Chicken, prosciutto and feta

Baked chicken breast with prosciutto crudo and feta

I had no idea what to make for dinner last night. I didn’t feel like making anything that required too much of my time and I had some chicken breast defrosting in the fridge. I didn’t want to make any Asian food as we’d eaten Chinese the night before and I didn’t really fancy pasta either.

So I rummaged around in my fridge and found some feta and prosciutto still unopened. And then I came up with this dish.

Andrew loved it. He said we should make it more often. I loved that preparation time was minimal and I could play around on my new laptop while it was in the oven. I also liked that it was not fried and that it was made from scratch. I try to avoid eating processed foods whenever I can. It was also pretty freakin’ delicious.

How you make it:

Turn your oven on to 195 Celcius and pour half a teaspoon of olive oil into a baking tray and spread it around so it covers the base.

Tenderise two pieces of chicken breast and lay them on the baking tray. Sprinkle fresh pepper and salt and garlic granules over them. Put two slices of prosciutto on each one and crumble feta cheese over them.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Serve with chips or mash and your favourite vegetables.

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Some questions answered

How do you like your steak cooked?
I am very fussy about my steak. It has to be fillet steak with as little marbling as possible. I like my steak cooked medium-well, so it’s browning on the outside but still a little red in the middle. I can’t eat steak if it isn’t tender either.

Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity?
Yes. Some have said I resemble Rachel Weisz; others have said Drew Barrymore. I’ve also been told I look like Sara Rue.

Do you have a job?
I do. I’m a sub-editor for a newspaper.

If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to change a regret?
I’d like a million euro, please. I don’t believe in regrets. Everything in life is a learning experience.

How do you feel about Valentine’s day?
I have not decided yet. The rebel in me wants to say it’s a holiday invented by greeting card companies, and that it makes you feel like crap if you have nobody to celebrate it with. On the other hand, I like romance and I like feeling special. Of course, you have to treat your partner well every day of the year. You don’t need to assign a day to do that.

Which shoe do you put on first?
The left one. It feels a little strange if I put the right shoe on first.

Your favourite film.
I love films, so I have a whole list of films I love to bits. I would say my all-time favourites, however, were Donnie Darko, Moulin Rouge!, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Do you play any instruments?
I studied music theory for 12 years, and took piano lessons for 10 years. When I was 15, I got my first guitar and taught myself to play chords. I also sing.

Do you have any pets?
We don’t have any pets in the apartment, no. My dog, Gaia, lives with my parents. I miss her but she’s a pretty big dog. This apartment is definitely not big enough for her. I’d love to get a pet but both Andrew and I work so we don’t really have the time to spend with an animal. Also, I’m scared of animals making a mess in my apartment.

What are you afraid of?
I have a really intense fear of cockroaches. I don’t like flying and I hate heights.

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Words are tasty

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

That is how I see the alphabet.

I am a synaesthete. Wikipedia describes synaesthesia as “a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway”.

The form of synaesthesia I experience most often is grapheme –> colour synaesthesia. This means that when I see, hear or think of letters and/or numbers, I experience colours.

A good way to explain it is this: think about the word ‘banana’. Most of you will probably have a vague sense of the colour yellow because bananas are yellow. That same vague sense of colour is exactly what I see in any word or number, because to me, ‘a’ is red, ‘v’ is fuchsia, ‘n’ is yellow.

I was raised bilingual. I learned to speak English and Maltese at the same time. My experience with learning the two languages was different for each of them.

Since living in Malta would make me more exposed to Maltese, I learned the language primarily through the aural dimension, therefore the language has a musicality to it, for me at least.

However, learning English was and still is something extraordinary for me. Although I was exposed to spoken English, I owe my fluency to my being such a bookworm. I have always been very good at spelling, especially with English (which would be deemed more difficult than Maltese as the latter has concrete rules, and very few exceptions). When I read, or am asked to spell a word, the letters, which all have different moods and colours to me to begin with, all take on a different position until the result is a blend of colours/light.

I am mostly able to spell English words I’ve never encountered in life or reading because of this. Taking the example of ‘idea’: this word to me starts and ends in bright white, with moderate tones of a bright and a pinkish red, and a green undertone (that’s the ‘e’). To me that feels like the correct spelling, or mood even, for the concept of an idea.

On the other hand, ‘eyedihr’ is a jumble of colours which do not make any kind of sense together. The green is very prominent as both ‘e’ and ‘r’ are on the green part of the spectrum, but then there are violent yellows and oranges which do not make sense at all, especially as the word ‘idea’ is linked to similar words in Latin which have the same colour tones.

Another form of synaesthesia I experience is spatial-sequence synaesthesia, which means that dates, years, months, and so on, all seem to me to have a definite place in a ‘line’ of sorts. Almost a timeline. Days of the week and months also have colours, and because of my ordinal linguistic personification, most numbers have personalities, apart from their colour. The number ‘9’ is red to me, and also evokes the notion of a sexy, curvaceous woman, like Jessica Rabbit. The number 5 is a yellowish-green colour and reminds me of a gentleman in a hat and waistcoat, with a pocket watch.

