Kebab bl-istir fry tal-flett tal-Majjal (ta’ Malta)

“I am half Asian so it’s no wonder that I came up with a stir fry! The Mediterranean influence comes out in the sauce…” – Nadeen Shaw


Tell us a bit about yourself. Do you have a background in cooking?

I am married and have a 6-year-old child. My outlook on life is very positive and there’s a lot of things that I like doing and experiencing, which includes cooking for friends and family. I cook at home as well and love experimenting with new dishes.

What was your motivation to take part in the l-Ikla t-Tajba sessions?

Initially, I was introduced to l-Ikla t-Tajba by one of the Filipino Community in Malta (Fil-Com) officers. The idea of learning more about local food really appeals to me so that was further motivation for me to participate in the course.

How did you decide on the ingredients for your signature dish?

After the 3rd or 4th cooking session with chef David Darmanin, he asked to think of our own recipe. I am half Asian so it’s no wonder that I came up with a stir fry! The Mediterranean influence comes out in the sauce as I chose to go with mozzarella and yoghurt blended with honey and coriander leaves.

What was your inspiration?

When it comes to my inspiration, it’s more who rather what. My husband happens to be a chef so I am inspired by his cooking.

What will you take away from L-ikla t-tajba?

Looking back on the l-Ikla t-Tajba sessions, they allowed me to learn a lot about planning, improvisation, presentation, and team work.


Tlett aranċini – minn wara dahar l-Isqallin (tgħidulhomx)

When it comes to street food, we’d be daft not to take a leaf out of a Sicilian cookbook… and since the Siculi are such good neighbours, we’ve asked them for a couple of sacks of rice too. Unbeknownst to them, our next mission was to turn aranċini into a Maltese thing.

John Portelli came up with the brilliant idea of a fresh tomato puree and caramlised onion stuffing, with the inclusion of ġbejna somewhere – which then took the form of spreadable ġbejna combined into the risotto. Then came the brainwave for fish aranċini – one with bigilla and anchovy stuffing, the other with spinach and the prized local king of the seas – blue-fin tuna.

John Portelli shares his ideas…

John Portelli (centre) with Geraldine Portelli (left) and Claire Aitchison (right) - all l-Ikla t-Tajba participants

John Portelli (centre) with Geraldine Portelli (left) and Claire Aitchison (right) – all l-Ikla t-Tajba participants

Tell us a bit about yourself. Do you have a background in cooking? 

Food has always been my passion, including growing and cooking.  From a young age I enjoyed helping my grandmother with the cooking and when not cooking you very often found me in grandpa’s garden tendering the fruit trees and watering the plants. I suppose this has left its mark on me. Currently I do most of the cooking at home as I find the preparation of food relaxing and satisfying and also take part in cooking activities.

Through my involvement in Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM) and the International Federation of Organic Movements, I had the opportunity to visit many European countries, meeting producers, processors, and institutions of organic food all keen to show us their culture.

What was your motivation to take part in the L-ikla t-tajba sessions? 

As active member of the of two NGOs, MOAM and Slow Food Malta, I was asked if I would like to participate, and since there was food involved I willingly accepted as L-Ikla t-tajba seeks to promote good, healthy and sustainable food.  This is very much in-line with the principles I strongly believe and the NGOs I support.

How did you decide on the ingredients for your signature dish?

Since I’m vegetarian, my idea was to come up with something that does not contain any meat. Something that stimulates and challenges the imagination through the taste buds.

I wanted the ingredients to be in season, sustainable and ideally local. I eventually decided upon four varieties of arancini. The first is filled with ġbejna and honey, another one with bigilla,  the third one being with tomato sauce and caramelised onions, with the last one having pumpkin, a blend of herbs and onion filling.

A compromise was reached and eventually tuna and anchovies were added as well.

Join John and the rest of the team during Notte Bianca on Saturday 4th October, from 7pm onwards at Castille Place, (opposite the Stock Exchange)…. l-Ikla t-Tajba – Bon Apetit!

A burger at Notte Bianca – L-Ikla t-Tajba

“Well, everyone loves burgers during these events so I decided to create a healthy burger…” says Claire Aitchison, one of a group of 20 people who got together through the Valletta 2018 project l-Ikla t-Tajba in summer to learn about and share the art of local cookery. Claire Aitchison, shares her experience…

Claire Aitchison cropped

Tell us a bit about yourself. Do you have a background in cooking? 

I’m 28 years old and see myself as a bubbly positive person. A lot of people know me as ‘Claire il-Veggie’. I’m no qualified chef – I simply have a passion for good food and I love cooking!! I also love photography so I decided to combine my two hobbies and created my page on Facebook through which I share my vegetarian and vegan recipes.

What was your motivation to take part in the L-ikla t-tajba sessions? 

