MALTESE CULTURE - FOOD
Maltese cuisine is the result of a long relationship between the Islanders and the many invaders who occupied the Maltese Islands over the centuries. This marriage of tastes has given Malta an eclectic mix of Mediterranean cooking. Although the restaurant scene is a mix of speciality restaurants, there are many eateries that offer or specialise in local fare, serving their own versions of specialities.
Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons. Look out for Lampuki Pie (fish pie), Rabbit Stew, Bragioli (beef olives), Kapunata, (Maltese version of ratatouille), and widow's soup, which includes a small round of Gbejniet (sheep or goat’s cheese). On most food shop counters, you’ll see Bigilla, a thick pate of broad beans with garlic. The snacks that must be tried are hobz biz-zejt (round of bread dipped in olive oil, rubbed with ripe tomatoes and filled with a mix of tuna, onion, garlic, tomatoes and capers) and pastizzi (flaky pastry parcel filled with ricotta or mushy peas).
A trip to the Marsaxlokk fish market on Sunday morning will show you just how varied the fish catch is in Maltese waters. When fish is in abundance, you’ll find Aljotta (fish soup). Depending on the season, you'll see spinotta (bass), dott (stone fish), cerna (grouper), dentici (dentex), sargu (white bream) and trill (red mullet). Swordfish and tuna follow later in the season, around early to late autumn, followed by the famed Lampuka, or dolphin fish. Octopus and squid are very often used to make some rich stews and pasta sauces.
Favourite dessert delicacies are Kannoli (tube of crispy, fried pastry filled with ricotta), Sicilian-style, semi-freddo desserts (mix of sponge, ice-cream, candied fruits and cream) and Helwa tat-Tork (sweet sugary mixture of crushed and whole almonds).
Malta may not be renowned like its larger Mediterranean neighbours for wine production, but Maltese vintages are more than holding their own at international competitions, winning several accolades in France, Italy and further afield.
International grape varieties grown on the Islands include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carignan, Chenin Blanc and Moscato. The indigenous varieties are Gellewza and Ghirghentina, which are producing some excellent wines of distinct body and flavour. The main wineries organise guided tours and tastings. Depending on the season, tours cover the entire production, from the initial fermentation through to the ageing process. They also include wine history museums and opportunities to taste and buy a variety of vintages - BON APETIT
MALTESE CUISINE Traditional Recipes
Maltese Sausage * Bigilla (Bean Dip) * Pastizzi * Beef Olives * Baked Rice * Baked Macaroni * Ravioli * Canelloni * Fried rabbit * Rabbit Stew) * Vegitable Soup * Fish Soup * Squid * Bread Puding * Koskos * Maltese Bread * Fried Noodles Ruggata * Date Pastry (Imqaret) * Honey Rings * Maltese Nougat * Easter Cookies (Figolli) * Kwarezimal * Qassatat * Yeasted Sesame Seed Rings *
Zalzett Malti - Maltese Sausage
1 kg. thickly minced pork with fat. + 100g.salt.
40g. crashed black peppercorns
40g. crashed coriander seeds
5 cloves of garlic
5 tbsp. chopped parsley
Pork intestines skin (for filling )
1. Mix the pork well with the salt, making sure that the salt has dispersed and that all the meat
has been salted properly.
2. Add the other ingredients, mix again thoroughly and let it rest in a cool place for half an
3. Using a sausage filler, fill the skins with the mixture then tie with string at 3-4 inch. apart
to form sausage,
4. For drying, prick each sausage with fine pins and hang in the coolest place possible for 2-4
days to dry.
Bigilla - Broad Beans Dip
- 1lb dried broad beans
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoons of mixed fresh mint, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
If preferred hot and spicy add;
- 2/3 chili peppers
- a dash of Tabasco
Soak beans overnight replace water. add salt to taste bring to boil & simmer until beans
are soft mash beans and place them in a serving dish Pour olive oil on top Add other
ingredients to taste. Can be served hot or cold as an appetiser.
Ingredients:For the pastry
400g. plain flour
½ tablespoon. salt
200 ml. cold water
50g. margarine, or lard, or butter
For the filling
salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs beaten (optional)
Method for the pastry:
- Mix the sieved flour and salt with approximately 200ml. of cold water into a soft pliable but not sticky dough, knead well
leave to rest for about 90 minutes When rested, roll stretch and pull the dough on a floured surface, into long strips, spread
half the fat over the entire length of dough, first with a palette knife then with clean hands, take one end of the dough and
roll it up like a Swiss roll, make it uneven turning it tightly sometimes then more loosely. Rest it in a cool place. repeat the
rolling and sometimes so that the roll is once more a long strip, spread the remaining fat, roll it up again like a swiss roll this
time in a different direction from the first roll, all these rolling enhance the flakiness of the finished pastry, rest it again.
