Food for Everyone: 4 Recipes by Debbie Schembri

Have you met Debbie? A vivacious personal Chef and the face behind Barefoot and Curious?

From working as a Chef on board yachts to staging at, not one, but two Michelin starred restaurants (Noma, Copenhagen and Coi, San Francisco), you’ve got to believe me when I say this lady has some serious culinary skills! Her food, much like her personality, is all about fun and colour and it tastes pretty damn good too!

Today, she shares 4 of her recipes that she thinks you should try making at home. (You can say she’s letting us in on some of her secrets – how exciting, am I right?!)

Ok team, kitchen at the ready, let’s roll …

Salmon on Turmeric Barley with Chickpeas & Poppadom Crisps

Salmon is not my favourite fish. Something about the way my mum used to cook it when I was growing up (mostly because, bless, she overcooked it) put me off for years. Once I started cooking I realized that actually it’s really tasty and can handle pretty big flavours like the cumin and caraway in this recipe. The trick, I find, is not to be scared of ‘under cooking’ the fish. You want salmon that is still moist and that flakes away easily. So take it out from under the grill when it is still relatively pink inside because it will continue to cook in its own heat to perfection.

I love barley as a grain as it absorbs flavours really easily. It’s affordable, keeps you feeling full and paired with the chickpeas makes a wonderfully nutritious base. If you don’t have time to make the poppadom topping don’t worry but it does make it a little bit more fun for both you and the kids to eat.

For the Salmon:

  • Salmon fillets depending on the number of guests/family
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Salt to season

For the caraway yoghurt:

  • 1 small tub of 2 percent Greek yoghurt
  • 1tsp toasted caraway seeds

For the barley:

  • Calculate about 80g dry barley per person
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated

For the poppadom topping:

  • Half a poppadom per person
  • Mix of cumin, coriander powder and Garam Masala if you have at hand.
  • Salt to taste

To garnish:

  • Mango chutney, coriander and lime

This really all takes very little time to put together. Start off by putting a pan of water on to boil and putting in the spices and seasonings listed for the barley along with a big pinch of salt; putting salt in now means that it seasons from within and will mean less salt, if any, later on. Once the water is boiling, pour in the barley. Make sure that there is always enough water so that it is boiling freely and not becoming gloopy. Test it now and again to see when it is tender. When it is, drain and mix with the chickpeas and grated carrot. Check the seasoning.

For the salmon, mix the spices and salt together with the coconut oil and massage into the fish. Place under a hot grill or bake in the oven but remove before it is completely firm. Whilst it is cooking mix the toasted caraway seeds with the yoghurt and follow the instructions on the poppadom packet. Once they have crisped up break them up into small pieces and toss in the spice coating.

Spoon the barley onto plates, top with the yoghurt and dots of the mango chutney. Place the salmon on top and sprinkle over the poppadom crisps. Garnish with fresh coriander and lime.

Lemon, Ricotta & Poppy Seed Waffles

I’ve never been a massive fan of waffles, but these are just the right balance of sweet, tangy and savoury to hit all the spots. Lemon and poppy seeds are weirdly made for each other and the ricotta gives the waffles an interesting depth and keeps them tender and moist. A dollop of zesty mascarpone and a drizzle of honey…how could your day possibly go wrong when you start it off with these? If you don’t have a waffle iron, don’t fret, just drop spoon fulls into a pan and make mini pancakes. They’ll still taste great.


  • 1 and a half cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Half teaspoon baking soda
  • Couple of pinches table salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • Juice of 1 and a half medium lemons
  • Zest of the same 2 lemons
  • Couple of drops vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsalted, melted butter
  • Half cup Maltese ricotta
  • 3 quarters cup of skimmed milk

To garnish:

  • 4 tablespoons mascarpone
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Honey to drizzle

No need to complicate things. You’re probably going to be half asleep making these on a Sunday morning. So, just chuck all the dry ingredients into one bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, zest and poppy seeds. In another bowl or jug (whatever you have at hand) mix all the wet ingredients: milk, ricotta, melted butter, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Then, just pour the wet into the dry and using a wooden spoon stir until combined. Try to avoid over stirring as this will cause the flour to start working too hard making your pancakes chewy. Seriously some lumps are fine. Better even. Heat up your waffle iron or pan and drop in spoon fulls. Don’t over fill as it will ooze out…no one likes wasted waffles!

Whilst they are cooking, use a regular spoon to combine the mascarpone with the lemon zest. Spoon the mascarpone and drizzle some Maltese honey over the waffles to finish. These go particularly well with fresh blueberries or blackberries!

Sumac & Za’atar Chicken on Farro with Orange & Pomegranate

You’re completely forgiven if you don’t know what half the words in this dish are. Cooking is about learning so let us begin: Sumac is a tart berry used in Middle Eastern cooking. It is often dried and ground to a powder. Incredibly zingy, I love it. I have found it in a few shops in Malta but you can substitute with lemon juice and zest for something similar. Za’atar: Quite simply a mixture of ground sesame and dried thyme. If you can’t find it in shops you can very easily make your own. As for Farro, this is a super wholegrain with great nutritional value with barely any fat or cholesterol. It retains a slightly chewy texture with a real nuttiness.

