Anyone who is planning on visiting the beautiful Mediterranean Island of Malta will no doubt be aware that the traditional cuisine is a tantalizing mix of national influences including French, Italian, British and North African. The Maltese have of course developed and enhanced their dishes over the years, and a key component is the freshest locally produced ingredients.
If you’re looking to recreate a few meals from your visit to this little island, or simply want to try out a new cuisine, then here are some traditional Maltese dishes.
Afternoon finger food
The spring through autumn weather on the island is hot, and in the afternoons you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants serving some delicious appetizers with crisp, refreshing wines. Maltese dips such as bigilla are served up some olives, fresh crusty bread and a locally produced glass of Sauvignon Blanc. You can find the pastizzi, which is a flaky ricotta cheesecake, sold all over the island although the ingredients will sometimes differ; peas and onions or anchovies are also used. Mediterranean salads are of course a simple, healthy option and can be made with egg, tuna, feta and chicken – remember the olive oil.
Traditional main meals
As you’d expect from a Mediterranean Island, seafood is heavily used in Maltese dishes. Grilled or braised lampuki served with tomatoes, herbs and olives makes for an ultra-healthy meal, although this type of fish is often used within a pie or in a soup, why not try it at home before your trip? Bragoli is another well-known dish consisting of mince parcels, chopped eggs, parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs, all wrapped in mouth-watering beef slices.
The locals love to stuff foods for some reason, and chicken stuffed with rice or a sausage mix and served with fresh seasonal vegetables is an option, or if you want to get creative there’s always the stuffed octopus served in a very spicy tomato sauce. Rabbit is another popular meat which can be stewed in a mixture of wine and herbs.
Those sweet desserts
Yes, the Maltese really do have a sweet tooth, and you have a number of tasty treats to try out. Imgaret is a deep-fried pastry stuffed with dates, while the kannoli is another fried pastry filled with ricotta. The torta tal-marmurat is as sweet as it gets, and this chocolate and icing topped cake comes filled with almonds. The fried dough balls, called sfineg ta’ san guzepp, are smeared in the famous island honey, and inside lies delicious sweet ricotta.
The Maltese islands have plenty to offer in the way of complimentary wines, and indigenous grape varieties include Girgentina and Ġellewża. The island wines may not be as popularly known as other Mediterranean countries but you will find many typical varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.
There’s no doubt that the Maltese are passionate about their food and wine, and if you’re looking for a meal with a difference, you should try out any of these dishes. Remember that the freshest ingredients should be used throughout in order to maintain the authenticity of this country’s cuisine.
Images by Andrea~S and larrylurex used under the Creative Commons license