Thursday, July 23, 2009

Choosing Watermelons

Thinking back to when you I was a child, the pinnacle of summery suppers and family gatherings was always the cold juicy watermelon that was offered as dessert. Watermelons remind me of the childish embarrassment of having sticky, sweet juice trickling down all over my chin and my clothes. Then, there were the youthful seed-spitting contests with friends. Funnily enough, it was my husband who introduced me to this rude game! Choosing good watermelons can be a tricky task but once you learn the tricks you won't be bringing back home tasteless ones any more. Here, I've jotted down some hints which I gathered from my friends and from reliable vegetable sellers.

Hints to help you choose a ripe watermelon

When you go to the Green grocer to buy one you would want to try and find one that is ripe and ready to eat.

1. First of all look for shiny watermelons. Ripe watermelons will be more dull in colour, but have a shiny complexion. The watermelon should be evenly toned.

2. Look for the yellow or white spot on the watermelon. (This is where the watermelon was sitting on a ground.) Ripe watermelons will be yellow in colour, while white means it isn't yet ripe.

3. Hold the watermelon in your hands and squeeze it. Listen very closely for soft cracking inside. This means that the watermelon is ripe. Don't squeeze too hard or you'll end up squashing it for real. Another way is to knock on the outside of the rind. If you hear a hollow sound then the water melon is ready to eat, but if you hear a solid thud put it back. The fruit is over ripe and you won't be getting very good flavour from it.

3. A vegetable seller once told me that the best way to pick a watermelon is to look for all the brown veining on the rind. The more brown veins the more sweeter it is.

4. Did you know that there are female and male watermelons? I bet you didn't!Females tend to be larger, sweeter and have less seeds than males. To find out if a watermelon is male or female, look at the bottom side and check out if it's got a skirt..(joking) look for a ring that is going in the opposite direction of the other watermelons' circles. Smaller ring sizes, about 19mm, are male watermelons. Female watermelons may have larger circles.

5. Once you buy your water melon eat it within the first few days of getting it home. Everything about it is healthy, and in addition, it won't leave you feeling over stuffed if you eat too much.

And now here's a weird recipe which my mother tried out last summer. I was a little worried this would taste strange but let me tell you, we loved it! And as much as it seems a weird combination it's truly refreshing. The tartness of the blue cheese and the cool flavour of the mint just balance the sweetness of the watermelon perfectly. What's more it only has 3 ingredients!

Watermelon and Blue Cheese Salad (serves 4)

200g creamy blue cheese, crumbled
50g fresh mint, diced
1200g to 1600g watermelon, diced, (about half a large watermelon )

Combine all ingredients in a very large bowl and mix. Refrigerate until cold before serving.

Last but not least,watermelons are not only refreshingly tasty they also have tremendous health benefits. Eating watermelon is almost like taking a multivitamin tablet every morning, but with a much better taste. So keep that in mind whenever you're out buying a watermelon.

Zesty Summer Pasta Dish

Although I'm not a pasta lover, sometimes there comes a day when I just feel like having some kind of pasta dish. Yesterday was one of those days. I concocted this recipe myself. And since it turned out to be very good I thought of sharing it with you. I couldn't think of a suitable name for this recipe. Maybe you bloggy friends could help me make up a good name for it.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 can of artichoke hearts
about 15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 large can of tuna
50g sliced green olives
one large minced clove of garlic
olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Parmeggiano cheese, grated
a few rocket leaves to garnish
pinch of salt

Saute garlic in olive oil. Rinse off canned artichoke hearts. Add chopped artichoke hearts and saute 10 minutes on low heat. Add cherry tomatoes, tuna, salt and green olives. Cook for 35 minutes on low heat. Sprinkle parsley in the last couple of minutes. Prepare pasta as directed. Serve with sauce and toss with Parmeggiano cheese. Finally, garnish with rocket leaves. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marsaxlokk Sunday Market

Yesterday morning I went to the Marsaxlokk's famous open market along the quay. Crochet tablecloths, souvenirs, fruit, vegetables, clothes, shoes and traditional items... almost everything can be found on the stalls. The traditional fish market takes place every Sunday and fish of all shapes, colors and sizes are a proof that Marsaxlokk deserves to be named Malta's most famous fishing village. Couldn't help taking pictures of all the bright and colourful items on display. Many of the photos speak for themselves.


Fresh vegetables

People from all walks of life

The caper seller

Fresh fish

Lots of colourful aprons

Two old women chatting

Cheap shoes by the dozen

Haggling for the cheapest prices

Hair accessories

Freshly baked bread

Colourful fruit

So many watermelons

Legumes and beans

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Last week, I accompanied my husband on one of his fishing stints. This is quite a recent hobby of his and although I've been encouraged quite a number of times to join in the fishing I have not yet changed my mind. I don't like sitting down staring at the sea, doing nothing - that's what I usually answer back when people ask me why I don't go fishing too. But last week I must have been in need of some quiet time by the sea as I did not seem to mind sitting down and observing what was going on at sea. I didn't even bring a book with me as the sun had already set by the time we had settled down. For once I didn't lose my patience doing nothing. I felt a sense of calmness surrounding me.

