Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Anna Sultana's Froga tat-Tarja - Spaghetti Omelette, Maltese Style

In addition to Barbuljata, Ma had another quickie egg meal.
Froġa tat-Tarja, Spaghetti Omelette.
It takes a little longer, but not much.

Apparently Spaghetti Omelette is popular in Italy, too.
Back in 2010, when I started comparing Carmela Soprano's recipes to Ma's recipes, 
It's similar to Ma's recipe, but it is a bit more complicated.
And more expensive.

Ma's recipe is healthier, too.
And that's a good thing.

Vermicelli is the traditional pasta used.
But, if you have spaghetti or spaghettini, no problem.
Just adjust the boiling time for the pasta.

Dried parsley can be used instead of fresh.
Don't worry about the salt and pepper.
Folks can spice it up at the table, too.
You can also add odd bits of ham, veggies etc.
It's all good.

Before cooking find a plate or pizza pan that can cover the surface of the frying pan.
When the eggs have set you'll cover the pan and flip the omelette onto the plate.
Then you'll slide it back into the frying pan so the other side can brown a bit.
If that worries you, no problem.
Just cut into the pie with a large, heat-proof spatula and turn over the sections.

                        Froġa tat-Tarja

Serves 2 to 4

In a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
400 grams (about 1 pound) vermicelli
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain the pasta well and place it in a large bowl.

Lightly beat
3 large eggs
1 garlic clove, minced
4 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon each should do)
Pour the seasoned eggs over the pasta and mix well.

Heat in an omelette pan over medium high heat
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Pour the pasta into the pan.
When it has set, turn the Froġa and cook the other side until it is lightly browned.
Serve immediately with a sprinkling of parsley.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Anna Sultana's Barbuljata - Scrambled Eggs, Maltese Style

It's summer.
It's hot.
People still want to eat.

Ma had days when cooking was the last thing she wanted to do, too.
Either it was too hot, or she was catching up with a pile of chores.

Vegetables were no problem.
Something fresh from the garden or some leftover cooked vegetables.
Starch was easy, too.
Fresh bread or some leftover pasta or timpana.

Meat usually took the longest time to prepare.
So, Ma grabbed the egg carton.
And you should, too.

If Ma had time she would peel and seed the tomatoes.
If she didn't, she didn't.
No one complained.


Serves 4

Heat in a large skillet over medium heat
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
Fry until lightly browned.
4 tomatoes, chopped
Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
8 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
Stir until cooked.
Serve immediately.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? by Margaret Ullrich

Monday is Full Moon number seven for 2013.
Usually I like seeing full moons.
Well... not this month.

I was so confident after reading Tisha Morris' book Feng Shui Your Life.
Tisha made getting rid of the crap in my house sound so easy.
Each project had been covered in a couple of pages.
A couple of pages should have translated into a couple of days to finish a job, right?

I really thought I'd be all done with clearing out my least favourite room by now.
Yeah, well, if I were being realistic, this shouldn't have surprised me.
It took quite a few years to create that mess.
Clear it in one month?
I don't think so.

Going through that stuff reminds me of Who Do You Think You Are? 
That's the series where a celebrity goes on a trip to trace his family tree. 
I get it that the actors (never BIG STAR types) are enjoying a free trip.
And the extra publicity never hurts in that type of work.
But, does it really, really matter that anyone is in the same gene pool as someone who lived a few hundred years ago?
And I have to wonder which branches of the family tree were conveniently trimmed.

One just has to look at siblings in the news to know DNA doesn't explain everything.
Just compare the royal brothers King Edward VIII and King George VI in the movie The King's Speech.
Or how about their descendants Prince William and Prince Harry?
In Canada we had the Nielsen brothers, politician Erik and actor Leslie.
The States had President Jimmy Carter and his beer drinking brother Billy.

Ancestors of the Carters fought in the American Revolution.
Their great-grandfather served the Confederates during the American Civil War.
Billy once urinated on an airport runway in full view of the press and dignitaries.
Yeah, they must really prune the family trees they explore on that show.

You know how archeologists dig and, travelling through time, find things in layers?
Nice, neat layers starting from the present Cenozoic era through to the Mesozoic era right down to the Paleozoic era?
Earth and its inhabitants have gone through quite a few changes over the years.

The stuff reminds me that I've gone through quite a few changes, too.
Stuff from Empty Nest Me through to Mommy Me right down to Newlywed Me.
There's even stuff from the Student Me and Childhood Me eras.

