Holiday Eating – Gozo, Malta

Ftira

Gozo is the middle sized island of Malta’s three and one of the traditional Gozitan meals is a ftira which consists of anchovies (or tuna), olives, garlic, capers, basil, tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, salt & pepper on a crust, a little like a pizza, but so much better. The great thing I found about the ftira was it wasn’t served with cheese, so it was easy to order ftira without anchovies, to satisfy my way of eating.

Having been to Malta previously this was one of the foods that I was looking forward to. However, like last time, when you order ftira you’re never really sure what you are going to get. Sometimes we got the pizza style and sometimes the sandwich variety. The two rolls in the photos below were from the same place, Stephen’s in Zaghra (pronounced Shara). Gozo has great bread, so both of the rolls were really tasty. Stephen actually made it in front of me, adding the ingredients I wanted, so I had conserva (a tomato spread) and marinated veggies – eggplant, capsicum, onion, marrow and olives. The second time I added some rucola and mushrooms.

Fruit and Veg

My favourite thing to eat is fruit and vegetables (and sometimes it’s chocolate). Gozo has a lot of market gardens, and it’s something that early Maltese immigrants did when they came to Australia. Vegetables, in particular, are really cheap compared to what we pay in Australia. But it’s all relative, because they earn a lot less too.  Fresh fruit and vegetables play a big part in Maltese meals, along with bread, cheese, pasta and meat.

When I bought the apples from the fruit and veg van I was told that they were local apples, which I thought was odd because of the climate. Taking a bite they took me back to apples I use to eat when I was young, the soft textured flesh rather than the hard crisp flesh we have today.

When you’re eating out every day for weeks you start to crave just the simple fruit and veg. We found a farmers’ market one day and there was nothing more delicious than a bag of cherry tomatoes to snack on … and a watermelon!

The stuff you eat between meals

So what did we snack on?

Lots.

And lots.

And lots.

Even when we weren’t hungry!

Pastizzi are a favourite of mine. You can purchase them in Australia, but the authentic ones are so much more … authentic. Be careful how you say the word because it can have multiple meanings. (Check out the link to wikipedia if you want to know the other meanings.) I eat the pea version, but there is also a ricotta. They also make Qassatat, which is similar to the pastizzi, although it has different pastry.

Like other areas in the Mediterranean lemon sorbet is popular. As are treacle rings, which look like they have dates in them but it’s actually golden syrup.

One thing I did try which is not traditional Maltese food is deep fried Oreos. I’ve never had a deep-fried mars bar but I’m guessing it’s a similar kind of thing.

Jessica’s Delights is a cake shop open in Marsalforn over the summer, and it’s the place to visit. They have lots of cakes filled with cream, eggs and butter, so I went in and asked if they had anything without all of that, and the 2 things were apple pie and soy milk ice cream. I went with the apple pie and I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing out when everyone else was gorging on their animal filled cakes.

Ice cream! Before leaving Australia I found out about SottoZero. A gelato factory in Bugibba, Malta, right where we would be staying! Think about your local ice cream shop. If it’s like mine they have 2 cabinets of ice creams and maybe one tub of non-dairy ice cream. Well, SottoZero has 2 cabinets and 1 WHOLE cabinet is for non-dairy ice cream – either rice milk (the majority) or soy milk. AND, some of their rice milk ice cream is sugar free. That’s worth the flight there on it’s own!

 

So many stories, so much food.

Smoothies in Malta

I recently spent 4 weeks in Malta, specifically in a little seaside town known as Marsalforn on the island of Gozo. Gozo only has a population of 31000 and is more rural than the island of Malta. The only way to get to Gozo is a 25 minute ferry ride from Malta. Gozo is known for it’s rich history – having the oldest man-made, free standing structures in the world, the Ggantija Temples, as well as the oldest religious structures in the world.

From Wikipedia

“The island of Gozo has long been associated with Ogygia, the island home of the nymph Calypso in Homer‘s Odyssey. In that story, Calypso, possessed of great supernatural powers, and in love with Odysseus, holds him captive for a number of years, until finally releasing him to continue his journey home.”

Whilst I was excited to be spending time in Malta I knew there were some things from home that I would miss. Number one being smoothies. I’m a regular smoothie drinker for breakfast. I knew I would miss my smoothies, so I purchased a cheap blender from Kmart for $30 before I left. It was light enough to not impact my 30kg luggage allowance and the cup was made of plastic so I wasn’t worried about it breaking in my case. And it was the best travel decision I’ve made! All I needed was a power adapter and some fruit.

