Memories from Malta – from an old and former Horsted Keynes resident The diversity of human palates at Easter!

 

I was reading through FOOD AND DRINK HISTORY Seren on Saturdays Cheesecake – food of the Godson Unknown Kent and Sussex the other day – and was struck by the dissimilarity that in the UK and elsewhere this is seen as a sugary sweetmeat whereas in Malta and Gozo this is a totally non-sugary savoury munch as a snack and a bridge for satisfying hunger appetites.

Seren’s cheesecake

Cheesecakes in Malta have a completely different meaning, being a snack of layered non-sugary pastry filled with ricotta cheese or otherwise a mashed mixture of boiled peas and fried onion snippets.

In a similar manner, both have Greek origins but in Malta’s case this is a non-sugary snack known as “pastizzi” and dozens of outlets throughout Malta and Gozo sell them emitting an aroma that can be smelt metres away and may also be purchased raw and cooked at home to enjoy in homely comfort.

Delicious Maltese “cheesecakes” – pastizzi, savoury and not sweet!

 They are best eaten fresh and slightly warmed and will certainly satisfy the stomach. 

However, it is Easter Monday and my concentration is on figolli which go back millennia and originated in Sicily and go back to the Italian word “figura” which means figure. 

These are the sweet delights mainly for children (but adults too!) on the dawning of Easter Sunday after the sweet deprivations during Lent. 

Particularly in the past, different shapes were tied to different meanings. For example, a fish was used as a symbol of Jesus Christ, while a basket was assumed to be a symbol of fertility.

Figolli made by my dear wife Matilde and the metal baking forms she uses to give shape

 

My dear wife Matilde is an expert cook and is of Sicilian-Maltese origin and this is her recipe for these amazing figollas: 

Make sweet pastry in proportions of:

I kg plain flour

½ kg self-raising

750 gms sugar

Some grated lemon rind

A sprinkling of vanilla

Eight (8) egg yolks 

Knead very thoroughly and flatten 

Cut out shapes using forms as shown 

For filling use:

1kg ground almonds

½ kg sugar

One teaspoon orange flower water

Add egg whites to bind

A sprinkling of vanilla 

Knead very thoroughly and insert mixtures on flattened pastry in forms 

With discarded pastry, top off the figolli and decorate with icing sugar as desired. 

On sale in commercial outlets

Easter Day on 31st March marked the expiry of the month and heralds April and May – two months of bumper activities throughout the Maltese Islands – but more about these later. 

ALBERT FENECH

salina46af@gmail.com

 

Author

  • Albert Fenech

    Albert Fenech was born in Malta in 1946. His family moved to England in 1954 where he spent boyhood and youth before in 1965 returning to Malta. He spent eight years as a journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking a career in HR Management Administration with a leading international construction company in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees, Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued international freelance journalism/ broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He has written in a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books. For the last eight years he had been writing a “Malta Diary” with pictures for Lyn Funnel’s B-C-ingU.com international travel magazine.

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