To be honest, those Mes aren't Me anymore.
And yet I still have the stuff that belonged to other Mes.
I don't think I'd even want to spend an afternoon with an earlier Me.
So why do I still have stuff that basically belongs to other people?

The day after the last new moon I got a Feng Shui update.
The Feng Shui plant associated with July is the lotus… 
it is untouched by the mud from which it originates.
Tisha had talked about the lotus, the symbol of transformation,
enlightenment and rebirth.

It's July… the lotus month… time for a rebirth.
It should be the perfect time to clean house.
I just wish it wasn't taking so long.

Maybe the Sun being in supersensitive Cancer is the problem.
I mean, I look at the stuff and get all sentimental.
Let's just see what astrology.com has to say about the sign Cancer:
Cancer is one of the most sentimental signs.
Tell me about it.
With the Sun in Cancer comfort is especially in focus. 
Going through stuff and deciding what to toss is not comfortable.
Cancer's energy asks that you enhance what makes your home life sweet. 
Uh, oh... I don't like where this is going.
Ditch dated furnishings that no longer suit your space or provide a useful function. 
That's easy for astrology.com to say.

On July 22, besides the full moon, there's other stuff happening in the sky:
Mars conjuncts Jupiter, giving you the energy and courage to make changes in your life… you'll be able to accomplish a great deal this week.
Also on Monday Venus enters Virgo when love manifests through tangible acts… 
complete a house project that's been on your to-do list. 

Come on, Mars, Jupiter and Venus!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Anna Sultana's Imqaret - Deep-fried Date Slices, Maltese Style l Jelly Doughnuts

Some of Ma's recipes were similar to those my Sicilian Aunts cooked.
And some were similar to what our German neighbours cooked.
Hard to believe?
Ma said Mrs. Kekelia's German rouladen reminded her of Maltese bragoli.

But there are a few recipes that we Maltese can claim as strictly our own.
One such recipe is the one for our imqaret.

Imqaret is kind of like a jelly doughnut.
Jelly doughnuts were pretty popular when I was a kid in College Point.
My German friends had plenty of jelly- or custard-filled doughnuts.
They called the doughnuts bismarks, or Berliners, or long johns.
In Manitoba jelly doughnuts are called jambusters.
In Nova Scotia they are called Burlington buns.

Imqaret is a little different.
It is fried with the filling already in it.
And the filling is made from dates, not jelly or custard.
And there isn't any yeast in the dough.
Like I said, it's strictly our own recipe.

And it's way, way better.


If you don't have a deep-frying thermometer, test the oil by slipping a bit of the dough into the oil.  It should sizzle and turn brown in 1 minute.

Orange flower water may be a bit hard to find.
You can substitute more anisette or equal parts orange extract and water.


Makes about 1 dozen slices


Place in a dutch oven
200 grams dates
1 Tablespoon anisette
1 Tablespoon orange flower water
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind of 1 orange
grated rind of 1 tangerine
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 Cup water
Simmer for 10 minutes.


In a large bowl place
200 grams flour
25 grams sugar
25 grams lard
25 grams margarine
Rub the fat into the sugar / flour mixture.

1 Tablespoon anisette
1 Tablespoon orange flower water
Mix to make a dough you can roll out.
Add more liquid if needed.
Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. 

Roll out the dough into long strips, about 4 inches wide.
Place some date mixture along half of the strip to within 1/4 inch of the edges.
Wet the edges of the pastry with water and fold the pastry over to cover the filling.
Press the edges well together.
Cut on the diagonal to form diamond shapes.
It won't be like ravioli, in that some of the filling will show in the places where the pastry has been cut.
Don't worry - it won't ooze out.

In a deep saucepan or deep fryer pour
about 2 inches vegetable oil
Heat to 375º on a deep-fry thermometer or test with dough.

Place a few imqaret into the hot oil.
Don't crowd or they won't fry properly.
Fry about 5 minutes.
They should be crisp and golden brown.
Remove the imqaret with a slotted spoon.
Drain on paper towels.
Repeat with the remaining imqaret.

Imqaret are best eaten hot.

A bit of jelly doughnut trivia...
In Germany berliners are traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve as well as during the carnival holidays. 
As a joke they fill some berliners with mustard instead of jam.
Yeah... big yuks.

