Our maltese cuisine is typically Mediterranean and it can be traced back to Sicilian, French and North African cuisines. However we are also influenced by British cuisine and we do love our cup of tea at tea time. Here are a few of our favourite Maltese meals, both sweet and savoury, that are representative of our island and its rich cultural heritage. We recommend you try at least a couple of them if you are visiting Malta on holiday.
Torta tal-Lampuki / Fish Pie
The first dish is a seasonal fish pie made from the Lampuka fish, a golden and silver fish which also goes by the name Dolphin Fish or Dorado. The pie’s mixture is a combination of Lampuki, spinach, capers, olives and several other vegetables that tickle your fancy and the pastry is usually shortcrust. This is the most popular way locals like to eat this type of fish but you can also shallow fry it or cook it with tomato sauce, capers and green peppers. Dorado is in season from the end of August till November and it is very likely that you’ll hear vendors from the fish market or roaming the streets with their stall yelling: Lampuki! So if you visit Malta between those months, be sure to try it!
Timpana / Macaroni Pie
Timpana, a pie made up of pasta, also known as the queen of carbs here in Malta. This recipe is an adaptation from Sicilian cuisine and traditionally a Sunday meal, but today is prepared as an entree for an occasional lunch such as Christmas or Easter Sunday. The pie’s mixture is made up of penne-shaped pasta, bolognese sauce (tomato and minced meat), egg and cheese. The whole mixture is then placed in a short crust pastry base and then sealed with a flaky puff pastry.
Pastizzi / Savoury Cheese and Pea Cakes
One of the most popular snack on the islands definitely has to be our Pastizzi. A pastry snack made of puff pastry stuffed with either ricotta or mushy peas. You can find pastizzi at any time of day and you are guaranteed to find this snack at every corner of our winding roads, either at a Pastizzeria or at a cafe of every village. The most well known pastizzeria and probably the most popular in Malta, is called Crystal Palace, in Rabat, Malta. It also known to locals as ‘is-Serkin’, which is actually the owner’s nickname. Besides indulging in pastizzi, tea in a glass (also known literally as ‘Te fit-Tazza’) or a bottle of our local tangy orange flavoured soft drink, Kinnie, goes very well with this snack.
Fenkata / Rabbit Stew
Rabbit meat was relatively affordable during the Middle Ages and was considered the ‘beef of the lower classes’. In fact, both rabbits and hares were hunted in large quantities until prohibited by the Knights of St John in order to safeguard the island’s meager resources. The dish became popular after the lifting of the hunting ban in the late 18th century, and today it is one of those concoctions widely identified as the ‘national dish’.
A fenkata would typically consist of two courses – the first dish would be a huge bowl of spaghetti tossed in a rabbit ragu, wine and herbs. The second dish would be the actual rabbit meat cooked in a similar sauce, served with peas and fries. One of the most authentic places to try fenkata is United Bar in Mġarr (Malta).
Hobz Biz-Zejt / Maltese Sandwich
Another delicious snack called ‘Hobz Biz-Zejt’ which literally translates to ‘bread with oil’ is a typical Maltese sandwich smothered with tomatoes and topped with onions, maltese goat’s cheese known as ‘gbejna’, tuna, olives, capers, herbs and drizzled with olive oil. However there are many other ingredients you can include, pickled or preserved and it makes for a perfect snack for vegetarians or pescetarians. The Maltese bread and ripe tomatoes are what define this snack and it is much loved by everyone in Malta. There are two kinds of bread used for this type of sandwich. The first, a ftira which is a disc-shaped semi flat bread and the second a round loaf, both with a crunchy crust and fluffy inside. It is well known for being a simple summer snack and it is available almost anywhere on the island. Being so simple to make and yet so fresh and tasty, Hobz biz-zejt is extremely popular in the summer when by the sea or on a boat. It definitely goes down well on our boat charters!
Kwareżimal / A Traditional Lental Biscuit
Being that Catholicism is the official religion in Malta, there is a fasting period of 47 days of which locals do not eat meat or sweets, particularly on Wednesdays and Fridays. During that period it is traditional to prepare sugar free biscuits to snack on, known as kwarezimal. The recipe tends to vary but is usually made up of almonds, honey and spices and is shaped like a large oblong biscuit, approximately 15cm by 5cm wide and 2cm thick. Some prefer to them served hot, sprinkled with roasted almonds or a drizzle of local honey.
Kannoli / Ricotta-filled Cornets
Kannoli, a sweet ricotta-filled cornet, is a delicious desert made up of deep-fried pastry tubes filled with sweetened ricotta. The ricotta is sometimes mixed with pieces of candied peel or chocolate chip and then both ends of the kannol are coated in crushed roasted hazelnuts. They are generally served in cafés or confectionary shops, such as Busy Bee, Santa Lucija or Fontanella cafe.
Qagħaq tal-Għasel / Treacle or Honey Ring
Qaghaq tal-Ghasel also known as Honey Ring is a traditional Maltese sweet. It is mainly served during the Carnival or Christmas period but it is also enjoyed at tea time over a hot cup of tea. It is a ring of pastry filled with, what locals call, ‘Qastanija’. A mixture of marmalade, sugar, lemon, oranges, mixed spices, cinnamon, vanilla and syrup. You can find this sweet at any confectionary, baker or grocer and is sold in different sizes.
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