Malta

  • After being in Italy several times around Christmas time, whether in Sicily, in Tuscany or in Rome, this year we decided to go a little further south and went to Malta. It was a destination that has always attracted me while in the meantime I didn’t know what to expect. And it was actually a nice discovery. First of all a place with a new language. Indeed, like the history of Malta, the language is a very surprising one mixing so many influences. Sometimes it feels like Italian, sometimes includes English with Arabic tonalities, others it looks like Greek or Eastern Europe languages. The cultural heritage is quite impregnated in the food culture as well. The proximity of Sicily provides the country with all the Italian produces I love so much, but Malta also has a cuisine of its own. Being a rather simple desolated island, and inhabited by a crowd of hunters and fishermen there is a lot of game and fish cuisine. The former that I wouldn’t try as game is not part of my diet, in particular they love rabbit and for me it is impossible to eat rabbit. For fishes that was easier. They have always nice way of cooking them, whether it’s grilled with a sauce made of tomatoes and capers or in a soup. But to be honest the thing that impressed me most and attracted me most was the Maltese breads and pastries.
  • Baker’s stand at a morning market

    We started discovering the breads at a morning market in Birkirkara, the little baker stand had so many varieties. I fell for the little sesame rings called Qagħaq tal-Ħmira.

    Qagħaq tal-Ħmira

    While they look like a bagel they are so much more delicious!!! Slighly flavored with anis, cloves, and lemon, they are a little soft and slightly sweet, sonething closer to a very light brioche. I’ve already found the recipe and will try very soon making some. The other bread that was really nice was the ftira, a kind of flat bread, used often for sandwiches. It’s a bit like focaccia but much less oily. It can be served with all kind of things inside. I opted for an English contemporary version at Emma’s kitchen, a cafe recommended by my IG friend @junkikat who lived in Malta last year.

    Ftira

    The other savory discovery was the pastizzi. A Maltese pastry filled with ricotta, or green bean puree, or sometimes chicken or meat. While the one with ricotta were super delicious, the one with green beans purée slightly spicy were just over the top! The mix of the buttery pastry dough, crunchy and light and the thick purée slightly flavored with clove and other spices… damned that was sooo…. delicious!!! Pastizzi are a big tourist thing so you can find some everywhere. Sphynx is a chain store making some, but not necessarily my favorite. The Crystal Palace in Mdina had a good selection and they were quite good. In Birkikara we had some from a small cafe that were really good. Each are different so you can try them all and find the one one you like best!!

    Pastizzi

    Finally, let’s talk sweets! Maltese traditional sweets are made with honey, almonds, figs and are super delicious too. The most famous is probably Qagħaq tal-għasel. A ring with fig and honey in a little dough.

    Qagħaq tal-għasel

    While they look rather dry and stuffy, the fig and honey filling is actually all creamy and soft. My favorite ones were from Parruċċan in Mdina. There are also sweets with almond base paste such as what they called macaroons and that can be found in any confectionary, and also the delicious Kwarezimal, normally for Lenten, but available all year round at cafe Cordina in Valetta.

    Well of course we just didn’t spend all our time in Malta eating. We also visited many places, went horse riding and enjoyed the nice weather. I really loved Mdina for walking around the nicely renovated and clean city, all the places to visit, the vista of the island from up there, and the lack of touristic shops (may be because it’s winter…). There were also much fewer people than in Valetta hence it was very quiet.

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