy cream)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
freshly grounded black pepper to taste.

Vegetable oil for deep frying


In a small cup mix the dry yeast with 2 tablespoons of milk, cover it and let it bubble.
Mix the flour, Vegeta, cubed butter, mashed potato and egg yolks. Add the yeast and the 150ml of milk and bind well. Let it rest for 35-40 minutes while you're preparing the filling by mixing the cubed ingredients with the sour cream/Greek yogurt.
When the dough has rested, take it out from the bowl, cut out 12 even sized pieces and roll each piece on slightly floured surface into rectangular shape, about 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. Put about 1 tablespoon of the prepared filling in the middle and close the piroshki well bu lightly pressing.
As you go along, let the piroshki rest on a lightly floured tray/plate.
Heat the oil well in a pan and according to the pan size, drop 2-3 piroshki in the hot oil until they come out golden on all sides.
Remove them with slotted spoon and let them drain on kitchen paper towels.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In your face Marco Polo!

It is hard enough to explain the concept of aging and death to a child that understand how things work. It is even harder to explain all of that to a six years old child, particularly if it's a girl, as girls are "supposed" to play dollhouse, mothers, nurses and not watch mini series about the travels and adventures of Marco Polo in the distant year of 1982.
Well, at that time, I had set my mind to get married to Marco Polo, eat all the tasty spaghetti that he brought over from China and possibly turn into complete nomads with few little Marco juniors or Martina juniors in tow.
However, he should have looked as young as I knew him from the mini series by the time I got old enough to marry him.

Fast forward about quarter of a century, here I am, not married to Marco Polo, but still eating the spaghetti and other forms of pasta which have evolved over time. Now did the pasta making evolve, that is completely different thing to debate and it won't be here and now.
There I am yesterday, all sleepy and zombifyied (yeah,it is my word, get over it) flipping through pages of ads that I have to analyze and write up the analysis, when all of a sudden I saw that it is 6:45pm and started panicking, at the verge of throwing a hissy fit.
It was not an advert that put me to the panic, but the time. You see, in 'normal' world 6:45pm is nothing to be panicking about, but on the rock I'm calling home means that the shop will close in exactly 12 minutes.
It's now or never! Grabbed the first semi-decent top and flew away of the door to scavenge some raw ingredients and make dinner.
I found some mushrooms that have seen better days (fresh veg day is Monday,NOT Tuesday), piece of pork that was so sad, I could practically see the piggy crying, and the mood struck me for twisted macaroni which were available at the veggie shop.
Armed with my 'prizes', I came home and new sauce was born!
After I made the sauce, I let it stay in the pan and set out to cook my twisted macaroni. The water boiled, I threw the macaroni in, cooked them for 10 minutes (al dente as instructed on the packet), took a photo to put it in the blog and ready to dig in!
First bite went down, oooh, bliss, it was the sauce! And then a forkful of macaroni. Ewww...tasteless and not al dente!
I thought hard and harder where I went wrong, and then had the moment of 'a-ha!'
I checked the packet for ingredients, production and other particulars and on the very bottom was written with teeny weeny letters "Made in Turkey"!
In your face Marco Polo! EVERYONE can make pasta! (But how it tastes, it is completely and utterly different story).
So, here is my recipe for the sauce from which you can add or subtract ingredients at your own convenience, but please, do read where the pasta is made!

Ingredients for 2 persons:

150 grams macaroni
150 grams mushrooms, sliced
100 grams pork fillet, cubed
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly grounded pepper to taste


Fry the chopped onion on the oil, stirring constantly so it won't change the color. After the onion is softened, add the cubed pork and fry until browned all over. Put the sliced mushrooms and stir constantly until the water has evaporated. Add the cubed tomatoes and paprika, give it a stir and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
Boil the pasta according to packet instructions, drain, put in your plates, put some sauce over it and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

These boots are made for walking...and...Instructions are made for reading

I woke up with the sniffles this morning. Serves me right, went to classes yesterday, got soaked to bare skin, sat on the draught for 3 hours and after coming home, I was attempting to make dessert.
Whew... talking about woman obsessed.
I let my walking boots dry, had warm shower and what seems like bottomless cup of hot tea and after 15 minutes of rest, set to make the dessert. You see, it is second time that I am making this dessert, but unfortunately, few months ago my camera gave up on me and couldn't snap the pic.
However, this time my camera is working (yeah, the battery has been replaced and the instruction state: charge ONLY when almost empty), but my dessert doesn't look like the first time or like the original.
Why? Because I didn't follow the instructions! I was so sure that I knew what I'm doing, that I managed to make travesty of perfectly simple and delicious recipe!
It clearly states: "5. Using a spatula, fold in the cooled chocolate with the remaining half of freshly whipped cream."
But instead of cooled chocolate, I put the warm chocolate in the whipped cream and the result.... Read your instructions darling! Or you'll end up with microscopic chocolate balls mixed in the cream.
Of course, it is still perfectly edible and all, but it's not like the first time and I didn't have strawberries to decorate it. They're out of season now, so I guess I'll be waiting till mid January or February to make it again. But then, I'll make sure to follow the recipe and won't get cocky know-it-all smartypants!
Thanks everyone for stopping by and reading my rants and raves. Your comments are valued and appreciated and you can write in English, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, heck, even in Italian.
Until next time,
Love and peace to all x x x

