BALTIC SEA CRUISE WITH M/S SERENADE OF THE SEAS MAY 2017

This must have been one of the most amazing things we have done. Cruising 1.600 nm visiting the baltic states, from Copenhagen to Riga, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Klaipeda and back to Copenhagen.

Christopher and Barbara Cassar Torreggiani , John and Carmen Cooper and John and myself, flew via Munich to Copenhagen. On arrival at First Hotel Twenty Seven, I realised I had misplaced my passport! I thought hard and remembered that some magazines had fallen out of my bag in the plane from Munich to Copenhagen and the passport must have been among them! So after dinner near the hotel with everybody more nervous then myself, John and I taxied back to the airport and went up to the info desk, after a phone call the person manning the desk, said “yes, we have it”. My what relief!

 

Wednesday 3rd May

Boarded ship Serenade of the Seas. In spite of the very large number of passengers boarding, everything was very well organised and we were on board in no time. Cabin 1088 was ours, roomy with sofa, tv balcony etc we knew we would be very comfortable. The man assigned to look after our cabin was NINO and all through the cruise he was most attentive and helpful!

At about 2.00pm the ship slipped it’s mooring, and we were off!!

 

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Our dinner was served in the dining room (rather than the buffet) and our table was looked after by MOHAMMET AND MOHOMAD!! The three course meal was very good, and while dining we could look outside and see a beautiful sunset!

 

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At dinner time the band struck up the music, and after dinner it was difficult to hold back and not take to the dance floor. We danced the night away, and then retired to our cabins exhausted but full of anticipation for the days ahead.

After very good nights sleep we feasted on a sumptuous breakfast which we enjoyed every morning of the cruise.

First day was at sea, which gave us time to explore the vast ship with every entertainment facility you could imagine, casino, theatre, cinema and different bars and lounges. Also indoor spa and outdoor pool, etc etc. I opted for a CUPCAKE DECORATING CLASS – cant see me out of the kitchen!!

 

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Our first port of call was RIGA in LATVIA.  We opted for the ‘TASTE OF RIGA TOUR’ while the others went off to do a ‘hop on hop off’

We were taken to the Riga market. Fish meat vegetables and all produce beautifully displayed. We bought our caviar and salmon roe there to take home to son Alex!

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We then proceeded to the old town and visited a cellar where we found magic chocolate and a chocolate drink which we all enjoyed. After that we went to a restaurant to have some samples of Latvian cuisine and beer.

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Back to the ship for dinner and dancing!

Once in our cabin, I was blessed that I had paid for access to the ships wifi as I could stream my music and use my social media while other had to do all their online connections in a cafe once ashore.

 

Next stop TALLINN, ESTONIA. Here we had some friends that had come to one of my cooking lessons back home, INDREK AND EVELYN LEPP. They met us ashore  and took us on a nice drive around an elegant part of Tallinn where we viewed the Presidents palace, the park etc. We then had an excellent lunch at a restaurant MON REPOS especially John’s bird pate, and me bouillabaisse!

 

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After lunch we proceeded to the town which we explored and took pictures of. We ended the day in a lovely cafe where we had the most delicious tart!

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Very sadly day ended and we took our leave of the Lepps, grateful to them for giving us such a nice day!

 

After dinner that night as we were on our way to St. Petersburg, I could not resist the temptation to sit on our balcony and admire the night sky. – Magical!

 

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Sunday 7th May

Sailed into St. Petersburg for a two day stop. The six of us had organised a private tour. After the usual clearing of customs (Russia!) we were met by our driver and guide OXANA. Off we went to tour this beautiful city.

 

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After viewing several landmarks Peter and Paul’s fortress and cathedaral and St. Isaac’s etc  we asked Oxana to take us to a good restaurant, which indeed she did!

We settled for GOGOL in Malaya Morskaya str. White tablecloths and all. I had a delicious Borscht  followed by an excellent beef Stroganoff. John had a plate of blinis with caviar etc.

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waiting for lunch!!

