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The Malta Independent on Sunday 4 February 2018


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Keeping up with

TRADITIONS Magro Brothers Group of Companies is well known as a family business and we spoke to CEO, Christian Magro, to discover what this means to him, as the company’s new CEO.

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here did you go to school, what subjects did you enjoy most and what hobbies and interests do you still have? All my childhood schooling was done in Gozo and then I attended University in Malta. The subjects I used to enjoy varied from Technical Drawing, Philosophy, Marketing and finally Public Policy. I was always fascinated in understanding the ‘why’ of things, especially - why and how people in different circumstances interact and decide as they do. My main hobbies as I grew up were keeping aquariums and reptiles, cars, and scuba diving. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I only managed to keep one hobby; i.e. keeping aquariums. Recently though I am finding interior organizing/design also interesting and the possibility with new software to generate and create ideas and be able to see them is of great help and satisfaction. What did being a member of one of the islands’ largest family firms mean for you while you were growing up? Well there was always the pressure that everybody knows you and expects certain things/behaviour of you, yet I can say that I did manage to overcome such

pressure and learnt how to deal with it and had a normal childhood/youth. Being the eldest in the family meant also that I was the first to pave the way in any new stage of my youth, especially curfew, who to go out with and where to go out, etc. On the other hand, all this journey was a training exercise in shaping my judgement and sharpening my responsibility to help build up a good character. When did you decide to actually join Magro Brothers and have other family members of your generation come on board too? Since I was a small child at the age of six, I do remember the excitement during the summer months of going to the factory to help out my father and uncle. Help out meaning going on the tomato lorries and fork lifters and pestering our employees with questions. As I grew up, this interest was always there and any school project I remember having, I always selected topics which came second nature to me and investigated areas within our operations. The pocket money during the summer months was also a puller and during my late teens I used to spend all my summer holidays working at the factory during the week instead of going to the beach.

The interest in the operations side and manufacturing were always a puller and these were important factors persuading me to choose this career. I was never forced into this role and maybe this was another factor that led me to this decision. Once you do something you love doing, then generally there are no boundaries to success. In our family, we don’t have any cousins from the Magro side and both my younger brother Nicholas and sister Joanna, have decided to follow the family business in different sectors but still of great importance to the whole organization. How has your career grown within the company? As explained I started my career in my late teens and actually started as a line operator by checking certain parameters on the line to ensure that the machines were actually performing as planned. During the winter months, I still was assigned tasks which were related to documentation of processes and procedures since these were the foundations of our preparation for ISO and BRC technical standards. Following this I joined the Quality Assurance team and continued to gain different insights of our various processes and operations. Following the QA role, I then

moved to supervisory and started leading one of our production lines. This was very challenging and interested me a lot because it gave me the instant satisfaction of creating something. I enjoyed this role and then I started interesting myself in Operations and at the age of 32 I was assigned the role of Operations Manager. This exposed me to different sections of our organization and not just the manufacture. I was involved in storage, logistics, maintenance, planning, etc. Obviously, such a role was very challenging, of great responsibility but it was rewarding, with a lot of satisfaction especially when you manage your team and achieve set targets. From this role then the roles of general manager followed some years ago.Now I am finding my feet in the new role of CEO, of not only our core company but the whole group. Here I’m still new but I am confident that with the backing of my brother and sister, dedicated team of employees and the support of my family I’ll manage to continue to bring success to our family business. And which of Magro Brothers landmarks and achievements are you most proud of? I cannot pinpoint one in particular, the changes that the com-

panies have gone throughout these years are remarkable and show that we have a dedicated team of loyal and extremely capable people who ensure that we achieve what we set out to achieve. All the achievements made are a demonstration that with proper leadership and a great team support nothing is impossible. What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about creating and maintaining success in a business such as yours? Some of the main lessons learnt so far through this journey are to keep loyal to your values and always believe in yourself. Life isn’t easy and was never easy and unless you work hard for what you want to achieve, this won’t come. Obviously, one works hard to be able to play hard. And what are your hopes and visions for the company as it heads towards the 2020s? My vision for our company is to expand our operations in different market segments and while keeping loyal to the glory of Food as a core sector, seek to venture into other operations were I believe we can bring value and in turn continue to be proud of our origins as a family and as Gozitans.