Method for the filling:
- Mash the ricotta with the salt and pepper, if preferred add the beaten eggs, (The addition of eggs makes the filling drier
- Cut off pieces of dough the size of a small ball with a sharp knife, pull out each piece with your fingers like a thin disc
- place a spoonful of ricotta mixture in the center, close the dough around it and seal the edge with your fingers.
- Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake on 200'c / 400'f /gas 6. for 25 minutes or till golden.
· Bragoli - Beef olives Beef olives Beef olives
4 slices lean beef
75g. tomato paste
4 rashes of chopped bacon
salt and pepper
2 hard boiled eggs cut to small pieces
tsp dried basil
- Prepare the beef by flatting them on a board.
- In a bowl mix the chopped bacon, chopped eggs , parsley, salt and pepper and a little bread crumbs.
- Fill the flatting beef with the mixture then roll them up and put tooth picks so the filling won't come out.
- In a hot frying pan fry the beef olives slightly to seal them and set them aside.
- Fry the shredded onions, add the spice , basil ,tomato paste and chopped tomatoes to make a salsa (sauce)
- Pour the salsa on the beef olives cover with water or beef stock, bring to the boil, simmer for 20 mns. add the
peas and continue simmering for another hour on very low flame till thicken.
Ross il-Forn - Bake Rice
250g.rice for the sauce
(for the sauce)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 sliced onion
50g. tomato puree (tomato paste)
300g. beef stock
salt and pepper
4 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon basil (optional)
- In a frying pan heat the oil then fry the meat and sliced onion until meat is browned then add chopped tomatoes
and tomato puree. Add the stock and simmer for 30 mns.
- Boil rice in salted water , when half cooked strain and cool under a runny water.
- mix the rice well with the sauce then add the beaten eggs and the other ingredients.
- Put the mixture into a greased baking dish and cook in a moderate oven for 45 mns or till top is brown.
Imqarrun fil- Forn - Baked Macaroni
400 g. macaroni
50 g. tomato paste
2 hard boil eggs
50 g. grated cheese
600 ml beef stock
200 g. minced beef
100 g. onions
salt and pepper
- Peel and chop onions and fry till golden color.
- add meat and continue cooking until brown,
- Add tomato paste and stock and cook for further 20 mns.
- Boil the macaroni in plenty of salted water when ready drain off the water.
- Add the meat, sauce, cheese, chopped hard boiled eggs and seasoning to the macaroni.
- Blend everything together
- In a greased pie dish put the macaroni in the dish and bake for 30 minutes in a medium to hot oven.
- To make Timpana ... encase a backing dish with plain pastry, Fill up with the unbaked macaroni, cover with 4 beaten eggs a
nd sprinkle with
shredded cheese of your choice. Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes.
Ravjul - Maltese Ravioli
Ingredients:(For the Dough)
200g. plain flour
pinch of salt
2 beaten eggs
( For the filling)
salt and pepper
2 eggs beaten
4tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
- Mix the sieved flour, semolina and salt carefully, add the eggs and knead until dough is like elastic, if to stiff add a drop of cold water.
- Rest the dough for 1 hour and prepare the filling.
- Put all the other ingredients ricotta, beaten eggs cheese parsley salt and pepper into a mixing bowl mix everything well.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll into long thin strips dampen the edges with water.
- Put small balls of ricotta some 2cm from the edge of the pastry and 4cm apart.
- Turn one edge of the pastry on the other one and press to seal, using a ravioli cutter cut out the pastry 10 cms away from the filling.
- Leave to nest for few minutes, boil in salted water till soft.
- Serve with tomato sauce (Zalza) and grated cheese
Kannoli tal-Irkotta - Ricotta-filled Cannelloni
Ingredients:For the Pastry:
8 oz flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons drinking chocolate
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons red wine
1/4 pint cold water
For the Filling:
14 oz ricotta
2 oz plain chocolate
4 oz glace' cherries
2 oz icing sugar
4 oz blanched & roasted almonds
- Mash the ricotta, chop up the chocolate, cherries and almonds.
- Stir these into the ricotta together with the sugar.
- Make the pastry: using an electric mixer or mix by hand, using the rubbing-in method.
- Roll the pastry out thinly. Cut into rounds with a cutter and place each round over a tube.