 

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Oxana

 

 

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In the afternoon we did paid our visit to THE HERMITAGE. unfortunately it was a holiday there, so the museum was teeming with noisy schoolchildren and other visitors. Pity as there are so many treasures to see there!

 

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So back to the boat for the night. Dinner followed by an amazing show with Russian dancing etc!

 

Next day through customs (again!) Oxana took us to the FABERGE´ museum (where Barbara CT had suggested) Wonderful ornately decorated eggs, made for the Czars and their wives.

 

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Once that visit was over, we went onto the church of the Spilled blood, so called as a Czar was killed and left in his own blood on the spot where the church was. The whole church is decorated with mosaics – amazing!

 

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Today, lunch was at ASKANELI in Karavannaya st. Delicious meal, I had this amazing pastry that was filled with melting cheese and a raw egg, which you mixed into the cheese so you had a sort of scrambled egg!

 

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To end off (and because Barbara had missed her dessert the day before!), we dug into the most delicious 8 TIERED HONEY CAKE – MEDOVIK- how delicious! – On my return to Malta I was determined to reproduce this cake which I did for a photoshoot for an article I wrote in GOURMET magazine which comes out on Sunday 25th June (along with other recipes picked up on our cruise!)

 

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My MEDOVIK!!

 

That evening we sailed out of St. Petersburg.

On to HELSINKI ,cold now, hats and scarves weather. Visited church in the rock, bought iceberg tumblers for daughter Emma.

Walked down to the market.

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After a nice buffet lunch nearby, we went back to the Serenade of the Seas, by now it was snowing!!

Another nice evening on the ship. went to see La La Land in the cinema.

 

Daughter Emma had told me, whatever you do, when sailing into Stockholm make sure you get up early and go on deck to enjoy the slow entry to the city through the Archipelago,  thousands of islands that the ship sails through (about 2 hours).

So this Wednesday morning, John and I were up with the sun at 4.30am and onto the deck. The experience was simply amazing, sun rising on sea as calm as a lake, the ship, slowly but surely wending its way through this maze of islands.

 

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This morning we opted for breakfast on our balcony so we could continue to admire the passing landscape.

 

9.30 we disembarked (unfortunately without Barbara, she had developed a cold). There was Kate Wiberg (Miller) waiting for us waving the Maltese flag! Anyway into her 7 seater and off we went. Grand tour of this wonderful city. Lunchtime came and we went to the food halls (temporary site) Friend Erik Nordlander came to join us, and we had a Delicious lunch.

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A street in Stockholm with the ship in the background!

After the town and some shopping Kate took us back to the ship when it began to snow gently.- Magical Stockholm – vowed to return someday!

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On the way out, after the snowfall.

In spite of the busy day, we managed to dance till midnight (Carmen surprised by Johns energy!!) then retired to bed to dream of wonderful Stockholm!

Next stop we called at Klaipeda. We didn’t get off the boat but enjoyed massages and such like luxuries that one finds on a cruise liner. Next day was ‘at sea’.

 

Saturday early morning, returned to ‘wonderful wonderful Copenhagen’ smooth disembarkation and taxi to First Hotel Twenty Seven again, this time de luxe rooms – excellent.

We had three lovely days in Copenhagen. Tivoli  gardens, met up with my friend also a food writer, EJA NILSSON who looked after us very well. We had a couple of light meals at ELS in Store Strandstraede.  Heard mass (long one with music much to Chris’s delight!) We had a lovely lunch at CAFE PETERSBORG and the most delicious tea and cakes at LA GLACE (100 years anniversary!) Did some shopping at Georg Jensen etc. We did a canal tour, and on the last day we went on a walking FOOD TOUR eu when we sampled goodies in the Food market, beer, Smorrebrod at AAMANNS DELI, Oster Farimagsgade, home made sweets, special hotdogs and back in the market some delicious marshmallow filled chocolates! A very good tour indeed.

Eja hosted us in her lovely home and we bade her farewell telling her to come to Malta where we would return her hospitality!

