Most guidebooks talk of Maltese cuisine bearing witness to Malta’s varied cultural past and being strongly influenced by neighbours such as Sicily and north Africa. They say also that Maltese dishes make use of local ingredients like fish, pasta, tomatoes, capers, ricotta, honey, figs, fennel, rabbit and so on.
But what the guidebooks often lack is chat about good old Maltese home cooking, since a tourist is rarely going to come across it. However, there’s a lot of cultural insight into the country to be gleaned from the tried and tested, day-in-day-out recipes that the average Maltese mum (or dad) puts together to feed the family.
To cover this, we just had to include the post below by guest blogger Ms Gourmet, aka Nanette Johnson, for her hilarious childhood memories of workaday Maltese home cooking.
Do note, if you’re a language student in Malta this summer and staying with a host family, don’t be alarmed; pigs’ heads or turtles won’t feature on that many a home menu these days! But ricotta in all its forms certainly will! Enjoy….
The Controversial Ricotta Pie
Do you have childhood food memories? Well I have lots of them. Whenever my siblings and I get together we often end up reminiscing about food. One such memory is about the time dad and Uncle Maurice brought a fully-grown turtle home from the market and slaughtered it in my Aunty Maryanne’s marble bathroom in Floriana, Malta, and then proceeded to stink the house out for the next six hours with the smell of their foul turtle stew.
And then there was the time dad decided to cook an entire pig’s head for Sunday for lunch. He just seasoned the head with a little salt and pepper and banged it in the oven for a couple of hours and then expected us all to eat it without complaint!
One of the better, or should I say more edible childhood food memories has to do with ricotta pie. Traditionally in Malta, you make ricotta pie with fresh broad beans. Dad would lament whenever mum made it because he would compare it with his mother’s. Apparently, my Nanna Marija would add fresh sultanas to the ricotta and broad beans, which is quite common in Gozo. Mum being Maltese refused to do so because her mum made it the proper way ‘without’ sultanas.
And so, whenever we sat down to eat this pie, which was at least once a fortnight, my parents would squabble about the same thing – whose mum made the ‘better’ pie.
When it comes to Maltese cuisine, it’s a family affair, and old habits die hard. Now then, which pie does Ms Gourmet make for her family we wonder? For her recipe, check her blog, gourmetworrier.
Photo: Andrew Galea Debono