- In a deep pan fry the cannelloni a few at a time turning them until they are evenly brown.
- Cool the cannelloni on absorbent paper.
- Fill cannelloni when cool with the prepared filling.
Fenek Moqli - Fried Rabbit
1 tablespoon Cooking Oil
Dry White Wine
1 tablespoon Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cut rabbit in medium sized pieces Chop some garlic In a large bowl place the rabbit and cover with white wine Mix in the garlic, Thyme, and add some salt and pepper. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight or for approx. 6 hrs
In a large shallow frying pan heat the oil. Add some garlic to the oil and fry for a few minutes on moderate heat (do not fry till golden brown) Take the rabbit pieces and fry in large frying pan, turning occasionally, till rabbit cooks well.
You may add salt, pepper and thyme (or your favourite herb). Sprinkle more white wine occasionally.Rabbit may be served with French fries and salad.
For Fenkata .. See recipe below
Stuffat tal-Fenek - Rabbit Stew
A hearty rabbit stew to get you through a cold winter's night! Preparation time, 30 minutes; Cooking time, 3 hours. Serves 4 to 8.
1 rabbit, cut up in pieces
2 cups water
2 beef cubes
1/4 tsp Rosemary
1 large onion, chopped
5 medium carrots
5 medium potatoes
1 medium turnip (kohl rabi) Gidra
1/4 cup Tomatoe paste
60 mL water (1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
In a large frying pan, lightly brown the rabbit pieces in cooking oil. Add the 2 cups of water with dissolved beef cubes, salt, pepper
and rosemary. Cover tightly and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until rabbit is getting tender.
Peel and chop vegetables. Remove rabbit from heat and pick out fine bones, if desired and transfer to a larger pot.
Add vegetables to rabbit pot. Mix the flour or gravy powder with the 60 mL water and the crushed garlic. Add to the stew stirring occasionally.
Simmer for another 40 minutes, until all vegies are soft and the stew slightly thickened.
Fenkata Use this stew as topping to dishes of boiled spaghetti
Minestra (Maltese Vegetable Soup)
50g white onions
20g celery stick
20g tomato paste
50g rice or small pasta
- Slice and wash all the vegetables.
- Fry the onions, till tender.
- Add all vegetables except the rice/pasta.
- Add the water, bring to the boil, and simmer till vegetables are cooked.
- Add the washed rice or pasta. Cook until quite thick.
Aljotta (Fish Soup)
500gr fish (Traditionally fish heads)
2 large onion
5 cloves garlic
4 peeled tomatoes
I tablespoon oregano (fresh if available)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons tomatoe paste
Half cup uncooked rice
Salt, pepper, olive oil
- In a large saucepan heat 2 tbsp olive oil and fry the sliced onions until soft.
- Add the crushed garlic and the herbs.
- Fry for a few minutes then add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to make the salsa.
- Add the fish pieces to the sauce while adding enough water to cover the fish. Ideally use a strainer place the fish in it.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bring to the boil. cook for 30 min until fish meat separates from the bones.
- Remove any bones from the soup and add the rice.
- Cook for another 20 min or until the rice is cooked, but not overcooked.
Spagetti biz-zalza tal-Qarnit (Spaghetti with octopus sauce)
112g black olives
250ml red wine
84g tomato paste
salt and pepper
- Peel and slice the onions. Cut the octupus into even sized pieces, fry in a little oil and water.
- Add the tomato paste and herbs, continue cooking for about 20 minutes.
- Prepare the tomato, by peeling them and chopping them finely, add to the onions.
- Strain the octupus but save the liquid.
- Slice the olives and lemon zest. Add all remaining ingredients to the first mixture and simmer.
- Add the octupus liquid and simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Cook spaghetti until soft or al dente.
Kosksu Bil-Ful (Pasta with Broad Beans)
10 oz. Kuskus small pasta that looks like shotgun pellets
5 oz. peeled broad beans
3 oz. peeled tomatoes
2 oz. tomato paste
2 sprigs garlic
2 pt. water
- Chop the onion and garlic and fry in a little olive oil till golden brown.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste.
- Add the mixed herbs, and the water. Bring to the boil.
- add the kuskus, and simmer untill cooked.
- Add the broad beans and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Pudina tal-Hobs (Bread Pudding)
2 large Maltese loaves (or equivalent), preferably a day or two old
400 g. sugar
350 g. margarine
1 grated rind of one lemon
2 tablespoons chocolate powder
100g. currants or sultanas
500g dates cut into small pieces, some walnuts or almonds (roasted and cut into
small pieces) (optional)
one small glass brandy or rum (optional)
- Soak bread in water for two hours until soft, drain bread properly
- Add margarine and sugar. Mix well.