 

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FAREWELL EJA, FAREWELL THE WONDERFUL BALTIC SEA!!

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FIGOLLI TIME AGAIN!

Pippa’s best Maltese figolli:

You will need:

An assortment of metal Figolli cutters, shapes such as: fish, heart, basket, lamb, butterfly etc.

Piping equipment

Baking trays and cooling racks

Cake boards to place them on when ready (either gold or silver ones, or normal boards covered in baking foil)

Easter egg halves to place on the Figolli

Food colouring: red, green, yellow and blue to colour the glacé icing, or chocolate covering if you prefer

Coloured and/or silver edible balls, to decorate

Note – I find the best way to make the Figolli is in stages. First make the biscuit dough, roll it out and cut the shapes. Prepare the almond filling and assemble the biscuits. Then place them on the baking trays and bake them. Finally allow to cool on racks. Then decorate, first by covering in glacé icing or chocolate, and finally with royal icing.

Stage One

For three to four Figolli you will need:

350 g (14oz) plain flour

175g (7oz) sugar

175g (7oz) margarine or butter

Grated rind of one lemon and one orange

2 egg yolks (keep the whites for the almond filling and glacé icing. Keep them separate, you need one white for the almond filling and the other for the royal icing).

A little cold water if necessary

Method – Mix flour and sugar in a bowl, add the margarine or butter cut up into pieces and mix altogether until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the grated rinds and then the egg yolks. Mix well until it becomes a fairly soft but firm dough, only adding water if necessary. Set aside.

Filling

175g (7oz) blanched almonds ground in a processor

80g (3oz) sugar

A little fresh lemon juice

1 egg white

1 teaspoon orange blossom water (Ilma Żahar)

Mix the ground almonds with the sugar, lemon juice, egg white and blossom water. Mix very well by hand or in a processor. Set aside.

Now roll out some of your dough onto a floured surface, to 0.5 cm (two sixteenths of an inch) thick. Carefully place your chosen metal shape on the rolled out dough and cut two identical shapes. Take two or three tablespoons of the prepared almond filling and spread this onto the inner part of one of the shapes, flattening it slightly. Now carefully brush the circumference of this shape with beaten egg, milk or water, and put the other identical shape over this, pressing down the edges you have moistened. When this is ready, carefully lift the double shape with a gateau or pie lifter if you have one, or an angled spatula, and place on a non-stick baking tray.

Pre-heat your oven to moderate (180˚C/ 350˚F, gas mark 4) and bake your Figolli for approximately 20 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow them to cool before placing them on cooling racks to get completely cold.

Stage 2

Glacé Icing

400g (1 lb) icing sugar, sifted

50 ml (2 fluid oz) water

Juice of one lemon

Mix all the above ingredients together. When smooth and thick divide into four bowls. Now choose your four colours and put drops of different colours in different bowls, to create pastel shades more in keeping with Easter themes. Do this little by little, as once mixed the colour spreads and you do not want your colours too bright.

Now, with the help of a pastry brush or a spatula, spread one of the glacé icings over a baked and cooled Figolla. Cover each Figolla with a different coloured icing and when all done, place your Easter egg halves exactly in the middle of the shape, pressing down to secure. Leave to cool and set.

If you prefer to cover your Figolli with chocolate, simply melt the chocolate covering over simmering water, and spread over Figolli. You need 100g (4oz) chocolate per Figolla

When the glacé icing or chocolate has dried you can carefully place your Figolli onto the cake boards. You are now ready for the next stage.

Stage 3

Royal Icing

1 egg white (set aside previously)

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon glycerine

Whisk the egg white until slightly frothy. Beat in about a quarter of the icing sugar with a wooden spoon, then, using a whisk, add the sugar gradually, beating well after each addition, until about three quarters has been added.

Beat in the lemon juice and continue beating for about 10 minutes until the icing is smooth, glossy and white. Beat in the remaining sugar and the glycerine to the required consistency ( when a wooden spoon placed upright in the icing falls slowly to one side, do not over beat).

