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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maltese cuisine is typically Mediterranean, based on fresh seasonal locally available produce and seafood, with some influence from Italian cuisine, particularly Sicily and the south. There are many unique and distinctive local dishes and the cuisine also embodies the gastronomic legacies of Malta's past, including not only Italian, but Spanish, Moorish, and more recently British influence.

Two varieties of Maltese Pastizzi

Maltese cuisine is still popular in households and restaurants in Malta. Alongside Malta's traditional cuisine with its strong Southern European character, there is today an eclectic mix of dishes drawn from other cuisines. This article exclusively refers to the traditional dishes of Malta and Gozo, still widely prepared and enjoyed on the islands of Malta and Gozo.



The distinctive cuisine of Malta has a long and rich repertoire of dishes, the best known of which are:


Starters / Nibbles

  • Żebbuġ Mimli (Stuffed Olives)Large green pitted olives filled with a piquant mixture of chopped anchovy, caper and breadcrumbs.
  • Fażola Bajda bit-tewm u it-tursin (Beans with parsley, garlic and olive oil) Large dried white beans previously soaked overnight simmered till cooked, dressed with finely minced garlic, chopped parsley and olive oil and served cold. Flaked canned tuna (tonn taż-żejt) or salt cured tuna (tonn mielaħ) and black olives may be added.
  • Fritturi Tal-Qaqoċċ (Artichoke Fritters) Floured and fried artichoke hearts, previously poached with olive oil and garlic, dipped in a batter of flour mixed with parsley and salted anchovy or garlic and deep fried. Vegetable fritters are also made of slices of pumpkin, kohlrabi, zucchini, aubergine or long gourd (qara' twil) as well as with cauliflower florets and even wedges of Roma or curly endive lettuce. The vegetables are usually raw though they may have been previously parboiled or cooked, as with the artichokes.
  • Fritturi Tal-Makku (Whitebait Fritters) Fresh whitebait are dipped in a flour, chopped parsley and minced garlic mix and deep fried in small handfuls. Served with lemon wedges.
  • Bigilla (Bean paste or dip) Bigilla is a traditional bean paste. It is made with a type of dried bean called ful tal-Ġirba, similar to those used for Egyptian Ful Medames- The beans are soaked for 24 hours, rinsed and cooked until they are very soft. Subsequently they are mashed and mixed with salt, pepper, olive oil, crushed garlic and chopped parsley. Chili is optional. Usually served with traditional Maltese ship's biscuits called Galletti or Ħobża tal-Malti drizzled with olive oil.
  • "Angels on Horseback"In British cuisine, oysters or (sometimes scallops) wrapped in bacon and grilled are called "Angels on Horseback" while "Devils on horseback" are grilled bacon-wrapped prunes, two savouries originating in Victorian times. In Malta the local version consists of small grilled, pieces of liver wrapped in bacon.
  • Bebbux (Snails) Snails simmered in red wine, Lacto (a local ale), and Kinnie with mint, basil and marjoram. Often served with Ajjoli sauce or Salsa Ħadra, see below.

Soppa (Soup)

Minestra (Thick vegetable soup)

The start of many Maltese meals is soup. Traditionally minestra is a hearty soup combining numerous fresh vegetables and one or more pulses like beans, chick peas and split peas, accompanied by a slice of crusty Maltese bread, ħobża. This dish is eaten all year round, but usually preferable in winter as a healthy, warming one dish dinner.

Kusksu (Broad Bean & Pasta Soup)

Another meal-in-a-soup, the essential ingredients are a form of small pasta beads called kusksu, which give it a particular texture, and fresh broad beans, cooked with onions and tomato paste. Some families also add another item (fresh peas or potatoes or gbejniet or small calamari) to the dish. The pasta is similar in shape to Sardinian Fregula but is not the same as North African couscous, which in Tunisia is called Kusksi or sometimes Kusksu. For many this soup is associated with Good Friday. It is a spring favorite, since that is the time when broad beans are in season.[1]

Soppa ta l-armla (Widow's soup)

So named because of the tradition of neighbours supporting poor widows living in their neighbourhood by sharing produce or meals with them. This vegetable soup is a thinner version of Minestra (see above), rounded off with fresh ġbejniet which melt into the hot soup. Usually raw eggs are added at the end and when they are just set, the soup is ready. A common variation makes the soup with just onions, lettuce, peas and carrots plus the traditional egg and cheese protein elements.

