This edition of Malteser’s Kitchen is a special one for carnival, which is celebrated this weekend in Malta. These traditional carnival sweets adorn plenty of shop windows in Malta around this time of year and almost look too good too eat. Almost. Today’s post is by Miriam, who runs a wonderful food blog here. Photos are by Matthew Farrugia.
The prinjolata has always seemed like a sticky, white mountain of sugarey goo and I somehow managed to avoid tasting it or knowing much about it for the past 30 years. When Davinia asked to me to write this post for her blog, the task seemed somewhat daunting at first, but seeing as I like taking on culinary challenges I decided to turn this into a (rather sticky) event with my friends. There’s safety in numbers, right?
In the days leading to this event, some of them exchanged prinjolata recipes that had been handed down through generations. Further research revealed that, like most traditional recipes, the variations for this recipe were many. In the end we agreed on using the following:
A 6-8 egg sponge, cut into fingers
Butter cream – consisting of 6oz butter and 8oz castor sugar
One egg white
One cup sugar
One teaspoon vanilla essence
Extra butter for greasing the bowl
2 tots of whisky
Toasted pine nuts
Chocolate for melting
To make the sponge you will need the following:
18 oz sugar
12oz flour (sifted)
A pinch of salt
Please note that I made two very large sponges with these amounts, as I was planning to make a very large prinjolata. You could opt for ¼ of these ingredients to make a smaller sponge (e.g. 3 eggs etc.)
Butter or line a baking tin. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Vigorously whisk the eggs and the sugar together until they turn creamy. Then gently add the flour and salt and keep whisking until they combine uniformly.
Pour your mixture into a baking tray and bake for approximately 25 minutes. To test if it’s done, poke a knife into the sponge and if it comes back out dry, then the sponge is ready to be taken out of the oven. Let it cool before cutting into fingers.
Making the frosting:
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
4 egg whites
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Again, for a smaller prinjolata you may halve the amounts. In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, cream of tartar and water on medium to high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla until soft peaks are formed. Gradually add your egg mixture to the sugar mixture whilst whipping constantly, until stiff peaks form. This will take approximately 7 minutes.
Assembling the prinjolata:
Cut the baked sponge into fingers and put back in the oven for about 5 minutes to toast to a very light brown. Let these to cool and in the meantime prepare the filling. Make the butter cream by mixing the butter and castor sugar together. I did this manually using a fork but if you prefer you could use an electric mixer to avoid a gritty finish. Over a pan of boiling water (i.e. bain-marie), beat one egg white and one cup of sugar with two tablespoons of water till they are creamy and thick. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and when the mixture is completely cool beat this mixture into the butter cream.
Take a pudding bowl; grease it lightly with butter and start piling and packing the sponge fingers and cream filling right to the top, making sure to finish off with a flat top. Ideally at this point you should refrigerate overnight to let it set, but you can also chuck it into the freezer for 20 minutes or so and this will do the job.
When this is done, ease out gently with a palette knife. Get someone to cross their fingers for you while you do this. Sprinkle with 2 tots of whisky (I used 2 thick workman fingers to measure out my tots) or any other liquor of your choice.
Decorate with the white frosting, coloured candied cherries and pine nuts. Finally drizzle a small amount of melted chocolate over it.
The prinjolata is ready for consumption at this point, but I would suggest waiting a day or two before tasting it as it does improve immensely given some time.
There are variants that utilize biscuits instead of sponge for the inside of the prinjolata, but I felt that this might make it taste similar to my Christmas log (which is delicious, but keeping in mind that carnival comes soon after Christmas, I didn’t think that would be a good idea). My mum had described the prinjolata as the coming together of eclectic ingredients to mimic the folly of carnival. Needless to say, mum is always right.
Remember my Bucket List? Last weekend, I managed to strike another item off it: building a snowman.
Well… sort of.
I hadn’t realised building a snowman was such hard work, you guys! So I built a miniature little snow-lady-sculpture instead, complete with shoulders.
I’m one of those girls who love make up. Not the type which is caked on and orange and terrible – but a little bit of red lipstick can really brighten up my day and I never go out without my cat eye eyeliner. I’ve got my standard look, which I can apply in five minutes, but I find that when I want to shake things up, I have to look at tutorials for inspiration. So I’ve decided to compile my favourite tutorials for five looks here which are really handy to know and which will see you through any occasion.
1. The Natural Look
2. Smokey Eye
3. Cat Eyes
4. 1950s Pin-up
5. Glam and Glitter
You’d think a 25-year-old woman would be no stranger to dating. The truth is, I went on my first real date ever three months ago. Of course, I have had long-term relationships before, a few of them in fact – but in Malta, there isn’t much of a ‘dating’ culture. Things like ‘The Rules of Dating’ (You don’t kiss on the first date, you go halfsies on the bill, you wait three days till you call) are quite alien to most of us Maltesers. We’re used to meeting people through our friends and hanging out with them in a friendly capacity before we agree to start seeing them. Blind dates are almost unheard of.
