Cooking classes for weight loss

Learn how to cook simple and easy, every day food which helps you lose weight. Join our eight-week programme which looks into the dos and don’ts of eating for weight loss and for long-term weight management.

This programme helps you make the right food choices, motivates and inspires you to prepare food which is good for you and your family.

We meet for two hours, once a week, to find out:

Sessions consist of theory, question and answer, cooking.  The programme includes four practical units which are made up of a short intro followed by a hands-on cooking session. (Cost of ingredients for cooking class included in your booking fee).

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Our round table discussion and cooking class is available for a maximum of six places only.

For further information and to book your place call now on 9985 2647 and benefit from a free one-to-one consultation.

Risi e Bisi made simple

Have you ever tasted the renowned Venetian dish risi e bisi? I stick to variations of it, to avoid the pancetta. Rizi e bisi is a springtime specialty in Venice, used to celebrate the feast of San Marco on 25th April.

Green Garden Peas

Springtime is the season for garden peas.  You can get frozen peas, or even canned, but their taste doesn’t come anywhere close to that of fresh peas. The sweetest peas are the smaller ones, before their sugar content starts changing to starch.

You’d be surprised to find that 100 grams of raw fresh peas provide you with 67% of your daily Vitamin C intake and 15% of Vitamin A requirements. It’s such a simple vegetable (a legume actually), which many people grow in their back garden, yet it’s a powerhouse of nutrients. Peas are low in calories and high in fibre.  They also provide you with calcium, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese.

How to use Garden Peas

Garden peas can be used in a variety of ways.  Paired with fresh mint they make an excellent cold summer soup.  You can mash them or use them in purees or simply use them as a side.  Raw fresh peas also make a great salad ingredient.  The simpler the recipe, the more you get to appreciate the sweet taste of fresh peas.

Here is a simple way of making a vegetarian version of the famous risi e bisi mentioned earlier.  It makes a hearty and filling supper. Quick and easy to make in just over half an hour.

Ingredients:

makes two portions as main course

1 Large onion
5 Cloves garlic (in springtime you can replace with fresh garlic)
Pinch Crushed chillies (optional)
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 cup Wholemeal basmati rice
2 cups Fresh peas (shelled)
2 cups Vegetable broth
Grated Parmesan and parsley to serve

Method:

  1. Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic. (If using fresh garlic use two / three heads of garlic).
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and gently fry the onion until it is translucent. Add the crushed garlic and the chillies (if using) and fry gently for one or two minutes.
  3. Rinse and drain the rice.  Tip into the pan and stir into the mixture of onion, garlic and chillies. Fry gently for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the hot broth, and give the rice a good stir.
  5. Bring to the boil and lower heat to minimum.  Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  6. Add the shelled peas to the pan and cover quickly, without stirring. Continue simmering for a further 10 minutes.
  7. By this time, all the stock should be absorbed.  Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest (with the lid in place) for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Serve with grated Parmesan (optional) and finely chopped parsley.

For a vegan version, omit the Parmesan.  You may replace the wholemeal basmati with carnaroli or arborio rice, in which case the end result would be closer to a risotto.

One main difference between my version of risi e bisi and the renowned Venetian recipe is that my recipe is eaten with a fork.  The authentic recipe is very similar to a thick soup which is eaten with a spoon.

Feel free to try both, and leave a comment to let me know which you prefer.

My thanks go to:

Food Facts by Mercola and

The Guardian

How to make Maltese Easter “Figolli”

L-Għid it-tajjeb … Happy Easter … Buona Pasqua … If you are celebrating Easter, I wish you and your loved ones a blessed, peaceful day.

How do you celebrate Easter in your part of the world?

The run-up to Easter in Malta

In Malta, Easter time is full of pageantry and tradition.  The run-up to Easter starts with Ash Wednesday – the first day of a 40-day period called Lent.  During mass the priest symbolizes morality and repentance by marking the sign of the Cross in ashes on the forehead of the faithful.

Throughout these 40 days the Catholic church commemorates the way to the Cross in various ways.  Different countries would have their own traditions, I guess, with a certain amount of similarities thrown in.

Here in Malta, there are a number of street processions in connection with the Easter festivities.  On the last Friday before Holy Week, a great number of towns and villages hold processions in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows.  This is followed by Palm Sunday (last Sunday before Easter) remembering the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. On Maundy Thursday, after the commemoration of the last supper and washing of the feet of the twelve apostles, the faithful visit seven different churches, saying prayers as they go.  These processions spill over into Friday morning.

A relatively new(ish) event on the Maltese calendar is the walk for charity which takes place on Thursday night. The walk starts in the north of the island, leaving Mellieħa sometime after midnight and ends in the southern city of Senglea around dawn, on Good Friday.

Friday is a day of mourning and no mass is said. However, at 15.00 hours the faithful gather in churches for prayers, after which processions with statues and live characters, depicting scenes from the biblical story of the passion of Christ, flow through the streets.