Aljotta (Fish soup)

A rich fish soup, similar to broth in consistency, with plenty of garlic, herbs like mint or marjoram and tomatoes. Usually contains rice, though variants may substitute fine long pasta or small pasta stars.

Kawlata (Pork and cabbage soup)

Thick and chunky, almost a stew, of cabbage, potato and pork knuckle with Maltese sausage (see below) and sometimes also bacon. Traditionally served as two courses with the meats removed and served as second course but may be served as a comforting one pot cold weather meal

Brodu (Clear broth)

May be a clear vegetable broth or a meat broth, which in turn may be beef or chicken or both. Stuffed vegetables or stuffed meat or chickens are often cooked in broth, also rice or pasta or small meatballs.

Għaġin u Ross (Pasta and rice)

Mqarrun il-Forn (Baked macaroni)

A baked dish made with macaroni, bolognese style meat sauce, egg, and various other ingredients varying according to family tradition including chicken livers, hard boiled eggs, peas and bacon. The macaroni is usually topped with a layer of grated cheese or besciamella (béchamel) that will melt during the baking process and help to bind and set the pasta.

Ravjul (Malta Style ravioli)

Gozo restaurant ravjul topped with grated Ġbejna

The ravjul (sing. ravjula) is typically filled with ricotta and fresh parsley and covered with a garlic scented fresh tomato sauce garnished with celery and basil. This is served with freshly-grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Alternatively spinach or minced meat is used as filling. In Gozo, Ravjul are filled with local Sheep's Cheese (Ġbejniet). Traditionally ravjul portions are sized by the number of individual ravioli, and always counted in dozens and half dozens. Ravjul can also be caramelized and served as a dessert.

Ross il-Forn (Baked rice)

Ross il-forn (or Baked Rice) is quite similar to Mqarrun il-Forn (Baked Macaroni). There is a version made with Maltese sausage (see below) that has saffron as an additional ingredient. It is placed in the oven uncooked with 2 cups (200ml) of water for every cup of rice.

Timpana (Pastry-covered baked macaroni)

A slice of timpana.

Baked macaroni tossed in a tomato sauce containing a small amount of minced beef and sometimes hard-boiled eggs bound with a mix of raw egg and grated cheese. It can be thought of as a sort of macaroni meat pie as the pasta is encased in pastry or topped with a pastry "lid" and baked till the pastry is lightly golden. The basic difference between Timpana and Mqarrun il-Forn is the addition of the pastry case or lid which makes Timpana the richer dish, more suited to festive occasions. There is also a less well known Timpana tar-Ross, where the pastry encloses rice mixed with chopped chicken livers braised with softened onions and garlic, broth mixed with tomato paste and saffron, grated cheese and eggs.

Ghaġin bl-inċova (Pasta with Anchovy Sauce)

Spaghetti dressed with a piquant sauce of tomato paste, salted anchovies and garlic is fried till crisp. Often a supper dish.

Ghaġin Grieg (Pasta "beads" with minced pork and cheese)

A short local pasta that resembles Italian "ditali" is dressed with a sauce made of minced pork, diced bacon and sliced onions long simmered in chicken broth. The separately cooked pasta is tossed first in butter, then in the pork and bacon mixture and finally with lots of grated cheese. The cheese used to be British Cheddar but today it is more often Parmigiano-Reggiano. Why this should be called "Greek Pasta" - or by some "Turkish Pasta" or even "Greek Rice" - is a complete mystery! This dish is not traditionally made in country towns and villages and seems to be known only in urban centres like Valletta and Sliema, possibly a 1950s dish

Laħam (Meat)

The excellent local pork is probably the most universally eaten meat, followed by local rabbit, mainly imported beef and local chicken and turkey. Imported lamb and veal are also popular. Game birds like quail (summien), which are now farmed, turtle doves (gamiem) and wild pigeons (bċieċen) are also popular. Offal and organ meats like pork liver and kidneys, tripe, brain, tongue, heart, stomach and tail also form part of the cuisine and are much loved by traditionalists and gourmets though not the squeamish. They are less popular today than in the past when the fine cuts of meat were not within everyone's reach.

Braġjoli (Beef olives)

A thin slice of beef rolled round a tasty filling of breadcrumbs, bacon, eggs and fresh herbs ("beef olives" in British English, "braciole" in Southern Italy or "involtini" in Northern Italy). The filling may also include a slice of cooked ham, hard boiled egg, grated cheese and a hint of Curry powder. Particularly tasty when slow braised in red wine or in tomato sauce.

