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Maltese Macaroni

You may remember a few weeks ago I was talking about making dishes of food for a grieving family? Well today’s dish is along the same chain of thought – comfort food. This dish, commonly refereed to as Macaroni by Maltese people, is a family favourite. It is carb heavy, delicious and just what the doctor ordered when morale is low. There is nothing that brings warmth, comfort and nourishment like Macaroni. Nothing!

There is, however, one important draw back of this dish. It uses tinned corned beef which is a staple meat product in Maltese cuisine. As my regular readers would know, I don’t cook with beef because of the environmental issues associated with beef production. (Read this article for more information). There really is no substitute for it and I have tried to make a vegetarian option of this dish that was a total failure.

So I bring you my ethical dilemma –  Maltese Macaroni.

Maltese Macaroni – to me this is made of winning, and tastes of all things good.

[ SERVES: 6  |  TIME: 90 MINUTES  |  COST: $10  ]
[  JOES RATING:  5  / 5  |  MY RATING:  5  / 5  |  Brittanys RATING:  5  / 5   ]

Ingredients

1 packet macaroni pasta ¹
1 tin hamper corned beef
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
1 small tin tomato paste
1 onion, diced finely
1 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
¼ cup continental parsley, chopped
4 – 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon basil, fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon oregano, fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 bay leaves
2 free ranged / organic eggs
salt and pepper to taste
dash of olive oil

Method

  1. Bring a large pot to the boil with about 6 – 8 litres of water. Add a good pinch of salt to the water before adding the pasta. Cook the pasta until half-cooked – it should still be quite firm and undercooked ². Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. In a large frying pan at moderate heat, sauté the onion and garlic in a dash of oil until caramelised. Add the corned beef and stir well until the well incorporated and melted to a liquid like consistency. Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, basil, oregano and a little seasoning. Stir and let simmer for 15 – 30 minutes until slightly thickened and rich in flavour.

    This last photo is of the sauce sauteing. It has not yet been thickened but I don’t thicken it very much at all past this point. It needs to still be quite thin. See note ² in observations below.

  3. After the sauce has simmered and reduced slightly, taste for seasoning. If the sauce tastes sweet, add the curry powder ³. Thicken with tomato paste ². Remove bay leaves.
  4. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  5. In a very large baking tray, add the pasta and sauce, mixing well to incorporate evenly throughout the tray.
  6. Add the cheese evenly throughout and mix lightly.
  7. Lightly beat the egg and drizzle throughout the tray. Move the egg lightly throughout the dish with a fork – do not over mix at this point.
  8. Cover the baking tray with aluminium foil and bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the top layer of pasta is crunchy and well cooked.

    This is time-lapse photos of the pasta cooking.

Observations

    • Note ¹ The type of pasta we use for this dish can be difficult to obtain out of large cities. It is very long tubes of pasta that are quite thick and hold their form without collapsing when cooked. By using this sort of pasta, the egg, sauce and cheese can run into the pasta tubes and each bite is mouth-watering delicious.

      This is the pasta that I use. Note how thick and long the pieces are in this 20 litre boiling pot?

    • Note ²  If you hit al dente during the boiling portion of the cooking, you have over cooked the pasta. You want it to be about half-cooked so when you bite it, it still is really very firm and raw towards the middle but not hard and uncooked. The cooking process will be finished off during the baking phase. This is why it is very important not to over thicken the sauce – the liquid is going to be absorbed by the pasta to finish off the cooking process during the baking phase.
    • Note ³  Sometimes, I find the fresh herbs bring a unique sweetness to the dish that is not always desirable. Traditionally, curry powder is incorporated to bring a balance to the dish. Let your taste buds guide you on this.
    • The flavour of this dish is excellent. Sometimes, though, I add an extra egg if the sauce looks too dry. Be warned, though – don’t make it too eggy!
    • I only use good quality grated Romano Pecorino for this dish. If I am making it for the uneducated, I may use tasty cheese just because its cheaper. At the end of the day, though, the Pecorino adds something special to the dish so if possible, opt for quality. If you like things a bit on the cheesy side of life, then go ahead and add more cheese to the dish.
    • Diabetic Note: I eat this dish and ask, “Why are the gods so cruel?”. There is NOTHING like this dish. I absolutely adore it. It is all things good and homely to me. Of course, it is also carbohydrate heavy which is the diabetics nightmare. The pasta is about 70% carbohydrates and while there is little to no carbs in the rest of the ingredients, a good diabetic should limit their portion size on this meal. Luckily for me, I’m a bad diabetic…

Ok, so this portion might feed two diabetics. (Or one bad diabetic…)

  • Ethical Note: As I said above, this is a family favourite. When we stopped eating beef two years ago, this is one dish I truly missed. Although I have tried to make vegetarian versions of this dish, they fail miserably. This is the first time I’ve cooked it in two years, and it was a real ethical dilemma for me. Joe and I recently discussed minor transgressions with beef to balance diet ect, and we both agreed on one thing. If everyone reduced their beef intake to perhaps one meal a week, our environment would be so much healthier. Being conscious of the impacts of your meal is the first step to a healthier environment.
English: Maltese baked macaroni with shortcrus...

I found this excellent photo of Maltese Macaroni on Wikipedia. See how the sauce ends up thick cause the pasta absorbs the liquid. Note how it holds its form? All hallmark signs of a good macaroni! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Food: Diabetic Friendly

 

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Goat Stew

Recently I spotted some goat chops at the local health food store. Goat is a hearty flavour rich meat that lends itself beautifully to stewing. It was organic, and at the right price for me to imagine a rich hot dinner full of gorgeous gamey meat. This is my goat stew adventure.

