Sorry Mama Bird…I just could not resist!
I am looking forward to our babies now! Aren’t you??
I have been waiting forever for this and it’s finally happened!
I’ve been soooo jealous of my friends who have had hummingbirds nest in their garden!
Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of robins making their home in my garden, but come on, they’re nowhere as cute at hummingbirds and so I sigh and hope that maybe next year it’ll be my turn.
Everyday this week, I’ve been going out in the garden and thought it strange that a hummingbird kept circling around the lemon tree but thought nothing of it until I saw this!!
What a beautiful sight! I wish I could peak in and see how many eggs the size of jelly beans there are but I don’t want to worry Mama Bird more than I have to so I’ll respect her and go buy lemons from Safeways for now…
When I think of England, I think of scones!! The two just go together just like Malta and Pastizzi! Kevin and I are not planners!! We knew that from the get go. He proposed over the phone on New Year’s Eve and we were married in March! We did not even have any idea where we were going to live We tried Malta for a month and when that didn’t work out, we thought we’d see if England would be a better match.
We packed few bits in a suitcase, boarded Air Malta and all we knew was that we’d be landing in Heathrow in three hours!! We winged everything else after that. It was a beautiful May day and all I kept thinking was “WOW!! I can do this!!” “I can live in England!” “Why does everyone complain about the weather!” “What a beautiful place!”…as we drove our little rented car from London to???? It was one of the best days ever!! Just married…beautiful day…with the excitement of what lies ahead! Whatever it was, we were going to make it work!
There were a few places we passed along the way that were possibilities and I still wonder what would’ve happened if we’d laid our hats in Somerset or Bath. But we kept on driving until we could drive no more! Plymouth Devon!! Doesn’t Devon just shout out Cream Teas and Scones? We got out of the car on Plymouth Hoe and the view of The Sound with clear blue skies is still exhilarating to me to this day. We both fell in love with The Barbican and the little shops and restaurants and decided that it was the perfect place to start our new lives together. Found a flat to rent across the street from a Greek Restaurant and made it our home! It was the stinkiest and had the most godawful decor, but it was perfect! And that was where I had my first Cream Tea experience!! A little place called Tudor Rose Tea Room Just the whole teapot and cup and scone and jam and cream and mix it all up and you feel like the queen!
So of course, since then, I’ve been looking for the perfect scone recipe. I’ve tried making them with milk/buttermilk/sour cream and cream and my kids and best critics have confirmed that this recipe is one of the best ones…YET!! I have my friend Rose to thank for sharing her recipe AND scones with me!
Scones are very simple to make and are pretty much fool proof if you follow these easy steps. I suggest you don’t use your stand mixer for this recipe and make them by hand because the less you handle the dough, the better.
Using the rubbing in method, combine and flour and butter and salt and work it until it looks like bread crumbs. Mix in the sugar. Put a well in the middle and pour in the cream and eggs and very lightly, bring the mixture together until just combined. Let it rest for about half an hour.
Also with your hands, pat the dough down to about 1 1/4″ thickness. Using your scone/biscuit cutter, cut out and place on the prepared dish.
Bake at 375 for about 18 mins until golden.
Serve with jam and cream and tea of course…
If you’d’ve told me last year, that not only would I be going to a Goat Farm BUT actually look forward to it, I would’ve laughed and thought Funny Farm maybe but not a goat farm! But I did!! And we went!! And then I started thinking how this came to be…
I can truly blame this series of events on the Ftira!! Because if it weren’t for the Ftira, I would not have met my dear dear friend Ivy of Merci Chocolat, who in turn would not have gotten me to try making French Cheeses! And that is how I got interested in making Goats Cheese other than Gbejniet!
When Kevin’s boss recommended a visit to Harley Farms Goat Dairy at Pescadero, I knew we had to go and, this week, I finally booked a tour. We went there yesterday and I have to say, that even with the looong two hour windy road trip we had to take to get there, it was definitely worth it!
We checked in at the Shop and had a look around while we waited for the rest of the group to show up. They had all sort of merchandise for sale all goat related…from lotions to goat hair blankets to rakes and shovels and gorgeous hand made pottery!
There were about twenty of us taking the tour of the farm which was led by a young and very knowledgeable girl who took us through the mustard path to the goat pen where there were about a hundred female pregnant goats just lapping up the beautiful sunshine and one very proud male goat!!! Two Llamas also roamed the vast field like kings in their castle!