Fenek (Rabbit)

Rabbit fried with wine and garlic

Perhaps because the Knights of Malta - who could eat rabbit any time they chose and enjoyed hunting them for sport - prohibited the islanders from eating rabbit with the one exception of L-Imnarja, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul held at the end of June, or maybe because most Maltese families kept rabbits as courtyard animals destined for the pot, rabbit is very popular and one of the most well known Maltese dishes, one of the few served in restaurants. The rabbit, often previously marinated, is lightly browned with garlic and herbs, then simmered for several hours, ideally in a terracotta casserole, in red wine or in a rich tomato sauce. Restaurants usually serve it with chips (french fries), and salad, though crusty local bread to soak up the rich sauces and a cooked green vegetable are more appropriate. Traditionally rabbit stew is served on spaghetti. The meal based on spaghetti with rabbit and rabbit stew is called "Fenkata" (from fenek = rabbit) and for many it is the unofficial national dish. It is enjoyed to this day in the Buskett woods on the feast day of St Peter and St Paul.

Laħam fuq il-fwar (Steamed Meat)

Since many Maltese meals begin with soup this was a way for the frugal Maltese cook to utilise the heat from the soup pot. Thin slices of beef (most often) are placed on an oiled plate and layered with the filling for braġjoli or else with garlic, chopped herbs like marjoram and parsley, and breadcrumbs or cooked spinach. The meat and filling layers, which must not be too many, are covered with a second plate or with greaseproof paper and the meat is left to cook gently and slowly on top of the soup pot till tender. A very healthy cooking method also used for cooking thinly sliced liver, Maltese Sausage or thin pork chops, and also for simmering small fish or fish fillets over an aljotta fish soup.

Falda Mimlija (Stuffed Flank)

Beef or more usually pork flank with a pocket cut into it. The pocket is filled with a mixture based on minced pork, grated cheese and parsley bound with egg. The stuffed meat may be steamed, poached in broth or baked on a bed of potatoes.

Laħam taż-żiemel (Horse or stallion meat)

Stallion meat was fairly widely eaten in the past when available, usually steamed (see above) or fried with garlic or else simmered on top of the stove or in the oven in an onion and white wine sauce. As noted by the British Food Journalist Matthew Fort farmers and country folk simply could not afford to be too attached to their working farm animals. "In the frugal, unsentimental manner of agricultural communities, all the animals were looked on as a source of protein. Waste was not an option"[2]

Zalzett tal-Malti (Maltese sausage)

Maltese sausage is typically made of pork, sea salt, black peppercorns, coriander seeds and parsley. Another version includes garlic. The plain version is dried whereas the one containing garlic is to be consumed fresh. It is short and thick in shape and can be eaten grilled, fried, stewed, steamed or even raw when freshly made. More recently a barbecue variety has become popular. This variety is essentially the same as the original but with a much reduced salt content, and has a thinner skin.


Fresh Sea Urchin Roe, a prized delicacy, on toasted Gozo bread

Fish is much eaten on the two islands and Maltese know from experience which fish is best baked, which poached, which grilled and which fried. Fish is often cooked and seasoned very simply but it may also be stuffed, stewed or made into pies. Many shellfish and crustaceans are also available and very popular.

Lampuka (Mahi Mahi or Dolphin Fish)

Lampuki are perhaps Malta's favourite fish. Better known outside of Malta as Mahi-mahi, dorado, or dolphin fish, the Lampuka has fine, white flesh with only a few large bones, and is found in abundance in the seas between Sicily and Tunisia.

It man be poached (ghad-dobbu) with rosemary and red wine; lightly pan-fried in olive oil and finished with garlic and vinegar or lemon juice and marjoram; it may be oven-baked in white wine and olive oil with tomatoes, onions, olives and capers or grilled and served with Zalza Pikkanti or cut into small filleted pieces and deep fried; best of all for many of Maltese it may be made into a surprising fish pie of many flavours with spinach or cauliflower, walnuts or chestnuts, capers, sultanas, hard-boiled eggs, herbs, and lemon zest, all enclosed in a shortcrust pastry.

