27 February 2013

Red Castle Walk and Octopus Pasta

There are times when I am so thankful that we are living here in Malta, 
and that I begin to realise that I have fallen under her spell, 
 officially charmed
 (I speak of Malta as she, I don't know why but it must be so). 

Her gentle magic 
has seeped into us 
more than I would have predicted 
or  known it could have. 

The first year living here, I found difficult, 
the many built up parts of the island and heavy traffic jams closed me in and I felt trapped. 
I longed for the calm quiet streets of England (where we had been living), 
for the small cosy cafes and familiar faces of dear friends. 

There is nothing quiet or calm about Malta 
but a friendly spirit there is and be they loud and seemingly sometimes harsh I have found the Maltese people to be very genuine and sincere. Once they know you, they are trusting and will go out of their way to help you. I have been tracked down at the butchers to be told that a towel has blown down from my clothes line on the roof. The old man who lives beside us spent an entire morning once helping my husband clean up a clogged up sewage drain (not a pretty sight) 
and insisted on nothing in return for his help. 
Everyone up the alley knows and greets each morning my littlest son, as we set off on our errands,
old men, ladies washing their front door stoop and young kids will shout from windows and doorways- 'BONGU GIUSEPPE' !!! 
You would never find that in England.

Then there is the Nature,  
you can find stunning nature to every side of the island and such a vibrant air here. 
It may sometimes be hidden (tucked away like the gardens in villages, hidden behind tall stone walls), but its there- you smell it and at times catch brief bright glimpses through opened doors. 
It takes some patience to get to know her but Malta is ever so beautiful and rich, 
rich with history, traditions and culture. Rich in Language, poetry and music.  
If you let it, it can draw you in and capture your heart. I am realising that it has mine. 

Something about our simple weekend picnic near the sea, walking along a high ridge, looking out to cliffs and sparkling water to either side, wildflowers and almond blossoms in front of us and the faint smell of fennel in the air, made me really appreciate this island we are living on.
 The children explored and collected wild flowers. 
Ate fresh bread and drew pictures. 
We returned home, windswept and satisfied.

Part 2
Once home 
 I set about making a Maltese traditional dish- Octopus pasta, 
(having observed my mother in law making it and taking careful notes) 
I tried it out myself. 
Here is her recipe. 

Simple Octopus Pasta 
1 Kilo Octopus (wash and remove the beak) 
1 onion chopped
2 Tbs tomato conserva (tomato paste)
8 Olives, chopped
2 Tbs capers
1/4 cup peas (optional) added at the very end
1 medium potato chopped into 1-2 cm pieces
1/2 cup red wine 
salt and pepper to taste

Step 1. After you rinse the Octopus remove the small beak underneath and chop it  into 1 inch pieces (best to do this while partly frozen). So if you get it fresh from a fish market freeze it overnight first. 

Step 2. Saute the octopus pieces in olive oil till they turn red - around 8 min.

Step 3. Remove the octopus and leave the juices, add the chopped onion to this and let cook till translucent.

Step 4. Add the olives, capers, conserva, and potato and a half cup to one cup of water, let simmer for 8 min or so and then add in the octopus pieces and the red wine, add in the peas if you choose to use them and walllaaaa your sauce is done! Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mostly the flavour comes from the octopus. (it is one of my favourite Maltese dishes)

Step 5. Serve on pasta with a grated hard cheese and fresh parsley.

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