Each nation boasts of its own cuisine showing unique features that contribute to the image of the country. You better taste at least some of their traditional dishes to make your vacation complete. Malta’s culinary art likewise forms an integral part of the island’s culture. It carries footprints of both its turbulent past and friendly present as well as Mediterranean characters. We present the Maltese cuisine with the aim of bringing the island closer to visitors also through its flavors. What can be better to start with than sweets?
The Arabic, Italian and British influence reflecting in both the appearance and the atmosphere of the island. Apart from the regular fresh fruit salads and Italian ice creams, inevitable characteristics of the Mediterranean, English puddings, creams and tarts represent the heritage of the British past. The island’s close proximity to Italy gives a lot of Sicilian sweet cakes. However, the true favourits are undoubtedly the Arabic style, mainly very sweet desserts. The typical Mediterranean ingredients like almond, nuts, date, figs, dried fruits are always part of their deserts. The pastry flavore is with Middle Eastern spices (clove, cinnamon, anise and lemon peel) giving them a strong, charasteristics taste.
Cakes and sweets
Maltese cookies and biscuits are the most renowned, most popular and most typical local sweets. You can easily come across the Maltese almond cookies (Biscuttini tal lews) that combine a lot of flavors. Including lemon peel, ground cloves, cinnamon and sometimes anise. Its chrunchy coconut versions with half a cherry or a bit of jam in the middle in any convinience shops and supermarkets all over the Maltese Islands. The other very common sweet is th Honey rings. (Qaghaq ta”l-ghasel). This tasty, traditional dessert is made from soft pastry with black treacle based filling that carries a truly charasteristic flavor. It representing a mixture of aroma compounds such as marmalade, orange peel, spices and honey. Village biscuits (Biskuttini tar-rahal) – practically come with an icing coat and different, colourful decorations on top. Admittedly, Kannoli ta”l-irkotta, a pastry roll stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, originating from Sicily is most probably the sweetest of all.
There is no open air market or festival without the vast variety of fried, sweet pastries. The light, sweet, ricotta-filled Italian doughnuts sprinkled with honey nuts (Zeppoli). The crunchy biscuit rings with sesame seeds on top is the Qaghao ta”l-gulglien. These sweets are definitely amongst the favourites of all Maltese fairs. Roaming a market in the Maltese countryside, Imqaret is also a must to taste. This – a bit greasy but yet so delicious – diamond-shaped dessert reflects a considerable amount of African influence. The fried pastry-rolls contain aromatic died date paste with orange water, orange peel, ground cloves and anise.
Tarts and puddings
Amongst the Maltese tarts and puddings, the tiny Apple pies is indeed a heritage of the English cuisine. They often appear on the coffee shops’ menu offers and also on the shelves of many souvenir shops, packed in decorative boxes. Adding some ground cloves to the apple filling will give a particular, interesting flavour to the cake. The Sicilian Cassata, a marzipan sponge cake with sweetened ricotta recalls the taste of Italy. The Helwa tat tork, a sweet, tahiny almond fudge from Turkey again brings a small part of the arabic world to Malta. Due to the sugary mixture of crushed and whole almonds it composed of, you’d better expect the cake rather filling. The bread pudding (Pudina tal-hobz) is another cake that sweetlovers must not miss to taste. This very Maltese sweet is from bread, sugar, orange peel, cocoa, vanilla, eggs, milk and a few nutmegs. Can be served either hot or cold and often accompanied with thick vanilla sauce.
You commonly find these sweets everywhere in Malta and they are also a great accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or coffee. If you long for authentic local tastes, just take a seat on a terrace and order some delicious cakes with a drink.Don’t hesitate, come and enjoy this beautiful island with all of its secrets, and lovely cakes and sweets.