Stuffat tal-Qarnit (Slow braised Octopus)

Octopus, onions, tomato paste, olives, peas, bay leaves, walnuts and raisins slowly simmered in red wine. Many family variations exist: in one it is simmered in red wine, olives, tomatoes, black pepper and mint, in another with peas, tomatoes, lemon or orange zest, a bay leaf and a hint of curry powder. May be used as a sauce for pasta or served accompanied by Maltese bread.

Stuffat tal-Bakkaljaw (Salt Cod Stew)

Previously soaked salt cod simmered with chunks of potatoes and diced carrots, as well as onions, garlic, tomatoes, salted anchovies, raisins and nutmeg. The recipe may be changed according to the availability of seasonal vegetables. A winter version has pumpkin chunks and cauliflower florets and black olives along with the potatoes, onions and tomatoes and bay leaf and thyme are used for flavouring.[3][4]

Octopus cooked in its own liquid with parsley, garlic and lemon

Sawrell Mimli l-forn (Baked Stuffed Mackerel)

Filled with a mixture of breadcrumbs, olives, salted anchovies and parsley and baked between layers of potatoes, onions and tomatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper, fresh marjoram leaves and olive oil.

Klamari Mimli fl-inbid (Red wine braised stuffed calamari)

Grilled Calamari

The filling is made of breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic and capers with sometimes a slice of hard boiled egg in the middle. The filled calamari are then gently stewed in red wine with sultanas and nutmeg. Usually served with boiled potatoes dressed with olive oil and chopped parsley.

Braġjoli tat-tonn (Fresh tuna roll-ups)

Thin slices of fresh tuna (or other large fish like Aċċola (amberjack), Denċi (a large pink sea bream), Ċerna (grouper) or Pixxispad (swordfish) are rolled around a filling of breadcrumbs, mint or marjoram, capers, olives, salted anchovy fillets and chopped hard boiled egg. The rolls are browned then briefly and very gently simmered in garlic scented olive oil deglazed with a little inegar.

Pixxispad Mixwi Mħawwar(Grilled sword fish steaks with fresh herb topping)

Thick swordfish steaks are grilled on gentle heat and when just done they are topped with a mixture of chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest, capers and olives and drizzled with olive oil. Grilled fish is usually served with a crisp fresh salad or else with kapunata.

Eggs and Cheese

Ġbejniet (Gozo cheeselets)[5]

Selection of fresh and cured Ġbejniet

These are small, round cheeses, made from sheep or sometimes goat milk, often served as part of a light lunch, or as part of a hearty dinner. These cheeselets come in four varieties, fresh (friski or tal-ilma), sun dried (moxxi), salt cured (maħsula) or peppered (tal-bżar). The fresh variety have a smooth texture and a subtle, milky creamy flavour and are kept in their own whey in a similar manner to fresh Mozzarella. The sundried variety have a more definite, nutty almost musky, taste, and are fairly hard, but can keep for a long time without refrigeration. The pepper cured variety are covered in crushed black pepper and cured, after which they may be stored in oil, ot sometimes pickled with the addition of vinegar. These last are the tastiest. and their sharp taste becomes more piquant the more they age. They also develop a lovely crumbly texture. The dried varieties are traditionally served with Galletti an ancient local type of ship's biscuit and a glass of robust red wine.

''Ġbejniet are often referred to as a goat cheese, as indeed they originally were, though today these are almost always made from sheep milk. In the early 20th Century using unpasteurised milk led to an Undulant Fever epidemic in the Maltese islands. Undulant fever is also referred to as the Maltese Fever since the link between the illness and unpasteurised milk was identified by the eminent Maltese doctor, archaeologist and scholar Sir Temi Zammit. Today thanks to a strict regime of certification of milk animals and widespread use of pasturisation the illness is completely eliminated from the islands and Ġbejniet are not only completely safe to eat, they are a widely used and much appreciated local speciality. Still most Maltese much prefer the tastier unpasteurised artisan-farmer prouced cheeselets to the mass produced vacuum-sealed version! See below:

The widespread belief that Ġbejniet made from pasturised milk are less tasty than those made from unpasturised milk has never been corroborated by scientific evidence. Still, mass produced Ġbejniet, made exclusively from pasturised milk, tend to be less tasty than those produced by the cottage industry that makes use of certified but unpasturised milk.[6]

Balbuljata or Barbuljata (Scrambled egg dish)

Eggs scrambled with tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs, corned beef (another British legacy) and grated cheese. There are also versions using broad beans or gbejniet instead of the corned beef or simply omitting it. Traditionally the grated cheese was an imported peppercorn studded sharp Pecorino known as ġobon tal-bżar or more recently a Cheddar cheese, though gobon tal hakk malti is used these days.