When fresh really means FRESH

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he best dairy products no longer come directly from the farm yard, but careful good production practices ensure their freshness, convenience, integrity and great taste. Most people think of fresh food products as those which arrive on their tables almost as soon as they leave the sea, or the farm or the oven.What is important is how fresh each ingredient is and how rapidly each production process is completed in the best hygienic conditions. Take, for example, one of our most wellloved and traditional dairy products – the fresh cheeselet. From milking the cows, sheep or goats and making the cheeselets to taking them to the distributors, shops, bars and restaurants actually takes several hours. Then there is the time the cheeselets spend on delicatessen shelves or displayed in markets as fresh farm products. How ‘fresh’ are they really, by the time they are on our plates? Not all, but some milk may be produced in conditions where hygiene, machinery, controlled temperatures and transport containers are not given the

considerations and attention needed to ensure either freshness or true quality. Ħanini cheeselets have all the flavor, texture and character of a cheeselet fresh from the dairy, because they are produced from Magro Brothers’ own dedicated dairy facility. They ensure that, milk is sourced from the most efficient farms and healthiest animals and that, all milk is free of any harmful bacteria and antibiotics, which is very important. The milk is then pasteurised, ensuring there can be no traces of unhealthy bacteria. Cheeselets made from unpasteurised milk may have delicious flavours but, even in this day and age, they still carry health risks, especially for

pregnant women and those whose immune systems are compromised. However, pasteurising destroys a lot of the flavour of the cheese so a lot of research, went into separating only the healthy bacteria, which is added back into the milk thereby ensuring that the Ħanini cheeselets keep the traditional flavour of the very best fresh cheeselets. Dried cheeselets, from cows, sheep and goats milk are also made with several delicious flavourings: Gozo herbs; sundried tomatoes and garlic; basil and chilli and smoked. All vacuum packed to remain as fresh as the moment they were made.Throughout the whole process of making and air drying, the cheeselets are kept in absolutely perfect conditions of hygiene, temperature and humidity. This continues as they are packed, either in brine or wine vinegar, to ensure that their consistency and texture remains uncompromised. This is what fresh really means – a product made, packed and sold under the safest conditions and with the guaranteed, appearance and flavour as fresh as you could wish for.


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An ISLAND CELEBRATES

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lags are flying on Gozo, as usual, but this year they include a reference to Valletta’s Capital of Culture status. Well, Gozo also has more than enough culture so as well as celebrating carnival we are contemplating the delights of taking a break and exploring the island’s charming town and country sites. As food and feasting play an important part at carnival we talked to Magro Brothers’ new CEO Chris Magro and on page six there are

some delicious recipes for sweet and savoury treats. As Gozo gears up for the big parades we go back to Carnival at the time of the knights. And, if you are wearing a mask to wear during the celebrations, make sure you choose the right character. Until our next Gozo pullout in August, when we will be celebrating all aspects of summer on this wonderful island, we hope you enjoy the coming months. Nicky

From the VERY BEGINNING Love it or loathe it, there has been a carnival in Malta for 443 years and the tradition doesn't look as if it will die out any time soon.

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ts traditions of masks, both beautiful and grotesque, parties, balls, colourful floats and costumes and outlandish humour and satire, all presided over by the far-largerthan-life King Carnival, were there in some way from the beginning, and have been adopted and adapted to suit current sentiment, and legislation, for centuries. As with many aspects of local culture and habits, we have the Knights of Malta to thank for this particular revelry, specifically Grand Master Piero de Ponte. Unsurprisingly, since the knights were originally based in Victoria, the first festivities were held there. In the week before Ash Wednesday, some knights played games and took part in various skilled tournaments and pageants. But their frolics were too much for the Grand Master who insisted that some of their banquets and masquerades were excessive and lead to fights and abuse, which did not befit members of a religious community, such as they were. Displays became limited to the type of tournaments and training that would equip them for fighting the Turks. Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette also had to curtail the knights’ behaviour. In 1560, they decorated their Order’s ships, which were moored in Grand Harbour because of bad weather. La Valette, who had allowed the people to wear masks, which was against the law at any other time of year, did not approve of the number of masked guests invited to celebrate on board the ships, with more music and dancing than had ever been seen before. Masks have been an issue during Carnival for centuries; as has mockery and micky taking. A ban, in 1639, on women wearing masks or even taking part in balls in the knights’ auberges, on pain of being publicly whipped, was instigated along with one forbidding anybody to

