Maltese Seasonal Spring Food!

Finally, spring is here! Looking at the calendar, the start of spring is widely acknowledged to be on the 20th/21st of March, that is, that time when light and darkness, the length of the day and night, are of equal measure. After that day, we start to realize that sunset is taking place earlier, and sunrise starts to be further off as well. During this time, the weather slowly starts to get warmer, the grass looks a little bit greener, and a large number of fruits and vegetables come in season.

Unfortunately, it is also a time when allergies seem to get stronger. Our bodies contain toxins, regardless of how healthy we are. This is why spring is also the time to flush out these toxins and one natural way to do this is by eating a lot of those greens which are in season, in order to cleanse our digestive system.

Broad beans, also known as fava beans, butter beans, or ‘ful’ in Maltese, contain an amazing amount of nutrients. In addition to a lot of fibre, they also contain Vitamin K, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium and the energy-providing Vitamin B. Ful also contain folate, which participates in building cells and metabolising amino acids. It is essential for growth (therefore needful for children and young people, not to mention pregnant women), cell regeneration, and the production of healthy red blood cells. Added either as a side-dish or mixed into an entrée, they definitely add a boost, not only to your energy levels, but also to your taste. 

Broad beans are the main ingredient in a popular Maltese spring dish – this is Pea and Broad bean soup, that is, ‘soppa tal-ful’ in Maltese, which is generally prepared with oats, vegetable stock, onions, peas, broad beans, milk, mint, parsley, and other herbs.

Artichokes (qaqoċċ in Maltese) are another spring vegetable. These are very beneficial as they can help in lowering blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and prevent inflammation. In particular, artichokes are enemies to ‘bad’ cholesterol and heart diseases, in that they not only reduce lipoproteins (which carry cholesterol in the blood stream), but also increase bile production in the liver, which in turn gets rid of cholesterol in the body. Artichokes also bolster the immune system, as well as being a rich source of fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and other beneficial minerals. Since they have the highest antioxidant levels out of all vegetables, they are also a primary means of defence against the effects of free radicals that can lead to a number of dangerous conditions, such as the creation of cancerous masses.

Filled artichokes, or ‘qaqoċċ mimli’ in Maltese, is a tasty Maltese recipe popular in spring, which consists of filling the leafy artichokes with a mix of tasty ingredients. The ones most commonly used include Maltese crumbled loaf, anchovies, tuna, garlic, capers, olives, and parsley.

For those who are not much into vegetables, strawberries might prove a tastier alternative. In addition to antioxidants, strawberries are rich in Vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese, dietary fibre, and a number of other important nutrients. This heart-shaped fruit is also good for the skin, since its acidic nature causes it to remove excess sebum, that is, excess oil on the skin. Strawberry juice is also very effective in lightening skin blemishes and acne scars, and it can also be used in face masks to nourish and revitalize the skin. There are only 49 calories in one cup of strawberries, making strawberries a tasty and healthy way to lose weight, The health benefits of the strawberry also include improved eye care, proper brain function, relief from high blood pressure, arthritis, gout, and various cardiovascular diseases.

Generally, I prefer to eat fresh strawberries with milk or cream, however there are also those who eat them dipped in wine, not to mention children, who seem to prefer the old-fashioned strawberry and almond tart. In the end, of course, it is only a matter of personal taste. Strawberries, for me, carry the taste of spring. Chilled and with no extra ingredients or embellishments, they are the perfect snack.

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March Recap – A Month of re-reading and remembering

And here we are again, at the end of yet another month. This has been a hectic and life-changing one… cannot write why yet here, although most of my friends do know ;-p

Anyways, there is always time for reading of course. Nothing changes that. And this month’s reading list has reflected some things which took place in March, and will be taking place in April, as well.

1. Heir to the Shadows – Anne Bishop – The Black Jewels Trilogy 2

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I tried. I really did. Just as I tried to read this series some years ago, and had to just stop in the middle. The plot has so much potential, but the characters are so darn cardboard, two-dimensional and plain BORING as to make one want to scream. The men are all so good looking, hot and dangerous… even though they never actually do something bad, we hear so much again and again about them being evil. Same goes with the ‘Queens’ who are supposed to have so much power, yet the only thing they seem to be able to think about is sex. The main character is a teenage queen who has suffered and been raped at the hands of bad men, whom, in an ‘I spit on your grave’ kind of rage she hounds down and punishes. On the other hand everyone loves her and fears her because she’s so beautiful and powerful… yet again, she does nothing.. ugh BORING BORING BORING

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2. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Stars – 5

After being mired in Bishop, I just had to read something AWESOME, and this is why I decided to re-read Rothfuss. Yes, another book I had already read before, so what? Rothfuss simply enchants me, his plot-lines, his characters, his style of writing, are all simply amazingly detailed and cunningly wrought. Now THIS is a real writer!

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3. The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Stars – 5

A continuation of ‘The Name of the Wind’, in this second installment, the main character, now a young man, still tries to come to terms with his studies, while navigating the cruel and manipulative society he is in. Mired in plots and hidden agendas, he does his best to pursue his thirst for knowledge about the Chandrian, who had killed his parents, while at the same time being that endearing, infuriating rogue we all know and love.

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4. Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Stars – 5

In March, Terry Pratchett, one of the greatest contemporary writers of our times, died. I really cried, knowing that his talent was gone forever and that I would never meet him, yet I also rejoiced in his works. I simply had to re-read Good Omens, and laugh, snigger, and gasp, whenever Terry and Neil did. Now THIS is one book about religion which really hits the spot lofl. Parody and satire a-la-carte.

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5.The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon – Stephen King

Stars – 4

King did a really good writing workshop and exercise with this one. A girl is lost in the woods. Days pass. She struggles to survive. In the end, she is found. Basically nothing else happens. And everything. You must read it to understand. This rite of passage makes ‘Survivor’ looks like a kindergarden child’s drawing. And I say it again, notwithstanding his popularity and ‘mainstream’ image, Stephen King is a writer to be reckoned with!

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6. A Feast for Crows – George R. R. Martin – Game of Thrones Book 4

Stars – 4

And finally, since in a couple of weeks, the Game of Thrones series will be continuing on HBO, and as the writer revealed, there will be many new surprises even for readers, I decided to re-read the last two GOT novels in order to refresh my mind and hunger for it once again. WHEN IS THE BLOODY 6TH BOOK COMING OUT??

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