You can't play any tricks with an imqaret.
You can see what is inside.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Anna Sultana's Timpana - Pasta Casserole, Maltese Style

Got a few e mails asking when I was going to post recipes again.
Especially Ma's recipes.
So, it's time to get away from my least favourite room.
To be honest, I was looking for any excuse to take a break.
How do you think it became my least favourite room?

Back in 2010, when I started comparing Carmela Soprano's recipes to what Ma cooked, I was a little carefree about giving actual recipes.
Actually, I was sloppy.
For example, in February, 2010, I compared Carmela's Baked Ziti to Ma's Timpana.
Looking back at it, I apologize.

Back then my posts were full of stuff like
The closest thing to Carmela's Ziti, comfort-wise, was Timpana. It also called for pasta, some cheese and meat. The sauce was tomato, naturally. The boiled pasta was mixed into the tomato meat sauce. A few raw eggs were added to up the protein and the cholesterol.

Ah, but then the Maltese touch was added.

Maltese cooking is heavy on simple carbs. Maltese go beyond simple into downright retarded. A pan filled with macaroni is not enough starch. Oh, no. What makes a Timpana unique is it is baked like an apple pie.

Sure, I had basically explained what Timpana is.
But I didn't give an actual recipe.
Until now.

About the macaroni…
Usually Ma used ziti.
Sometimes penne.
In a pinch, elbow.
You want something that can be filled by the sauce. 
Spaghetti would just lay there.
Not a good thing.

About the tomato paste...
If you like a stronger tomato flavour, use the whole can.
Hey, it's your timpana.


In a dutch oven pour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
Fry until lightly browned.
200 grams (about 1/2 pound) ground beef
200 grams (about 1/2 pound) ground pork
Cook for about 3 minutes.
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
250 ml (about 1 Cup) chicken or beef stock
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Season with
salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is simmering, in a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
400 grams (about 1 pound) macaroni
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain the pasta well and add it to the sauce in the dutch oven.

4 large eggs
Mix them into the sauced macaroni.
Add to the macaroni
100 grams (about 1/4 Cup) Parmesan cheese
Stir everything together.

Preheat oven to 350º           

Roll out
400 g flaky or puff pastry
Line the bottom and sides of a baking dish with 3/4 of the pastry.
Pour in the macaroni sauce mixture.
Cover the top with the remaining pastry.
Brush the top of the pastry with
1 beaten egg (or milk)
Prick the top pastry with a fork.
Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on depth of pan.

Timpana is best served hot.
But it is also delicious cold and is great for picnics.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Feng Shui and My Least Favourite Room by Margaret Ullrich

Monday night will be new moon number seven for 2013.
New Moons are supposed to mean a new beginning.
Yeah, well, this new beginning is going to need some more time.

I'm still working through this item from Tisha Morris' book Feng Shui Your Life
I've been working on this phase two item for the past couple of weeks.
That's why I haven't been posting any recipes.

I have to admit that this project was the one I'd been dreading the most. 
Make your least favourite room your favourite.
Tisha must have seen it all.

At first she tried logic:
Consider the overall function of each room in your home and how often it gets used.
Well, the room I was dreading got used daily.
But its function wasn't anything I was proud of.

Then Tisha threw in a bit of New Age thinking:
The darker the origin of a thing, the more opportunity available for transcendence.
The lotus flower is the symbol of transformation, enlightenment and rebirth.
It roots in murky waters.
Murky waters would be an improvement over the crap in this room.

Tisha soldiered on:
  • determine what is my least favourite room.
  • determine what it is about the room I don't like.  
  • envision what I would like the room to be.
  • completely clear everything out of the room to remove stagnant energy.
  • clean the room: vacuum, mop, dust, paint the walls.
  • create my vision… only put in it what I love… be creative.

And then she actually said
A cluttered guest room should be a room I can really use for myself.
My poor little guest room had started out as a nice room.
Then it became a garbage dump.
Don't know what to do with something?
Toss it into the spare room.

I didn't have an extremely high goal for the guest room.
No 'Turning it into a Sanctuary' here.
Turning the bedroom into a sanctuary had added to the mess.
Some of the bedroom's crap had found its way into the spare room.
Well, where else was I supposed to put that garbage?

Okay…  I could't exactly follow her advice on how to fix this room.
I mean, completely clear everything out of the room to remove the stagnant energy?
Right.  Where was everything supposed to go?
And don't talk to me about lotus flowers and their murky roots.