Children performing versions of the Il-Parata

Main Guard Carnival 1882 wear a costume depicting the devil. These bans angered most people who blamed them on a certain Father Cassia, a Jesuit who was Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris’s confessor. As a result a group decided to ridicule the Jesuits, with one dressing up as a Jesuit with offensive words written on his back and the others playing scoundrels ‘beating’ him without mercy. When the Grand Master heard of this he ordered the arrest of a knight, Girolamo Selvatico, from Padua, who was believed to have been the ring leader. But the incident caused havoc. Young knights attacked the Jesuit College and used force to help Girolamo escape from St James Cavalier. They also demanded that the Jesuits be expelled from Malta. They were and their church was closed until things died down. For an order with an ethos of respectful sanctity the knights of all ranks certainly

made the most of carnival, although in 1664 celebrations were muted as they were mourning the death of Grand Master Raphael Cotoner. But, in 1678 the knights were again involved in scandalising some of the Maltese, prompting Grand Master Nicolas Cotoner, who himself was not easily shocked to take action, probably because the complaints came from the Inquisitor Ercole Visconti. Two days into the celebrations, in 1679, Paolo Testaferrata, depositary of the Inquisition was insulted for no good reason by two masked knights named Saraceni and Gori. The Inquisitor complained to the Grand Master who insisted an apology should be enough to prevent any trouble and Saraceni went, with another two knights to apologise to Testaferrata, under the excuse that he had not recognised him. Not surprisingly, he also paid his respects to the Inquisitor. Several Inquisitors came down heavily

on the knights’ enjoyment of Carnival, sending spies to watch them and reporting any miss behaviour to the Grand Masters. In fact, Ramon Despuig, who was Grand Master from 1736 to1741 was even asked to dedicate himself to the Order’s reform and, although there were knights whose conduct was certainly unbecoming, he did little about it other than comment that he did not know what was happening on the island, and arrest and expel a few young knights whose carnival exploits were unacceptable. But a lighter view was taken by Grand Master Marc Antonio Zondadari who introduced a new game to the celebrations the Kukkanja, and the site where the first pole stood can still be seen today. There would also have been great excitement when, on the Grandmaster’s signal, hoards of spectators poured onto the square to seize as many of the ham joints, strings of sausages and even live animals that had been concealed near the guard house under tree branches full of leaves. This was because the people were allowed to keep whatever they were able to grab and carry away with them. And such items would have been prizes indeed. By 1730 parades were taking place. These were led by the Grand Master’s carriage, with the cavalry marching on either side to the beat of drums. A procession with open carts and carriages, decorated by the people followed – an obvious forerunner of today’s cavalcade of floats. Much more muted versions of carnival were celebrated in the 19th century but things livened up during the British period, when carnival became a vehicle for themes based on sharp satire and floats lampooning politicians and unpopular government edicts. It was only in 1926 that carnival came to be staged almost entirely in Valletta and Floriana, although other villages hold their own celebrations, especially Victoria and Nadur, in Gozo. Carnival came into its own in Gozo in 1952. The island has its own floats and parades, which take place mostly in the main square in It-Tokk, Victoria. Gozo’s carnival is an autonomous version of the festivities, and has its very own character, based more on the sentiments and traditions of those who organise it and the hundreds who prefer to enjoy carnival on Gozo. The contrasting carnival of Nadur, however, doesn’t follow the official standards, and has no committee or organisers regulating it. It is far more of a free for all. It also has a reputation for being somewhat dark, with noticeably sinister tones. But it is very much a source of curiosity, fascination, amusement and sometimes fear, for those who are drawn to the village during carnival.


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Beautif It has been a long cold winter, but spring is on the way so let's start planning some relaxing getaways on Gozo

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t’s too easy to spend a little time either totally chilling, or chasing vigorous activities, with Gozo so close by. No flights to book, no spending hours vegetating in airports, no currency issues or luggage restrictions. Comparatively little time is spent actually travelling to and fro, which is brilliant because every minute of a long weekend or a couple of snatched days is precious. Simply hop in a car, or even a bus, take a short trip across the channel and you are in what could so easily be another world. Some people like to plan even the shortest stay down to the last detail and there is a lot to be said for having at least your bed for the night/s sorted before you leave home. Staying somewhere you know and trust means no worries over what to expect and speeds up the unwinding process from the moment you shut your front door. Of course, the type of place you choose to stay in might depend on what the word 'break' means in this context. Is self catering a real break for busy, working mothers; especially if basic bedding and towels are not provided? The idea may be to have most meals out, but is that practical with young children? A child friendly hotel with room service and a spa would probably be a better choice. Meanwhile, couples, seeking a little romance or relaxation, and groups of friends looking for material to feed to their families and ‘Insta’ followers, make a beeline for a farmhouse full of character and a real, live fireplace, or a penthouse with eternal views and state of the art amenities, or the latest boutique hotel in all its restored glory and charm. The variety of accommodation, from adorable ambiance to atrocious taste is amazing. And thanks to the internet you can get 'carefully edited' previews of much of it. Whatever you make of any the trip advisor comments is up to you. And so is how you spend your break. Setting off each day and enjoying whatever turns up, or whatever you feel like doing in the moment, can be very satisfying. After all the idea of a break is to let go of ties and timetables and refresh yourself

