Thursday, 5 May 2016

How to prepare home-made Olive Dip

NB. This is officially my first recipe on the blog... so please bear with me!

Local olives are rarely, if ever, found pitted
6 years ago, when we were still at the initial stages of starting this eco venture, I didn't have the slightest of clues that I'll be concocting dips or preparing recipe blogs! Ok, we were already delving into local products and stuff by then, but me, writing a recipe?! Well it turned out that most of our eco tours ended up having something to do with local food, in some form or another, so it was only a matter of time that we started to explore our own twists to traditional recipes.

For this season's Olive Grove Experience we introduced home-made dips. We figured that if we're promoting local products we should serve in-house nibbles with fresh ingredients - wherever possible - no shortcuts. Quite simple... yet it took time for us to get there. The supermarket, grab-and-go option was just too tempting! Even though we did our best to see that the processed ingredients were local, we knew that we could do better - yet the additional chore of preparing even the dips for each event seemed to be a daunting task. Until, one fine day Jeanette casually mentioned cream cheese!


Wild Thyme from
Tas-Salut Orchard
She has lately spent a lot of her free time looking into baking and other flabby-belly-inducing habits, mostly thanks to Il Piu Grande Pasticciere, a food reality TV series, and her knowledge of ingredients increased exponentially. When she did mention this wonder ingredient - cream cheese - it was quite a revelation to me.

Guilty as charged, I don't 'make' home-made cream cheese in our tiny apartment... this is one of the short list of ingredients that we buy from a supermarket! But if you want to keep the recipe 100% local you can even try and substitute cream cheese with ricotta and even fresh sheep's milk cheeselets - I tried this and it's divine! But cream cheese it is for now...


So this Olive Dip made it to this year's Olive Grove Experiences - and we'll have to be really running out of time to go back to the pre-packed version. The dip was a winner during every experience. We just couldn't believe how much the guests enjoyed it, and raved about it, given that it was not such a big deal to prepare.


Maybe it's just because of that - the simplicity and freshness of the ingredients, or it could be due to the extra bitterness of the olive drupe. Whatever the reason, during all of the sessions, without exception, some guest asked for the recipe... so here it is.

Enjoy!

Christian



OLIVE DIP 
______________________________________________________

PREP TIME  15 mins


Ingredients

80g olives (around 20 pitted olives)
1 medium tomato
200g regular cream cheese
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh herbs
Salt & pepper 


  

 




Instructions

Bring the cream cheese close to room temperature, this avoids leaving larger chunks of cheese in the dip.

Remove the pits from the olives by pinching both ends of the drupe, or squash it with the flat part of a heavy chef knife, and place the flesh in a separate bowl. 

Dice the tomato in smaller parts, so as it will be easier to blend. Don't waste anything from the tomato (apart from the top part of the stem). This adds liquid to the mixture and also gives it a nice orange-to-pinkish colour. 

Toss everything into a mixing bowl and blend with an electric blender until it's the right consistency.

Add the extra virgin olive oil, together with the other seasoning and blend further.

For best results, refrigerate, and let the mixture settle for at least 12 hours before serving.






Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Traditional Maltese Coffee Brewing Method

Have you ever heard anyone mentioning the aromatic coffee that used to be brewed locally back in the day?

Some people highlight the smell or taste of aniseed and cloves in it and probably also mention that it used to be prepared by their mother, an aunt or grandma!

Of course, coffee is not grown in Malta.  It was originally cultivated in Southern Arabia and is now grown in over 70 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia, India and Africa. Having said that, over the years we have still developed our own traditional blend which is a mixture of imported Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, infused with roasted chicory, ground cloves and ground aniseed.

This is not your regular 'instant' coffee mix either!  There is a whole process of brewing that needs to take place in order to savour those lovely flavours. 

The method is quite simple, and you may vary the amount of coffee used depending on how strong you like your coffee... here's how we do it: 



Makes 4 cups:


  • Start off with bringing to a boil 2 cups of water. Lower the flame and gently sprinkle 4 tablespoons of 'Merill traditional ground coffee mix' over the water. Do not stir.
  • After approximately 3 mins stir and brew for another 5 mins. Avoid bringing it to a boil.
  • Add another 2 cups of water and stir. Keep on stirring every now and again. Allow at least another 5 - 7 minutes of brewing.
  • Remove from heat and allow the coffee residue to sink to the bottom or filter it through a fine strainer.
  • Enjoy!


If you are keen on sampling some of this coffee you can also join us on our regular Sunday morning tours at the Tan-Nixxiegha Olive Grove where you can get to experience Extra Virgin Olive Oil and other lovely products by our network of farmers and artisans.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Honey Muffins

Jeanette is still going strong baking and making delicious goodness using local ingredients, and at the office we are loving this!  We are getting our daily bread... or cupcakes, to have with our first coffee before we kick off with work!


This fine Monday morning we were treated to some Honey Muffins!  Honey is one of the most precious ingredients in a kitchen and for good reason. In Jeanette's words, honey is the only natural food that has all the ingredients to support life, including water.  Not solely used in food, honey has also been used as a natural remedy to treat a variety of ailments.




Its prestigiousness also comes from the fact that it is a very limited product.  Pure raw honey availability depends on a healthy hive of bees foraging on the flora in their surroundings.  This year's biggest issue for our local farmers has been the lack of rainfall which of course affects the amount and variety of flora and therefore impacts on the amount of honey produced by the bees!

So whilst we pray and hope for more rainfall so as to be able to produce more pure local honey, below is the Honey Muffin recipe Jeanette has used thanks to www.simplefood365.com.  