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bread rolls (Kifli)

Back again on the comfort food page. One of my absolute favorite comfort foods are the home made bread rolls or kifli as we call them in my homeland. There is something about them that brings good memories and pleasant feelings whenever they smell divine in my kitchen.
I remember the very first time I made them for my husband, he couldn't get enough of them! And then every single day for the whole week he wanted kifli for dinner!
It is simple to make them, really, and it might be that their simplicity is the key for success and climbing on the list of favorites of those who tried them.

So, without further ado, here's the key to success and nice memories:

1 to 1,5kg plain flour
1 cube fresh yeast or 1 sachet instant yeast
2 cups vegetable oil
2,5 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
600 ml. lukewarm water
1 egg (for egg wash)
250 grams baking margarine or butter
250 grams feta cheese or whatever filling you wish to use
sesame seeds/fennel seeds (optional)


Make soft dough from the ingredients. The dough has to be soft, but not sticky, and knead until it is smooth. Leave the dough to prove and double in volume, about 1 hour or so, should do the trick.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Depending on the size that you want, tear small balls of dough, flatten them and using rolling pin make oblong shapes.
At the top, make few incisions with a sharp knife, making sure that they don't cut through, about 2-3 centimeters is about right.
On the bottom of the flattened dough, put 1 teaspoon of the filling of your choice and start rolling towards the top, ensuring that the fold has to be on the bottom of each bread roll.
Lay them in non stick baking tray (or lined with greaseproof paper) until you use up the whole dough. Whisk the egg (or the yolk only) and with brush put some of the egg wash over each bread roll. At this point you can put some sesame seeds or fennel seeds over each bread roll and then tiny pieces of the margarine over each roll.
Depending on the oven, usually it takes 40-60 minutes to bake them, but good indicator that they're ready is the red-brown color on the top.
After taking them from the oven, cover them with damp cloth and another dry cloth and let them rest for 15-20 minutes.
They keep well up to 2 days covered in plastic bag or container and can be frozen and used up within 3 months.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kusksu bil-ful (Broad Bean & Pasta Soup)

As everything else in Malta, dishes are differently made in each and every family. I guess it has to do something with preferences :)
Some like it hot, some like it sweet, but at the end of the day, everyone is around the table.
I was thinking of re-naming this blog "How to make dish in under 60 minutes on a budget" but it wouldn't be true to the name, as sometimes the ingredients know how to get a bit expensive, but I guess that is just the basic supply and demand circle.
So, today I had places to be, people to see and things to do and I completely forgot that at point and time I have to re-fuel in order not to get too jumpy and twitchy. It is not a pretty sight, take my word for it.
So, with less than an hour to prepare something tasty and no time to shop and unfreeze stuff, I just grabbed the first things from the vegetable drawer in the fridge and thought of Kusksu.
You see, the word kusksu is used to define small, pearl like beads of pasta and I believe it is of Middle Eastern origins.
This dish in Malta is usually connected with Good Friday and spring, since it is the time of the fresh broad beans.
OK, OK, I won't go into story telling, so here is the recipe:
To feed 4 persons, you will need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 liter of water
1 biggish red onion (about 150-200 grams) chopped
2 small zucchini cubed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 chicken or vegetable stock cube
1 cup of garden peas
1 small tin (or 200 grams fresh/frozen) broad beans, shelled
3/4 cup pasta beads (kusksu)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
salt and pepper to taste
200 grams of ricotta, cubed
1 egg per person


Put the cubed potatoes in a pot and pour over the cold water and stock cube on medium fire. In a pan, fry the onion on the olive oil, taking care not to change the color, add the sugar, salt, pepper, mixed spice, the tomato paste, zucchini and stir well. Add 3-4 tablespoons of water, stir again and pour the mixture in the pot with potatoes.
As soon as the mixture is boiling, crack the eggs one by one and remove them as soon as they're poached (or you can leave them tad longer if you prefer hard boiled).
After removing the eggs, add the ricotta and leave it for 3-4 minutes and remove it after that.
When the potatoes are about done, stir the pasta beads and peas and leave it for another 2-3 minutes. At the very end, add the broad beans and cook for further 3-4 minutes.
Pour the soup into plates and add the reserved egg and ricotta in each plate.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweet simplicity

