The days start to get shorter, the air is crisper and somehow it also seems to be brighter. September is the transit month, the stepping-stone, from blistering hot Summer to cooler Autumn. With this said, October is still a great month to be swimming and there is no way you should put your shorts away just yet. The sweater days are far off! I would say the very end of November.
My blog, my cooking classes and writing for magazines keeps me on my toes when it comes to cooking new things. In fact I very rarely have time to repeat a recipe! My ‘cooking schedule’ seems to be a constant uphill progression as I research, learn and adapt. It keeps getting tastier and more interesting; more colourful and perfumed! And there is the ‘Foodie Guardian Angel’ that keeps pushing me forward.
September also means more baking and Pumpkins! Huge pumpkins are sold in slices from most grocers and vegetable shops. You can buy as much as you need without having to stock up. Elizabeth, a close friend from Gharb, very kindly gave me a huge pumpkin that has sat on my doorstep outside for days. If you are driving around in Malta and Gozo, especially in the farming areas such as Mgarr Malta and the west side of Gozo, like Gharb and St Lawrence, you might spot rooftops covered with pumpkins. It is a common sight for me, but when I asked myself "why?" I could not answer. So, asking my vegetable supplier, I found out why.
Pumpkins are best stored outside in well-ventilated places. The sunlight and the fresh air keep them in good condition and in the long run they will last longer. They are only stored inside in the colder months, when they could be damaged by hail.
So, using a sharp knife and a steady hand, I started to cut one ‘felli’ after another (‘felli’ is the Maltese name for the moon-shaped slices) . I grated, steamed, baked, mashed and mixed pumpkin and prepared a set of 3 tasty savoury dishes, a bit different from our usual soups and bakes. Pumpkin is a very cheap, versatile, under-estimated local vegetable that deserves a lot more celebration.
This recipe came along, when i was looking in the fridge needing to create something out of the few leftovers i had. I beautiful chunk of cheese from northern Italy that needed attention, some steamed basmati rice, cooked pumpkin, eggs and a pack of filo pastry. The inspiration was a local pie 'Torta tal-Qargha u ir-Ross', a pie made with crunchy rough puff pastry and a filling with rice and pumpkin. I added come cardamom to lift it all up and gave it a go. I absolutely looove these little pies. If you don't have any 'mountain' cheese like i have in my fridge, a good mature cheese like a Prima Donna or Old Amsterdam will do the job. Or mix, any leftover bits of cheeses..... be inventive!
Divide the filo pastry, by cutting with a sharp knife in 6 equal squares. You should now have 36 equal squares of filo. Using a 12 cupcake tin, lightly brush 9 of them with butter. Then one by one, add a square of filo, bush with butter and another sheet, up until you have 4 buttered sheets of filo in each mould.
To make the filling, mix the rice, pumpkin, cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and ground cardamom. Fill into the filo pastry lined moulds. Bake in a hot oven set on 180 degrees Celsius for about 15 minutes or until set and golden.