MALTESE FOOD AND WINE

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My idea of Maltese cuisine turned out to be slightly different than the things I found when I arrived. Liz Ayling, a food blogger and the owner of The Red Bistro, was there to help me.

It’s hard to find a restaurant with traditional food. It wasn’t like I had thought it would be, at least not everywhere. Liz showed the places where I could taste traditional Maltese dishes and prompted some things to choose. As you can see, meeting bloggers helps to discover a country more profoundly.

She also led me to her friend’s shop where Maltese and Sicilian food is being sold. If you ever visit Valletta, please go and see the Colonial Store. You’ll find pastes made of vegetables, pistachios, almonds, as well as a wide range of olive oil, pasta and Sicilian sweets. The tall lady on the right is Liz, at the left you can see the owner of the shop.

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The Maltese cuisine surprised me, because my idea was: light meals, lots of fish, seafood, vegetables. But it turned out that pasta and pizza dominate. You can see the Sicilian and British influence once you look up the menus of the restaurants.

But before we move on to the meals, I’m going to tell you some wine story.

My Maltese wine adventure

One day I read a phrase: “Malta is a world-renowned producer of wine which delights quite a few connoisseurs with its bouquet of aromas and flavours.” The paradise, I thought.

So I went to a Wine Festival, the Marsovin Summer Wine Festival, to test the notable beverages. The Festival takes place once a year in Valletta, the capital city of Malta. You can taste several kinds of wine there, listen to live music and spend some time in the beautiful Hasting Gardens with a view of Malta. All for €15.

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I arrived at the Festival very excited and precisely on time, at 8:00 P.M. I was given a glass of wine and I headed further into the garden. Every several metres I was passing by a stand with wine where I was welcomed by the smiling barmans. It was a warm evening and there was a play of colourful plants, and live music. People danced, sang and got more and more pleased as the hours passed.

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I stopped for a moment, touched, with a glass of dry white wine (because every time I tested wine, I chose dry white one), I leaned against the wall, behind which Malta’s panorama was spreading, having the sunset as a background. Well, that’s a little bombast.

Handsome guys were playing guitars, people were smiling, barmans were willing to talk, and I was standing, delighted with the moment and the taste.

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I liked it so much that I was going to write a separate note about the Festival.

The blow

I told some Maltese women about my festival-and-wine impressions. And here comes the blow. It turned out that the Maltese weren’t proud of their wine at all. They drink it rarely, and their favourite are Italian and French wines. Well, the bar is set high then.

There are vineyards on Malta, but most of the winemakers import grapes from Sicilia. If I came as a tourist, the Festival would impress me so much I would write about the great wines of Malta. And I would buy loads of bottles to take them home. And now, I’m writing about the great Festival. But some wines were really good.

A talk with the townsmen helps a lot.

And now, the Maltese food

Maltese menu rolls in Sicilian-Mediterranean-British meals. The fans of pasta and pizza will be satisfied. The most of food that is being sold in shops is Sicilian. The Maltese love it.

Something traditional?

The traditional and popular meat in Malta is rabbit, in every possible form. I didn’t dare to try it.

The Maltese are also proud of their bread. It’s quite good and it has a form of round loaves. The most popular way to eat it is to smear it with olive oil, garlic, tomato sauce, and with some olives or capers tossed on. This kind of bread – Hobz biz-zejt has even got his fanpage on Facebook.

Goat cheese. I love it. It’s being produced in Malta and available in almost every restaurant’s menu or shop. The one presented below comes from Gululu restaurant where you can try extremely good, traditional Maltese food. Look at their menu.

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Pastizzi. It’s French dough filled with ricotta or pea paste. It’s very popular in Malta. There’s plenty of grease in it and its taste remind the Balkan burek (I love them). When I tried itfor the first time, I liked it. The second time, when I bought it in another pastizzeria, I liked it less. But I heard in Medina, in the Rabat district, the pastizzi are excellent.

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Ftira is a kind of pizza, it’s a pie made of bread and it has a hole in a center. It’s pizza-like bublik. You can try it in several flavour versions. Mine had some goat cheese, potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes and olives. It was really great, but too big for one person. Well, maybe it would be okay for the evening, if you hadn’t had anything to eat all day long. I ate this ftira in the Gululu restaurant, too.

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Focaccia is a strictly Italian meal. In Piadina Caffe in Valletta, shown to me by Liz, they served a delightful focaccia with mushrooms, vegetables and cheese.

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Well, this one isn’t traditional, but still it’s really good. I ate it while sitting on a terrace in a medieval village of Medina. It was a mushroom, filled with something green that tasted like cheese and its consistency was granules-and-pea-like. It reminded breadcrumbs and it was covered with mozzarella. Delicious, nothing more to say.

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Imqaret is a kind of cookie that I tried in a bar in Birgu, because I had to sit somewhere and plug in my cellphone. It turned out to be very tasty. I felt some potatoes in the dough, but there was none. Hm.

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And these are the baby squids I ate a moment before the Wine Festival.

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For breakfast, I used to eat Maltese bread, goat cheese and jam made of Sicilian oranges. That was what offered me Ana whose flat I was living in.

Another popular dish in Malta is Lampuka fish, but it is usually angled for from September to November. There’s a small fishing village called Marsaxlokk, whose name I’m learning to pronounce up till now, and where there’s plenty of fish. I didn’t manage to go there, so that I have next reason to come back to Malta.

The Maltese has their beer, too. It’s called Cisc. It’s light, sprightly, perfect for a hot day. I’m not a connoisseur, but it was okay.

I have to invent a way to travel and eat. I think I’m going to take someone who would eat it all instead of me, and I’ll only take a mouthful or two and a photo.

If you’re eager to get to know more about the Maltese cuisine, don’t read guides. Check out the articles of Liz Ayling, the owner of The Red Bistro blog and Malta Inside Out instead. Liz knows a lot about food:

I know I’m gonna come back to Malta. I’m hungry for a further exploration (also about the food-related things).

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