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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Merry Mondays

Mondays are usually days of woe, where instead of appreciating a bright new day most people (me included) moan and groan about a number of things. We moan about having to wake up early to go back to work after the weekend. We groan about having to head back to our usual daily routine. We grumble about the morning traffic. We mumble about all the irritating, yet needful things we need to do, not to mention all those little tasks we still have pending from last week.

In other words, EVERYONE hates Mondays.

So, instead of moaning and groaning as usual, today I have decided to focus on the GOOD things I have to look forward to this week. This does not mean that there aren’t going to be tough days and things which I am NOT looking forward to at all… but I’d rather look on the bright side this morning, so, here are some things which I AM happily thinking about and looking forward to today, yes even though it is MONDAY lol:

  • The weather – today is dark, cloudy and rainy. My favorite weather. And yes it is cold and slows things down, but I love it. So there!
  • Mushroom soup – I cooked a big pot of my favorite soup yesterday, and it will be just perfect for this weather too!
  • Resolutions – As of today I will start going for a 30 – 40 minute walk everyday. In the rain you say? Well, YES! Believe it or not I enjoy it… I even sing ‘Singing in the Rain’ under my breath sometimes hehe
  • Pampering – My hairdressing salon has relocated to a 5-star hotel (with the same prices). I always love going there because I feel really pampered and I can’t wait to take a look at their new place
  • Chef’s life – Looking forward to baking a couple of new ‘experimental’ recipes this week. Love baking. It relaxes me for some reason.
  • Friendship – Will be celebrating a good friend’s birthday in a few days and can’t wait to meet up and share gossip with some of my oldest buddies. We always have such a laugh because unlike many others, they totally get my twisted sense of humor hehe
  • Love – Have also decided to take my other half to a trendy men’s store and buy him a serious tailored suit as a treat… which will be lots of fun because I have this soft spot for men in double breasted suits, not to mention three-piece suits, pinstriped get-ups etc, so I will be tickled pink while I get him to try all the suits I want, before choosing one to my liking… mmmm TASTY lol

In the end, there are no ‘little things’ and ‘big things’, there are things which make you happy, and things you have to go through even if they don’t. So, make every happy and special moment count… even if it’s a Monday! 🙂

Rant: The SALOTT and Sticks in the Mud

So, yesterday (or more accurately, this morning actually) at around 12.30am, I was right on the verge of sleep, cuddled cozily with my better half in the silent darkness – when suddenly I heard a huge enormous peal of thunder. Or so I thought. Only, the thunder did not stop. It just went on and on and on, rising in volume, until I could almost feel the earth vibrate. Yes, vibrate – even though I was in bed not on the floor, and even though we live in an elevated maisonette with another one beneath us.

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Finally, after like half a minute (which believe me is quite long when you’re listening to what you believe might be either an explosion or an actual earthquake), it stopped. My bf was asleep and, ubelievably enough, had not stirred.

I immediately logged onto social media. I was sure someone would comment on it. AND I WAS RIGHT. A relative tornado of queries, panicked comments and questions suddenly appeared on ‘The Salott‘, a popular local Maltese page on Facebook where people debate present issues, talk about general subject, and moan and groan in general… yea I know… I actually keep logging as a member for the entertainment value these intellectually challenged people provide, but anyways – THIS time, it kinda comforted me to realize that I was not the only one feeling astonished at this amazing booming cracking sound coming on at 12.30am. They heard it in many different places around Malta, and that was quite strange too.

Now what non-locals have got to realize is that in Malta, we have a long tradition of amateur and not-so-amateur firework-making establishments exploding, literally, in flames. There was a period some few years ago when it seemed like there was such an unfortunate accident every two or three months – so naturally, I started to think that maybe something like that had happened. 

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More and more people started saying that it was just thunder, though strange thunder at that. Thunder without any storm, clouds, or inclement weather around, but still thunder. In other words, nothing to write home about they said. Storm in a teacup (excuse my pun). Just a lot of ado about nothing. ‘Why all this fuss?’ they asked us peeps who were concerned, ‘it’s 12.30am in the morning, why don’t you go to sleep now? Don’t you have anything better to do?’

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Nice, so here we, the worried peeps, are – thinking someone might actually be hurt and that something bad might have happened (what with all the terrorism and stuff happening around the world lately), and you’re laughing at us coz we actually give a shit?

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Is this the kind of attitude that’s ‘cool’ nowadays? I don’t know – is being concerned tantamount to being a stick in the mud now? Yes, it may just have been thunder, but for a moment there, no one was sure – and it might actually NOT have been thunder. What if it had been an emergency situation? Anyways, nice attitude pals… *NOT*!

Missing the cottage… yes more about Ireland ;p

When you live in a European island which is famed for its sun and beaches, where 9 months out of 12 you are sweating in the too-warm temperatures while wearing a sleeveless top and flip flops, and where it has only snowed a couple of times (literally) in the historical memory of the place, going on holiday somewhere in the mountains where the temperature habitually varies between -1.5 and 3.5 degrees celsius on a good day IS A BIG DEAL.

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In all of my life, I have never seen snow yet, not even when abroad more’s the pity – I have never been in extremely cold temperatures, not even when I visited the Dolomite mountains, and I have never been skiing. As an islander who takes hot weather, days at the beach, ice cream, and fun in the sun, as an everyday occurence, I can hardly imagine what living in such weather could be like.

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Right now, anyone reading this who actually does live somewhere cold, must think I’m crazy to want to experience such a thing. But really, I think one of the goals in life is to experience as much as possible, so living somewhere different in different conditions, is for me, something to do at least once.

Although I did not see and feel snow on my face and around me in Ireland this December, it WAS an experience. I literally froze my fingers off at times, still, coming to our rented self-catering cottage in the evenings, lighting the stove, and huddling under the blankets while sipping some hot tea, was awesome in itself. Something I had read about only in novels.

Our cottage was just lovely. Really small – having only one bedroom, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen, yet totally perfect.

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Here is the link to its page on Tripadvisor – my review is actually still pending as of now, but I guess you might be able to read it at a later date – I left a 5-star rating ofc!

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/VacationRentalReview-g212097-d2222755-THE_GRANARY_country_holiday_cottage_with_open_fire_in_Cahir_Ref_8661-Cahir_County_Tipp.html

When the weather is so unkind, finding a little unlooked for friendliness gives one an unconditioned and natural warmth, one which is only to be felt in the heart. We arrived at the cottage on a very cold morning at around 1.30am. We had had no time to buy any food for our breakfast and expected our arrival to be pretty hard, since the owner was leaving us the key in a flower pot near the door. We were so wrong! As we parked, we could see the flickering welcoming light of the stove in the living room and the lampshade near the sofa sending us a cheery light – the owner had prepared them for us to show us the way and keep the place warm.

Also, when we went in, we realized she had left us some home-made scones for our breakfast togather with some butter, jam, tea, coffee, sugar and milk… it felt so good to know that someone cared for us in a country were we did not know anyone! Small touches of welcome and friendship from someone we did not know were so much welcome. 🙂

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