I only got to know that synaesthesia was not ‘normal’ a few years ago, at university. I thought everybody thought letters had colours, or that everybody thought the songs on Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell album were strictly green and blue. One day, I asked my mother if she thought Friday was yellow, and she gave me a weird look. So I googled it and found it was not something everybody experienced.

I’m quite proud of it. I owe my good spelling skills and my good musical ear (I have perfect pitch) to it. I wouldn’t want to live life without the experience of synaesthesia. It’s pretty cool having your own personal light show in your head.

For more information on synaesthesia, check out the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

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Egg-fried brown rice with onions, peas and pancetta

I came up with this dish one afternoon. I had the day off work and was thinking of making myself a slice of toast for lunch, when I decided I wanted something a bit more, well, substantial. It’s fast, pretty nutritious, and also very tasty.

How you make it:

Boil some brown rice (or heat up a microwaveable packet, if you want to make it even quicker). Meanwhile, heat up some olive oil (no more than a teaspoon) in a pan and fry an onion and the pancetta and peas. In a separate pan, heat some margarine (half a teaspoon) and throw in the rice and an egg, mixing constantly. Add the rice to the peas, pancetta and onions, mix well and add some soy sauce. Enjoy.

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Books need homes too

One of my first and most vivid memories is of my parents saying “a book will always be your true and constant friend”. I must have been about three, sitting in my father’s lap and reading a book about butterflies, or about chocolate rain and the boy who ate it all; or about roger bear. The latter was a rather bizarre book about a bear about whom all I can remember is that he begins to drown and goes ‘glug… glug… glug’. I have not been able to find that book or any information about it anywhere else.

Anyway, what my parents said back then stuck with me. I have never been able to give away any of my books. I even kept all my old school text books in a box in my parent’s basement. How do you give away your true and constant friend?

I love books, perhaps even more than I love reading. I love to wander into second-hand bookshops, especially in London, and smell the old and yellowing pages. I love how it feels to buy a book. I love the first page, getting to know it, becoming accustomed to the way it speaks to you. I love book covers and blurbs.

And I love keeping books. I have in excess of 300 books and I keep many of them in a lovely wooden bookshelf I had bought on sale. I keep them in alphabetical order and separated into sections, such as ‘fiction’, ‘non-fiction’, ‘poetry’, ‘critical theory’, ‘reference books’, ‘drama’, and so on. It’s the one of the few things I am anal about. My life may be a mess but it wouldn’t matter as long as my books were in order.

I think a big problem with children today (and I don’t mean to generalise; nor do I mean to sound condescending) is that many of them don’t have this love of books. I know that not everybody from my generation has it either, but this fascination with the paper, with the ink and the font, with the weight and the smell, the story, the metaphors – it is being replaced by other educational tools. By software and by e-readers. No, no, no! Don’t take the simple but profound pleasure of books away from our young. It would be a sin.

Teach them books are their true and constant friends. Teach them to make a home for their books in their room, and for the stories in their psyche.

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My best friend is leaving

Hannah and me backstage at the first Burlesque! Burlesque! show at Chiaroscuro, Valletta, in December 2008.

About eight years ago, when I was still idolising Kurt Cobain, wearing torn, unmatched, striped knee-high socks and torn up jeans, I came home from school one day to find a friend request on the now defunct deadjournal, where, in true angsty goth fashion, I vented my little heart out. The request was from somebody called ‘necrogrrl’, who was also from Malta, who was my age and who, on her alturl website, said she took books to nightclubs and posted photos of herself holding candles in a cemetery.

I was intrigued, so I accepted her request and we passively followed each other on deadjournal, then livejournal, and occasionally made comments on each other’s thinly-veiled allpoetry angst.

She went to the same sixth form I did, but we didn’t really speak, though we met each other at metal gigs and out in Paceville on the weekend.

Then, at University, we took English together. And that’s when we really started hanging out. We discovered we both loved books, obviously, but also shared the same sense of humour, taste in films, clothes, discovered belly dance together. We went to France together twice and spent numerous nights watching weepy movies and eating pizza.

On Monday, Hannah will be leaving Malta for good. She’s relocating to Dublin. I’m happy for her, but I am going to miss her something terrible. At least I’ll be visiting Dublin an awful lot.

And, really, as cliched as it sounds, and maybe somebody should cue the swelling music, true friendship can’t really be dented by distance.

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Greek salad with a twist

See, I warned you that there would be quite a few food posts on here, and here is the first one. This is something I came up with myself one evening, when my parents were coming over for dinner. It proved pretty popular, even with my 17-year-old sister, who’s pretty fussy about her food. It’s sort of like a pizza but ends up being eaten like a taco salad. I do apologise for the not-very-good quality of the photo. I took it with my mobile phone.

How you make it:

On a cold, flat surface sprinkled with flour, roll out a ball of puff pastry into a pizza-base shape and thickness. Lightly brush a beaten egg over it and pop it into a preheated oven at 190 Celcius for five to ten minutes, or until it’s slightly browned.

In a bowl, toss about 10 halved cherry tomatoes, one block of crumbled feta cheese, half a cup of chopped green olives, one or two cloves of minced garlic, fresh pepper and some fresh basil. Put the salad on the puff pastry base and put back into the oven for another three to five minutes.

Et voila. It makes a nice accompaniment to fresh fish or seafood, or as a shared starter.

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