Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kwarezimal (qua-re-zee-mull)

I don't suffer from sweet tooth but I have to admit that I've got a particular weakness for kwarezimal. They're my favourite cookie. The cookies in my photo do not look that appealing but I can vouch that they're really really good.

This sweet is usually made during Lent and contains no fat or eggs. The word 'kwarezimal' refers to quaresima - the forty days of Lent. In fact, the kwarezimal's popularity among the Maltese originates from the fact that it contains no fat or eggs, and hence does not interfere with fasting regulations. Although recipes vary, it is traditionally made up of almonds, flour, honey and spices.

(The ones I made were just plain ones because I had no crushed almonds in the pantry. )

Here's my mother's recipe

220g almonds
(Lightly toast or roast the almonds. Grind coarsely)
220g flour
330g sugar
1tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch mixed spice
orange flower water
1 grated rind of lemon + juice,
1 grated rind of orange +juice
and grated rind of tangerine
1 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder

First, mix the dry ingredients, then add the citrus juices and a little orange blossom water. If the dough looks a little dry add more blossom water or just natural water to make a stiff dough. Knead lightly until well amalgamated and shape into ovals, approximately 17.5 cm long, 5 cm wide and 2 cm thick. Place on greased and floured baking trays and bake at 190'C/375'F/gas 5 for about 20 minutes.

The most important factor in baking kwarezimal is that you do not overcook or let them get too hard whilst in the oven. This is because once they are out of the oven they will harden more due to the almonds.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Haunted Mansion

Old decaying leaves gently swirled beside my feet, as I stood in front of the imposing mansion. The cheery notes of a piano could be heard coming from the room on the left. This was the beautiful drawing room, all decked out in red velvet and golden bows. A mistletoe stood hanging in front of the huge window. Merry laughter broke forth from across the hallway - the guests were enjoying themselves in the warmth of the burning fireplace...

The clanking sound of a passing truck soon woke me up from my reverie and brought me back to the present. Of course, I had been daydreaming but I'm sure this house in front of me had seen better days. I'm referring to the haunted house situated in front of the Marsovin vineyards in Marsaxlokk. If I'm not mistaken this house was once known as the Sans Soucis house. At one point an English couple lived in it. I was told that the husband was a captain employed with the RAF. What happened to this couple God only knows.

Its once beautiful groundfloor windows are all barred up now. Although this house has long been abandoned by its human proprieters yet its ghosts still roam its floorless rooms. There have been numerous ghost stories tied to this place. Friends of mine who went to explore the house encountered problems in taking photos of its interior. Another friend of mine said he heard strange noises coming from inside the place. This house has been caught up for decades in a battle between the family members that inherited it and it now is up for development - but most probably the permit will not be granted. It seems that the ghosts of Sans Soucis mansion will be reigning supreme for the time being.