with the freedom of not needing to be anywhere or get anything done. Deciding on one or two things you'd like to do, while you have the chance, is fine. But leave plenty of scope to be flexible. Take time to explore. There is always somewhere new to go and places change at different times of the year, offering a fresh experience each time. It's cool enough still to enjoy the countryside, with its early flowers and crops appearing in a mosaic of fields. It's a joy to wander through the pretty villages that still have their original authenticity and genuine feel of community or gather in Victoria where the street life has an energy of its own and there are shops, entertainment and any number of different places to eat. If it's exercise you're after go walking, sedgewaying, cycling or horse-riding. Visit some of the farms, factories and artisans that are open to the public. Wander round Citadella and remind yourself that this island too has an amazing history. You will be surprised at how much you can pack into a day that's all your own; and how quickly your batteries will recharge. The mid-term holidays are coming up, then Valentine's Day, and Easter is not far away. The reasons for a quick break are there, just grab the opportunity.


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ful BREAKS

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Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients

‘MOLE SAUCE’

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aitrose Cooks’ Ingredients ‘Mole Sauce’ is A rich intense Mexican style sauce, inspired by traditional mole flavours of smoked paprika, garlic, onion, chipotle chilli and dark chocolate Waitrose does not produce just products, but good food which is carefully prepared to maintain the quality you expect from all Waitrose products. As Arkadia shares the Waitrose view that few things in life are more important than the food you buy, we are pleased to make this wonderful range available to our customers.

Recipes Mexican Chilli Recipe Serves 4 Preparation: 5 minutes Cooking: 2 3/4 hours Ingredients: 1 jar of Mole sauce 1 tbsp of oil 1 onion, finely sliced 400g of diced casserole steak 400g can of chopped tomatoes 200g drained kidney beans 150ml of water

Method: 1. Pre-heated oven to 160°C / Gas mark 5 2. Heat the oil in a saucepan then add the onions and beef and cook until slightly brown. 3. Add the whole jar of Mole sauce and fry for a further 3 minutes. 4. Add the chopped tomatoes, drained kidney beans and water. 5. Transfer to a casserole dish and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. 6. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander and sour cream, and serve with steamed rice.

Recipe 1

GOZITAN CHEESELETS & BEAN PIE Ingredients: 400g shortcrust pastry* 6 Ħanini Fresh Cheeselets, mashed potato cut into small pieces 2 eggs, beaten salt and pepper 250g broad beans, peeled from outer and inner skin 60g raisins 2 grated Ħanini Mature White Cheeselets *For the shortcrust pastry: 250g plain flour 100g margarine water, as necessary Method Heat the oven at 200°C. Grease a round oven dish with margarine. Roll out part of the dough, leaving enough pastry to cover the top. Even out the dough, roll onto a rolling pin and open it over the greased dish to line the bottom. In a separate bowl, mash the Ħanini Fresh Cheeselets, add the potato, eggs, salt & pepper and mix well together. Continue by adding the broad beans, raisins and Ħanini Mature White grated Cheeselets. Pour the mixture over the dough-lined dish. Roll out the remaining dough and cover the dish. Press the edges of the pie with the tines of a fork. Brush the top of the pie with egg or milk and score the dough with fine slits. Bake for around 50 minutes and serve. As an alternative, you may add a can of Mayor Processed Peas instead of the beans.

Recipe 2

CAULIFLOWER STEW

Serves 6 Ingredients: 2 onions, peeled 2 carrots, peeled fresh garlic, cut in thin rings 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 tablespoons Three Hills Kunserva 1 gravy cube dissolved in 150ml warm water 1 litre warm water 8 potatoes, roughly cubed 600g cauliflower cut into florets 300g can Mayor Processed Peas 6 eggs 6 Ħanini Fresh Gozitan Cheeselets salt and pepper to taste

Method: Chop the onions, carrots and fresh garlic. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the chopped vegetables and fry till onion softens. Add the Three Hills Kunserva, the gravy cube and warm water to the mixture. When the water starts boiling, add the potatoes and the cauliflower florets. Simmer for around 30 minutes. Add the Ħanini Fresh Cheeselets, the can of Mayor Processed Peas and the eggs and continue simmering until the eggs are set. Serve with crunchy local bread.

