Chef Claude Camilleri

Claude Camilleri is the chef at Palazzo Santa Rosa, Malta. The restaurant prides itself in being the only active member of the International Slowfood Movement in Malta.



















































Courtesy Kevin Drake/Malta Tourism Authority

From a culinary perspective what makes me look forward to Christmas more than the food are the drinks -- glögg, mulled wine, eggnog, and our own Maltese Imbuljuta. The last time I had Imbuljtua was more than 25 years ago. I went to midnight mass at the Ursaline Sisters’ chapel in Sliema and they served it after mass. It was thin but well appreciated nonetheless. Every parish priest should serve Imbuljuta after midnight mass!!

At Palazzo Santa Rosa we do a modern take of the Imbuljuta but keeping very much true to the original spirit as the drink or soup to have after midnight mass on Christmas day.
Traditionally this hot chestnut soup was made with dried chestnuts that were soaked overnight and cooked for a long time. I do not like this because they add a smoky flavour to the dish, blurring the wonderful balance of the soup. We prefer to use fresh chestnuts allowing the natural flavours of the ingredients to shine through.

500 grams of shelled and peeled fresh chestnuts (frozen ones are good too)
150 grams of Valrhona Pure Cacao powder
50 grams Valrhona pure cacao nibs
250 grams of caster sugar
A conservative pinch of salt
The peel of an organic Maltese Tangerine, cut into very tiny juliennes.
100 grams of crushed roasted hazelnuts.
50ml of cognac
150ml of fresh cream (50 ml of the cream whipped with a tablespoon of vanilla sugar)

Put the chestnuts in a pot and cover with water. Cook until the chestnuts are cooked through, about 25 minutes. If the water evaporates add some more hot water always ensuring that the chestnuts are all covered with water.
After 25 minutes, add the cacao and stir until it is all dissolved, add all the tangerine but a few (the others roll in icing and put them in the oven to become sweet and crisp – for garnishing) juliennes, the small pinch of salt and the sugar and cook for another 20 minutes on a low heat. The soup should thicken thanks to some of the chestnuts breaking up. Just before serving add half of the fresh cream and the cognac.
Serve in a soup bowl immediately ensuring that every bowl gets some whole chestnuts. Top with a dollop of fresh cream, sprinkled pure cacao nibs on it and some of the dried juliennes of tangerine on top of the cream. Sprinkle crushed hazelnut pieces around.