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave sometime to allow bubbles to rise to the surface (a few hours or overnight)

With your piping equipment, fit the large star nozzle in the piping bag, fill with your royal icing and with a steady hand, pipe stars all around the outer circumference of your Figolli in such a way that this icing not only decorates the edges, but attaches the Figolli to the boards they are placed on. You can now decorate the Figolli with more piped icing to mark out eyes, ears, flowers etc. Immediately add all the coloured balls onto this icing anyway you fancy.

You now need to leave the Figolli overnight to allow the piped icing to harden. When this is done, carefully cover the Figolli with transparent paper or slide into clear plastic food bags, tie with thin ribbon and your Easter gifts are ready for giving and eating.

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MARMALADE TIME

January is the time all the citrus fruit is at its best for picking for enjoying and for making marmalade. I have a tried and tested recipe handed down to me by my dear Aunty Cella.So follow this,

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THE BEST MALTESE ORANGES

 and you will have a years supply of tasty marmalade to spread on all your breakfast toasts!

Seville Orange Marmalade

Besides very freshly picked fruit you will need a large pot, a mouli légumes (sometimes called a passe rapide) or colander, a piece of muslin and string, some empty jam jars, a little brandy, waxed discs (of greaseproof paper), some pretty cotton material and matching ribbon and labels (optional).

Weigh oranges and lemons. Measure 600 g (11⁄2 lbs) sugar to every 400 g (1 lb) fruit

Measure 850 ml (11⁄2 pints) water to every 400 g (1 lb) fruit and then throw away 550 ml (1 pint)

(14 oranges and 2 lemons might weigh 1kilo 600 g (4 lbs), therefore you need 2kilos 400 g (6 lbs) sugar and 3 litres (51⁄4 pints) water).

In a very large pot, boil oranges and lemons in the measured water until very soft. When cool, take the fruit out of the water (leave the water in the pot), and cut the fruit into quarters. Scoop out the pith and pips that you put into a mouli légumes, or into a normal large colander, placed over a large bowl.

Chop all the skins nely and set aside. Press the pulp and pith through the mouli or colander, collecting the thick juice below. Put this and the shredded skins into the pot with the water. Do not throw away the dry pith and pips left behind in the mouli or colander, but gather them and tie them into a square of muslin which you secure with string and tie onto the handle of your pot so that the ‘bundle’ hangs down into the mixture in the pot (This helps add pectin to your mixture which makes the marmalade set.)

Put the pot onto a low flame and warm the mixture, adding the sugar when warm and stir constantly until the sugar melts.

Now bring the mixture to a ‘rolling’ boil and leave to boil like this for some time (maybe 3⁄4 of an hour), stirring now and again, removing the scum that may rise to the top and watching it like a hawk – you do not want it to boil over!

Now to test when the marmalade has set, put a little onto a very cold saucer (which you put into the freezer beforehand) and push the marmalade with your nger. If it crinkles and gels it is ready. You might have to test it several times until you are sure it is ready. Try not to miss gelling point as you can over boil.

Meanwhile, an easy way to sterilise the empty jam jars is to wash them in hot water and then put them in a very slow oven until dry and warm. Keep them there until your marmalade is ready.

Now, with the help of a medium sized jug, ll the warm jars with the marmalade. While still hot, put waxed discs (you can buy these ready or cut out circles with greaseproof paper), into a cup with some brandy and place the discs on top of the marmalade in each jar. Now either seal with the lids while hot or allow to get cold, when you are sure the marmalade has set (do not close them when warm).

• In the event of your marmalade not setting, do not panic, buy some fruit pectin in a sachet and boil the marmalade up again with this added. It will slightly alter the taste but it will be ne.

Now after all this hard work, have fun cutting out circles of pretty material to top your jars. Tie with matching ribbon, label with their date of making, and leave in a cool place.

