Celebrating olive oil
Michael’s Restaurant in Valletta recently celebrated this year’s olive harvest and the pressing of Ciccio Puntara olive oil from Modica, Sicily.
For chef patron Michael Cauchi, this oil is the talisman of his kitchen.
“Top-quality olive oil is like a fine gold ring. The moment I come across such oil, I want to take it home and savour its flavour and see how it highlights the aromas of the food I prepare. This apart from the nourishing qualities associated with olive oil.”
The restaurant uses this oil liberally in almost all dishes on the menu, including desserts.
“One of the main ingredients used to make sweets is animal fat. But we go for the healthier version by using olive oil. Even our mqaret are cooked in olive oil, which is healthy fat with no traces of cholesterol,” Cauchi continued.
The company Ciccio Puntara also produces dry pasta from Russello wheat. This quality grain has become quite rare over the years because most growers have opted for varieties with higher yields.
Michael’s Restaurant stocks this dry pasta and makes fresh pasta from Russello flour.
“Russello wheat is much more expensive than other grains because it’s more difficult to cultivate. The wheat is grounded in traditional windmills and crushed by millstones,” said Ciccio Puntara owner Francesco Di Raimondo.
However, he said that Russello has a high level of protein, is easy to digest and leaves a pleasant sensation on the palate.
The firm started a campaign over 50 years ago for the preservation of the tastes, flavours and aromas of the vegetables, herbs, grains and honey that are typical ingredients of the Mediterranean diet.
“That’s why we call our-selves ‘messengers of taste’,” Di Raimondo concluded.