Maltese cuisine relies heavily on dairy and meat – two categories of food that I don’t eat. Malta does not have a lot of options like we have in Australia, like rice milk or oat milk. So armed with my smoothie maker, I made a smoothie (almost) every day. Ironically, one of the things I love about travelling is trying local food. And believe me, once I’d eaten breakfast, I ate the local food, and lots of it. But more of that later.

Every morning there was a little fruit and veg van about 100m from our apartment.

Day 03 2nd July Marsalforn

I would go down and buy a couple of bananas and some other type of fruit – usually peaches, nectarines, apricots or kiwi fruit. The main fruit grown in Gozo is watermelons, most of the fruit I bought was imported. Although, I did try a locally grown apple. I didn’t need to add any milk or water to my smoothies and as you can see from the pictures most of the time I ate the smoothie with a spoon.

The fruit, a little bit of muesli and some raw nuts was enough to keep me going until lunchtime I saw some pastizzis.

What are pastizzis? Well, I’ll leave that for another post, along with lots of other food I ate whilst away.

I would definitely take my blender away again with me. What’s something you can’t go on holidays without?

 

Seed Crunch

Right now I’m loving smoothie bowls. Smoothies just don’t taste as good unless you’re eating it with a spoon. And to make it even better, I love some added crunch on top. But who’s got time for adding crunch? Looking in the cupboard for a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Smoothies are supposed to be a quick, easy meal, right? So, I make up a big jar of crunch and then it’s ready to add to anything.

what you need

½ cup activated buckwheat (or regular buckwheat groats)
½ cup pepitas
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup puffed amaranth
½ cup chia seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
½ cup sultanas (or cranberries)

what to do

put it all in a jar and mix

 

Easy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Slice

I made this a while ago and have been asked for the recipe from a few different people. Problem was I couldn’t remember what I put into it, so I had to make it again and try it out. And eat it to make sure it was OK. Yep, life’s tough!

what you need

base

16 medjool dates, pitted
water
1 cup almonds
2 tbsp maple syrup

peanut butter layer

1 cup peanut butter, I like crunchy; or any nut butter
¼ cup coconut oil
⅓ cup maple syrup
1 cup peanuts

chocolate layer

1 cup cacao
½ cup coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
buckinis (activated buckwheat) I use Loving Earth Organic Activated buckinis. This is optional but I love the extra crunch. You could use shredded coconut or chic chips

what to do

base

Blend dates with just enough water to make a smooth paste. Add almonds and blend until smooth.

Spread into a 22cm square loose base pan. The base is usually quite sticky and doesn’t look like it will spread out to cover the pan. Get a glass of hot water and dip a large metal spoon into it. Use the back of the spoon to spread the base over the pan.

Place in freezer for an hour.

peanut butter layer

Put peanut butter, coconut oil and maple syrup into blender and blend until smooth.

Mix peanuts through mixture.

Spread on top of base. You may need the spoon again to spread the peanut mixture. Place back in the freezer for another hour.

chocolate layer

Place cacao into large bowl, melt coconut oil if needed and add to cacao. Add maple syrup.

Whisk until well combined

Pour over top of peanut layer.

Top with buckinis and place back into the freezer. The chocolate usually sets pretty quickly as it comes into contact with the frozen peanut layer.

Remove from pan and slice into small squares.

To slice without cracking, fill a glass with hot water, dip the knife into the glass and cut whilst the knife is hot.

This needs to be stored in the fridge.

Makes 36 squares.

You could reduce the amount of time each layer sets in the freezer if you’re in a hurry. Ten minutes is probably the minimum. I tend to do a layer and then go off and do other things then come back to it.

Choc-Orange Cheesecake

I’ve said to myself in the past that I’m never making cheesecake again, and invariably I do. And then I regret the decision. Today was different. Finally, I feel like I’ve mastered the vegan cheesecake. The creamy, thick, deliciousness of the centre that I thought was only possible with cream cheese. I’ve had some good vegan cheesecakes and I’ve had some mediocre ones. Mine have always been mediocre. Not smooth and creamy but gritty and nutty.

Well, today, all that changed. And it just so happened to be because of my new blender. My old blender was great for smoothies, but it has seen better days. We used it a lot. Every day. Smoothies were a daily occurrence. And every now and then I’d put some cashews in and make creme cheese. It was good for blending cashews, but not perfect. So, I bought a new blender. The best part? It’s easier to clean. Actually, maybe the best part now is that it makes good cheesecakes.

