On a recent trip to London, armed with a number of restaurant / food market recommendations, I had the chance to sample two great brunch dishes at Counter Café. This website describes their (mostly with eggs) dishes in this manner and I love it “If Counter Cafe could lay eggs, it would.”

The atmosphere is calm and relaxed, and since it is used as a space for artists, feels a little like an unpretentious exhibition space as you enter. If the weather is agreeable, you can even sit outside beside the canal (the café is on Fish Island after all).

We ordered Eggs Benedict and Turkish Eggs to share, and the Turkish eggs were particularly divine. So much so that I decided to emulate them today, almost without consciously copying the dish. I guess the recipe entered the subconscious of my taste buds… 😉

Turkish Eggs from Counter Café

Turkish Eggs from Counter Café

Eggs Benedict with ham at Counter Café.

Eggs Benedict with ham at Counter Café.

Turkish Eggs for two

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You will need:

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 can plain tomato sauce

3 cloves of garlic, roughly slices

2-3 peppers, different colours, sliced

2 teaspoons capers or according to taste

100ml water

a dash of apple cider vinegar or teaspoon of sugar

2 eggs

coriander to garnish (optional)

Bread for serving (optional)

How to make it:

In a wide deep pan, fry the onion in a little olive or sunflower oil and as it gets translucent add the garlic. Be careful not to let it brown, add some tomato sauce if necessary and stir to avoid sticking.

Add the peppers and continue stirring, then add the tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, and water. Lower the flame, add the capers, and cover. Cook for 20 minutes on a low flame, it will be bubbling but not boiling over.

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Carefully crack two eggs into your pan, trying not to break the yolks, and keeping them separate as much as possible. Place the lid back on, and let the egg cook for about 10 minutes, or according to taste.

Garnish with chopped coriander, and serve with fresh or toasted bread.

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This recipe is similar to the Maltese Balbuljata (recipes differ in different families!) or the Israeli Tunisian Shakshuka.


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


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This pasta dish was traditionally served as a Sunday meal followed by the main meat dish. As you can imagine this would make for a heavy meal that needs hours of digestion and probably a nap.

Once the meat sauce is ready, there isn’t much more work to do other than wait – I made my meat sauce with beef, mushrooms and curry this time (and let it cook slowly and deliciously in half a bottle of wine). Most of the recipes I’ve read suggest boiling the pasta partially before assembling the dish, but I find that this isn’t necessary as it will cook well in the oven provided that your sauce isn’t too dry.

This is what you need to make this decadent meal; please calculate per 2 portions according to the size of your dish

– silence or transcendental music, for this is a sacred pasta dish 🙂

– 1 egg

– 1/3 cup cream (optional)

– 1/2 cup Parmesan or Cheddar, grated

– 1 cup of the above meat sauce

– 120 grams macaroni pasta

Heat your oven to 200 degrees.

Mix all your ingredients except cheese in a deep oven dish and spread the grated cheese on top. If your meat sauce is not watery, do add some cream to help the pasta cook with a moist result. Cook for about 40 minutes until the pasta is cooked through and the top is browning and crunchy. If you let it cool slightly before serving, it will more likely keep its shape. You can also serve this one or two days later and it will taste even better (let it cool completely before refrigerating).

You may also enjoy Qarabaghli mimli