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Beyond bread and pastizzi: 4 Maltese traditional dishes you need to try

Maltese cuisine food

One of the things that makes Malta so unique is its cuisine.  Most newcomers to Malta only ever hear about how great the bread is, how calorific the pastizzi are and how they should try the local rabbit at least once. However, Maltese cuisine is actually so varied and creative. There are some dishes that are so iconically Maltese to me, and no matter how many Maltese restaurants I try, nothing will ever come close to my mum’s version. In fact, Maltese dishes are home-cooked dishes and every home has a slight variation that makes them unique to the individual cook.

Wherever I have lived in the world, some of my favourite dishes have always come with me and my family.  Here are my top 5 dishes that I love and that scream Malta to me.

1-Qarabali Mimli (Stuffed Marrows)

Most Mediterranean countries serve up some type of stuffed vegetable dish.  The Maltese stuffed marrow can be stuffed with either meat or ricotta. The meat version is my favourite. The stuffing is a mix of beef and pork mince, onions, parmesan cheese, tomato paste, beaten egg and seasoning. The marrow itself must be round, for the authentic Maltese look to the dish. The marrows can be cooked in the oven on a bed of potatoes, or in a chicken broth. I am rather more partial to the baked version. These result in a lovely crunchy top to the meaty filling.

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2-Ful bil-Kusksu (Broad bean soup)

As a child I was not the biggest fan of this hearty winter staple at home.  But that has changed substantially. I will literally change all my plans to have dinner at my parents’ house when mum tells me that she is making “Ful soup” as we affectionately call it. This soup is a thick and satisfying mix of broad beans, cauliflower, a bead like pasta called kusksu (larger than couscous), tomato paste and seasoning.  The soup is finished off by cracking in raw eggs that poach in the hot soup, as well as the soft cheeses known as ġbejniet. A big bowl of steaming hot soup on a winter’s evening is like receiving a great big hug from your favourite relative.

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3-Ross il-forn (Baked rice)

Slightly more carbs than I would now allow myself to eat in one sitting, this dish used to be my absolute Maltese favourite growing up in London. Mum always made it in individual dishes that we sat and ate in front of the TV on a Saturday night. The rice is baked in a rich meaty sauce made with minced beef, a tin of corned beef and set with beaten egg. It really is the ultimate in stick to your ribs comfort food.

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4-Torta tal-Lampuki (Lampuki pie)

Lampuki is the Maltese name for dorado or mahi-mahi. Only available from mid-August till December, the fish pass Malta on their migration route. They normally aren’t very large when they are in Maltese waters and have a very distinct flavour. Not a flavour I am terribly fond of to be honest, that is unless it is baked into a Lampuki pie.  The fried fish is combined with a mixture of olives, capers, sultanas and cauliflower and then layered into a flaky puff pastry case.  Its sweet, savoury buttery flavour is something so unique that I don’t think it would work as well with any other fish.

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I urge anyone who is interested in Malta and its culture to try a few of these dishes.  I would definitely recommend washing them down with some of our lovely Maltese wine. What are your favourite Maltese dishes? 

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