SWEET TREATS on parade If you plan to give up sugar and cakes for Lent here is some traditional carnival confectionary to enjoy first

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n obvious number one is Prinjulata, the rich, cake made largely from pine nuts, hence its name. Prinjo is pine nut in Maltese. The other ingredients are meringue icing, nuts, candied peel, sponge cake, cherries, chocolate and various generous splashes of booze from Vermouth to whisky, according to taste, all items from which people were expected to fast in the 40 days till Easter. Prinjulata is sold either by weight in slices taken from one huge cake, or as a whole dome-shaped cake in smaller sizes. It can be found all over Malta and Gozo and people quickly decide which bakeries use the best ingredients and provide the most tasty examples. But, many prefer to make their own and it’s a fun thing for older children to do in the mid-term break. Cenci are typical sweet biscuits from Tuscany, in Italy, although they can be found all over the country under different names. The name Cenci meaning rags, comes from the irregular shapes in which the mixture is cut, making it look like bits of rag. They are made from a rich, eggy pastry flavoured with rum or grappa, which is rolled out and cut into strips then swiftly deep fried, drained and sprinkled with sugar. Perlini, are the small, bullet-hard sweets made from almonds covered in a crunchy sugar icing, which is usually in pastel colours and a metallic effect of gold or silver. In olden days they were showered gently down from the top of carnival floats to the children below which, if they cost anything like the amount they do today, was a gesture of extreme extravagance.

glace cherries – half chopped, half halved and/or 50g of candied peel. In another bowl beat two heaped tbsp of icing sugar and 250g of butter into a smooth mixture then mix in 200ml condensed milk, 50g of melted chocolate and a few drops of vanilla essence. Add this to the sponge mixture and fruit mix and blend together in a mixer until it can be formed into a dome shape. You could use a pudding basin lined with cling film as a mold if you like. Leave for at least a couple of hours in the fridge and when the prinjulata is set decorate it with 250 ml of double cream, stiffly whipped, trails of melted chocolate and extra cherries, nut and angelica.

RECIPE FOR PRINJULATA

RECIPE FOR PERLINI

Buy, or make a plain sponge and break it into pieces in a very large mixing bowl and drizzle 1tbsp each of vermouth and whisky over it. Add 100g of chopped pine nuts, roasted if you like, 100g of

RECIPE FOR CENCI

Beat the two eggs and add two tbsp of olive oil and one tbsp of brandy or grappa while beating. Then add 80g of icing sugar and when well mixed sieve 300g of flour on top. Mix till it resembles pastry and knead till smooth. Roll the mixture into a ball, wrap it in cellophane and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then roll out to a thickness of three millimetres and cut into strips of about 15 cm x 3 cm, a pastry. Then use the pastry wheel to cut a line in the middle of each strip, avoiding the edges. Deep fry the strips in hot oil. Test the temperature by dropping in a small piece of the pastry. It is hot enough if the pastry immediately starts to sizzle and brown within seconds. When the strips become golden remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. Then sprinkle with icing sugar and serve. If you wanted to try making your own perlini the easiest way is probably to use blanched almonds, coated in royal icing, tinted with different coloured food dyes. Enjoying them made this way will be kinder to your teeth too.


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MASKING the obvious What does your mask say about you? Should you find yourself tempted to join the carnival festivities incognito, so to speak, here’s a fun guide to help you choose the best mask for your mood.

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Traditionally a standard Venetian disguise needed to ensure anonymity at political decisionmaking events. For those who want to get lost in the crowd or get up to mischief. Wear it to make an impression if you meet someone special

Colombina

This colourful, heavily decorated mask is the choice of a woman who is happy to let her personality shine through. Wear it to a main event, where anyone who is anyone will see it.

The Medico della Peste

This mask usually has a simple in design. Its association with plague doctors would make it a must for anyone connected with medicine, disease, forensics or hypochondria; providing they were also a titchy bit weird. Good for summer parties and Halloween.

The Volto

A beautiful, simple mask which, because it covers the entire face, guarantees total anonymity. Wear it to the party if you want to be a mystery, leave quietly or don’t want a particular person to know you there.

The Pantalone

The mask of the classic Italian theatre character Pantalone, who was amusing and intelligent. It would suit someone who is an easy conversationist and enjoys telling jokes. From cocktail party

to masked ball just use it to flaunt your sparkling personality and wit.

The Arlecchino

Be warned, this mask resembles a joker and often has a large headpiece, or collar, or both, possibly with bells on. It really needs an lol prankster and good sport with a big smile, who could wear it at an April Fool’s party, during Halloween, or just for fun.


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