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Interview with: Daniel Pisani

Interview with: Daniel Pisani

Oh My Malta recently sat down with Daniel Pisani, passionate foodie and founder of @lifeofmarrow, to find out a little bit more about his brand new recipe book filled with mouthwatering plant-based traditional recipes

CAn you tell us more about yourself?

I’m not really sure how to describe myself, but in a nutshell, a few years ago I was working as an IT manager with the family meat business. I’ve always loved food, but six years ago I made a change to my dietary preferences, which ultimately changed my life. Removing animal products from my diet gave me a new outlook on life and I was forced to experiment in the kitchen, which became very therapeutic for me. This change also led me to appreciate nature and its fruits much more. I couldn’t really take the office 9-5 life anymore. I stumbled upon a vacancy to work for an organic farm and I decided to go for it. Even though initially I was very nervous, it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

What are the biggest benefits of a plant-based diet?

I always reply to this question with three words: HEALTH, ANIMALS, ENVIRONMENT. The meat industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental destruction. In mainstream media, the focus is always on reducing pollution from cars and the transport system, with little mention to the huge quantity of greenhouse gasses produced by animal agriculture. Animals are artificially inseminated, forced to live in very poor conditions and injected with a whole lot of vaccines and antibiotics to prevent disease spread, and ultimately, that is the meat we are buying from supermarkets. People have lost their connection with the food they consume. They only see the final packaged product on display and the marketing used always presents happy animals grazing the green grass. This is far from reality! Ultimately, the chemicals, conditions and cruelty in the industry affects the quality of the food we are eating.

is malta vegan-friendly?

The quick answer is yes. Malta’s size means that you are never really far away from options in restaurants and over the past three years vegan products have exploded within the industry and many shops stock a wide range of plant-based products.

Where we are lacking is quality and to a certain extent, price.
The web is full of ideas for plant-based meals, which are full of flavour and more often than not, if we stick to unprocessed foods, dishes are pretty cheap to make. So in reality, there is no excuse to offer better options within restaurants. Why should I pay the same price for a steak and an aubergine stuffed with lentils? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

The people have also become more open to the idea of veganism due to its benefiting effects on climate change, health and animal suffering. However, you will still find a large portion of the population who think vegans have nothing to eat. In reality, it is the total opposite. When I switched to this diet I explored so many different ingredients; herbs, spices, legumes and so much more.
A few weeks ago I was serving traditional recipes like ross il-forn (baked rice) and mqarrun (baker macaroni) on a menu where I didn’t specify that they where vegan. When people came to tell me how good the food was, they where amazed that those dishes included no animal products and could not believe it. They where all happy nourished and stuffed and that’s what mattered.

What inspired you to publish a recipe book?

Vincent’s Eco Farm; the place where I work and spend most of my time was the greatest inspiration. I spoke to the farmers and local artisans, who inspired me to dive deep into the REAL Maltese and mediterranean way of living. Being surrounded by nature and fresh harvests daily made me appreciate the local cuisine. I created a vegan and more nutritious version of the Maltese bread pudding, which was a huge success. I even sold some at the shop and people loved it. This inspired me to create a collection of plant-based traditional recipes. I could also see around me that the local cuisine is often shunned in favour of westernised fads and dishes, so I wanted to create a book that would show pride towards the Maltese culture and cuisine! Throughout the whole time, I was living on the farm in a small room we call the barn. The book took me roughly two years to complete, with the bulk being done during the pandemic.

Can you give us a little more information about it?

The book is a collection of traditional Maltese recipes, which have been recreated to be more nutritious and plant-based. It is not only a recipe book but also a window into my life living closer to nature and appreciating the local countryside and culture. One thing you will find interesting is that the book is divided into four chapters mirroring the four seasons. This was done to raise awareness on the different produce available throughout the months and to stress the importance of eating seasonal and local produce.

How would you describe the recipes?

You will find a mix of sweet and savoury dishes based on the time of the year. All recipes are plant-based, however if one wishes, they can easily substitute with eggs and dairy, although I naturally do not suggest it. I tried to keep the recipes simple, short and with easy to access ingredients. I also took note of intolerances within the book, providing alternatives to the different allergens people might have. It is a very modern take on Maltese cuisine, and I believe, it is the first of its kind!

Where can readers get the book from?

The book is available at the islands’ book stores. It is available on my website, at Vincent’s Eco Farm and a handful of small businesses and friends selling healthy foods. For a list of retailers you may visit my blog or website lifeofmarrow.com