Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our Lady Tal Hlas chapel (Protectress of mothers in labour)

A few weeks ago I took my little one to a thanksgiving mass celebrated at Tal-Hlas chapel in Qormi. This special mass is celebrated at half past 4 every third Sunday of the month and the children of all ages are presented to Our Lady in gratitude following a safe delivery. My siblings were all presented at this quaint chapel and for this reason I wanted to keep to this family tradition.

This small chapel is situated in a secluded part of Qormi and lies on the border with Zebbug. For a time its location was disputed as either being in Zebbug or Qormi territory. Incidentally, this chapel is also said to lie in a path halfway between Birgu and Mdina. Hence it was a convenient resting place for the pilgrims travelling between these towns. The unusual twin porticoed loggias on either side with stone benches and tables, were built in 1699 to provide shelter for the numerous pilgrims who visited the church.

The original church, now turned into a sacristy, was built around 1500. In the year 1560, Fra Christophe le Boulleur Montgauldry, the Treasurer of the Order of St John, who had a house by the church (I believe the building opposite the church is the one that is being referred to here) was a great benefactor of the church, building it anew and paying for the titular painting now kept in the sacristy, which showed Our Lady with St Paul and St John the Baptist. In this sacristy a large number of ex-votos are kept here.

The original chapel was seriously damaged in the violent earthquake of 1693 and was rebuilt by the architect Lorenzo Gafa. The titular painting of Our Lady tal-Hlas (protectress of mothers in labour) was placed above the old one.

The feast, which used to to be held on the 15th August, is now celebrated on the Sunday following that date. In the past there was the custom of distributing hazelnuts and a glass of wine to visitors on the feast day.

This year, the feast will be celebrated on the 21st of August and two masses will be celebrated - one at 9:30am and the last one at 6.00pm. Parents who would like to present their children to our Lady are invited to attend to this celebration.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Stuffed Aubergines (Brungiel Mimli)

This is another traditional Maltese recipe of parboiled aubergines stuffed with meat and baked in an oven until done.

Many think that cooking aubergines is complicated since you need to put them under salt for a couple of hours before you cook them. When I'm in a hurry I don't do this and I still get finger licking results!

Ingredients ( for 2 persons)

2 medium sized aubergines (eggplants)

1 onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

300g minced meat (mix of beef and pork)

2 tbsp margarine (or butter)

2 tsp tomato purée

60g breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons grated cheese,

Worcestershire sauce

grated salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Cut each aubergine in half lengthways. Bring a pan of lightly-salted water to a boil, add the aubergine halves and parboil for about 10 minutes. Remove from the water and scoop out the pulp. Retain the pulp.

In the meantime, melt the margarine (or butter) in a pan, add the onion and garlic and fry for 5 minutes. Now stir in the meat, reserved aubergine pulp, tomato purée, and add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Fry, stirring frequently, until the meat is no longer pink. Take off the heat. Stir in the cheese then season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Arrange the hollowed out aubergine halves in a baking dish and stuff with the meat mixture. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top then transfer to an oven at 200°C and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

To make this meal more substantial you can add sliced potatoes and onions. Start the potatoes about 45 minutes before the aubergines.