Torta tar-Rikotta (Fresh ricotta and parsley pie)

Open faced or closed short crust pastry pie with local artisan sheep's milk ricotta, a sharp grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley bound with eggs.

Froġa bil-ful u l-ġbejniet friski (Eggs with fresh broad beans and fresh local cheeselets)

The beaten eggs are mixed with shelled broad beans and mint and the finished omelette is topped with fresh ġbejna slices which melt on the omelette.

Froġa tat-tarja or Tarja bil-bajd (Pasta "omelette" )

Angel's hair pasta cooked and tossed in cheese and butter, is mixed with eggs and shallow fried into a crisp coated two inch high savoury "cake".

Froġa bil-laħam (Potato and meat "omelette")

Made with mashed potato mixed with small pieces of finely chopped cooked beef and green fresh onion tops bound with eggs and grated Cheddar cheese. The thrifty Maltese way of making a tasty nutritious meal while making a little left over cooked meat go a long way.

Haxix (Vegetables)

Late summer cold vegetable dishes from Malta

Vegetables are a mainstay of Maltese cuisine. They are used stuffed or made into stews or they may be made into soups, fritters and pies.

Ful bit-tewm (Beans with mint and garlic)

Dried broad beans are soaked overnight and then cooked with garlic and fresh or dried mint. Dressed with oil and vinegar this dish usually accompanies fish dishes.

Patata l-Forn (Maltese Style Baked Potatoes)

Layers of medium thick potato rounds are placed on a bed of medium thick slices of onions, seasoned with salt, pepper and anis seeds or caraway or more rarely dried thyme (sagħtar), and almost covered in a half/half mixture of olive oil and water. Roast meats or game birds or meat stuffed vegetables like aubergine (see below) are usually cooked on top of these potatoes. The potatoes on top get a chewy dark skin while those submerged are meltingly tender - everyone has a preference for "uncovered" or "covered" baked potatoes

Kapunata (Summer Vegetable Medley)

A summer dish of pan braised tomatoes, capers, aubergines and green peppers, often served as a side dish for grilled or fried fish, or cold on its own as a savoury summer's lunch. Used also on pizza or pasta or on Maltese bread as a snack, or mixed with cold long grain rice and topped with canned tuna or hard-boiled eggs for summer rice salad. Kapunata is best home-made - traditionally large bowls of it were ever present in the fridge through the hot summer months. A relative of Sicilian caponata which also includes celery, pine nuts and raisins and uses tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes.

Haxix Mimli (Stuffed Vegetables)

A rich chapter in Maltese cuisine. The fillings for cabbage leaves, small courgettes (zucchini or marrows), artichokes, the two varieities of gourds used in Malta (qargħa twil and ċentinarja or chayote), potatoes, onions, curly endive, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and green bell peppers range from ricotta, herbs and cheese, to ground beef with bacon, cheese, and parsley, to rice with cheese, garlic and olives, to fresh or canned fish like lampuki or tuna and to breadcrumb based fillings with cheese, olives and/or capers and anchovy or garlic. These may constitute a one course meal. More below!

Qara Bali Mimli (Stuffed round small marrows or long pale green gourds)

Qargħa Bagħli Mimli (Stuffed marrows - Maltese Style)

Round pale green zucchini or courgettes, particularly delicious stuffed with minced beef, cheese and parsley or with ricotta and grated sharp cheese. The stuffed vegetable is subsequently baked or braised in tomato sauce or else cooked in chicken or meat broth. Sliced rounds may also be fried, and served hot or cold, or the marrows may be made into a creamy soup. They can also be made into fritters or fried vegetarian rissoles or patties. The long smooth skinned pale green gourd (Qargħa Twil) can be cooked in similar ways.

Brunġiel or Brinġiel Mimli (Baked Stuffed Aubergines)

The aubergines are halved and some of the flesh scopped out leaving a shell. The pulp is cooked with ground beef, tomato paste, garlic and onions and mixed when cool with egg and cheese. The shells are filled with this mix and topped with breadcrumbs mixed with grated cheese, dotted with butter and baked till crisp and crusty on top. May be baked alone but usually cooked on a bed of Maltese style baked potatoes as above.