Back to baby steps… I divided the room into sections.
Centre, west, south, east, north, closet.
I have to handle the stagnant energy a section at a time.
And not toss anything new into the room in the meantime.

It's going to take at least another couple of weeks.

About that new moon...
According to the folks at astrology.com:  With so many planets in Water signs you're extra-sensitive and need to use logic and facts to help you make decisions… Any new Moon in Cancer is bound to highlight your home, family, and anything you do to make your life more secure and comfortable... direct your energy into areas of your life you'd like to grow or make stronger.

Sheesh… even the moon is telling me to make decisions about my home.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Canada Day, Moving, Mad Men and Parenting by Margaret Ullrich

Happy 146th Birthday, Canada!!

On March 1, 2013 Paul and I had celebrated the thirty-sixth anniversary of our moving from our apartment to our first house in Winnipeg.
And today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of our moving to our present home.

After you get to a certain age, it feels like every day is a special day.
Not just because, Surprise!, you've made it to another day.
But because, after 60, every day seems to be the anniversary of something.

In 1988 we were no longer the carefree happy-go-lucky kids we'd been when we were living a slightly bohemian lifestyle in our Winnipeg walkup.
We were still a part of the baby boomer generation. 
But life had stopped being about us and what we wanted.
Just like the folks in the 1983 movie The Big Chill we were in our 30s and confused.
We were parents of an eight-year-old son… grown-ups, responsible, serious.
As Mick Jagger had sung during the opening scene of The Big Chill 
No kidding.

In the late 1980s the West End of Winnipeg was getting a bit rough.
We figured, being from New York, we could handle a mugger or two.
But along with neighbours, we had second thoughts about our kids' safety.
So we searched for a home in the suburbs.
As any realtor will tell a parent: less crime, better schools, perfect for the kids.
Yeah, I know, there's a sucker born every minute.

Picture it… Winnipeg, 1988. 
Each week, after tucking the kids into bed, parents tuned into Thirtysomething.
We were hoping it would give us a clue on what to do next.
Hey, we didn't have Wikipedia.

As far as role models were concerned, I'd gone from The Long Long Trailer's silly Lucy in the trailer, to Barefoot in the Park's smiling Corrie in the attic, to Thirtysomething's stressed Hope in the suburbs.

Two of the main characters on Thirtysomething were Michael, who worked in advertising, and his wife Hope.
Hope, a writer, struggled between being a mom at home and her need to work. 
Hope sometimes apologized because of her decision to be a homemaker. 
Yes, in those days women apologized for staying home with the kids.
And Michael was congratulated when he occasionally helped.
Good Times.

It wasn't that we didn't know how to parent.
It's just that the job descriptions kept changing.
Having trouble understanding parents in the 1980s?
Check out Mr. Mom.
It was regarded as one of the best films of 1983 and of the decade.

Back to Thirtysomething… Michael was a hero whenever he helped at home.
Hope realized he was doing his best when he tucked in their daughter.
His role model had been his Dad, who'd parented in the 50s and 60s.

Ah, parenting in the the 50s and 60s…

Mad Men, set in the 60s, is also about men in the advertising business.
They are also married and parents, just like Michael and his business partner.
That's where the similarity ends.
Dads in the 60s left the household chores to 'the little woman'.
As someone said about the accuracy of Mad Men
The drinking, the smoking and the womanizing was exactly right.
The 1960s was definitely not a G-rated decade.

Movies and songs can capture a time like nothing else can.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider was not something I'd heard in the 1950s.
We kids learned the songs our parents listened to on the radio.
Dads like Don Draper would've smashed a spider, not sung about it.
The 1950s was not a G-rated decade either.

At family gatherings, after a few beers, my Aunt could belt out Wheel of Fortune almost as well as Kay Starr did.
The first song I remember singing, when I was about 4, was Kiss of Fire.
Georgia Gibbs' Kiss of Fire was to the early 50s what the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction was to the 60s.
I wonder how many pre-schoolers sang along to the radio during the 1960s?
I wonder how many were able to understand Mick's slang?

Did I regret our move to the suburbs?
It was what we were supposed to do at the time.
Living here has had its good times and its bad times.
Just like life would have had anywhere else.

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
Or, as the Stones would say…
You can't always get what you want... but you'll get what you need.