Lots of exciting news this week – first of all I set the official date for the launch on my poetry book. But, more on that later!

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Speaking of poetry – next I want to introduce Trap-ease – this is going to be a physical theatre performance (Wi111ow) with live music (Fuzzhoneys) and the actors will be using my poems as a script. It’s hard to explain the effect this makes without watching it. However, we do need your help!! We’ve created an Indiegogo page to be able to collect some funds towards that will go towards bringing you the best possible performance. This is the chance to immerse yourself in a theatrical, poetic and musical experience 🙂 Click the link above, every little helps and is immensely appreciated – plus you get a little gift made with lots of love <3


A few days ago I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours baking with a sweet Latvian lady who welcomed me into her home to show me how she makes macarons and tell me her story. WP_20141022_001 IMG_4360 (1)

Marija, or Mary V as she is affectionately known on her facebook page moved to Malta 3 years ago after falling in love with our island a few years back during a holiday. Her regular job at the time had nothing to do with baking. Then one day, after searching high and low for a macaron that would satisfy her craving, she decided to try her hand at making her own. There was no looking back for her, but there were several hours spent experimenting, studying, trying and trying again to bake a macaron she was satisfied with. Her close friends tested her samples and soon she began to realize from the compliments and comments that she was really onto something special here. Marija was encouraged to take this up more seriously and this is when her love affair with the macaron started…

IMG_4374 IMG_4362 (1) It wasn’t easy. One of the first topics we tackled, because it was the one I was most curious about, is how she handles the big humidity issue that bakers need to deal with here. Macarons are delicate creatures, she explains, they need a lot of care and focus. I watch Marija as she glides with practice and experience through the steps, always keeping an eye on all ingredients at all times. It is a dance of precision but not there is nothing mechanical about it. No two days are the same, she says. One must grow a feel for the process, learning to recognize the textures, consistencies and correct timings depending on a number of factors.

She smiles as she tells me about the research she has done, the myths and traditions surrounding this typically French delicacy. However she approaches her kitchen in a practical and methodical manner so I don’t experience any dancing or chanting aimed at softening the meringue. She explains that the step called ‘macaronage’ (creating the macaron batter by adding the dry ingredients to the egg whites) is the most crucial in creating the smooth texture of the typical macaron. Having developed an eye for it, she decides when enough whipped egg white has been added.

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Keeping the charm of a homemade product is not easy. She works alone from home using a standard-size oven, so when big orders come in it means hours of work. Sometimes a batch can go wrong, for example if one of the utensils wasn’t completely dry or the humidity in the air is too high. However, I could see that she is passionate about what she does despite the difficulties and this also extends to making the macarons light and with as little artificial products or extra fats as possible. She doesn’t use butter in her ganache and when possible uses colours from natural products. The flavours in the ganache are created out of nuts, fresh fruit, chocolate and local fresh cream.

Marija decided to dedicate more time to baking and selling her macarons when last August she quit her full-time job to pursue this business. Aside from selling and delivering from home, she has also managed to start selling her creations through a few outlets already and is maybe planning to make a few more products that the Maltese are not so familiar with. The future is sweet, but let’s not reveal all..

Get your macarons from My Macarons by Mary V

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David Darmanin - photo by Tomoko Goto

David Darmanin – photo by Tomoko Goto

As part of this year’s Notte Bianca events, Valletta 2018 will be hosting L-Ikla t-Tajba – the first street food celebration of its kind in Malta. Guided by an international Maltese chef – David Darmanin – and his foreign team – twenty freshly trained cooks from different backgrounds and of varying ages will be dishing out eight of their signature recipes using the finest and freshest local ingredients under one giant pop-up kitchen at Castille Place.

The dishes served are the re-creation of popular local recipes that have been given a new character, with each celebrating our unique culture and rich history.

