Traditional Maltese Cuisine

Maltese food has evolved over thousands of years, influenced by many cultures brought over by foreign powers including - the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, the Knights, the French (briefly) and the British – who at some point in time occupied or traded with Malta. Each of these left their mark, but to make it more complicated, cultures influenced one another, so what may have started as an Arab way of cooking also effected the Sicilian cuisine so what you may think of as Sicilian is really an Arab influence. Turkish and Moorish slaves taught their Maltese captors their own ways of cooking and the Knights brought with them regional cuisines from the areas of the countries they came from. The end result of Malta serving as a meeting point of so many cultures resulted in a delicious mixture of edible traditions.

It is the blending of these different cooking ways and recipes which produced the “ Traditional Maltese Cuisine”. These recipes have lasted over the centuries and now reflect what most Maltese and Gozitan people have come to love.

Gbejna Small round cheese made from sheep or goats milk. Gbejniet are mainly associated with the island of Gozo but they are also made in Malta. They can come in a variety of forms : fresh, sundried , salt cured or peppered.

Pastizzi Pastizzi tal-irkotta (cheese cakes) or Pastizzi tal-pizelli (pea cakes) are a traditional savoury pastry and very popular. Pastizzi can be eaten at anytime of the day as a quick snack with hot or cold beverages.

Fenek The traditional Maltese stewed rabbit (Stuffat tal-Fenek) cooked in wine, garlic and herbs is considered to be Malta’s national dish.

Bragoli The most popular version of Bragoli involves typical Maltese bread, bacon, parsley, garlic and hard boiled eggs all stuffed inside prime thinly-sliced beef steaks. The rolls are then cooked in red wine and garnished in sautéed onions, carrots and bay leaves. The sauce is often used with a pasta dish as a first course.

The Honey Ring Traditional Maltese sweet made from marmalade, orange & lemon peel, black treacle, spices and semolina flour. This speciality may be enjoyed during coffee time or as a desert. The origins of the Honey Ring dates back to the 15th Century.

Imqaret Diamond shaped traditional Maltese pastries stuffed with dates which are then deep fried and are usually infused with the flavours of aniseed and bay leaves. Imqaret are of Arabic origin and were introduced to Malta during the period of the Arab invasion of the island between 870 AD and the 11th Century.

Aljotta This traditional soup is made from the small fish one can find at markets. This soup calls for the whole fish – head and tail included – and includes garlic, bay leaves, onions, lemons juice, white rice and tomatoes all blended together in order to develop the best flavour possible.

Kinnie The bitter sweet fizzy soft drink Kinnie is made from bitter oranges & aromatic herbs normally served cold and with a slice of orange. This is considered by many as Malta’s national drink.

Lampuki Pie Made from dorado fish , a mild , delicious white fish that forms the heart of a dish that hints at English cooking with some Arab flavours (mint, lemon peel and raisons add some exotic punch) and Italian influence (tomatoes, olives and capers).

Timpana Baked pasta with layers of mince, bacon and hard-boiled eggs in between the layers of penne encased in pastry.

Kwarezimal Traditional spicy chewy biscuit usually baked during Lent. They are made from combining a mixture of ground almonds and spices and then drizzled with honey and chopped almonds. Kwarezimal originated from the time of the Knights of Malta and the name refers to “quaresima” the forty days of Lent.

Maltese Bread Crusty sourdough bread , usually baked in wood ovens. Bread accompanies the great majority of local dishes and Hobz tal-Malti tastes like no other bread in the world. However to enjoy it at its best it must be eaten fresh , on the same day it is baked. A popular local snack is Hobz biz-zejt which is a thick slice of bread rubbed with ripe tomatoes and dipped in olive oil. Qormi is the capital of bread-making in Malta, so much so, that during the rule of the Knights Hospitaller it was known as “Casal Fornaro” meaning the bakers’ town.