There were so much going on around us that I had no time to get bored. From where I was sitting, close to the ex-White House restaurant in Marsascala, I saw fishermen returning in their boats with their day's catch, and others leaving the creek (as seen in the photo above) perhaps looking forward to a great catch. People came by to say hello. There were people going for their daily evening walk. Others just sat down on the benches eating some take-away while updating themselves with the latest gossip. And while I was staring at the sea I took a couple of photos. I think these three young lads in their boat made a pretty picture.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Baked Macaroni - an authentic Maltese recipe

Traditional Maltese food is clearly marked with Mediterranean references. Italy, especially Sicily (called ‘the elder sister’), has left significant traces on Maltese food. Pasta dishes like 'ravjul' (ravioli), lasagna, 'imqarrun' (baked macaroni), with their hundreds of sauces, are all dishes of Italian influence. Since Malta is so close to Italy, pasta has always been one of the staple foods of the country.

Most of our Maltese recipes have been passed on from mother to daughter for generations but were never committed to paper until two authors, namely, Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia undertook the hard task of collecting them in one book in the 1970s. The recipe that I am posting here is an authentic Maltese one which I have found in their lovely book entitled: The Food and Cookery of Malta. My mother, who has their first publication, often referred to this book for particular recipes. And while she cooked I used to sit next to her quietly leafing through its pages. I don't know what I found fascinating in it - after all it had no pictures. Anyway, I made it a point to buy the book once I grew up and had my own kitchen. This definitely could be one gift which all Maltese expats (or even foreigners who liked our traditional dishes) would appreciate. Here's the recipe...

2tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
50g bacon, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g minced beef and pork
salt and pepper
3tbsp tomato puree
400g tin of peeled tomatoes
125ml beef or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
grated fresh nutmeg
200g chicken livers
400g macaroni
4 large eggs , beaten
4 heaped tbsp grated Parmesan


To make the sauce, heat the oil and fry the onions gently until golden, add bacon, garlic and minced meat, salt and pepper. Use little salt at this stage. Stir well and cook for 15 mins. Add the tomato puree, the tomatoes, stock and the bay leaf. Grate in some nutmeg. Simmer, covered for about 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 3o minutes.

If using chicken livers, remove any discoloured parts, chop into large pieces and fry lightly in oil. Cool and remove the stringy bits.
Boil the macaroni in plenty of salted water until 'al dente'. Pour a cup of cold water into the pan as soon as the pasta is cooked. It is important it remains underdone so that it will retain its shape and texture at the end. Drain. Mix the meat and tomato into the macaroni. Add the eggs, the cheese and season again if required with salt and pepper. Mix all well together in large bowl. Leave to cool.

In a large oven-proof dish put in a layer of macaroni and meat, then a layer of chicken livers and cover with the remaining macaroni. Bake at 220°C for 15 minutes. Reduce to 180 C and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

A perfectly baked 'imqarrun' is crunchy on the outside and moist inside. This dish improves with keeping. You will also find that it slices better if allowed to stand for 30 minutes after it comes out of the oven.

As you can see it's an authentic Maltese one what with the copious salt amounts and ingredients that are so high in cholesterol. No wonder many Maltese of the older generation are so plump! I usually use a healthier version of the recipe with less eggs, salt, and sometimes I omit the bacon and liver. It's definitely a less tasty macaroni but at least more healthy! If you feel like trying out this recipe it's up to you to choose whichever version you deem best.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A quaint old house in Xghajra

For years I've been passing in front of this house that looks like a small castle and always marvelled at its strange facade. It was built around 200 years ago and until fairly recently, there were three families living in it. Apparently, these were devotees of the Madonna of Lourdes so they built their house in her honour.

As you can see, they structured the balcony wall to look like a cave with the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in a corner and Bernardette kneeling in front of her. If I had a better camera maybe I would have been able to get a close up of the inscription at the right of the balcony but for now I'll have to make do with what I have. I also noticed that a large fissure is threatening the left turret and if immediate care is not taken I guess the owners will have quite a problem rebuilding the turret again.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Turtle Release - 30th June

Last Tuesday I was invited to watch eleven turtles being released at Golden Bay. It was a lovely experience to see such large turtles being set free again. Nature Trust (Malta) in collaboration with the San Lucjan Fisheries centre organised the Turtle Release event together with Eko skola. There were various schools who attended this event. The turtles had been saved and now were being released back into the wild after their long rehabilitation period at the San Lucjan Aquaculture Centre. These were injured turtles that had been brought ashore in the past months by members of the public, fishermen, NGos such as Birdlife and BICREF and or the Wildlife Rescue Team of Nature Trust (Malta). These turtles were taken care of at the San Lucjan Rehabilitation Centre in Marsaxlokk. Volunteers of Nature Trust went each week to San Lucjan to help clean, medicate and care for these turtles till they were fit again to be released.

The turtles were brought in plastic basins and were covered with wet towels to protect them from dehydration. You can see the silhouette of one turtle in the blue basin.

The first turtle is released! Everyone awaits its arrival with trepidation.

Some kids try to pat its back before it goes back to the beckoning sea.

Last couple of steps and off to swim!

Paparazzi follow baby turtle's path.

Ready...... Steady.....Go!

I hope they are left free to catch those dreaded jellyfish and eat them to their hearts' content!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Lovely Blog Award

I received my very first blog award from La Delirante at A Salvadorian living in Malta. Thanks so much Wen. I am honoured.