When I moved to London, I started dating. It was intimidating at first, then became quite pleasant. Even if we weren’t compatible, I usually found I had a nice evening chatting with an interesting person (if I didn’t find him interesting, I wouldn’t have agreed to a date in the first place).
So when I went back to Dublin on holiday and my friends asked me if I wanted to go to a speed dating event with them, I thought ‘Why not?’. It was a spur of the moment decision – one which fit in with my new “Say yes to everything you can” philosophy (which is a lot better than saying no and spending the evening sulking in front of the TV). I picked out my little black dress, slicked on some red lipstick and joined my friends in the bar where the event was being held.
I won’t lie – I had my reservations at first. I had never been speed dating before and I’d always imagined it would be a slightly uncomfortable, impersonal, hectic experience. I was afraid it might be awkward, that people would be uninteresting, or that they would find me boring. But since I was only there for the experience, I managed to brush off this hesitation and just try to enjoy myself as much as I could. Worst case scenario, I’d have a really good story for my blog, right?
As we walked in, I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost all the people there were attractive and had made an effort to look their best, just as we had. Without wanting to seem shallow, first impressions are quite important when your ‘dates’ only last five minutes, so my first tip for anybody who’s thinking about trying out speed dating would be to make an effort to look good. Wear clothes which you know flatter your body, put on makeup which you know suits you, let your hair frame your face. Of course, looks are not the most important part of a connection between two people, but speed dating is like dating on speed, and so if you feel sexy, you’ll exude confidence which will make you seem more approachable and likeable.
One thing I was very disappointed with was how expensive the whole thing was. We paid €25 each for the event, and were not even offered a free drink. I agree that, as with every event, an entrance fee should be charged, but surely it should be more along the lines of €10-15, or at least the organisers should have given attendees a free cocktail of sorts.
We were all assigned numbers – from 1 to 15; there were 15 men and 15 women in total. The women sat down at tables and it was up to the men to move around each time the bell rang, which was about every five minutes. The first mini-date was a little awkward at first – we admitted to each other that it was our first time speed-dating, and that broke the ice. We soon settled into a pleasant chat about who we are and what we do and, just as we were getting into a discussion about music, the bell rang signalling it was time to move on. We each had cards we had to tick – A ‘no’, ‘yes’ or ‘just friends’. It felt a little strange for me to have to make a decision based on just five minutes of knowing somebody, but it became easier as the evening progressed.
I met a lot of interesting people. One was doing a PhD, another owned his own business, another played in a band. Of course, there were a few people I had nothing in common with, which was uncomfortable. Five minutes fly by if you’re enjoying yourself, but if you are scraping the barrel for questions and only getting a grunt in response, five minutes can feel like a lifetime.
I found the best thing to do was to lead the conversation and establish a repertoire of questions: What is your name? Where are you from? What do you do? What are your hobbies? Do you have any pets? That sort of thing – unfortunately, five minutes is hardly enough time to sink your teeth into meaningful conversation, but if you like somebody, you can tick ‘yes’ and if they reciprocate, you are free to meet them again for a proper date. However, things got interesting when everybody started trying to shake things up by asking unusual questions. I got asked “Why is the sea blue?” That led to a nice little discussion about physics. I ticked the ‘yes’ box for that guy.
The most awkward moment came in the form of a man who proceeded to tell me how much he hated the foreigners in his country – right after I told him I was a foreigner. I found myself struggling to react to this statement, and it became even more awkward when he started spouting racism. I stayed quiet and waited for the bell, then very promptly ticked ‘no’ next to his name.
Would I recommend speed dating? It depends what you are looking for. As my friend pointed out, you could use that €25 to subscribe to an online dating website like Match or Guardian Soulmates, where you can look through people’s profiles before you decide whether you’d like to date them or not. Still, if you’re looking for a way to meet lots of people very quickly, then speed dating is alright. I’d recommend you tried it at least once, but from now on I think I will be sticking to more traditional dating.
Today, I realised a dream I have had since I was three years old. Today, I saw snow for the first time.
Sounds crazy, right? Thing is, growing up in the Mediterranean, we never had any snow. Ever. We had hailstorms, yes, with hail so violent it hurt your head as it fell, but never snow. And despite my having travelled a fair amount in my life, I had never seen snow settle before today. I’ve seen snow fall a couple of times, but only a dusting, and never enough for me to grab a handful of it.
And then this morning, when I woke up and looked out of my window, everything was covered in a beautiful blanket of white snow. So what did I do? Why, I ventured outside, of course! In ill-advised footwear! To do some grocery shopping and take pictures of everything!