We were told the history of the farm and how Dee Harley, the owner, came to the States from Yorkshire, fell in love with the place and started making her own Goats Cheese which is sold in stores all over California. We were then taken to where they milk the goats twice a day and were told that each goat produces a gallon of milk each time they get milked. It is quickly harvested and turned to cheese and it is the freshness of the milk that results into the creamiest and delicious cheese ever.
Of course, I had to ask if it was possible to purchase some fresh goats milk but was told that unfortunately this was not possible as they needed a special permit to sell. So that was the only bummer of the day but I quickly got over it when we got to see how the cheese was made and also tasted all the cheeses they had available at the store! It was pretty hard to choose my favourite because they were all so darn good but I think the Monet topped the charts.
So now I want to try making my own Chevre with my own herbs and my own edible flowers and dried fruit combination. And who knows…we might NEED to go back and meet the baby goats!! So stay tuned…
Pastizzi ta’ l-Irkotta or Pastizzi tal-Pizelli! Those are only two of the most popular fillings you will find because nowadays you may find many more types of fillings…from sweet to savoury but I still think that the original are the best! Pastizzi get a bad rap because the dough contains a little more than your average fat. Usually a basic dough has half the amount of fat as flour. The pastizzi dough has slightly more but is oh sooo worth it.
It is also slightly more work. Well, when I say slightly, I mean a lot! And also slightly messier…ok a lot messier…but I don’t want to scare you away and really want you to try it, cause when you make it and taste it, you’re going to fall in love. There’s just nothing like that rich, crunchy but melt in your mouth pastry!! And this recipe delivers! Pastizzi are also great to freeze so you can always have some on hand. Then just pop two in the toaster oven and have them for your lazy Sunday morning breakfast!
This recipe is one of those that has been passed down to me by my relatives who had emigrated to the US in the early 60’s which means they’d been here for 30 years before I made my appearance and had all that time to finesse everything Maltese!! I have a big family here and rest assured that there’s pastizzi at every gathering and not surprising at all, it would be the pastizzi that would be the first to disappear.
Pastizzi call for a mixture of butter and lard OR crisco. There was a time when just the word LARD would make me cringe and seeing anyone using it in cooking would immediately make me lose my appetite. But here is an article I read recently that made me think differently.
Make the dough by putting the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and water and let it knead for about 12 mins until you have a nice smooth dough. Let it rest for about half an hour. Cut the dough in half. Open one of the halves into a long strip as shown in the photo beneath.
Take both fats and mix them together. Divide in two. Take one part of the mixed fat and slather it all over the rolled out dough.
From the end closest to you, start stretching and rolling while widening the dough as shown. Keep doing this until you reach the other end. You’ll end up with a long rope like piece of dough.
Take one end and roll it into a spiral shape. Put some fat over the top, cover and store in the fridge until ready to use. Do the same with the other piece of dough and remaining fat.
Make the pastizzi filling by mixing 1lb ricotta, 2 eggs and pinch of salt together.
Take the end of the spiral shaped dough and cut about two inches off the end. Flatten it with your hand as you turn it round and round between your fingers so you can see the ridges of the dough forming. Form it into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter. Put a dollop of ricotta in the middle.
Fold over and seal and place on a greased dish or on a silpat. Do this until you’ve used up all the dough and ricotta.
You can freeze them at this point. Or you can bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 20-30 mins until golden brown.
As with everything, moderation is the key. Pastizzi are not the the healthiest of foods, but then neither are croissants or eclairs and it would be a shame if we couldn’t have them once in a while, so go on…have one…you know you want to.
This week’s Gizmodo Challenge was a husband and wife collaboration. We were supposed to build a light box and take a photo of something interesting inside it. I had no idea what a light box was or does…but now that I do, I am sure it’s going to come in very handy in the future. All the things I’m learning…who knew!!
We didn’t do too bad either…kinda like the 49’ers! We almost won!
First time I went to Amelia’s, owner of Hidden Fortress, I wasn’t sure what to expect! I’d heard she had chickens and was a famous micro brewer and that we were going there to make some cider!
What impressed me the most, since I’m not a cider drinker, were all the different kinds of chickens and roosters that were happily clucking away in their castle like coop! From then on I became a believer that happy chickens make happy eggs.
Well this past weekend I got to know that Amelia has added geese to her happy family and Kevin brought me some goose eggs to prove it! The egg shells are super strong and need a good whack to crack them open as Kevin found out while making his Sunday morning omlette! Look at these beauties!! The middle photo shows the difference between a chicken’s egg and a goose’s egg.
Two very popular snacks in Malta are Qassatat and Pastizzi. You can call them cousins with pastizzi being the posher or richer of the two. I find qassatat are the easier ones to make so we’ll be tackling that one first and then later on, we’ll try our hand at making pastizzi.