Ħass, ful u piżelli (Braised lettuce, fresh broad beans and peas)

A spring dish of the above vegetables braised in olive oil with green onion or young leek tops. Nice paired up with juicy slices of the locally produced delicacy, cooked ham on the bone called perżut tal-għadma.

Stuffat tal-Qargħa Ħamra (Pumpkin Stew)

Sliced or diced orange flesh pumpkin cooked with onions, garlic, sultanas and mint, usually served with rice.

Zalza (Sauces)

The word zalza usually denotes a sauce meant for use as a dressing for pasta, thus zalza tat-tadam (tomato sauce), tal-perżut (with cooked ham on the bone), tal-bringiel (aubergine pasta sauce), tal-klamari (a pasta sauce with calamari), though each has many variations according to family traditions. Sauces in the generally understood sense are few, the following are very popular:

Zalza Pikkanti (Bell pepper and caper sauce)

Vinegar sharpened stewed bell peppers with tomato paste, garlic and mint or marjoram, sometimes also black or green olives, capers and softened onions, most often used with fish.

Zalza tal-Kappar (Caper sauce)

Capers, olives, parsley and mint, with or without stewed fresh tomatoes, onions and tomato paste. Good with grilled fish like swordfish steaks.

Zalza Ħadra (Green Sauce)

Very green sauce of parsley, fresh breadcrumbs, garlic and filleted salted anchovies with either vinegar or lemon juice

Arjoli or Ajjoli (Garlic Sauce)

This is the Maltese aioli, of which at least two versions exist. One is made by pounding softened Maltese Galletti, with basil, mint, parsley, garlic, capers, olives and anchovy fillets and diluting with oil, the other is made by mixing chopped fresh tomato pulp with large amounts of garlic, parsley and fresh or dried mint and olive oil. Most commonly used as dip or sauce for snails or to accompany shellfish or octopus.

Sweet and Savoury Pastries

Home made Spinach and Pea Qassata with salted tuna, anchovies and herbs

Imqaret (Deep fried diamond shaped pastry)

Date-filled orange flower scented, deep-fried pastries which are served piping hot at home or from street vendors. Look out for them at City Gate, Valletta. Some restaurants also offer them as desserts on their menu. Similar to Morrocan ("makroudh", which is the singular form of the name meaning "rhombus" or diamond shape).The Maqrut (plural Imqaret) was chosen as the Maltese representative for Café Europe during the Austrian Presidency of the European Union in 2006.

Kannoli (Cheese or cream filled pastry)

A tube-shaped confectionery of deep-fried crisp pastry filled with fresh ricotta sweetened with pieces of chocolate and candied fruit. Eaten as a treat any time of day, and also offered after dinner. The candied fruit included in this snack, is also often used in a delicious type of colourful nougat. Very similar to Sicilian cannoli, not surprising since Malta was effectively part of Sicily from 1090 to 1530.

Not the same as "Kannoli tal-Krema" where fresh whipped cream replaces the ricotta and puff or flaky pastry forms the tube.

Ftita Tar-Randan (Gozo deep fried pastry squares)

Unconnected with the small loaf of the same name, these honey drizzled squares of crisp deep fried pastry where a supper dish for the Lent or Randan period when animal fats and meat were not allowed and many people also avoided eggs and cheese.

Sfineġ (Deep fried pastry puffs)

Once sold by street hawkers on cold rainy days, these squares of crisp pastry filled with small pieces of salt cod or anchovy, must be eaten hot. A similar dish called "Sfinja" (the Maltese singular is sfinġa) is found in Tunisia, but there the pastry circles are usually filled with egg or else left unfilled. A dish believed to have originated in Andalucia.

Pastizzi (Ricotta or pea filled savoury pasties)

A popular snack for all Islanders, found at pastizzerias and most bars, pizzerias, and some restaurants and bakeries.[7] Pastizzi are small, diamond-shaped or shell shaped packets of multi layered crips pastry stuffed with either fresh ricotta or with a mushy split pea mixture which is sometimes slightly spicy. The pastry used is similar to that of the Neapolitan sweet pastry Sfogliatelle.

Qassatat (Round pastries with anchovy, ricotta or other fillings)

Considered a "less messy" alternative to pastizzi because it is made with shortcrust pastry, traditionally filled with ricotta, peas, or spinach and anchovy. Alternative traditional fillings include pumpkin with rice and tuna or black olives, and Ġbejniet with fresh broad beans at Easter time.