- Beat eggs and add to the mixture. Add the other ingredients.
- Put mixture in a container well greased and cook in a moderate oven for about an hour (Till top is brown and crispy).
- Serve hot with custard or cold on it's own.
Hobz (Maltese Bread)
345ml luke warm water
1 tablespoon milk
- Mix the four, salt and margarine. Add the yeast.
- Make a mixture of the luke warm water, sugar and the milk.
- Add on to the flour and knead the mixture well until the dough is white and elasticated.
- Place in a bowl, seal with cling film and a wet dish towel, place in a warm place for about 1 hour.
- Work the dough, cut into small pieces (50g). Place on a baking tray, paste with egg, cut with a knife and let
the pieces rest for about 15 minutes.
- Cook in oven 450F (232C) gas mark 6-8 for 12-15 minutes.
Tarja Bil- Bajt (Fried Noodles )
600g. Fine noodles (thin spaghetti)
salt & pepper
25g. margarine, butter or vegetable oil
100g. parmesan cheese
- Boil the noodles in boiling salted water and drain well.
- Put in a big bowl, add the eggs, cheese, salt and pepper, mix together.
- Using a frying pan, warm up the butter, margarine or veg. oil.
- Cook the mixed noodles and fry till golden then turn and fry the other side till both sides are golden.
Ruggata (Orzata - Almond Soft Drink Cordial)
There seem to be many different ways to make this Almond Syrup, but the one following seems to be very close
to the real thing.
500 grms Barley powder.
100 mls Almond essence.
250 grms white sugar.
2 liters water.
- Put barley in water and boil for 30 mns.
- Let cool and drain well. using just the liquid.
- Add the essence and sugar and boil again for another 30 mns, making sure that the sugar has melted.
- Cool and put mixture in glass bottles and place in a refrigerator.
As this is a syrup, use the same as normal cordials by adding small amount of the syrup to a glass of ice-cold water
to make a refreshing drink.
Imqaret (Date Diamonds)·
Ingredients:(For the pastry)
pinch baking powder
(For the Filling)
some brandy or anisette
- Mix margarine, flour and baking powder together and work until smooth. Mix sugar and egg together.
- Add to the flour and work to a smooth dough. Leave to rest for 2 hours.
- Put the dates with two tablespoons of water in a small pan and heat for a few minutes. Add zests and brandy and work the mixture with a fork.
- Open the pastry into long strips about 10 cm wide.
- Brush the edges with water. Put a little filling in the centre.
- Fold pastry. Press both edges to keep the filling in. Using a ravioli cutter cut into large diamond shaped slices
about 40cms long.
- Cook in plenty of hot oil until golden brown.
Qaghaq Ta L-Ghasel (Treacle Rings)
Ingredients:For the Filling:
Rime of lemon, orange and tangerine
For the Pastry:
2 egg yolks
50g. very finely chopped candied peel
pinch of ground cloves
- Put all the filling ingredients (except the semolina) into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- After boiling thicken with semolina, adding only a little at a time.
- Continue cooking tor a few seconds and leave to cool.
- Make the pastry by rubbing the margarine into the flour, and bind with the yolks and a little water.
- Leave the pastry to set for two hours before using. Roll out the pastry into long strips of 8cm by 15cm.
- Put some filling in the middle, the whole length of the pastry. fold the pastry. now bring the two ends of
the pastry together to form a ring.
- Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina, put the rings on the sheet and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes.
Before cooking, take a sharp knife and lash the top of the pastry ring in different places.
Qubbajt (Maltese nougat)
800 g sugar
300 g roasted almonds or hazelnuts
1 teaspoon freshly powdered cinnamon
- Oil a shallow baking tray and line first with greaseproof, then a sheet of rice paper
- Dissolve the sugar in 250 ml water over low heat in a heavy saucepan, shaking but not stirring, boil to 154 c.
- Grease a marble or a similar slab with a little oil mixed with water and spread the nuts over it, sprinkle the cinnamon,
then pour the hot syrup turn and work the mixture with two spatulas.
- When it starts to harden spoon it into a container lined with the rice paper and leave to cool.
Figolli (Maltese Traditional Easter Kookies)
These are a type of (gingerbread men) you can do them in all kinds of shapes in Malta its tradition in Easter time )
Popular with the Maltese, the children (and grown ups)) during Easter.