There’s all sort of different fillings you can use for the qassatat and ricotta ones seem to be the most favoured. You can add raisins or sauteed onions or fresh fava beans with the ricotta. These types of fillings are sought after during Lent when it’s customary to fast.
Other types of fillings include meat and anchovies, but really, you can make as many types of filling as your creativity and taste will take you.
So this is your basic Ricotta Qassatat Recipe
1 lb all purpose flour
8 oz chilled butter cut up in cubes
1 egg (optional)
pinch of salt
about 1/2 cup water
Start by putting the flour and butter and salt in your stand mixer and work it until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and water and knead until it comes together.
Take it out and knead it into a ball and let it rest at room temperature for about half an hour.
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (optional)
Some ricotta is more creamy than others and you might only need one egg…so use your judgement. The filling should not be too liquidy or it would ooze out of the dough.
Put all the ingredients together and stir vigorously.
Roll half the dough into two long ropes about two inches thick and cut it up into two inch chunks.
Take one piece and open it up into a circle about 3-4 inch diameter depending on how big you like them.
Put a dollop of the ricotta mixture in the middle.
Take the outside of the dough and start pleating while turning the dough about an inch each time until you get to the first pleat.
Continue this until you’ve used up the dough and ricotta.
Brush on a bit of egg wash.
Bake at 400 degree oven for about half an hour depending on your oven until they’re golden brown
It’s the easiest of cheeses to make!! It’s fast, easy and you don’t need any special equipment. And I guarantee that once you taste your home made version, you’ll never go back to store bought again. You probably ask why would I make it when it’s so easily available. And I will say to just try it once…and then you’ll experience the answer the way I did!
This recipe was shared with me by my friend Rose who is an amazing cook and extremely talented baker! When I saw the excitement in her eyes as she was telling me that she’d just made home made ricotta for the first time and how good it was, I knew I had to try it too.
Ricotta, which means “re-cooked” in Italian, is traditionally made from the whey left over from cheese making but this delicious ricotta is made from whole cow’s milk. You can use lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid. In this recipe, we’re using citric acid.
What you need is
1 gallon whole or low fat milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp citric acid
As with any cheese you make at home, you first need to sterilise all the equipment.
Dissolve the citric acid powder in a 1/4 cup cool water.
In a large stainless-steel pot, combine the milk, cream, salt and citric acid mixture.
Warm the milk and cream over medium heat for about 30 mins until a candy thermometer registers 198 degrees F.
Turn off the heat and leave it in the pot for at least 2 hours.
Using a skimmer, ladle curds carefully into a cheesecloth lined strainer set in a bowl to catch the whey and drain for two hours or less if you like it creamy.
Yields about 2lb 4oz of ricotta.
And just like that, you have ricotta that is much much nicer than what you’ll buy in the stores! I know you’ll like it!
Going to work can be loads of fun…especially when you are not the one working!
Kevin recently moved offices and the company he works for is now renting space in a garage/loft/photo studio about an hour away. I’ve been meaning to go visit for quite a while so I jumped at Gina’s offer to go together and have lunch with our husbands one day during the week!
We met for a bowl of ramen at Shalala downtown Mountain View before heading over to the Smart Patients office.
Kevin’s office certainly did not look like much from the outside…just your typical garage…but was oh so charming and had so many little surprises of delight inside!
The garage belongs to photographer Chris Conroy…and I was simply stunned by the beautiful photos that hung on the wall. Next time I go visit, I hope to meet Chris and maybe get a few pointers from him on how to improve my photography cause his work is simply amazing!
We got the full tour of the photo studio and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a photo shoot. So thank you Tom for my portofolio photos…you know what to do if you get tired of Google!
I loved Kevin’s office maybe because it looked nothing like an office. It’s just a fun and interesting place where workers meet to work hard to make a great company! I like!! The studio/office has quirky creative art all over…from Dismembered Hands and disconnected fire hydrants to toilets posing as electric chairs…love it! So so cool!
We left Smart Patients and set off to Google to see where Tom goes five days a week!! I’ve never seen anything like it! The feeling took me back the first time I went to Disneyland! The same excitement you feel when you first see Cinderella’s Castle! Colourful bikes that are used by the everybody who works there are all parked outside the cafeteria while the employees go have lunch at one of their many favourite canteens there. The chatter and laughter dominates the surroundings making Google for sure, the Happiest Office on Earth!
What a fun day that was!
Gina and I came home both knowing that our husbands are were they want to be!! And if husbands are happy, we are happy!