Now I’ve known David Darmanin for a while and have tasted some of his culinary creations in the past – I can only imagine how fantastic they are by now! I got to speak to him about this project that has been brewing (see what I did there? :)) over the Summer…

This is what David had to say:

I mainly work as a consulting chef and food planner, but my small brigade and I are sometimes asked to cook for specific events. I live in Italy and get to work in London very often – where there’s a real lot going on with food. The UK has really turned into a cool food destination, which is funny, seeing that up until 10 years ago nobody would have associated Brits with good food. You will find that the quality and variety of street food is generally outstanding in London, as is the number of pop-up kitchens sprouting for a short period of time and moving on to other destinations – a bit like circuses.

 When it comes to street food and pop-up setups I work with a lean but very strong team of chefs hailing a bit from everywhere. Every now and again we get to organise or cook for events in Malta, where I try as much as possible to tie in this street food theme – seeing that it goes down really well with us Maltese. Last year for instance, we were asked to cater for a wedding in Malta where everything was street food themed. We set up stalls as you would find at a ‘festa’ or some mass meeting, and dished out theme-specific street food to guests from there. Obviously, we’re not talking about hot dogs and burgers – which may be tasty but with hardly any novelty factor.

 Now, with Valletta 2018’s support and infinite patience, we’re working on setting up the largest pop-up kitchen ever built for a public event in Malta. The idea is to set up an equipped tent from where a group of 20 amateur cooks we specifically trained will be dishing out their own street food recipes to passers-by at Notte Bianca. We’re looking to serve 3,000-4,000 customers. That’s a very large amount of trade, even for experienced professionals. Luckily, it’s all under control since four of the chefs I closely work with have accepted (against a rate which is a fraction of their normal fee!) to come over and help me guide the participants during preparation service so that everything flows smoothly.

 The team consists of a very diverse set of people aged from 13 to 55 coming from all walks of life – some privileged, others less. Over the summer, they have attended an intensive course in professional cuisine where we placed a lot of focus on creativity, sustainability and respect for local ingredients. One of their end-of-course assignments was to come up with their very own street food recipes using prized local ingredients. Once the recipes were shortlisted to eight good ones, they were tested and re-tested, improving them a little each time after we got in everyone’s feedback.

 The idea for L-Ikla t-Tajba started when Valletta 2018 had organised a series of brainstorming events to gather ideas to compile the bid-book which got Malta accepted. Thanks to the input of all parties involved, the idea has developed into where we are today, and we hope to be able to develop it further once this phase of it is over.

David kindly agreed to share the recipe that most intrigued me – to get a taste of this and the other recipes, visit the L-Ikla t-Tajba! stand on Saturday 4th October. Bon Apetit Malta 🙂

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Ġbejna moqlija bil-ġell tar-rummien – Fried cheeselet with pomegranate gel
(Josue Galea)
Inspired by French cuisine, deep fried breaded fresh ġbejna is probably one of Malta’s most modern traditional dishes. We’ve made it a tad more contemporary. With pomegranate being in season, we thought of a nice modernist gel to go with the cheese. Josue is probably the first Maltese teenager using agar agar in a kitchen. Kudos. For a crunchier finish, the breading is being made with crushed galletti. This is so worth a try.

Ingredients:

4 fresh Gozitan sheep’s cheeselets
2 large eggs
200g flour
200g breadcrumbs
300g galletti, powdered

For the pomegranate sauce:

Seeds of 1 pomegranate
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
200ml water
300mg agar-agar

 
Preparation:

1. Place the cheeselets on perforated gastro dishes, cover under a lid and chill
2. Blend the pomegranate with water, lemon and salt
3. Strain liquid and bring to a boil
4. Dissolve the agar-agar and remove from heat
5. Chill and allow to set
6. Blend and transfer in squeezy bottles
7. 3 hours before service, bread the cheeselets in flour first, then in egg, then in breadcrumbs, in egg again and in crushed galletti
8. Deep fry at 180°C and serve with pomegranate gel