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Ode to the strawberry

The Maltese crowd who flocked to Mgarr on Sunday 10th April played tribute to the thought of the 17th century English writer, Dr. William Butler, “Doubtless God could have made a better berry (referring to strawberry), but doubtless God never did.”

The Frawli (Strawberry) Fest is a celebration of the garden strawberry, the edible strawberry we are used to stock our refrigerators with. This has become an annual event in Malta and is held in Mgarr, the village which is home of many strawberry fields.

Festa Frawli (Strawberry Festival)

We landed in Mgarr early to avoid traffic queues and large crowds, yet the event had already gathered pace and stalls were barely visible with people reaching up on their toes to be able to see the display of products. 

The stalls, set up on the Church’s parvis, were selling food items which contained strawberries including: jam, ravioli, pastries and cakes, ice-cream, smoothies and more. People were queuing to buy at each and every stall, craving for the taste of sensual strawberries, as if it’s the last lot on the Island. Even though, these last couple of years, strawberries in Malta are being produced all year round, in greenhouses!

This annual event was surely a feather in the organisers’ cap. With such a turnout I would recommend the Maltese authorities to organise more culinary fairs celebrating seasonal ingredients, similar to what in Italy they call sagre

As soon as we got home, my brother and I spent some time staring at the crimson strawberries wandering what we could prepare. In no time at all, we furnished the kitchen island with the necessary ingredients, prepared the pots and pans, and improvised some strawberry dishes.

To start with we cooked a risotto with strawberries. This may sound like a dessert dish to you however it is a savoury plate which can be enjoyed as a primo.

Recipe: Risotto with strawberries

Risotto with strawberries

Ingredients for 4 persons:

  • 400gr Vialone Nano rice
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • 150g fresh strawberries
  • 40g extra virgin olive oil
  • 100ml rose wine
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 1 tblsp sugar
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • salt
  1. In a large saucepan, toast the rice in 20g extra virgin olive oil. Add all the boiling vegetable stock at one go and mix delicately.
  2. Cover the saucepan and leave rice to cook 14 minutes on a low flame.
  3. In another saucepan, put the sliced strawberries, the sugar and the wine. Cook for 8 minutes on moderate heat and stir gently without breaking the strawberries.
  4. When the rice is cooked, add the strawberries mixture, turn off the flame and amalgamate with butter and parmesan cheese. Serve with a couple of sliced strawberries and some balsamic vinegar if you prefer.
Due to the strawberry surplus we also opted for a strawberry dessert. So my brother prepared these light crepes with rice flour, which we served with strawberries. Initially, I was suspecting that my father wouldn’t like them since he is not a fan of crepes and pancakes. However, the texture of the crepes was so delicate and fluffy that all of us had a second helping.

Recipe: Gluten free crepes with strawberries

Gluten free crepes with strawberries

Ingredients for 4 persons

  • 400ml milk at room temperature
  • 150g rice flour
  • 20g seed oil
  • 2 whole eggs
  • salt
  1. In a bowl beat the eggs with a pinch of salt. Add the milk and mix well adding the oil and the rice flour. Keep beating lightly to obtain a soft and consistent cream. Leave mixture to rest for around 30 minutes in a cool place.
  2. Take a non-stick frying pan, add a ladle of the mixture and cook the crepes one at a time.
  3. Spread with strawberry jam, add some slices of fresh strawberries and roll. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with some mint leaves.
And as it happens after every Sunday lunch we were all full as a thick, this time, mainly with strawberries from the Frawli fest in Mgarr!

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