Ħobż (Bread)

Ħobża tal-Malti (Maltese bread)

A very crusty sourdough bread loaf with a deliciously fragrant chewy but soft inside which is the mainstay of a meal. Very popular as snack food particularly itself served with simple local produce like fresh tomatoes or kunserva (tomato paste), and ġbejniet. There is also a low rise, less crusty and more compact bread called[8] Ftira. Maltese bread is best eaten fresh but cooled off, as it loses most of its taste and crunchiness within a day. Even so, some people prefer to eat when it is straight out of the oven.

Ħobż biż-żejt u it-tadam (Bread with oil and tomato)

Two slices of crusty Maltese bread, or sometimes a very small whole loaf are rubbed generously with a juicy ripe (large, flat and multi-segmented) local tomato cut in half, then drenched in olive oil, seasoned with salt and ground black pepper and filled with one or more of the following items: canned flaked tuna, thinly sliced fresh onion, olives, basil, salted anchovy fillets, tiny Malta capers, fresh mint, sliced hard boiled egg, lettuce, small pickled vegetables, white beans, pickled onions. A truly memorably delicious and healthy meal in itself. Traditionally a portable lunch for shepherds and fishermen, it is today mainly eaten as on its own as a healthy snack, though restaurants may serve small pieces as a starter. Reminiscent of Nice's Pan-bagnat and of Catalan Pa amb tomàquet. In winter tomato paste or sun dried tomatoes, home made or shop bought, replace the fresh tomato rub.

Galletti (Ship's Biscuit)

Round hard dry white savoury biscuits[9] rarely home made today but available commercially in smaller and larger versions. Frequently accommpany pre-meal nibbles and dips like Bigilla. May be soaked to soften and used as a base for fish and vegetables or added to soups. Genoa and Naples have similar biscuits called "Gallette".

Ftira (Another Maltese Bread)

A fresh Ftira

Ftira is a low rise, ring shaped, small and less crusty loaf usually baked in a very hot oven.[10] It can be filled as for Ħobż biż-Zejt (bread with oil). In Gozo, ftira filled with sardines or anchovies was a typical supper snack during Lent fast days, when eating meat is not allowed.

Ftira Għawdxija (Gozo Ftira)

Gozo bakeries cook the Ftira dough as a round flat bread which may be closed or open. The closed Gozo ftira enclosed a filling and was intended to serve as a workman's lunch. Toppings and fillings usually have potatoes and /or ġbjeniet for example: ġbjeniet, eggs and grated cheese; potatoes, tomato, anchovies and olive; or ricotta topped with slices of potato; or sliced potato, Maltese Sausage, ġbjeniet and rosemary. Among many others![11]

Helu (Sweets)

Torta tat-Tamal (Date and Cocoa Tart)

Anise perfumed open date tart with cocoa, chopped walnuts, orange juice and orange zest

Torta tal Marmorat (Almond, Candied fruit and Chocolate pie)

Lattice topped or closed pie with a filling of ground almonds, chopped candied citrus peel and grated dark chocolate scented with cinnamon

Sinizza (Ricotta and candied fruit sweet)

Flaky pastry or sometimes sponge cake with a ricotta, candied peel and glacé cherry filling rolled up like a swiss roll.

Figolla (Easter shaped pastry sweet)

A typical heart-shaped figolla.

This dish is an Easter-time favourite. It is a book-sized golden, icing-coated biscuit stuffed with a mixture of sweet ground almonds (called intrita). Found in various shapes. The most traditional shapes are those of a boy, a girl and a basket of eggs, which are ancient symbols of fertility, and those of a lamb and that of a fish, symbols of the Christian religion. Other common shapes are Hearts, Ducks and Mermaids, and more recently Cars, Rabbits (Easter Bunny) and many more shapes that might appeal to children.

Here is a good traditional figolli recipe

Ħelwa tat-Tork (Turk's sweet)

This is locally made Halva, made of ground sesame seeds and sugar and similar to the North African, Middle Eastern, Greek and Turkish varieties (hence the name). Traditionally containing crunchy whole almonds and some pistachios, a modern version now also contains chocolate.

Kwareżimal (Lenten sweets)

Kwareżimal is an almond biscuit scented with the zest of orange, lemon and tangerine, scented with cinnamon and orange blossom water traditionally eaten during Lent. The surface is drizzled with Malta honey and sprinkled with chopped pistachios. Similar sweets are also found in some areas of Sicily.

