3 October 2016
Recently Air Malta had the pleasure of interviewing renowned food blogger, author and all round food enthusiast, Meike Peters. German by birth, Maltese by nature, flights to Malta and back to Berlin are a regular occurrence for her. This mix is very evident in Meike’s blog Eat in My Kitchen, which features many mouth-watering recipes greatly influenced by her love for Maltese cuisine and fresh Maltese ingredients.
Given the opportunity to answer a few questions, Meike was thrilled to talk about how she fell in love with Malta and its food and about her adventures on the sun kissed islands. She also reveals some exciting insights into her first book which will be launched in Malta in October.
Follow us as we step into Meike’s kitchen and discover the taste of truly unique cooking, where a variety of cuisines meet the various flavours of Maltese culture.
Eat in My Kitchen by Meike Peters (Photo of Meike Peters by Luke Engerer)
Tell us a little bit about yourself - When did you first start cooking? What made you realise your passion for cooking?
Cooking has always played an important role in my family. There's no one in my family who isn't passionate about the daily pleasure of food. My mother, who is my biggest inspiration in the kitchen, is an amazing cook and hostess. Her dinner parties are legendary. She taught me all I needed to know to start my own culinary journey: the most important cooking techniques, an understanding for good quality ingredients, but most important of all, she taught me to trust my own taste and intuition in the kitchen.
What brought you to Malta?
I first came to Malta in the autumn of 2005. Ira Losco came to Berlin with her band in the summer of that same year and I organized her festival tour in Germany. The band invited me to visit them on their home island, so I flew down and fell in love with the island - and with my boyfriend who is Maltese.
Spending a lot of time in Berlin and Malta you’ve probably noticed a big difference in the lifestyles of both places. What do you like about life in Malta?
My life in Malta feels like living in a beehive. I'm constantly surrounded by family and friends. We spend a lot of time on the beach, I love snorkelling, especially in Fomm ir-Riħ, Delimara and Mtaħleb. I like to drink my sundowner at Exiles and I love the food at Legligin. Walking through the streets of Valletta and Mdina will always amaze me. Camping in Comino allows you to see the Blue Lagoon in all its beauty – early in the morning and late at night. Gozo will always be my favourite spot when I need a break from the 'beehive'.
Life in Malta is about the people you love and spending time outside, preferably by the sea or in the countryside, at unspoilt places.
What made you decide that Maltese cuisine was going to have such a big influence on your cooking?
It wasn't actually a rational decision; it was a sensory process. I tasted the food and I got totally hooked on it. I smelt and tasted a whole new world. Fennel and coriander seeds grown on the islands impressed me with their intense aroma, the most fragrant citrus fruits used generously in so many dishes – sweet and savoury – changed my perspective drastically.
The quality of fruits and vegetables impressed me in general and the way the Maltese turn them into the most honest dishes warmed my heart. Traditional Maltese cooking is very much about letting every single ingredient come through – a fact that I appreciate a lot in Mediterranean cooking. Every flavour is treated with respect.
You mentioned in your blog that you love to stock up on sea salt from Mr Cini’s saltpans in Gozo, describing it as the best sea salt in the world. What gives it such a prestigious title in your eyes?
Let me tell you a story: my editor from New York came to visit me in Malta last summer. I prepared a little picnic for her arrival and one of the dishes was a very simple salad: sliced boiled potatoes, olive oil, fresh oregano and Mr. Cini's salt. She tried it and all she said was " That salt!".
I can't explain it, it tastes different. Maybe it manages to capture the taste of Malta? When I asked Mr. Cini the same question, he answered: "Our salt is unique because of the rocks, the clean seawater, the climate and the craftsmanship". Every summer I stock up my pantry with Mr. Cini’s salt.
Kidney Bean, Cumin, and Beef Polpette with Torta al Testo
How have you found travelling all the way back to Berlin with this produce? How do you usually transport it?
Every summer I stock up my pantry with Mr. Cini’s salt which I take with me as excess baggage back to Berlin. Air Malta regularly operates direct flights between Malta and the German capital and offers pre-purchase excess bag vouchers on their website. The salt gets checked in with the rest of my luggage making it easy for me to visit regularly and carry as much as I need.
Writing a book is no easy task by any standards. What inspired you to write your own cookbook? What gave you the motivation to go from an idea to a published book?
My blog! The book developed out of my blog. It's a continuation so the whole process felt very natural. I started my food blog in November 2013, sharing one recipe every day for the first year. Looking back, this prepared me creatively but also logistically to write a cookbook. Sharing a recipe a day on my blog, including writing and taking the pictures, was more work than writing my book.
With a lot of new recipes in your cookbook, did you base many of them around Maltese dishes and ingredients?
Yes, of course! Apart from my German roots, Malta is the biggest influence in my cooking. I find a lot of inspiration not only in the traditional recipes but also in the philosophy of the Maltese cuisine, in the fresh ingredients, in the spices that are used, and also in the combinations. Timpana is the best example. It took me a while to understand why one should put pasta in a pie – but it's simply delicious.
My cosy winter dishes have a strong German origin, but sometimes I mix them with Maltese dishes. I also have quite a few Maltese recipes in my book, from Brunġiel mimli for example, and stuffed peppers to ottijiet and pudina.
Spring Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks
You will be having a book launch event at Villa Bologna in October. Are you looking forward to it?
We'll have book launch events in London, Berlin, Malta, New York and Washington and I feel very, very excited about the one in Malta. There will be my Maltese and German family, many of our friends and it'll be at a very special venue. I love the villa, I adore Marina Fabic who is so kindly preparing recipes from my book for our event. There will also be Meridiana wine.
I look forward to all the events; we started in Berlin on the 26th September. In London, we'll welcome our guests at the Maltese embassy, and then I'll be off to America, which will be a huge adventure.
Crispy Pan-Roasted Coriander Potatoes with Chèvre and Lemon Thyme
Future plans for ‘Eat in My Kitchen’?
A second book? We'll see!
With only a matter of days to Meike’s book launch in Malta, it’s safe to say the excitement is building. It won’t be long before she flies back to grace the shores of our tiny islands so we’ll surely hear from her again soon!