Now that the summer is starting to make it’s mark, I always like to have a bit of Ruġġata tal-Lewz in my refrigerator, diluted with water and ready to pour and enjoy. It’s the perfect thirst quencher and goes down like honey on those hot hot days when it feels like you’re being cooked from the inside out.
Back in the 70’s, my mum would take my sister, brother and me to Valletta on those well known hot Maltese summer days, and after a morning at the market, we would always look forward to going to Zachary Street in Valletta for that chilled ruġġata that would cool our senses or rather induce instant brain freeze. I believe that shop no longer sells ruġġata there as Valletta’s changed a lot since the 70’s.
There would always be a crowd huddled at that little corner window shop with everybody shouting
“Hey, boy, it’s my turn” while waving their liras about to get “the boy’s” attention.
And with great patience he would serve everyone with a smile, knowing that in that heat, everyone’s hot temper would be just about ready to explode.
This is the home made version of our delectable almond cordial…
It might seem like it has a lot of sugar, but don’t forget that you have to dilute this and you only use about a quarter cup to about eight ounces of water and ice!
5 cups water
1-2 sticks cinnamon
2 tsp almond essence (or more to taste)
1 tsp vanilla essence
evaporated milk (about a quarter cup)
Place the water, sugar, lemon rind, cloves and cinnamon in a pot and let it boil.
Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat.
When the mixture cools, pass it through a sieve to remove rind and cloves.
Add essences and a little bit of evaporated milk.
Pour in clean bottles and place them in the fridge.
Dilute with water to taste.
I am told that the previous owners of our home were avid bird lovers and one of the husband’s hobbies was making bird houses. It wasn’t hard to detect that as we must’ve found about twenty birdhouses placed all over the garden. Some even survived the test of time and this particular one is exceptionally attractive to all sort of birds. We’ve had robins nest on top, hummingbirds thinking the flowers painted on were actually real, and this year a family of wrens were born.
Here’s the mama wren bringing food for her babies…if you listen hard you can even hear the babies’ high pitched chirps.
I wish I could see through the bird house but I enjoy them just as much sitting in my favourite chair in my kitchen looking out my window every day seeing mama and papa wren working tirelessly feeding their young!
The day after I shot this video, I was looking out my window and noticed that mama wren had not visited for a while. Yes, the baby birds had flown the coop and I had missed the flight. Must’ve happened during the night. Here’s the nest inside the birdhouse…
I have to tell you that today’s recipe goes against everything I believe in and that is using boxed cake mixes in baking. I have used them maybe twice in my life and it was only because my kids begged me to. Does that make me a cake snob I wonder…
Even though they have a nice light and moist texture and they keep for such a long time unlike most home baked cakes, I find them to be very artificial. If I do come across a recipe, and one of the ingredients says “one boxed yellow cake mix”, I run as fast as I can.
So when my friend Mary offered me some of her home made biscotti with my tea, my eyes lit up until she said those dreaded words!!
“It was such an easy recipe Georgina! It calls for one boxed cake mix…….” and everything started fading after that. My ears shut out the rest of the recipe, and my nose wrinkled and I just nodded and smiled as though everything was ok in the world.
But I felt I owed it to Mary to try them out because she did make them especially for me…and was prepared to politely say something like…
“Mmm, nice Mary”…
…but instead found myself actually saying…
“OMG…these biscotti remind me of the Ottijiet we used to have in Malta growing up…please please share the recipe”
So now I am a snob no more and you will find at least three boxed cake mixes at any given time in my kitchen.
Today was a rather cool day and I really felt the need for something sweet with my nice cuppa tea. Something to dunk…whatever it was, it had to be strong enough to withstand a three second dunk in my hot beverage and not fall apart before it makes its way to my mouth.
Ottijiet, which translated means the figure eights are perfect for such a deed. They are hard and crunchy Maltese type cookies and can be dunked with success every time. I used to make these Ottijiet using the Figolli dough but have since converted to using this recipe. The original recipe is used to make biscotti but I’ve adapted the recipe to make these lovely dunkers.
1 package yellow cake mix 2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
8 tbsp cooled melted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
zest of half a lemon
sesame seeds optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Form the dough by putting all the ingredients together and forming into a ball.
Let rest for half an hour.
Cut the dough in half.
Form into 2 equal rolls.
Cut into two inch sections.
Form each section into a foot long thin rope.
If using sesame seeds, sprinkle some on the cutting board and roll the dough over them so they will stick and not fall off.
Form into the figure 8
Bake for about 18 minutes until golden in colour
Makes 2 dozen 8’s
After ten years of moving from one rental house to another, we finally stopped kidding ourselves that we would ever go back to live in Europe…not to England…not to Malta…or to the South of France which is still one of Kevin’s many dreams! We were only supposed to come to the States on a working visa for one year…and every year after that, every June to be exact, Kevin and I would sit down and go through the pros and cons of staying in the US or going back “home” wherever that was.