I was very intrigued to learn more about the technical side of cooking. Its also a nice and fun way to meet new people, people who share my own same passion for food.

How did you decide on the ingredients for your signature dish?

We were given a list with Maltese ingredients and that’s how I came up with the burger.

What was your inspiration?

Well, everyone loves burgers during these events so I decided to create a healthy burger which suitable for everyones liking, from meat lovers to vegetarians and vegans.

What will you take away from L-ikla t-tajba?

I’m hoping to gain experience and knowledge on how a real life kitchen works and also looking forward to working as team with my new friends.

For details on l-Ikla t-Tajba visit:

Is Art the Problem, or Are We?

Lorella Fava and Lorraine Stagno

A gateless city-gate, a roofless theatre, and now a three-legged horse: this has been the public chant against recent decisions taken to re-embellish the entrance to our capital city. Austin Camilleri’s latest sculpture ‘Zieme’ which was set up on the 28 August, inaugurated the Visual Arts Festival in the run up to V18, and has led to various discussions – mostly negative, about the local art scene, especially on popular online media websites and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The mind boggles: is Art the problem, or are we? Have we become a pessimist nation which refuses to adapt to change? Or is the problem stemming from artists’ thirst to achieve the shock factor thereby forfeiting the intrinsic value of art? In an interview given to The Times Austin Camilleri gave a solid description of his work, discussing how ‘his horse […] refers to Malta’s historic links with other colonial powers’, and how ‘its location in front of Valletta’s new Parliament building designed by Renzo Piano supplements it with rich, additional layers of meaning’. He also points out how the ‘missing detail in this horse transforms the sculpture into an ironic testimony to the illusory nature of power. His loss makes him no longer productive.’ However, statements such as ‘’ and ‘we will be the laughing stock of the tourists entering the capital’ have been a common response to the sculpture, making it all the more clear that the Maltese population is not afraid to voice its opinion but how informed is it? Is this a local phenomenon, or do other countries voice their opinions in the same passionate manner?

Art has always been under the scrutiny of the public eye which in a healthy culture is able to apply standards of critique that consider skill and talent. Pablo Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles D’Avignon’ (1907), for example, stirred much controversy at the time, with the public and critics alike accusing it of grotesque portrayals of women. Yet, a hundred years later, in the Barbican gallery in London, the exhibition ‘Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now’ curated by Marina Wallace which showcased various erotic sculptures and paintings, was received with great aplomb, with comments such as ‘it is the bravest and most intelligent exhibition of the year’ by The Guardian. Clearly, the perception of the public changes, or is modified by various factors, amongst them time and culture. The Maltese preoccupation with the ways in which Camilleri’s sculpture will affect tourists’ impressions upon entering the newly refurbished Valletta entrance contrasts deeply with the Belgian’s attitude towards ‘Mannekin Pis’ and the rest of his family, which has become a staple of their national identity, and is a major tourist attraction, with various replicas scattered around the globe. We can’t help but ponder over what would have happened if instead of a lopsided horse we were presented with a peeing one, which would have pushed the boundaries even further.


Although Camilleri explained the reasoning behind the sculpture, it appears that the majority of the public has failed to accept the connection between the sculptor’s muse and his execution. Much of the local reaction has been bent on moralising the sculpture’s symbolic value rather than an appreciation of the dialogue it has encouraged and the pleasure the presence of art offers per se. While discussing this over coffee with the clanking and yelling coming from the newly constructed parliament acting as backdrop to our conversation, we couldn’t help but remember our schooldays, when we were taught to simply dissect art clinically instead of appreciating it too. In our literature lessons in secondary school, we were expected to give a detailed analysis of a piece of literature or poetry, instead of just enjoying other aspects such as rhyme or the ebb and flow of the work as a whole. It is because of this strict mentality that the Maltese audience is never satisfied by simply being in the presence of art, let alone having the ability to understand the deeper levels of representation that art works often hold. Of course the situation is not all dire: we have both heard and read positive remarks, and there are many who are saddened by the possibility that Camilleri’s exhibition in its prominent location might be short-lived.

In the run up to V18, Camilleri’s ‘Zieme’ has brought public attention to the art scene while the more conservative La Vallette statue was barely recognised or talked about: his one minute of fame came when he was swagged up with twenty-first century clothes. If he had a missing limb, we’re sure he would have received the same publicity as ‘Zieme’, if not worse. At best the hype surrounding the three legged horse has been encouraging because it pushed the general public to discuss art and culture but at worst it highlighted how desperately we must master the ability to voice our opinions in a poised manner, and learn the difference between the art of critiquing and that of accusatory criticism.

Lorella Fava and Lorraine Stagno are currently reading for an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Criticism within the Department of English, University of Malta.