I’ve done a lot of riding and running lately and these last couple of days I just can’t seem to get full. Every time I go into the kitchen I end up in the pantry looking for something to eat. And finding something. Not always what I wanted to eat, but it was food. And it didn’t fill me up, because half an hour later I’d be back. Each time thinking I’ll get something really healthy that will really fill me up, but each time getting a snack that didn’t fill the hole in my belly. And boy, have I gone through some food.

Today, after I’d had my first lunch I went into the kitchen to find something for my second lunch. (I don’t normally eat two lunches, but I’m just so hungry). And today I felt like cake. Chocolate cake. Good old fashioned fat and sugar chocolate cake. I was going to make one and not even worry about the ingredients, but somehow I ended up making chocolate cheesecake. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. Cheesecake. Chocolate and orange cheesecake. And it was so good. And now I want to make more cheesecake. Lime cheesecake, vanilla cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake. Does anyone have a birthday coming up?

This cheesecake was so good that I sent my daughter 3 text messages about it. The first was a picture, the second was the the name of the cheesecake and the third was a simple ‘You’re welcome!’ The problem was she only got the ‘you’re welcome’ text so it didn’t really work out. Never mind, the cheesecake did. And here it is …

What you need
1/2 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 cups raw almonds
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

3 cups soaked cashews
3/4 cup orange juice
2/3 cup agave
1/4 cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/3 cup melted coconut oil

What to do
Put cashews into a bowl and cover with water. Set aside.

Crust
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.
Line a springform pan with waxed paper.
Press the mixture into the sides and bottom of pan.
Freeze to set, at least one hour.

Cheesecake
Drain cashews and put into blender. Add the freshly squeezed orange juice, agave, cacao powder, salt, orange extract and coconut oil. Blend on high until smooth and creamy.

Remove the crust from the freezer and pour cheesecake filling on top.

Place the cheesecake back in the freezer for at least 3 hours to set completely.
Once the cheesecake has set, remove it from the fridge/ freezer and top with grated chocolate and orange zest.

Seeded Crispbread

I’ve made crackers before and posted the recipe here. Since then I’ve seen plenty of other recipes, bought seeded crisp bread and made a quite a few varieties. And, for now, I think I’ve got it right.

Here’s my latest crisp bread. Last weekend we had this for lunch topped with homemade basil and shredded carrot and beetroot. It was so delicious that I had to make it again the next day.

I’ve been adding dulse flakes to everything savoury lately. This is optional, but it’s a great way to get seaweed into your diet without noticing the strong flavour. Sea vegetables help alkalise our bodies from the over-acidity of the modern diet
and dulse flakes contain Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, and E, and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, chromium, iodine and zinc and trace elements.

Really, all you need to do is through a bunch of seeds in a bowl, mix in some water, spread it on a tray and cook it. But here’s the recipe in a little more detail.

 

what you need
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pepita seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup water
1 tsp salt, or to taste
2 tbsp savoury yeast flakes
1 tbsp dulse flakes

what to do
Preheat the oven to 160C and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix the seeds together. In a small bowl, mix the water, yeast flakes and dulse flakes. Whisk well. Pour the water mixture onto the seeds and stir until thick and combined.

3. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet with the back of a spoon until it’s less than 1/4 inch thick.

4. Bake at 160C for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, carefully flip onto other side and score the base so it is easier to break into pieces. Bake for another 15 minutes. The bottom will be lightly golden in colour. Allow to cool completely on the pan.

raw apple pie

i recently attended a raw food preparation class presented by roar food and this apple pie was one of the dishes they presented. brendan, from roar, suggested that it tastes better when left for a couple of hours as the apples soften and the flavours are enhanced and i agree with him. although, it did taste amazing when we ate it straight after it was made.

 

what you need
½ cup almonds
½ cup macadamias
½ cup walnuts
10 medjool dates
4-5 apples, peeled and cored
2-3 dates extra
juice of ½ orange
juice of ½ lime

what to do

process nuts and 10 dates in food processor – the longer you process it for the smoother the base will be

press into a loose base pie tin and freeze for an hour

process extra dates and juice of lemon and lime, set aside

slice apples thinly, i did mine in a food processor

mix apples with dates and juice mixture

press into base and refrigerate for a couple of hours – it’s best left for 12 hours if you can resist