Saturday is mainly a day of reflection, until late in the evening when churches come alive with plenty of light and celebrate the resurrection of Christ with solemn mass.  On Sunday morning there’s more pageantry throughout the streets of certain towns and villages.  Bells ring out and flags are hoisted as a sign of victory.  In Birgu, the traditional uphill run with the statue of the Risen Christ, is truly spectacular.

Traditional Easter Food in Malta 

And where does food come into all of this?

Some 50 years ago, a vast majority of the Maltese population would fast for the whole 40 days of Lent.  Fasting meant people ate three small meals a day with no snacking in between, save for black coffee or tea. During these 40 days, meat was consumed only on Sundays.

One form of penance, which is still very popular to this very day, is the abstinence from all things sweet. The kwarezimal (quaresima meaning 40-day in Latin) is a traditional sweet made during Lent.  The main ingredients are ground almonds, flour, ground rice, cocoa powder and grated citrus peel.  Despite the intended sacrifice, kwarezimal still contains a significant amount of sugar.

Another traditional food, consumed mainly on Maundy Thursday, is the qagħqa tal-appostli – apostles ring.  This is typically a large ring of bread studded with whole almonds.  This ring is meant to signify the breaking and sharing of bread during the last supper. Steamed spinach is another food associated with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Traditionally, stuffed globe artichokes and fish soups formed an integral part of Maltese Good Friday food.  Other options were homemade ricotta pies with fresh peas or broad beans and spaghetti Napolitana.

Modern Days

But times move on, I remember a time when restaurants did not open on Good Friday.  Nowadays, however, a good number of restaurants open serving their regular menus.  The younger generation take advantage of the typically fine weather and spend the day outdoors with family and friends, enjoying picnic food in the countryside or at the beach (weather permitting).

On Easter Sunday families and friends get together for lunch at home or in restaurants.  Roast lamb is very much a traditional food.  However, possibly because of its particular taste, various other options such as fish, turkey, beef, pork and rabbit are also available.

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The Figolla

And what is Easter without the traditional figolla?  In an effort to be understood, we Maltese tend to translate figolla as “Easter cake”.  However, the figolla is anything but the typical cake.  The traditional figolla used to be in the shape of biblical images such as a fish or a lamb.  However, nowadays figolli (plural) come in various shapes with one of the most popular shapes being that of a heart.

Figolli tal-Għid (Easter Figolli – pronounced fi-gol (g as in gate)-li)

Ingredients for two figolli:

500grms flour grated rind of half lemon
150grms sugar 2 eggs
150grms butter few drops of vanilla essence
       
       
Filling:    
200grms pure ground almonds egg white
200grms sugar few drops of water
few drops of almond essence  

Method:

Pastry – mix the flour and the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and the grated lemon rind.  Beat the eggs and fold into the mixture.  Add a few drops of vanilla essence and work the mixture to form a stiff(ish) dough.  If the dough is too stiff you may make it more pliable by adding a little bit of milk.

Filling – mix the sugar and the ground almonds. Beat the egg white and fold into the almond mixture.  Add a few drops of almond essence.  If the mixture is too dry, you may add a few drops of water to soften the paste.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of approximately six millimeters.  With a large pastry cutter, or cardboard shape, cut out two identical shapes. Take half of the filling and flatten it out with your hands or using a rolling pin.  The filling has to cover the bottom pastry shape, leaving a one-centimeter edge all round.  Cover the filling with the second pastry shape and brush the edges with water or milk. Press them tightly together, sandwiching the filling between the two pastry shapes.

Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and bake the two figolli for twenty minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Allow to cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack for them to cool completely.

When the figolli are completely cool, cover with glacé icing or melted chocolate and decorate with edible coloured beads, Smarties and a small Easter egg.

My thanks go to

Broccoli Soup with Roasted Almonds

On a Monday I like pacifying my conscience by cooking a super healthy soup to make up for any extra calories I eat (or drink) over the weekend.

I opened my fridge and noticed the big broccoli head I bought from the garden shop last Friday.

For a long time, the nutritional benefits of broccoli were overlooked.  Nowadays, there is more awareness about the importance of greens in our diets and broccoli is one superfood which is used more often.

Ideally, you eat it raw or lightly steamed.  However if you have to cook it, keep the cooking time to a minimum and benefit from the whole head – florets, leaves and stalks.

In this recipe, I make it a point to capture the nutrients lost through cooking into a hearty soup. Very often, broccoli soup contains cream or a strong cheese.  I chose to thicken my soup by adding root vegetables and compliment the broccoli with roasted almonds.