 HONEY MUFFINS
______________________________________________________

PREP TIME  15 mins

COOK TIME 18 mins

TOTAL TIME 33 mins


Author: Tara Kimball
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12 Muffins


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  •  cup honey
  • 1 large egg


    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
    3. Mix the milk, vanilla, butter, honey and egg in a smaller bowl until well blended.
    4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing just until everything is combined.
    5. Divide the batter into a sprayed or lined muffin pan so that each cup is  full.
    6. Bake for 18 minutes, then remove to a rack for 10 minutes.


    More interesting information about pure honey can be found in two other Merill Local Product blogs: Let's Talk About Honey, Honey!  Part 1 & Part 2.

    Have a great week!!

    Steph




    Did you know...

    ...that there are different types of honey depending on the season it is harvesting in, because of the different flora available to the bees at the time?  Different season, different colour! At our speciality store we are currently stocked up on Autumn flora honey which is the darker shade and also some Thyme & Clover honey!  All very limited!!  Should you be interested contact us now - info@merill.com.mt or call us on 21411388.


    Some of the honey can also be tasted during our weekly Olive Grove experiences happening every Sunday! Click here for more information.



    Saturday, 13 February 2016

    Oranges and Lemons: What to do when you have too many!

    Yesterday Simone, a friend of mine, asked me what can she do with a crate full of oranges. Good question, so I decided to dig further! 

    December and January are the months when we're blessed with bountiful citrus fruits, mainly oranges, lemons and tangerines. I also spotted huge grapefruits at the Farmer's Market in Ta' Qali. Apart from this market, fruit and veg mongers roaming around the streets would also offer a range of locally grown produce...always ask for local :)

    To answer my friend's question I resorted to my social media platform of choice, Pinterest, for inspiration. 

    So here are some interesting blogs that can help you process your favourite citrus fruit in a multitude of ways!

    Orange Muffins



    Lemon Cake (I tried this...it's divine)



    Candied Peel




    Orange Blondies




    Cranberry Orange Smoothy



    Citrus Syrups





    Enjoy the recipes!

    Jeanette

    Tuesday, 9 February 2016

    Colours, patterns and imagination


    By Steph Camilleri


    This week we wish to shed some more light on our current collaboration with local artist and graphic designer, Stephanie Borg.  

    Her use of bright colours and patterns makes her work stunning and interesting, and her love for certain features of the local scene such as the typical Maltese doors and old tiles are seen in most of her work.

    She has creatively made her artwork available on items that can be used daily, widening her product range to include not just wall pieces but also wrapping paper, calendars, mugs, mouse pads, espresso cups and coasters.

    Stephanie has been collaborating with Merill for a couple of years now, including designing our new jams and pure honey tags. We have also combined her lovely items together with Merill products into our Eco Hampers.







    Saturday, 19 December 2015

    Quince...What is it all about?

    "The quince (/ˈkwɪns/; Cydonia oblonga) is the sole member of the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae (which also contains apples and pears, among other fruits). It is a small deciduous tree that bears a pome fruit, similar in appearance to a pear, and bright golden-yellow when mature. Throughout history the cooked fruit has been used as food, but the tree is also grown for its attractive pale pink blossom and other ornamental qualities." Wiki

    Yes... a couple of years ago I also had no idea that this fruit existed, let alone that it has been around us, on the Maltese islands, for the past 500 years or so. The Maltese name is Sfarġel (farmers we work with and some online articles also refer to it as Sfejġel). Somehow, maybe because of its scattered presence, through lack of awareness or due to expansion of imports, this mysterious fruit faded away into the lands of the forgotten - at least for the large part of today's generations.

    Lately however, thanks to the revival of local products, we are observing a renewed interest in the fruit and our aim is to learn more about it. It is already clear from what farmers recount, together with modern studies, that the health benefits of quince are not to be discounted - they include anti-inflammatory properties, treatment of stomach ailments, antioxidant properties... the list goes on...


    photo by jeanette borg
    'Merill' Quince Jam - photo by lindsey cauchi

    If you're the hands-on type of person (and you manage to get your hands on some of this fruit, here's a recipe for quince jam I found on this great blog.

    Have you tasted the jam... how would you describe it? Do you have some more information on this fruit? We would love to hear from you and learn more. Leave us a comment here below or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or email.

    Thursday, 17 December 2015

    Eco Hampers & Gifts 2015

    We started assembling local 'eco' hampers even before we launched our rural and eco tours, back in 2011! The idea was simple enough: build a network of hard-working farmers and artisans, and empower them to continue producing 100% local and genuine products. As time went by, we realised that accomplishing the idea was not so simple, but we're getting there... and year after year our aim is to perfect the recipe. 

    We avoid using plastic and other synthetic material, that's why you might find used magazine paper as a bedding material, and the boxes are up-cycled from used veg crates or else we use recycled wood.  

    The Merill Rural Network
    • WHY? Because we really want to make a difference.
    • WHERE? We pride ourselves to offer products that are exclusively from the Maltese Islands.
    • HOW? Local farmers and artisans are empowered to produce genuine local products of premium quality. This way we enable them to sustain generations of traditions.
    • WHO? The Merill Rural Network brings together a number of hard working farmers and artisans. Along with their families they passionately maintain our landscape, while providing us with delicacies and handmade works of art.



    The video features a small selection of our eco gift ideas. Since our quantities are very small, and also because we like to prepare custom hampers for each client, we do not publish full catalogues. Please contact us for a detailed quote on 99443118 or email us on info@merill.com.mt.