It is incredible that we are already in 2015. Food and Wine Gazette started off in September of 2014 and we are back after taking a two and a half week break from writing about the things we like most – food and wine. During our break, partially forced by the fact that we were staying in a house without internet access, we have been able to reflect a lot about the coming months of Food and Wine Gazette which we hope will be as exciting as the first few months have been for us.
At first we were slightly worried because this was our first break from writing. We had been systematically posting content nearly on a daily basis since our launch. But as time went by, we started to relax more and more and are now back with lots of energy and ideas.
Instead of writing, we have been extremely busy doing another thing we are passionate about, that is cooking and trying new wines. Inspired by some of the chefs we met on our journey so far, the books we have read about food and wine over the years, the restaurants we have visited both in the past and in 2014 and the fresh produce we found in Malta, we made good use of our time to cook things that we would not normally have the time to do on a daily basis. For example, we prepared a roast rib-eye of beef cooked at a very low temperature (6o degrees) for over seven hours, we dehydrated black olives in an oven for four hours to create edible soil and prepared a ragu with meat that had been gently cooked for nearly 12 hours.
Away from the daily routine, we tried to experiment. While smoking might be common in the North of Europe, it is not something that is really done in the South, though barbecues are the order of the day in summer. We wanted to recreate the smoke taste with fresh tuna that could be served raw (we also prepared a tartare of tuna). So we tried to smoke tuna with oak that had been burning in a stove. We just put the red-hot ashes on the side of a dish, the tuna on the other side and covered the dish in foil for around 15 minutes as the tuna was gently smoked. We served this with a seaweed salad and we really liked the end result.
In Malta, we have adopted the spaghetti alle vongole so popular in Italy. It is a staple dish which you find in most restaurants and many like to cook it at home because this is comfort food at its best. With fresh clams available all year round it is always tempting to get carried away when you see clams at the fishmonger. But we did not want to combine them with pasta because they were part of a rather large menu. So instead we opted for something we had seen Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur prepare. It was a chickpea and clam stew which worked very well, though we missed the collagen of the cod liver (which is not available in Malta).
It is always great when you can find fresh ingredients. Sometimes fresh ingredients just need some care and attention. There was something therapeutic about getting a fresh tomato (grown under the Maltese sun and not in a green-house) and infusing it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a few hours. Or picking up fresh calamari at the fishmonger and cooking them on a grill for not more than three minutes, before adding a touch of lemon juice and some parsley olive oil. We tried raw haricot beans for the first time given they were so fresh.
Food is all about memories. This has been a lesson that I have learnt from Italy’s most renowned chef Massimo Bottura who is constantly preparing dishes to try and recreate memories. Our generation has not really taken to cooking pork belly though it is slowly making a revival because it is something which requires time to prepare. I prepared the pork belly with honey which had been slowly cooking in the oven for over six hours on Christmas eve. Our family loved it saying it evoked childhood memories and tastes of dishes that had been prepared by their parents or grand-parents.
A leek and potato soup was combined with prawns which were cooked at a very low temperature (up to 42 degrees).
Having access to a lot of fresh lemons we made a delicious lemon tart which is always very refreshing after dinner. And if you have extra panettone (which is so popular in Italy during the Christmas period), but is now becoming a staple at Christmas in most stocked supermarkets, you may want to try the Zuccotto, which is a dessert that is partially inspired by the famous Cassata Siciliana. Soaked in Amaretto and combined with sweetened ricotta, chocolate chips and candied fruits, this is an exceptional way to make use of panettone.
In our next post we will look at some of our favourite posts of 2014 and indicate our top posts of the previous year. In the meantime, we would like to wish all our readers and followers a happy new year hoping that you will continue to support us on this journey.