This is one of my favourite dishes to cook at home and with pomegranates coming into season and our fabulous Maltese oranges it’s your turn to impress your own guests with a fabulously colourful lunch.

For the marinade:

  • 8 boneless chicken thighs cut into 4 pieces each
  • 2 tablespoons Sumac
  • 2 tablespoons Za’atar ( alternatively use fresh thyme pounded with sesame seeds)
  • 2 small red onions sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic grated
  • Grated Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Generous glug of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the rest:

  • 1 and a half cups uncooked Farro
  • 1 ripe pomegranate
  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 packet of feta cheese
  • Large handful of fresh mint and more for garnish

The beauty of this dish is that the individual ingredients pack so much flavour that you barely have to do anything to them. Ideally think of marinating the chicken overnight, however, if you’ve forgotten, or are pressed for time, a couple of hours will impart enough flavour. Just throw all the marinade ingredients into a bowl or zip lock bag with the chicken. Massage it in, or, if you are using a zip lock, make sure it is sealed really well, and, I’m not joking, punch it. Repeatedly. Maybe it’s just because I enjoy it but I feel that this forces the flavours even further into the chicken whilst effectively tenderizing it. Pop it in the fridge and let it recover for a while.

In the meantime, cook the Farro according to the packet instructions. It does tend to take around an hour so be patient with it. Once it’s cooked let it cool to room temperature. Chop up the mint, reserving some for garnish and stir it into the Farro. Cut the skin off the orange and grapefruit and segment the flesh. Chop half of it roughly reserving the rest for garnish and mix in. Seed the pomegranate and again mix in half. Check seasoning and add in a drizzle of olive oil.

Turn on your oven grill. Take the chicken out of the fridge and lay it all out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. You are cooking the chicken in the entirety of the marinade. You want the chicken to be spread over the sheet evenly so that nowhere cooks quicker than other places. Grill until the chicken is cooked and the onions have softened.

Allow to cool to room temperature. Divide the Farro mix between 4 plates, top with generous amount of fragrant chicken and crumble feta over the top. Divide the orange segments between the plates and scatter the pomegranate seeds over the top finishing off with the mint. Fresh, seasonal and exciting to eat!

Carob glazed pork ribs on Sweet Potato & Avocado with Charred Green Vegetables

This is currently one of my favourite dishes! It is so, so simple to put together. Really. Things sort of look after themselves and the accompaniments cook in virtually no time at all. The pork is cooked in Carob syrup that imparts a wonderfully earthy sweetness to it. I think it works incredibly well with the floral orange blossom and the pink peppercorns. The peppercorns are more aromatic than spicy but if your children are sensitive to strong flavours feel free to decrease the amount.

Sweet potato and avocado I think are just destined for each other. Add a squeeze of lime and some spring onion and ‘Pow!’ – Heaven in a bite. I really hope you try this one out and enjoy it as much as I do. Slow cooking the ribs on a low temperature means that you can go away and get stuff done without having to worry that the meat is going to burn or dry out.

For the ribs:

  • Half a rack per person
  • About a tablespoon per rack carob syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns per rack
  • 5 to 6 drops orange blossom water per rack
  • Salt to taste

For the sweet potato:

  • A potato per person peeled and chopped into chunky cubes
  • Half an avocado per person chopped into cubes
  • A quarter of a spring onion per person roughly chopped
  • Half a lime per person
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly chopped coriander to taste

For the charred veg:

  • Handful green beans per person, trimmed
  • A few florets of broccoli per person

The pork will take around 4 hours to cook so get that going. Turn your oven to 100 degrees Celsius. Lay sheets of foil on trays and divide the carob syrup, salt, peppercorns and orange blossom water between them. Place a rack of ribs, divided in two on each tray, meat side down and rub the mixture into it. Wrap the foil around them so that they are completely sealed in packages and put them in the oven. Forget them for 4 hours.

When you are almost ready to eat, check the ribs. They should be really moist and tender. Take them out and pour the juices into a frying pan and put it on high to reduce to a glaze. At this point you can add some more carob syrup to make it a bit stickier.

Also have the sweet potato boiling and take it off to drain just before it is fully cooked as you don’t want it to be mushy. Leave it to cool a little and then mix it with the avocado, lime juice, spring onion and coriander and season with salt to taste. This can be served at room temperature.

Get a wok or pan that can withstand heat and put a little drizzle of oil in and let it get very hot. Then throw in the beans and wait for them to blister and char. Season and remove and then repeat with the broccoli. You want a lot of bite to the veg.

Pop the ribs on a tray and pour over the glaze. Serve the salad in a bowl alongside as well as the greens. Watch everyone get messy!

Thank you Debbie!

Debbie offers a chef service for private dining in clients’ homes and is also available to cater for various cocktail parties and staff events. For more information visit or follow @barefootandcurious on Instagram and Facebook

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