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postheadericon Octopus salad

octopus salad

So I decided to celebrate the official end of Summer with a nice and fresh octopus salad. We call it salad mainly because it’s a cold dish but in reality there’s no greens or tomatoes or any vegetables in this salad 🙂 But it’s really delicious. Back home we usually serve this dish as a starter or as a party dish and everyone just digs in. But if you serve it with boiled potatoes coated in butter and dill, then it becomes a really nice main course dish.

I find octopus salad to be a really easy dish to put together. Since I found a fool proof way of cooking octopus (check it out here) I don’t think twice about using it on a more frequent basis then before. I know that there’s lots of tips and tricks around on how to make octopus tender but I’m sticking to mine 🙂 Because you don’t need to babysit the cooking I find it very practical and I have time to do other things meanwhile!

In my house in Portugal, octopus was actually a dish served during feast days such as Christmas, New Year or Easter. Don’t know why! Recently I remember my aunt cooking it more often but not when I was young. So I always considered octopus salad to be something you eat when out and about. Just like our neighbours in Spain, we love to seat around a table full of dishes to share with a nice bottle of wine. And this is one of those dishes always present. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do 🙂

Octopus salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4/6 people

Ingredients

1 octopus with about 1 kg
1 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch of chopped parsley
100 ml olive oil
75 ml white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Place the octopus in a large pan, cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour
No need to add water, because the octopus will bake on its own water.
After 1 hour, when the octopus is tender, remove from the water and let it cool (reserve the water, you can use it to make rice on another occasion)
Cut the octopus into small pieces.
In a bowl, combine the octopus with the onion, garlic and parsley
Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle everything with olive oil and vinegar.
After all mixed up, if you want more sauce, add olive oil and vinegar to taste.
Keep in the refrigerator until the salad it's cool.
And it's ready to serve.

postheadericon Saffron Arancini With Mozzarella

Saffron Arancini With Mozzarella

And I’m keeping with the Italian theme, this time with saffron arancini with mozzarella. These beautiful rice balls are a favourite of my boyfriend and every so often he asks for it. I know that it’s quite easy to find them ready madealmost everywhere here but I still think that what we make at home tastes so much better!

Basically, for those not familiar with the word “arancini”, these are small stuffed rice balls which are coated in bread crumbs and then deep fried. Usually they are stuffed with ragu (meat & tomato sauce), mozzarella and peas.

They say Arancini was created in Sicily in the 10th century during the Arab rule. In Palermo and Trapani, arancini are the traditional food for the Feast of Sta Lucia (13th December) when you can’t eat bread and pasta. Today, arancini are found all year around as a snack and a good way to use left-over risotto.

On my first attempt to make arancini,things didn’t turn out that well. I didn’t research before starting and I though that it was just rice with some stuffing. And because the recipe was all wrong, when I tried to stuff it the rice wouldn’t stay together and when I tried to fry them, the balls just kept opening. So this time, I’ve done my home work: some research and I found out that it’s best to make it with risotto. This way the rice is sticky and will stay together. Then I read that saffron risotto is the best option. And because I had some mozarella at home almost reaching the “use by date” I decided to keep it simple and just use it for the stuffing instead of ragu. Guess what? It turned out perfect: the rice was nice and sticky so it was easy to make the stuffed balls and it stayed together when I fried it 🙂 Result: a nice dinner of arancini and green salad and a very happy boyfriend 🙂

Saffron Arancini With Mozzarella

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 15 rice balls

Ingredients

2 cups bread crumbs
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 pinches saffron
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup of parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ball of mozzarella, diced
Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

Heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until rice is evenly coated in oil and toasted but not browned, 3-4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until the alcohol has fully evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of warm stock and 1 pinch of saffron. Scrape any grains of rice or pieces of onion from the sides of the pan so that they are fully submerged; season with salt. When the liquid has mostly evaporated, stir in 1 more cup of stock and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has mostly evaporated. Stir in 1/4 cup of stock at a time until rice is just tender and has formed the texture of a thick porridge. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese and 2 tbsp of butter.
Spray a baking sheet with oil and lay the rice on it, spreading it in a thin, even layer. Let the rice cool down as much as possible.
Meanwhile, place the breadcrumbs in a deep plate. Break the eggs into another plate and whisk.
When the rice is cool enough to handle, scoop a small handful (about 1/4 cup) of rice in one hand (don't wet your hands) and form it into a flat disk. Place a small pieces of mozzarella in center of disk and fold rice around it to form a sphere with the cheese in the center.
Roll the rice ball in the egg and in the breadcrumbs. Set aside and repeat the process until you use all the rise.
Fill a large pan with a good quantity of oil and heat. Gently set a rice ball on a slotted spoon and lower it into the oil. Repeat with the remaining rice balls, working in batches and topping up oil as needed. Fry rice balls until golden brown, then, using a slotted spoon or spider, lift them one by one from the oil, allowing excess oil to drip off, then transfer to paper towel-lined baking sheets or plates. Let cool slightly, then serve.