 

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OODLES OF NOODLES -Glass noodle salad with prawns and peanuts

GLASS NOODLE SALAD WITH PRAWNS AND PEANUTS

  • Serves 6
  • 150g fine bean-thread noodles
  • 2 cucumbers halved width -ways, deseeded and cut thinly on the diagonal
  • 300 g mange tout
  • 800 cooked tiger prawns peeled and halved width ways
  • 1 bunch mint, leaves only
  • 2 red shallots, very thinly sliced
  • 100g raw peanuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander leaves only
  • for the dressing
  • 2 tbl fish sauce
  • 1 tbl sesame oil
  • 2 tbl finely packed palm sugar + 1 tbl caster sugar
  • 1 tbl rice vinegar
  • 100ml lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1 fresh chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
  • Place noodles in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let stand 2- 5 minutes until soft. Drain then cool under running water.
  • To make the dressing place all ingredients and ½ tsp sea salt in a small bowl and whisk until sugar dissolves.
  • Place the salad ingredients and noodles in a large bowl, add the dressing and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.

 

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FAUSTINAS FRITTERS!

Our wonderful housekeeper Faustina would now and again make the most wonderful fritters. Here are some of them for you to try, simply delicious!

 

FRITTURI TAL-MAKKU JEW NEMUSA

Serves 6

 

For these you need 500g of the smallest whitebait or transparent goby – know as ‘neonati’ here. You can buy the whitebait fresh, and the neonati fresh or frozen (in which case defrost them)

 

2 eggs separated

1 garlic, peeled and crushed

some fresh chopped parsley

salt and pepper

oil for frying.

 

Beat the egg whites till stiff, beat the yolk separately, and then put them together and beat further.

 

Rinse the fish and then drain on kitchen paper. Now add the garlic, parsley and salt and pepper to the beaten eggs, mix in the fish and stir well. Heat the oil in a pan till sizzling, and with a large tablespoon take a good amount of the fish/egg mixture and fry in batches till a deep golden colour. Take out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper keeping warm while you cook another batch. When all your fritturi are ready, put them on a serving plate and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze the juice on these tasty

morsels!

 

 

 

FRITTURI TAL-MOHH

 

Serves 6

 

Maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, but for those who enjoyed them when young, these are something those people dream of tasting again!

 

3 brains

2 eggs

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon plain flour

dash of malt vinegar

salt and pepper

 

oil for shallow frying

 

Soak the brains in cold salted water peeling off the membranes, and discarding any small bits of bone that they may still have.

Bring a small pan of water to the boil, add a dash of vinegar and a good pinch of salt. Boil brains for about 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. When cool, cut into large pieces.

Separate the eggs and beat the white and then the yolks separately and then together. Add the chopped parsley , the crushed garlic, a tablespoon of plain flour and salt and pepper.

Heat the oil till sizzling, adding large spoonfuls of the brain and egg mixture. Fry till golden brown, put onto kitchen paper then serve with wedges of lemon, and maybe some fried potatoes (done the Maltese way- peeled, diced and shallow fried with garlic and parsley till golden and crispy!) or even with some cauliflower fritters, see below.

 

 

 

 

FRITTURI TAL-PASTARD

 

Serves 6

 

1 small cauliflower cut up into florets

2 eggs separated

chopped parsley

salt and pepper

some plain flour

1 clove garlic, crushed

oil for frying

 

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the cauliflower florets, and boil till just tender, then plunge into iced water , drain and leave aside.

Beat the whites of the eggs separately from the yolks then beat them together. Add salt and pepper, parsley and crushed garlic.

Now coat the cauliflower florets in seasoned flour, dip into the egg mixture and shallow fry till golden brown. Serve at once with any fish/meat, or just enjoy them on their own

 

 

 

FRITTURI TAL-BRINGIEL

 

Serves 6

 

1 kilo aubergine – 1 large or 2 small

1 medium sized onion

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

100 g fresh breadcrumbs

Chopped parsley, with some extra for garnish

1 egg, beaten

50 g Parmesan cheese, grated

40 g plain flour

 

Oil for shallow frying

2 lemons cut into quarters

Some kitchen paper

 

Method

 

Heat oven to 400 f 200 c mark 6, and place the whole aubergines and unpeeled onion on a baking tray, in the oven. Bake them till they are very soft. Allow them to cool a little, then peel them. Cut each aubergine into four pieces, and place them in a colander. Then press down on them to squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop the onion finely.

