I’ve spent over a month in Malta and writing went on the back burner for a few weeks. Despite the good intentions, including the desire to wake up early morning to write and exercise, the tiredness and heaviness of the previous months took their toll.
I did not realise the extent till I found myself waking up late in the morning on the first days of my vacation without any energy and desire to do anything other than cook and be lazy.
Add to that a WIFI free house and the stifling heat of a Maltese summer and you will sympathise with my plight. But that’s the point of summer after all.
Most of the time was spent cooking (and sourcing ingredients), reading, swimming and recharging energies which should enable me to get back to the usual routine.
Cooking this summer was spontaneous depending on what I found in the shops close to home without much planning or following recipes. This spontaneous cooking meant that I didn’t even bring out the barbecue this summer since I preferred the comfort of cooking in the air-conditioned kitchen.
Simplicity was the order of the day but when time is not an issue you can head to the butcher or the fish shop and buy what tickles your fancy or what looks good. That sort of freshness and great produce means you need to do little to get great results. Sometimes it takes more time to source the ingredients but once that’s done it becomes easy.
While I looked at recipe books, the inspiration mainly came from the fresh ingredients on hand and the herbs and condiments that I had available.
One day I found myself running low on tuna for a tuna tartare and having watermelon in the fridge decided to combine it with the tuna. It was a match made in heaven. I had tried it before somewhere and just remembered on the spot that the combination really worked.
The star of the show was the tuna which I cooked in different shapes and formats. Tuna in Malta is staple in the summer months and is also cheap and abundant.
When it is so fresh and abundant you tend to overdo it but that is normal given how versatile it is.
I tried tuna carpaccio which shocked our guests because it was cut rather thickly and served raw (though marinated with lemon and lime). I also slow-cooked tuna belly at a low temperature and served it with almond charcoal oil. I made a ragu to serve with pasta and cooked the tuna in oil to have my own home-made ‘canned tuna’, an experiment that was so successful that it will be repeated.
Maybe nothing was more delicious and intense than the paccheri with an intense prawn bisque, raw red prawns and pistachios.
But there were other more spontaneous dishes like making rabbit fritters for the first time because the butcher had minced rabbit which I had never seen before in shops. I even cooked rabbit liver in breadcrumbs which was simple but really delicious.
I also griddled a fair share amount of sausages and ate a scandalous amount of granita for breakfast at a Sicilian cafe in Birkirkara Malta called Sicilia Mia. I don’t think I’ve put on weight, though I am afraid to try the scales lest the battery dies out on me like the car remote batteries did on my return home.
There was time for a short trip to the Algarve to visit Vila Vita Parc and Restaurant Ocean spending two days with chef Hans Neuner and Kurt Gillig. It was a great experience and a discovery of how much this region of Portugal has to offer. You can read the interview with Hans Neuner and also the story of Sal Marim as well as more about the Algarve in the coming weeks.
And since I often get the question, here are the best books I’ve read this summer. They’re not necessarily food related but if they are listed below, it is because I really enjoyed reading them.
Pasta Pane e Vino by Matt Goulding
First, Catch Study of a Spring Meal by Thom Eagle
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Us Against You by Frederick Backman (sequel to The Scandal or Beartown which is also an exceptional read)
Bad Stories: What the hell just happened to our country by Steve Almond
Frenemies: The epic disruption of the Ad Business and everything else by Ken Auletta.
The newsletter will be back this Sunday. And do drop me a line to tell me what you’ve been up to this summer.