So in June of 2004, the week before we were set to leave the US, our dear friends Jane and Richard, and Gina and Tom, threw us a Bon Voyage Party. We had already packed everything and told our landlord we were leaving. Kevin had handed in his resignation, and both kids’ schools were notified. But best of all, we had four one way tickets to England.
As we’re sadly saying goodbye to all our friends at our Bon Voyage Party, one friend walked over to Kevin and me and whispered a few magical words in our ears that I will never forget…
“You know you can still get a refund on your tickets right?”…
Kevin and I just looked at each other and without even uttering another word, knew that that was exactly what we had to do! I still don’t know, even to this day, if Michelle has any idea how her words changed the course of our lives. Could’ve been the beer, could’ve been the wine…but the clouds lifted as did our hearts. At that point, we realised that we only had a week in our lease left and had to find a new house to live…and the big question was…do we rent yet again, or do we buy? Luckily we already had everything packed so all we had to do was find a house.
By now I was done with rentals and wanted to feel like we belonged and maybe some space to plant a rose bush or two. And that is when Kevin promised me a Rose Garden which he delivered most graciously.
And this recipe was born! I’ve been making it since we moved to this house and every year right about now, when we get our first burst of roses, I go and pick the freshest and most beautiful blooms on the bush.
Before you start, make sure you have all the ingredients ready to use. Clean and sterilize your jars and have them ready close by. Choose your most fragrant and vibrant rose petals you can find in your garden, this way you’ll end up with the tastiest and most gorgeous coloured jam.
This jam will yield about 3 small jars
Rose Petal Jam
1 cup fresh rose petals (must not have been sprayed with any chemicals)
3/4 cup water
juice of one lemon
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 package powder pectin
3/4 cups water
Puree rose petals, 3/4 cup water and lemon juice in a blender until smooth.
Slowly add sugar.
Blend until all sugar has dissolved.
Leave in Blender.
Stir one package pectin into 3/4 cup water.
Bring to a boil and boil hard for one minute.
Pour mixture into the blender that contains the rose petal mixture until well blended.
Do this very quickly as it sets up really fast.
Pour into prepared jars. Let set six hours until firm.
Will keep one month in the refrigerator, but I’ve kept mine much longer with no problems.
This jam with scones and some clotted cream is a match made in heaven and guaranteed to make any mother happy on Mother’s Day!
I woke up feeling very generous today…and am going to share with you two frozen desserts that are as good as they get!
Of course, I have to share a little story before I get down to the recipes…
I don’t like change. If I can have my wish and eat it too, then I’d like to wish for no change in my life. Sounds boring I know…but I like everything about my life…I like the way it’s going and if it continues going this way, then I’ll be the happiest person on earth! I have everything I need and could ever hope for…so why would I want this to change?
The reason for this little bit of insight about myself, is because back in 1981, when my sister Rita got married, I did not speak to her for three months! Well, she didn’t just get married! She also moved hundreds of miles away and her leaving felt like I was losing part of me! Ever since we were little, I was always her little shadow. I looked up to her for everything and if I needed advice on anything…from boyfriends to jobs and pretty much everything else, it was her I would turn to. She totally understood that not speaking to her for so long was coming from love. She knew me inside out…and quirky or not, she loved me back!
Fast forward 2011…our friends Jeff and Leanne and their two young beautiful daughters decided to move to England!! Yeah…you know what I’m getting at! I thought I’d grown up and had total control of my emotions but maybe not so much. I must say, I was better this time…but I think I may have shown that I was not very happy with their decision. And I hope, that just like my sister, they know that it was out of love…
I’d asked Leanne if she had an ice cream maker and without hesitation, she quickly went in her storage cabinet and produced her Cuisinart Ice Cream Machine and told me I could keep it as long as I needed! That same month, they decided to emigrate so I kinda inherited the ice cream maker although I see it more as looking after it until they come back! And I hope it won’t be that far in the future! Thank you Leanne for trusting your ice cream maker in my care! It works brilliantly!!
We’ve had a few very hot days recently and I still have quite a few lemons left on my Meyer Lemon Tree so I’ve been looking around for a good recipe for Lemon Ice Cream and one for Lemon Frozen Yoghurt!! Bingo…I found just the two. They are both soo good and refreshing that no tweaking was required. You won’t be disappointed if you make these!
Lemon Yoghurt Ice Cream
1 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/3 cup full-fat natural yoghurt
2 medium sized lemons, finely grated zest and juice
1 3/4 cup sugar (check for sweetness)
1 1/3 cup whole milk
Whisk the cream in a bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Stir in the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice, sugar and milk. Whisk until well combined. Pour into ice cream maker and follow it’s instructions.
This makes two batches in my machine so if you don’t want to make that much, I’m sure you can half the ingredients.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker and still want to try making this recipe, follow these instructions:
Whisk the cream in a bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Stir in the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice, sugar and milk. Whisk until well combined. Pour into a shallow plastic container, cover with a lid and freeze for at least six hours, preferably overnight, until firm. Remove the ice cream from the freezer, cut into chunks and blend in a processor until smooth and creamy. Return to the plastic container, cover with the lid and return to the freezer until required.