Ingredients:For the pastry
800gr plain flour,
3 teaspoons baking powder
(or 800gr self raising flour)
4 eggs yolks,
1 teaspoon vanilla essence,
For the almond paste
600 g caster or icing sugar
2-3 egg whites
Grated rind of I lemon
A few drops orange flower water
600 grams almonds, ground
For the icing
Small Easter eggs
- Make the pastry by mixing the sugar with the flour, then rubbing in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
- Add the grated lemon rind, the essence and the yolks, mixed with a little water or milk if necessary to make a dough. Leave to chill.
- Add the sugar, orange flower water and lemon rind to the ground almonds, and bind with the egg whites
(See also KWAREZIMAL recipe below)
The Figolli shapes
- Roll out the pastry and cut out your shapes. Make two of each figure as they will be sandwiched with almond paste.
- Lay the first shape on a greased and floured baking tray, spread with almond paste, leaving a small margin.
- Lay the second shape over the top and press the edges together. It helps if you wet the edges with a pastry brush to stick Bake
at 200'C/400'F/gas 6 for 5 minutes, then at 180'C/350'F/gas 4, for about 20 minutes, until pale golden. Cool on the tray.
When cold, coat with glace icing, then decorate with royal icing in a different colour,
While the icing is soft, press a small foil-wrapped Easter egg in the middle of each shape.
KWAREZIMAL·Almond Cakes (Almond Filling)
200 grams blanched almonds
200 grams plain flour, sifted
250 grams caster or golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Orange flower water
Grated rind of 1 lemon, 1 orange and 1 tangerine
Honey and additional almonds
- Lightly toast the almonds. Grind coarsely. Mix with the flour, sugar, cinnamon, rinds and a little orange-flower water.
- Add just enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead lightly until well amalgamated and shape into ovals, approximately
17.5 cm long, 5 cm wide and 2 cm thick.
- Place on greased and floured baking trays and bake at 190'C/375'F/gas 5 for about 20 minutes.
- While still hot, spread with honey and press on the almonds.
For the Dough Ricotta Filling: or Peas/beef Filling
1 kg plain flour
1 kg ricotta 1x 250 gr. tin peas
8 ozs butter or margarine
1 x 250 gr. Corn Beef
1 tsp salt
1 large onion sliced
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup peas (if desired)
Salt & pepper to taste
Cream the butter with the eggs and salt. Add the flour and knead well. If necessary
add water to hold dough together. Allow the dough to rest for a good while (about an hour).
Meanwhile, prepare the filling
Add the ricotta, eggs, parsley and salt in a bowl and mix to a firm texture. Let is stand
for 15 minutes
Prepare the Peas/beef Filling as for a normal meat pie and let it cool down.
Now roll out the dough (1/8" or more) and using a circular cutter (such as a wide mouthed
cup) press out circles onto which you can drop a heaping tablespoon of filling. Lift the
circle of dough at four points, pinching each point so that the filling is enveloped in a
small bag of dough. This takes practice to perfect as dough has a tendency to release itself.
Do not overfill. Bake on a lightly greased/floured double cookie sheet,
in a 375F oven, just until the dough firms up and a light brown crust of filling can be seen
at the top of the cakes.
Qaghaq Tal-Hmira bil-Gulglien ( Yeasted Sesame Seed Rings )
300g plain flour
15g fresh yeast
100g caster sugar
pinch of ground cloves
1 tsp. ground aniseed
grated rind of 1 orange or tangerine and 1 lemon
juice of an orange or tangerine
Prepare a yeast sponge, sift 200g of flour into a large basin, cream the yeast with 125ml. warm water 25'C , make a well in the flour and add the liquid, sprinkle over some of the flour from the sides of the basin, cover and leave in a warm place for 60minutes.
Rub the butter into the remaining 100g flour, add the sugar, spices, orange and lemon rind, mix this with the sponge, adding the citrus juice, add more warm water if the dough is to dry, ( but it should not be too slack) bring the dough together, then turn on to a work surface and knead for 10 minutes, put to rise, covered in a warm place for at least 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
Return the dough to the work surface and knock out any air bubbles, divide into 6 or 8 pieces, roll each into a long even sausage but more the width of a chipolata, they should not be too thick, form each into a ring by joining the ends and pressing firmly together, have a plate well covered with sesame seeds amd press each ring down on to the seeds so the top is thickly coated, place on greased baking sheet, cover again and keep in a warm place until doubled in size.
Bake at 200'c/400F/gas 6 for 25-30minutes, until golden brown, cover with a clean tea towel as soon as they come out of the oven and leave until cold, this serve to keep the crust soft.