Today I’d love to be in tiny Malta (she’s 122 square miles small). I’d like to bask on a rock in the Mediterranean sun, listen to the crashing waves, and daydream until I smell dinner. And what a dinner it would be… think Italian. Think French. Arabic. Pasta and red sauce. Artichokes. Olives and capers. Rabbit stewed in wine. Fish swimming in soup.
The fresh salty air would whet my appetite. And boy would I eat.
The flavors are bold and the feelings are bolder. My heritage has taught me that Italians are full of passion and simplicity. I get the same feeling from the Maltese. This is a culture that whips up beautiful, hearty food without muss or fuss. The company is what matters, after all.
For a snack, they even enjoy spreading Maltese bread (a nice crusty slightly sour loaf is a good option) with nothing more than tomato paste – talk about simple! If you’re feeling extra fancy, add anchovies, capers, and a drizzle of olive oil. Another simple dish is the Bigilla, or spicy bean mash – a recipe which is a direct influence from Turkey.
Then there’s stuffed artichokes – one of my favorite foods on this planet (see our recipe for when we cooked Italy). The Maltese have their own version which is entirely different in flavor and texture - Maltese Stuffed Artichokes (Qaqoċċ Mimli) [Recipe].
If you’d like something more complex, then you really need to check out the Pastizzi – their flaky stuffed pastries – which contain either a ricotta filling or a mashed pea filling. The older generation continue to teach their children and grandchildren how to pull the dough as thin as leaf, then slather it with butter and lard – creating layer upon layer of flaky goodness similar to puff pastry (although word on the street is puff pastry doesn’t even come close in flavor).
Like the Italians, they enjoy their fair share of pasta – by itself, in casseroles, and even mixed into omelets. Can you imagine? An omelet filled with angel hair pasta – what sort of life have I been living that I haven’t tried this treat? (Try our Vermicelli Fritatta (Froga tat-Tarja Recipe)
If you’d like to end on a sweet note, there are Figolli – Easter cookies filled with almond paste and topped with a sweet egg candy – Marzipan Easter Cookies from Malta (Figolla) [Recipe]. Goodness gracious.
If you need me, I’ll be in Malta.
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