The country that we are visiting this month in the MENA[Middle Eastern and North African] Cooking club is Malta!
I am so new to this country and its cuisine so I thought it is better to have a little knowledge about the background.
The island-state of Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily
(Italy), it consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino, of which Malta
is the largest island. In its history the Maltese archipelago was strategically
important for the domination of the Mediterranean. Malta became an EU member in
May of 2004.[Source]
The Maltan history dates back to 3800 BC. The island's oldest legacy is the
megalithic temples that date from as far back as 3800 BC. The island has
been occupied by many other nations, including the Greeks, Romans and
Here are some interesting trivia about this country...
- Maltese and English are the languages that are widely spoken.
- Malta is one of the favorite haunts for TV crews.
- Maltese boats have eyes painted on them to ward of evil eyes!
- You can drive around the whole country in 2 hours!
- Malta has a coast line that is 140 kilometers in length but it has no inland water - lakes / rivers!!
While reading about the cuisine, here is what I found out...
Some of the popular dishes are
- Maltese food is rustic and full of flavor and color.
- Its geographic position and its history have their influence on its cuisine
- Fenkata / Stewed rabbit is identified to be the national food.
- The popularity of pork in its cuisine can be attributed to the country being near to the Christian world.
- This cuisine makes use of a lot of garlic!
- Herbs and spices like marjoram,mint,basil, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, anise , coriander are used in this cuisine.
- Maltese bread occupies an important position on the table. It is ever present along with water and sometimes wine.
- Their soups and stews are substantial enough to make it a complete meal!
There are so many more but I will stop with these dishes...
- Fentaka - Rabbit Stew
- Kwarrezima- It can be related to the Lent season where people fast and it was served during the time meat was avoided.This is a large biscuit with an oblong shape and is a popular one even now though lent restrictions are not insisted upon these days.
- Soppa tal-Armla / Widow's soup - A soup that poor widows used to prepare with cheap vegetables as an alternative to rich protein meals.
- Pastizzi - A popular snack that has a ricotta cheese / mashed or curried peas filling.
- Torta tal-Lampuli - A sort of pie made with a popular fish -Lampuki.
- Timpana - A calorie rich dish which is actually pasta enclosed in pastry.
- Qaghaq tal-Ghasel - Treacle / honey rings- This is one of the traditional Maltese sweet. It is a ring shaped pastry filled with a mixture of lemon, orange, marmalade, sugar,mixed spice, vanilla,syrup,cinnamon.It is supposed to be quite difficult to make!
- Pudina tal- Hobz- Bread pudding - When Malta was a poor country, bread was considered to be an important food. Even pensions were paid as bread. The leftover / stale bread was soaked and sweeteners were added to use it up. Since this was a time consuming process, it became less popular over the years.
- Kannoli - Ricotta filled cornets
So now let us come back to MENA's cooking club...
The host for this month is Yasmeen from Wandering Spice and these are the dishes that were proposed for this month's challenge...
Soup: Brodu (classic vegetable soup)
Savory: Pastizzi (beautiful savory puff pastry with ricotta or curried peas !)
Sweet: Lemon, Ricotta and Almond flourless cake (combines ricotta and almonds, two classic Maltese ingredients)
Out of these recipes I made the broth / soup. I also wanted to make the pastizzi as it sounded simple and delicious but somehow could not make for this challenge. I have it bookmarked so will be making is some day :)
So here is the hearty soup from Malta....
Adapted from Yasmeen's Recipe
Carrot- 1,peeled and chopped
Pasta- a handful
Onion-1 finely chopped
Bay leaf- 1
Celery- 2 stalks,chopped
Tomato paste- 2 teaspoons
Salt to taste
Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add the onion, garlic,celery and bay leaf.Saute till the onion turns soft. Add tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add the chopped vegetables and mix well.Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to boil. Add salt and the pasta.
Mix well and pressure cook for 1 hiss/ whistle / 6-7 minutes / till the pasta and vegetables are done. Once the pressure releases, open the pressure cooker and check for done-ness. Add more stock if needed and bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Serve, with a crusty bread / as such ,garnished with coriander leaves and grated cheese.
- This soup can also be prepared in a pan. It takes a longer time to get done though.
- Use small sized pasta / any pasta that you have at hand.
- I used tomato sauce instead of tomato paste.
- The original recipe had cabbage as one of the ingredients. I had purple cabbage in the fridge but did not use it as I felt it would change the color of the soup. You can add 1/2 cup chopped cabbage along with carrot and potato.
Labels: Flavors from across the border, Maltese Cuisine, MENA Cooking Club, Pasta Recipes, Slurpy soups, Step-by-step Pictorial Recipes, Vegan varieties