Into a large bowl, put the aubergine pulp, the chopped onion and garlic, bread-crumbs, and parsley. Add the egg, cheese and flour and mix it all together thoroughly. Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying-pan and then fry dollops ( about two tablespoons each) of the mixture, turning them over at regular intervals. They should be well browned. After taking them out of the pan, place them on absorbent paper. They should be served warm, with a scattering of parsley, and

some pieces of lemon for squeezing.

These can be eaten alone, but they are excellent served with meat or fish cooked on the barbeque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFINEC TAL-BAKKALJAW

You need to begin this recipe a day ahead

Although there is a Maltese recipe for these, I rather like this Spanish version

 

Serves 6

 

500g salt cod (soaked in 4 changes of cold water for 24 hours, drained and cut into three pieces)

500ml milk

2 fresh bay leaves

80ml extra-virgin olive oil

75g plain flour ( sifted)

½ lemon, finely grated rind only

½ tsp ground cumin

3 eggs

Vegetable oil for deep frying

 

GREEN SAUCE (MAJO VERDE) to accompany fritters

185 ml extra-virgin olive oil

3 green habanero chillis, seeds removed, finely chopped

2 spring onions, white part only, finely chopped

2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped

1tsp white wine vinegar

¼ tsp each of ground cumin and coriander

METHOD

Bring milk and bay leaves to a simmer in a pan over low-medium heat. Add cod and cook until tender (8-10 minutes.) Drain, discard bay leaves and milk, then flake cod, discarding bones. Process in a food processor until finely shredded and set aside.

Bring olive oil and 200ml water to the boil in a pan. Add flour, lemon rind and cumin and stir over high heat until thick and smooth (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat, add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add salt cod, mix to combine and set aside.

For the MOJO VERDE, combine all ingredients in a bowl and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate until required.

Preheat vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or large deep saucepan to 190c Form salt cod mixture into quenelles using 2 dessert spoons and fry in batches until golden (8-10 minutes). Makes about 20. Serve with MAJO VERDE.

 

 

 

NOW FOR SOMETHING SWEET;

 

Another non-Maltese recipe, but excellent made with our Maltese ricotta

 

RICOTTA FRITTERS

Serves 4

 

250g ricotta

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

75 g plain flour

30g soft butter

vegetable oil for shallow frying

¼ cup Maltese honey

 

Whisk cheese, eggs, sugar and rind in medium bowl till combined. Whisk in sifted flour and butter, cover, stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

Drop tablespoons of the mixture into hot oil, shallow fry, turning occasionally, a few minutes or until fritters are lightly browned and cooked through. In this recipe, do not have oil too hot or fritters will over-brown before cooking through, serve immediately, drizzled with honey.

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE DAYS

Warm June days, time for lemonade and iced tea in the garden! And lots of strawberries and cream!

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Charlotte De Trafford’s Iced Tea

4 Teabags

3 to 4 sprigs fresh mint

Juice of 3 lemons

1 cup sugar

1 kettle boiling water

Method

Put teabags in a large teapot, pour on boiling water and infuse for one hour. Add all ingredients, stir well and strain into large jug. Chill in fridge and before serving in long tumblers, add some ice and some new fresh mint.

 

And here is a quick Lemonade recipe. For this you will need a liquidiser.

Lemonade

2 thin skinned lemons cut into quarters

50g (2oz) sugar

8 ice cubes

1 litre (2 pints) cold water

Some fresh mint and a few slices of lemon

Method

Put cut lemons, sugar, ice cubes and water into liquidiser and process for three seconds only. Strain into a large jug and chill. Just before serving, add more ice cubes and some thin slices of lemon and the mint.