Here is a good Kwarezimal Recipe

Pudina tal-Ħobż (Bread pudding)

Sweet made from stale bread which is soaked in water overnight to re-moisten it, and then mixed with milk, cocoa, eggs sugar, dried fruit and nuts. Sometimes liqueurs such as anisette or sherry are added. Crunchy on top and moist inside, it is commonly eaten all year round as a great way of using up bread. Traditionally it was made on Mondays so as not to waste the stale bread left over from the weekend

Qagħaq tal-Għasel or tal-Qastanija (Treacle ring shaped pastries)

Qagħaq ta' l-Għasel from Toronto's Malta Village

Treacle rings made from a light pastry with a filling made of treacle, semolina, citrus zest, cinnamon and cloves. Those who kept bees made used the honey comb for the filling though the forgotten full name in Maltese - Qagħaq ta'l-Għasel -Iswed - makes it clear they were based on treacle not honey. Today often served in small pieces as an after-dinner accompaniment to coffee. Originally a Christmas delicacy but you’ll find them in most confectioneries all year round.

Qaghaq tal-Hmira

Prinjolata (Easter Pine Nut Sweet)[12]

A white dome or pyramid shaped Carnival sweet of layered sponge fingers or sponge cake and a soft meringue, butter cream and pine nut mixture, decorated with glacè cherries, more nuts and dribbles of melted chocolate. Sometimes sliced almonds are used in place of the pine nuts for which the sweet is named (from Italian "pinoli").[13]


Seeds and Nuts

Salted savoury nibbles like dried pumpkin and melon seeds, crisp fried dried broad beans and dry roasted peanuts called Karawett Inkaljat are served to accompany a glass of wine or beer.

Karamelli tal-Ħarrub

Artisan hard square candies wrapped in greaseproof paper made from the fruit of the Carob tree. Traditionally sold by street hawkers, now mostly available only at village festas.


Street hawkers used to sell fresh green chickpeas still on their leafy branches as late as the early 1970s, alas the fresh legume is now hard to find on the islands.


Twistees are a popular[citation needed] Maltese baked crisp savoury snack popular since the 1960s/70s. They are produced in Malta and are made from rice and corn grits.


Ġulepp tal-Ħarrub (Carob Syrup)

Considered to be very soothing for coughs and sore throats, this is also used drizzled on ricotta, ice cream or fresh fruit.

Imbuljuta (Chestnut and Cocoa Drink)

Traditional homemade drink of sweetened chestnuts cooked with cocoa, tangerine zest, cinnamon and cloves, normally drunk hot but can also be served cold. For many this drink is associated with Christmas.


Long drink made by diluting concentrated almond "milk" or syrup with cold water, very refreshing in hot weather.


Sugar, milk and raw egg, considered a very nourishing drink for a growing child.

Kafé biz-zokk

Coffee scented with a piece of stick cinnamon. Other spices like cloves and anis seeds are used singly or together to flavour Kafé Msajjar or "cooked" coffee, which may also be perfumed with orange blossom water or chicory.

Soft Drinks


A can and glass of Kinnie.

Kinnie is a non-alcoholic, mildy and pleasantly bitter soft drink that is very refreshing. Made from a citrus fruit called Chinò and aromatic herbs, it is caramel in colour. Since 1984, a diet version (Diet Kinnie) has been available. In 1975, Kinnie was selected beverage of the year by the French organization Comité International d'Action Gastronomique et Touristique.


  1. ^ Darmanin, Francis. A Guide To Maltese Cooking. Malta: Jumbo Productions. pp. 14. ISBN 99909-79-00-6. 
  2. ^ Fort, Matthew Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa Harper Perennial, 2005, p253-254. ISBN 0-00-721481-2
  3. ^ Caruana Galizia, Anne and Helen The Food and Cookery of Malta, Pax Books, London, 2001
  4. ^ Darmanin, Francis A Guide To Maltese Cooking. Malta: Jumbo Productions, ISBN 99909-79-00-6.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Rizzo Naudi, John (2005). Brucellosis, The Malta Experience. Malta: Publishers Enterprises group (PEG) Ltd.. ISBN 99909-0-425-1. 
  7. ^ "#1". Pastizzi. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Ftira". The MEDINA Project. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Vella, Marie Cooking the Maltese Way 2nd Edition published in Valletta Malta by Cordina's Emporium

External links


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