[ Serves: 6  |  TIME: 3+ hours  |  COST: $18  ]
[  Joe’S RATING:  4  / 5  |  MY RATING: 4.5  / 5 ]

Ingredients

500 grams organic goat chops
2 potatoes, diced
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 tin chopped roma tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 tablespoons  parsley, shredded
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon basil, shredded
4 – 6 bay leaves
splash oil
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a hot sauté pan, add a little oil and saute the onion. Add the garlic, celery, carrot and herbs. Fry until tender and fragrant.
  2. Add the goat chops and fry until browned. Top stop the vegetables scorching, either remove them from the pan or place them on top of the chops.
  3. Once the chops are semi cooked, deglaze the pan with some wine. Add a tin of tomatoes, potatoes and bay leaves. Add enough stock to ensure everything is covered and braise on a low heat with the lid on for 3 or more hours. Check the pot ever 15 minutes to ensure there is enough liquid covering the ingredients. Stir frequently and top up with stock when needed.
  4. When the meat is tender and the sauce is rich and well infused with flavour, remove the lid and allow the sauce to thicken.
  5. Remove the bay leaves before serving it hot on a bed of polenta, pasta or with hot crusty bread.

Observations

  • I adore meats that have been braised in a stew over a long period of time. There is nothing like the fall off the bone type hearty meat of a stew. Adjust your cooking time to suit your taste. If you require a firmer meat, shorten your cooking time, or length it for tougher cuts.
  • You could serve this with hot crusty breads, polenta, rice, pasta or just on its own! It is so versatile.
  • Notice how my vegetables haven’t fallen apart to mush even though this was cooked for almost 4 hours? Well, that is because I cooked it at a low heat. The trick here is longer cooking times over a lower temperature and careful stirring during fluid checks. A gentle, loving and patient hand will produce better results here.
  • Diabetic Note: What is not to love about this dish? It ticks all my diabetic boxes and my blood glucose levels were fine following this meal (and lunch the next day!!)
  • Ethical Note: I am almost certain that this is farmed goat, but some markets source wild goat that was culled as pest management. Where possible, I would choose the latter. It generally has a gamier flavour and is a wonderful choice for the environment. If you use wild bush meats, ensure that you cook it very well to kill off any parasite eggs and routinely worm your family ever six months.
 

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Slow Cooked Pea and Ham Soup

I stepped outside of my comfort zone today and bought a ham hock that wasn’t free ranged. Why isn’t it free ranged, I hear you ask? Because free ranged pork or ham hocks are almost impossible to source! While the hunt continues for a reliable source of free ranged pork products, I decided to do Pea and Ham Soup in the slow cooker.

I love slow cooked / crock pot recipes during winter. It’s so easy to toss ingredients into the cooker and forget about it while you go off to work only to become a champion at dinner time by presenting you with mouth-watering food. This is one such recipe.

[ SERVES: 6  |  TIME: 6 hours  |  COST: $8  ]
[  JOES’ RATING:  4  / 5  |  MY RATING:  4  / 5 ]

Ingredients

1.5 litres vegetable stock
1 600 – 800 gram ham hock
2 onions – chopped finely
1 cup dried green split peas
1 cup dried yellow split peas
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped finely
1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Garlic Paste
4 – 6 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden Thyme Paste
splash of oil

Method

  1. Add the oil to a warmed skillet. Add the onions, garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant and browned. Add to the slow cooker.
  2. Rinse the split peas until the water runs clear, removing tough husks that float during the process. Add to the slow cooker.
  3. Cut loose fleshy bits from the ham hock revealing as much of the bone as possible. Add both meat, skin and bone to the slow cooker.
  4. Add the bay leaves to the slow cooker and cover the ingredients with 1 litre of stock.
  5. Cook on high for 4 – 6 hours or until tender.
  6. Remove the bay leaves, ham skin and bones before adding the lemon juice and mint leaves.
  7. Purée the soup in a blender for a smoother soup consistency (optional step).
  8. Garnish with a spring of mint and serve hot.

Observations

  • Served with hot crusty rolls, a soup like this is hard to beat on a cold winter night like tonight!
  • I like a rustic, chunky soup, so I don’t purée the soup at all. I cook it long enough so the peas dissolve giving it that lovely rich, thick consistency without the need to blitz it.
  • Pea and Ham Soup is somewhat of a classic, and I usually like to include some carrots and celery but today the fridge was bare. If you happen to have some on hand, consider including 1 finely chopped carrot and 1 celery sticks to your soup for vitamin contribution and texture.
  • Diabetic Note: For some reason, yellow split peas are higher in carbohydrate content than the green version. Having said that, though, there is only about 40 – 50 grams of carbohydrates in this entire pot! If you are a pumper or insulin dependent diabetic, you may need a slice of bread with this meal to increase the carbohydrate content.
  • Ethical Note: I wish I didn’t have to resort to using a commercially produced ham hock today but I was limited in options. The use of this commercially produced ham hock gave me some ethical dilemmas and I wanted to walk through them not as justification, but as way of educating. Although ham hocks are considered a waste or by-product of pork farming and are therefore a good ethical choice, animal ethic debates regarding commercially produced pork / intensive farming practices are ever-present. Many animal welfare groups decry such intensive farming practices as cruel and unnecessary. For all of our food options, there are both positive and negative externalities and hidden costs. I urge people as always to become better educated on their meal choices.
 

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