 

 

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At this time of year we tend to have an abundance of strawberries. You might like to try this delicious Shortcake, maybe Fathers Day?!

Strawberry Shortcake

225 g (9oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

¼ level teaspoon salt

75 g (3oz) butter or margarine

1 egg, beaten

1-2 tablespoons milk (optional)

75g (3oz) sugar

 

Filling:

600 g (1lb 8oz) strawberries

4 level tablespoons caster sugar

150 ml (6fl.oz) fresh cream

Grease a 20.5 cm (8 inch) sandwich tin. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the fat and rub in. Stir in the sugar and add a little of the egg at a time, mixing well until it is blended. Use a little milk if necessary. Knead lightly.

Lightly flour a surface and turn your dough onto this. Form into a round with your hands and then roll out to a 20.5cm(8inch) circle. Press it into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven at 190˚C/376˚F/gas mark 5 for 20 minutes or until golden and firm. Turn out onto a rack and leave to cool.

To prepare the filling, wash and hull the strawberries. Reserve a few for decoration and crush the rest with a fork. Sprinkle them with 2-3 level tablespoons of sugar. Whip up the cream with the remaining sugar.

When the shortcake is almost cold, split very carefully in half, horizontally, with a long knife. Put the bottom half on a serving platter and spread half of the crushed strawberries over it. Place the other half of the cake on top of this and spread the rest of the crushed strawberries over this.

Top with the whipped cream and decorate with the reserved whole strawberries.

As Spring turns to Summer

As spring turns to early summer, entertaining is easier with the warm nights allowing us to use gardens, patios etc for informal suppers for friends and family.

This recipe for Spaghetti Siciliana, is a winner and preparing it beforehand, allows us to just put it in the oven before dinner and then relax with our guests till it comes out of the oven hot and tasty.

Spaghetti Siciliana

Serves 8

4 large aubergines

Oil ( sunflower or olive) for frying aubergines slices

1 kilo (2lbs 8oz) minced fresh beefsteak (sirloin or topside)

1 large onion – chopped

4 cloves garlic – crushed

2x 400g (1 lb) cans whole peeled tomatoes

1 teaspoon dry or fresh oregano

4 tablespoons tomato paste (kunserva)

Rock salt and freshly ground black pepper

500g (1 lb 4oz) spaghetti

250g (10 oz) frozen peas – cooked according to packet instructions

150g (6oz) cheddar cheese grated

150g (6oz) parmesan cheese grated

4 slices bread, toasted and then processed or small packet breadcrumbs

To garnish:

Some fresh chopped parsley

Prepare aubergines by slicing finely, covering with rock salt, and leaving to drain out bitter juices. After about one hour, wash the slices well and pat dry. In a large frying pan, heat some sunflower or olive oil, and when hot, fry aubergine slices till a dark golden colour on both sides. Put onto kitchen paper and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan that you fried the aubergine slices in, and when hot, add minced steak, cooking until colour changes. Add chopped onion and crushed garlic and cook well adding the cans of tomatoes which you crush with a fork. Add the oregano and tomato paste, season with the salt and pepper and simmer uncovered until liquid is reduced and meat well cooked. (about 25 minutes). Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to the boil, and cook the spaghetti until firm to the bite (al dente). Also cook frozen peas. When all is cooked, put spaghetti, meat sauce, peas and grated chesses into a large bowl and mix all together.

Now grease a deep round 27 cm (11 inch) cake tin, sprinkle evenly on base and sides with half the prepared breadcrumbs. Place a large slice of fried aubergine in the centre bottom of tin, and continue placing aubergine slices all around the base and then the sides of the tin, fitting as close as possible using spoonfuls of the spaghetti mix to support the slices of aubergines as you work around the side of the tin. Spoon the remaining filling into the centre and pack all down well with your hands. Arrange remaining slices of aubergine to cover top of filling completely. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs all over.

Bake uncovered in a moderate oven 180C/ 350F gas mark 4 for 45 minutes or until brown. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then turn onto a serving plate, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

 

Version 2

spaghetti Siciliana