Off the Beaten Path - Malta
Malta is a country made up of 3 islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily and north of Africa.
Malta’s history stretches through time from the Neolithic period onward. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and the Byzantines all left traces of their time on the islands. In 60 ACE St. Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome and brought Christianity to Malta.
The Arabs conquered the islands in 870 ACE leaving an important mark on the Maltese language. Malta was an extension of Sicily until 1530. The Normans, and the Aragonese, who ruled over Sicily, also governed the Maltese Islands.
The Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem was given the Maltese Islands by Charles the 5th in 1530. Napoleon took over the Maltese Islands in 1798 from the knights on his way to Egypt. The French presence was short lived. In 1800 the English blockaded Malta at the request of the people of Malta. The British were in Malta until 1964 when Malta became independent. Malta became a Republic in 1974 joining the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone in 2008.
Malta has something for everyone from UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fortifications such as
Fort St. Angelo, the city of Valletta, and the Medieval “silent city” of Mdina (yes, this is the correct spelling!).
Additionally, there are diving sites including historic wreck sites to WW1 battleships and aircraft crash sites.
You can also visit museums, theatres, opera houses and open-air venues for plays, musicals, and concerts.
There are beautiful beaches where you can enjoy many watersports including windsurfing, sea-kayaking, waterskiing, and sailing, etc.
Maltese cuisine is a mix of Italian, French, Spanish and British influences. The traditional Maltese stewed rabbit is often identified as the national dish.
Fort St. Angelo is believed to be built on a Roman site. The fort was the seat of the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a UNSECO World Heritage Site, is an underground complex cut out of rock which was used both as a sanctuary as well as for burial purposes by the temple builders.
The city of Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city with a mix of Medieval and Baroque architecture. Rabat which is located outside the city walls is said to have been where the Apostle St. Paul resided inside the grotto in what is now known as St. Paul’s Grotto.
The waters here are some if the clearest in the world. Visibility is excellent down to around 30 metres and it a dream destination for underwater photography. With dive sites close to each other it will be easy to explore a variety of underwater sites from labyrinthine caves to reefs and wartime wrecks.
There are many options to stay in Malta and here are a few of them.
Casa Ellul www.casaellul.com
Classical meets contemporary in this 19th century Valletta townhouse.
Rosselli AX Privilege ww.rossellimalta.com
This is 5-star hotel located in the heart of the Baroque city of Valletta.
115 The Strand Hotel and Suites www.115thestrand.com
Fully refurbished 3-star hotel.
Here are two local recipes to enjoy:
Ingredients for the pastry
400g. plain flour
½ tablespoon salt
200 ml. cold water
For the filling:
salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs beaten (optional)
Method for the pastry -
Mix the sieved flour and salt with approximately 200ml of cold water into a soft
pliable but not sticky dough, knead well and leave to rest for about 90 minutes.
When rested, roll, stretch and pull the dough on a floured surface, into long strips.
Spread half the fat over the entire length of dough, first with a palette knife then with
clean hands, take one end of the dough and roll it up like a Swiss roll. Make it uneven
turning it tightly sometimes then more loosely. Rest it in a cool place, repeat the rolling
process so that the roll is once more a long strip. Spread the remaining fat, roll it up again
like a Swiss roll but this time in a different direction from the first roll. All this rolling enhances
the flakiness of the finished pastry, rest it again.
Method for the filling -
Mash the ricotta with the salt and pepper, if preferred add the beaten eggs, (the addition
of eggs makes the filling drier when cooked). Cut off pieces of dough the size of a small ball
with a sharp knife, pull out each piece with your fingers like a thin disc.
Place a spoonful of ricotta mixture in the centre, close the dough around it and seal the
edge with your fingers.
Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or till golden.
Widow’s Soup (soppa tal-armla)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2/3 cup chopped parsley
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 kohlrabi, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup podded broad beans (fresh or frozen)
1 cup podded peas (fresh or frozen)
½ large or 11 small cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper
6 soft ġbejniet cheeses
Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan and add the onions,
garlic and most of the parsley. Saute until soft. Add the vegetables,
tomato paste and enough stock to cover. Stir well and season to
taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for
15 – 20 minutes, until the vegetables are just cooked.
Add the ġbejniet and press down lightly to submerge. Cover
and cook for a couple of minutes to heat the cheese. Add the
remaining parsley to the soup and stir through.
Ladle the soup into bowls, topping with a round of ġbejniet.
Hope you enjoyed this weeks blog. If you would like anymore information
on Malta or any other destinations please feel free to contact me.