Mobility for change

mediterranean-sea 521x292

Artists’ mobility in the current dynamic Mediterranean landscape is one of the main topics that is being discussed during the first day of the #CREM conference in Valletta. Mobility always brings with it a series of arguments and considerations that go way beyond culture and the arts, starting from visa-related issues to the financial crisis and other looming crises, be them economic, social, political or diplomatic.

In his talk on Thursday afternoon, the president of the Roberto Cimetta Fund, arguably one of the most important and popular mobility funds, invites us to consider artists’ mobility beyond its idealised or imaginary status and to evaluate it as a possible asset.

In other words, what practical value does mobility offer when value can also mean a threat to old practices, habitual practices and political status quo? What role do artists and cultural activists play in a democracy when they move around for the sake of formation and exchange? And finally, what are the conditions needed to optimise one’s mobility?

Mobility provides the basis for a proper evaluation of oneself, one’s context and identity. It is therefore an opportunity to challenge the way cultural policies interact with the wider socio-economic context and take an active position in delivering positive changes. Cultural activists need to shed the predominant image that they are a quiet progressive peaceful bunch of people at the margins of society’s main narrative. They can lead change or act as definite catalysts for resistance and paradigmatic shifts that resonate beyond the immediate circles of culture and the arts.

The whole discourse on mobility is therefore a positive one where hopes and active citizenship take on a new meaning, and where, ultimately, culture acquires a new role and definition that has political and economic implications.

‘The Mediterranean does not exist’ – Sferlazzo

“The Mediterranean does not exist. We can speak of mediterraneans but only insofar as we specify that these are inland seas, internal worlds, continents of symbols says Italian artist and singer-songwriter,” Giacomo Sferlazzo.


Sferlazzo, one of the speakers at the Valletta 2018 conference Dialogue in the Med: Exploring Identity Through Networks, argues that the European project is merely a political one, distant from him and people like him and the general European narrative is being written by a ruling class that cannot see the future. In his view, this European project is in the hands of a class of financiers, business people, politicians and intellectuals who fail to understand the mystery that is the Mediterraneans and who, therefore, fail to grasp the changes in narrative. Sferlazzo posits that all too often individual states impose themselves on others and exploit each other instead of forging real collaborations and joint efforts in a shared history. So where is all this taking us?

Similarly, but with a significantly more positive approach, fellow poet and academic Hatto Fischer calls for a new narrative to be written through realising a Capital of Culture that is truly European. An EcoC really needs to be a Capital in that it synthesizes in it a representative narrative, one that is truly inclusive and democratic. In order to get there, however, we must start telling/writing/hearing new narratives, Fischer proposes.

On the 5th September, Mr Sferlazzo will be presenting a short talk titled Mediterraneans as poetic mystery, irreconcilable with the economic and political project of Europe and will also be participating in the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival 2014.

Dr Hatto Fischer’s presentation will also be on Friday 5th September and is titled Europe in future – is there a cultural synthesis in the making?

The full programme of the conference can be found here:


Minn fuq iż-Żieme…

Aqra u aħseb… probabli titbissem xi ftit ukoll


Xena: Bieb il-Belt taħt iż-Żieme…omm qed tipprova tieħu ritratt tat-tifla ta’ xi 8 snin mal-iskultura.

Tifla: Ma, ma, sten…hekk tajjeb? (tipprova pożizzjonijiet differenti)

Omm: Iva..sten…(tilgħab mal-mowbajl)

Tifla: Hekk ma

Omm: Sten għax mhux qed jirnexxieli nġibek kollok blż-żiemel b’kollox

Tifla: u le ma jimpurtax…l-aqwa li ġġib lili nidher sew.

Żieme Żieme


Żiemel zopp. X’għarukaża. Kif ma jistħix? Mela spiċċalu l-materjal? Artist irid jurina affarjiet sbieħ…artist irid jurina n-Natura kif suppost hi…kompluta. Artist irid jiddrugana bis-sbuħija biex ma narawx il-kruha li hemm madwarna. Artist irid jillupjana bis-sbuħija biex ma narawx il-kruha ta’ ġo fina. 

Jew le?

Qabel nidħlu fil-merti tax-xogħol ta’ Austin Camilleri li jifforma parti minn VIVA, nixtieq li tikkunsidraw dawn l-erba’ xogħlijiet:


Venere ta' Milo Venere ta’ Milo

Il-Venere ta’ Milo

Alexandros t’Antijoka (attribwita)

Mużew tal-Louvre, Pariġi

Ġewwa l-Louvre hemm waħda mill-iktar skulturi klassiċi famużi, il-Venere ta’ Milo. Misjuba ġewwa l-gżira ta’ Milos fl-1820, il-pedestall u l-idejn tagħha intilfu…

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