 

 

postheadericon Pasta with swordfish and cherry tomatoes sauce

Pasta with swordfish and cherry tomatoes sauce

I couldn’t go through summer without cooking this pasta with swordfish and cherry tomatoes sauce… it’s such a simple yet delicious dish 🙂

Swordfish is very easy to find here in Malta and you don’t need to visit the frozen section of the supermarket. All you need is to pop into any fish shop and you will see this enormous fish in the counter. The fishmonger will then cut the steaks to your liking and you go home all happy with a beautiful fish to prepare for your meal 🙂 At least this is what happens to me…

Back in Portugal, we also find swordfish quite easily but it isn’t a popular fish at my mum’s table. We’ve always enjoyed smaller fish and not so much in steaks or fillets. Only recently, with the introduction of fish counter in all the major supermarkets, we started to appreciate this kind of fish. A bit like fresh tuna. I don’t think I ever had fresh tuna at my mum’s. When I was young, we would still go to the fish market near the beach or sometimes directly to the boats arriving from the sea. So, of course, the fish would be different: smaller like sea bream, mackerel, sardines, seabass among others. And totally fresh. Nowadays, with several changes in the Health & Safety Laws, fisherman are not allowed to sell the fish directly from the boats. Even when taken to the fish markets, there’s lots of rules and regulations and we won’t see the full catch brought from the sea. With all these changes, the fish markets are decreasing and the prices of the fish are increasing. So it became easier and cheaper for us to visit the fish counters of the supermarkets.

Here in Malta, there are really good fish shops, some more commercial, other more home business. This gives an opportunity to find a good diversity of fish from line caught, to frozen, to farmed, etc. It’s good to have the choice and be able to put together dishes as nice as this one 🙂

Pasta with swordfish and cherry tomatoes sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 2/3 people

Ingredients

4 anchovy fillets
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 swordfish steaks
300g Casarecce pasta
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the anchovies, garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring until the anchovies disintegrate (about 3 min).
Add half of the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens (about 12-15 min)
Add the remaining tomatoes, stir and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in another skillet. Season the fish steaks with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown on both sides.
Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly. When cool enough, coarsely flake it and set aside.
Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Cook over low heat, tossing often and adding more cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce has thickened.
Add the flaked fish, the chopped parsley and toss to combine.
Serve sprinkled with more chopped parsley

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postheadericon Ricotta cake

Ricotta cake

This ricotta cake is inspired in a very popular cake we make in Portugal. We don’t use ricotta but have a similar product called “requeijao”  – from what I’ve read, it looks like we can actually say it’s the same think: they have a very similar texture, similar taste and are made from the same product i.e the milk solids that remain in the whey after the production of cheese.

So i decided that I could try our recipe and use ricotta instead. Because of the similarities between these two cheese products, it was easy to adapt the recipe. And I was very happy with the result. I haven’t had this cake in a long time and it made think of home, of course 🙂 There’s quite a lot of desserts around that are made with ricotta but this one is different. You can’t really tell is made of cheese, it just seems like a cake but more compact, not as soft as you would expect. We love it with coffee or tea in the morning, not so much as a dessert to have after dinner. Each slice can be quite filling so better to have it as breakfast or afternoon snack.

When making this cake, you will realize that the dough is quite thick. Don’t worry, it’s normal. In my case, it gave me the opportunity to use my silicone cake mold. I always struggle to use it: most of the time the dough’s too liquid and the whole mold wobbles 🙂 And I get the feeling everything is going to end up on my kitchen floor 🙂 I hope you are better them me at this!

 

Ricotta cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 12 slices

Ingredients

250g fresh ricotta
330g sugar
3 tbsp milk
225g flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs

Instructions

Preheat oven - 180c
In a bowl , place the ricotta and mash it together with 3 egg yolks .Then add sugar, milk, flour and baking powder. Mix well.
Beat the egg whites to a stiff peak and fold them into the mixture.
Place the dough in a cake tin previously buttered and sprinkled with flour.
Place it in the oven for about 35 min.

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postheadericon Creamy scallop chowder

Creamy scallop chowder

I don’t know if anyone actually noticed but I have been missing for a while now. For almost 3 months to be more precise. And for that a apologise. I know that lately it’s been happening quite a lot and I feel really bad about it.  I wish the reason was related to some relaxing holidays in a remote paradise but unfortunately life can be really unfair sometimes. Due to family health problems I had to be away for quite a long period. And although I’ve done quite a lot of cooking, there was just not the time to share it with you. Fortunately, the situation is more stable now and I can try to be more regular on my conversations with all of you.

For me Summer is synonymous of a lot of grilling and a lot of fish on my table. Back at my parents the grill is used daily and we eat a lot of grilled fish. Back here the grill has been used a lot but mainly for meat. But I can’t live without fish or seafood when is this hot outside. And because the boyfriend struggles with fish bones I’m always on the look out for new types of fish/seafood recipes to make everyone happy. Sorry if I keep repeating this story but it’s the truth 😊

So this time, I have chosen an ingredient that I only tried to cook once before: scallops. I really like it but it’s expensive so I tend to save it for a special occasion. In the past, I’ve always had scallops as a starter so I decided to follow the “tradition”. When I see chefs cooking scallops in tv, it always seems really easy, don’t you think? But then I always hear that you can get it so wrong so easily. So I decided to take the safest road and make a delicious and creamy scallop chowder. My boyfriend never had it before so I was happy to show him something different 😃 And he loved it!

Creamy scallop chowder

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 2 people

Ingredients

6 big scallops
2 tbsp butter
2 green onions, minced
200g fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup wh8te wine
1 tsp salt
1 pinch pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

Wash and drain the scallops. Cut them in half.
In a small pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the green onions and mushrooms and saute until tender.
Stir in the flour.
Pour in the milk and stir well over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.
Add the wine, scallops, salt and pepper.
Cook over medium heat until thickened.
Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley

 

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