>

An Ode to Maltese Cuisine Part 1

Maltese cuisine part 1

It’s undeniable that Maltese cuisine is delicious because of its reputation for being fresh and packed with flavour. Maltese cuisine is composed of dishes that make use of the most readily accessible homegrown ingredients, giving them an inimitable and idiosyncratic flavour that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.

Originating from a long relationship between the islanders and the many civilisations who colonised the Maltese islands over the centuries. This union of tastes has given Malta the wide-ranging amalgamation of Mediterranean culinary techniques it’s known for today. Our eatery, Marina Club appreciates Maltese food, and it’s for this reason we’ve dedicated some of our menu dishes by paying tribute to our local produce. And so, without further ado, let’s delve deeper into the delicious smorgasbord that is Maltese cuisine….

Maltese Bread

It’s the food we miss most when living abroad, because it’s like no other. Traditionally, baked Ħobż tal-Malti has a firm and crusty shell exterior and soft and fluffy white bread in its interior. Its distinctive taste is incomparable to regular loaves of sliced white bread available at your local grocery store.

It comes in different sizes – this round loaf is typically bought whole or sliced and is many a time the staple carbohydrate of a dish and other times the accompaniment to a plate of pasta, and the aide to mop up the remnants of the hearty sauce. Apart from its delectable flavour, this bread’s textural contrast between the crunchy outside and soft airy centre is what makes it absolutely irresistible.

Then you have the Ftira: a flat, baked sourdough bread, also available in a number of sizes sharing its crunchy exterior with its regular loaf of Maltese bread. Both varieties are favourites in work and school canteens and usually prepared with a variety of local ingredients, usually prepared to your tastes.

If you’re a fan of Maltese bread, then chances are you love Ħobż biż-żejt. Literally translating to ‘bread with oil’, this traditional Maltese snack is popular among locals and foreigners alike, all year round, but particularly during the summer months. Typically rubbed with fresh Maltese tomatoes or tomato paste, then drizzled with olive oil and filled with tuna, capers, onions, marinated vegetables, olives, garlic, sea salt and pepper. And once you’ve dug into this delight, as us Maltese would say: Ghidli x’qed tiekol!

Pastizzi

Of course, you cannot call yourself an enthusiast of Maltese cuisine without having ever tried one of the most popular snacks on the islands – pastizzi. These savoury pastries are traditionally made out of filo or puff pastry and filled with either warm ricotta cheese or mashed peas. More recently, the chicken filled pastizzi topped with sesame seeds have also been introduced to the local pastizzerias. They’re as cheap as they are delicious and addictive.

Pastizzi are popular snacks at any time of day, all year round and have become so popular in recent years that various cafés and restaurants abroad, such as the UK, Australia and Canada have even started serving this delicious snack – yes they’re that good!

Timpana

This is a baked macaroni dish. The pasta is cooked in a sauce made with a Maltese version of a Beef Ragu, garlic and cheese. Some people even opt to add bacon and hard-boiled egg to the sauce. The macaroni is then baked in a pastry case, with the end result being a rich and filling pasta dish that leaves everyone asking for seconds!

Fish

Fish has always been prevalent in Malta, being an island where it’s fairly easy to come by in its surrounding waters. While all sorts of local fish are available throughout the year, there are specific types of fish that are customarily more widespread among the Maltese.

A visit to the Marsaxlokk fish market on Sunday morning will exhibit the varied fish catch from Maltese waters. When fish is in abundance, you’ll find Aljotta (fish soup) readily available virtually everywhere. Depending on the season, you’ll see Spnott (Seabass), Dott (Stonefish), Ċerna (Grouper), Dentici (dentex), Sargu (White Bream) and Trill (Red Mullet). Then you have Swordfish which is prepared as a dish called Pixxispad (Grilled Swordfish Steak).

In early to late autumn, you’ll find the famed Lampuka, a species of dolphin fish also referred to as ‘Mahi-mahi’. Caught seasonally and available from mid-August to the end of December, although commonly available as a fried fish, it’s also popularly served in pie form, known as Torta tal-Lampuki.

Rabbit

Stuffat tal-Fenek, or rabbit stew, is one of the most popular ways to cook rabbit meat in Malta. The stew is cooked gradually, over approximately 2 hours, to bring out all the rich flavours. The stew is tomato-based, and includes seasonal local vegetables.

Then, of course, there’s the typical Fenkata or ‘Maltese rabbit nights’, where friends and family gather together to eat and celebrate whatever occasion that’s on the calendar. A fenkata would typically commence with a starter of Maltese water biscuits with bigilla, followed by a plate of spaghetti with a rich rabbit sauce. This is followed by the main course, which is traditionally rabbit meat cooked with white wine and garlic, served with fried potatoes or chips.

Exotic Proteins

Apart from rabbit, there are a few other proteins found on the Maltese menu. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the following proteins are probably up your alley in the taste buds sense:

Quail: a locally caught type of bird, usually fried and served with vegetables. It’s a small bird but makes for a tasty meal.
Snails: normally served in a bowl on their own, cooked with herbs and spices and eaten with a toothpick.
Horse meat: cooked in a stew to tenderize the otherwise quite tough meat, this is yet another Maltese favourite.

So if we’ve tempted your taste buds with this post, we suggest that you book your next family gathering or friends’ reunion at Marina Club, located at the gorgeous Valletta Waterfront. We have a vast selection of dishes that not only do Maltese cuisine its well-deserved justice but have our own original take on the typically traditional local dishes.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, for our latest updates.