Broccoli Soup with Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

1 large broccoli head

1 large onion

2 carrots

2 potatoes

½ cup almond milk (unsweetened)

750 – 1 ltr vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

½ cup roasted almonds

Method

  1. Wash and chop the vegetables. Peel the stalk of the broccoli and chop.
  2. Sauté the onion for a few minutes until it gets a golden brown tinge at the edges.
  3. Add the chopped carrots and potatoes, stir and sauté for 3-4 minutes. If the mixture is dry, add half a cup of vegetable stock and stir.
  4. Add the broccoli florets, chopped broccoli leaves and stalks. Mix well and sauté for further 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add enough stock without covering the vegetables (adding too much stock will make the soup watery).
  6. Bring soup to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until root vegetables are tender.
  7. Cool slightly, and process partially with a hand blender. (If you prefer a completely smooth soup, you can process all the soup in food processor).
  8. Stir in the almond milk and warm gently without bringing soup to the boil.
  9. Serve in warmed soup plates with a sprinkle of roughly chopped roasted almonds on top.

 

Colette’s Kitchen

Have you stumbled upon Colette’s Kitchen on Facebook? I chose to go for a closed group  to build a community of like-minded people.  If you’re not interested in home cooking and good food, you’re free to opt out. But if you’re interested, I share no fuss recipes which are easy to follow through step-by-step photos.  I also make it a point to vary my recipes to give you ideas what you can cook at home.

When I go out for a meal, I share my choices to give you options you may wish to consider yourself.

Eating “healthy” does not mean living on a permanent diet.  If you’re a food lover, like I am, feeling deprived from various foods would be very depressing.  I love dining out.  The secret or challenge (depends which way you look at it) is to make the right choices.  It is true to say, it will be difficult to manage your weight if you eat out every day.  However, if you balance things out, you will manage to enjoy good food and a trim waisteline.

Here are some of the food ideas I prepared and shared on Colette’s Kitchen, over the past days.

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In reply to requests received on FB, I shared the recipes for the Vegetable Curry and the Overnight Oats.

If you would like any of these recipes, drop me a line and I’d be happy to share.

Roast Root Vegetables

How to make Roast Root Vegetables

Do you like root vegetables?  Do you use them often?  I used to use them sparingly, until on New Year’s Day I decided to roast a selection of root vegetables as a side dish.  It was devoured!  Some members of my family got up for second helpings of vegetables.

Since then, roasted root vegetables have become one of my staples for Sunday lunch.

Are root vegetables good for you?

The yellow-orangish root vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, are loaded with beta-carotene, which is either converted into vitamin A in the body or acts as an antioxidant protecting you against harmful free radicals.

Beetroots are super good for you.  They are very high in iron and folate.  They also contain nitrates, betaine, magnesium and other antioxidants.  Recent studies suggest that beetroots can help lower blood pressure.

Fennel is another bulbous vegetable which is high in vitamin C and fibre.  It has a sweet taste of licorice. The entire plant is edible and it makes a fresh, crunchy addition to salads.  Roasting brings out the sweetness of the vegetable, although admittedly it loses some of its nutrients through cooking.

Are root vegetables good for diabetics?

Some root vegetables are higher in sugars than others.  Or shall I say, they have a high GI which means their sugars enter the blood stream quickly.  However, eaten in small to moderate amounts and accompanied by foods, predominantly high in fibre, the effect of the sugar content is slowed down, significantly.

To accompany the roasted root vegetables, today I chose an ingredient which is high in protein and fibre – pasta made with red lentil flour. I also added zucchini to help digestion and add ‘green’ to my plate.

Lentil Pasta with Roast Root Vegetables
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

An unusual plate of pasta bulked up with sweet roast vegetables and zucchini. I served it warm, but it is equally tasty served at room temperature.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: legumes, Plant-based
Servings: 2 people
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 160 grms Pasta made with red lentil flour
  • 190 grms Sweet potato
  • 100 grms New potatoes
  • 120 grms Onions
  • 150 grms Carrots
  • 150 grms Parsnips
  • 250 grms Fennel bulb
  • 300 grms Zucchini
  • 40 grms Garlic
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp Ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp Parsley (chopped)
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 240o C. Peel the onions, scrub the root vegetables and chop into equal size pieces. Do not peel the garlic head.

  2. Line a roasting dish with heavy duty foil and place the vegetables in a single layer.  You may need to use a couple of dishes, but keep vegetables in a single layer, because otherwise they steam not roast.

  3. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with ground cumin, coriander and pepper.  

  4. Roast in warm oven for 25-30 minutes, turning vegetables over every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.

  5. Whilst roasting the vegetables, bring a small pot of water to the boil.  Add 1/2 tsp of cooking salt and add the pasta.  Stir, and follow cooking instructions on the packet.  (The pasta I used required 5-7 minutes for al dente pasta).  Drain.

  6. When the vegetables are roasted, peel the garlic and add the cloves to the rest of the vegetables.  Serve with warm pasta and a good sprinkle of chopped parsley.

    Roast Root Vegetables
Recipe Notes

Nowadays, supermarkets carry various gluten free pasta.  I opted for one made from red lentil flour. It has no other flour added.  

If you do not wish to use gluten free pasta, the recipe works well with wholegrain pasta.

You may add a tablespoon of dressing (extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard) to your pasta.  This is optional as the roasting juices from the vegetables are enough to dress the pasta.