3 cups strained/Greek-style yogurt (or whole milk yoghurt)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more according to taste. I use juice of half a lemon)
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
First strain the yoghurt in a cheese cloth lined sieve over a bowl for about two hours.
Mix together the strained yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and lemon rind. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Both are very easy recipes. No eggs so no eggy taste…which I really really hate. Just very refreshing. The only thing is that it’s hard to stop at one bowl…so you have been warned!!
In 2008, we had a “For Sale” sign out on our lawn! It was a bad time in Silicon Valley and hi tech companies were closing down regularly and laying off a lot of workers. Unfortunately, the company where Kevin worked also closed down.
We were very fortunate that within a few days, Kevin was offered a job with Web MD but the downside to that was that we would have to move to Portland, Oregon. I have nothing against Portland except for the weather and maybe the thought of not having a lemon tree in my back yard.
Kevin did accept the job, but because it was still during the school year, I stayed behind with the kids until school finished and got the house ready to sell.
During that Spring Break, the kids and I went to Portland for a week to get a feel of the place. The day we arrived, it looked like it was the perfect place for us. 80 degree weather…gorgeous market just a few minutes away from where we were staying!! What’s not to like? Until the warm sunny skies turned to rain the very next day. And then to hail on the third day, snow on the fourth, thunderstorm on the fifth, and to wrap things up, we went back to beautiful sunny skies on our last day. We had experienced a whole year of weather in one week!! I guess Portland was showing me what it was all about! Did I say that was in April??
So we said goodbye to Kevin and came back home and we continued our skype relationship for the next few months.
So what does this have to do with a grapefruit tree? Well, I’m coming to that.
I was hoping against hope that we would not find a buyer for our house after that whole weather thing. Every time a potential buyer would come to view the house, I would give them the evil eye! And you don’t want to see my evil eye…it’s not pretty at all! But we did get an offer and that was one of the saddest days of my life! When Kevin saw how sad we all were, we came to the agreement that Portland was not to be, and I think that was one of the saddest days of Kevin’s life because he loved and still loves Portland. But always having the family’s best interest at heart, he packed his things and came back home. He did get to keep his job with Web MD and commuted back and forth for the next four years! Kevin, I don’t know how we can ever thank you for this!
And this is where the grapefruit comes in…
Kevin loves grapefruit!! So to commemorate the day of his return, a grapefruit tree was planted! It’s been over 5 yrs since that awful sign was on our lawn and this year was the first year that Kevin’s been rewarded with fruit!
And when you have grapefruit, you make marmalade!
Now I do not recommend this recipe unless you really like grapefruit AND marmalade. It is sweet but also quite bitter. But funny thing about sweet and quite bitter is that once you take a bite, you can’t help but take another bite, and another, and another! Vera true this ta’! I was almost not going to blog this recipe because I don’t like grapefruit OR marmalade, but after tasting it, well….you be the judge!
I got the recipe from here and tweaked it just a little bit. I used golden brown sugar instead of granulated sugar and I used Curacao instead of Campari because I did not have any Campari. I don’t think it made much difference. I also halved the recipe in case it was a complete flop!
Grapefruit and Curacao Marmalade
3 pink grapefruits
1/3 c. Curacao
Golden Brown Sugar –about 2 1/2 cups depending on the amount of volume of prepared fruit.
Peel the grapefruit and cut the rinds into 2” pieces. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Drop in the rinds and boil for 1 minute. Drain and discard the water. Repeat two more times using fresh water each time. When done drain the rinds well.
Taking care to catch the juices, cut the peeled grapefruit flesh into 1” slices and pick out the seeds. Discard the seeds.
Place the chopped fruit and accumulated juices into a food processor fitted with a cutting blade and process for 1 minute, until the mixture is well-chopped and frothy.
Measure the amount of chopped fruit and juices using a large measuring cup. Return 1 cup of the fruit to the food processor. Pour the remainder into a large heavy pot.
Measure out the same amount of sugar as thetotalamount of the fruit and juice mixture. Place the sugar in the pot with the fruit.
Get rid of as much pith as you can from the drained rinds
Add the boiled, drained rinds into the food processor with the reserved 1 c. of fruit. Pulse for two to three minutes until the rinds are cut into small bits.
Stir the chopped rinds into the fruit and sugar mixture in the large heavy pot. Stir in the Curacao.
Bring to a boil, stirring, and reduce heat to maintain a constant simmer. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring gently to prevent scorching and boil-overs. The color will darken as the marmalade thickens.
If you have any doubts you can test the marmalade: put 1 T. on a small plate, put the plate in the freezer for three minutes. The marmalade is ready if it no longer is runny.
Pour into sterilized jars, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.