Why is it that only we're pressed for time, we remember to cook something tasty, healthy and very nourishing? At least, that's the case in our household...
I remember my mother having full time job, taking care of the household, doing million chores and still every single day having prepared something healthy for lunch and dinner. Fortunately, we were not very picky eaters, although I had issues with stew, my brother with meat, my dad with spinach and my mum with milk and yogurt. Still, she found the time to make something for everyone, not forgetting for a moment that healthy food was the main issue.
I was flipping trough my books and papers yesterday and completely lost track of time, so I just opened the fridge to see if I can manage something quick.
I had bought some rabbit liver few days ago, and thank goodness that it comes in teeny tiny packets of 250 grams, so it defrosted in matter of few minutes.
I won't be giving any recipes for the preparing of the same, as it was the simplest of cooking with ingredients found in almost every household.
Little white wine, some seasoning, minced garlic and voilà!
I was in mood for green veggies, so just popped them in the steamer for couple of minutes and I felt it was the best meal I had eaten in months (hunger does that to you sometimes).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Froġa tat-Tarja (Maltese omelette)

Comfort food. Need I say more?
Although I have certain preference for almost all things sweet, every now and then, I have craving for savory foods and even meat sometimes!
I must admit that for the past 11 years I have eaten meat on maybe 15-20 occasions and has nothing to do with health reasons, it is rather the taste that puts me off.
Back to the froġa now... First time I ate this it was in my mother-in-law's house and I didn't really like it. I have certain dislike of foods that have to be eaten hot, and that was until I realized that I can eat it cold at home!
You see, out of politeness my first ever froġa had to be eaten hot.
Away with good manners and many other things and let's tickle some taste buds.
Pretty much every Maltese family has their own way of making this simple dish, and that means mine is different from my mother-in-law's.
OK,OK... Here I go:

For 4-6 people you will need:
500 grams angel hair or spaghetti (dried weight)
4 medium eggs
250 grams ricotta cheese
6 heaped tablespoons Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
50 grams cubed smoked ham
50 grams cubed cheddar cheese
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
25 grams butter
2 tablespoons olive oil.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and let it drain in colander.
Whisk the eggs and mash the ricotta into the eggs, add salt and pepper and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Add the completely drained pasta into the mixture and coat well, so there's no liquid left into the mixing bowl.
In deep frying pan add half of the 25 grams of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat well until the butter has melted.
Spill the pasta mixture into the frying pan and let it fry on moderate fire until the bottom side is crisp. (You can gently lift one end to check that).
After the bottom side is done (golden color), tip the froġa onto flat plate and add the remaining butter and olive oil into the pan and return back the froġa to cook on the other side.
That's it. Very simple, quick and nourishing meal that you can eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, hot, warm or cold.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Carrot & Ginger Muffins

Every now and then, I just feel the need for comfort food. However, since I have been ordered to actually eat 3 times a day and 2 snacks in between, things are getting boring. (By boring I mean 'healthy' food).
Since I (almost) completely gave up cooking in summer, now that the weather is getting back to normal, I can keep the oven running all day long!
Today was one of those days when I was not sure what I feel like eating and raided the cupboard. I came up with some usual ingredients and a bottle of unopened ginger powder. So, I flipped few pages of my cookbook (an old and really shaggy diary) and there were in all of their glory, Carrot and Ginger Muffins.
They're really easy to make, taste delicious and can be kept for 2 days (in case they last that long).

For 10 biggish muffins you will need:
225 grams self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ginger powder
170 grams brown sugar
230 grams grated carrots
50 grams sultanas
2 beaten eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable cooking oil
6 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line muffing tin with paper cases. Mix the dry ingredients with the sultanas and carrots.
In separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs and orange juice and fold gently with spoon into the dry ingredients. Mix through, but not too much, as you will end up with chewy muffins.
Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes.
Transfer to wire rack to cool completely and store in airtight container for 2 days.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cornbread and mission for golden ingredient.

There is something beautiful about Autumn. It brings happy memories of fallen leaves and all colors that only Nature can come up with. Being Autumn, it means also that it is harvest time and that brings more memories...of corn this time.
I woke up with strange craving for cornbread. As fate would have it, my recipe book is nowhere to be seen and I am little bit picky when it comes to my cornbread.
I set to look up recipes online which would jog my memory and then remembered that my dear childhood friend Natasa might have one on her blog.
Now it comes the spooky part... I was prepared to search and search, but as soon as I clicked on her blog, there it was in all of its glory! Proja!
So, the hard part was done and the search for the ingredients proved to take small dark shop as the top shopping destination. The large shops in the vicinity didn't have polenta!
I got little bit discouraged and wanted to give up, but then remembered the tiny, badly lit shop opposite the parish church, and as one would guess, I got my polenta.
While I'm typing this, my cornbread is baking happily in the oven and I cannot wait for it to be done.
Another good news is that my camera is all better now, so the photos will follow :)
Peace to all and I'm off to peek through the oven glass and wait for my cornbread to be done.