By Doris Fenech
The Maltese islands made great impact with the first colonists. Settlers introduced new habits and agriculture products: olives ("żebbuġ"), carob ("ħarrub"), citrus ("ċitru"), rees and potatoes ("patata"), pumpkins ("qargħa ħamra"), wheat ("qamħ"), and other trees and seeds to till. The Greeks named the Maltese island 'Melite', meaning honey or honey-sweet, for the high quality of honey ("għasel"), the island produced.
Householders succeeded in combining traditional food, with tasteful dishes from other countries for their daily meals and with the calender celebrations days - Easter, Christmas, village feasts or others.
Delicious banquettes were prepared for special family occasions - weddings, christening and birthdays. For the first three days of mourning, simple food was cooked and given to the family of the decease by their relatives.
Peasants worked very hard to grow seasonal vegetables ("ħaxix"), and fruits ("frott"), raise fowl ("tjur"), and other animals for - meat, milk, cheese, eggs and honey. They catch fish and hunted game-birds to obtain food for the family.
Fresh or dry aromatic herbs ("ħwawar"), were added to flavour the cooking and as a natural replacement to salt. Many housewives planted pots with celery ("karfus"), basil ("ħabaq"), marjoram ("merqtux"), rosemary ("klin"), and parsley ("tursin"), and hanged a bunch of fennel ("bużbież"), and bay-leaves ("rand"), next to a bundle of garlic ("tewm"), in the kitchen, so they can be easily reach while cooking.
They included legumes ("għazz"), in their cooking - beans ("fażola niexfa"), split peas ("favetta"), chickpeas ("ċiċri"), kidney beans ("fażola"), dwarf bean ("favetta"), lentils ("għazz"), peas ("piżelli"), and broad beans ("ful"). Sometimes legumes were cooked as a replacement to meat.
Meals were cooked in verity types and sizes of cookware, most of the utensils were hanged on the wall nest to the plate-rack ("xtilliera").
Earthenware - cooking pot ("burma"), saucepan ("pagna"), small stewing pan ("tigan - twagjen").
Enamel ("enemel"), - cooking pot ("borma"), saucepan ("kazzolla"), frying pan ("tagen").
Soup - "Soppa- Ikel ta' l-mgħarfa"
Soup ("soppa"), varied during the year according the crops cultivated by the farmers. In winter fresh vegetables soups was cooked almost every day - broad beans ("ful"), long gourd ("qargħa twil"), marrows ("qargħa bagħli"), potatoes ("patata"), onions ("basal"), pumpkins ("qargħa ħamra"), peas ("piżelli"), and other seasonal crops.
A genuine good soup "minestra" was made with a mix of seasonal vegetables, legumes and pastas ("għagin"), - vermicelli ("fdewwex"), spaghetti ("spagetti"), or small ring pasta ("ħoloq"). Some times householders added three different kinds of pasta to have enough soup to serve the for hole family.
A tick soup was made with tripe ("kirxa"), well cleaned with lemon juice ("meraq tal-lumi"), and sea-salt ("melħ tal-baħar"), and cut in small pieces, cooked with a mix of fresh vegetables.
A very simple soup was made with marrows ("qargħa bagħli"), potatoes ("patata"), and onions ("basal"), cooked until thick. Beaten eggs gently stirred in and allow to cook for few minutes.
Another marrows soup was made with ricotta, beaten eggs and garlic stuffed in empty marrows and close with a top of marrows with wooden sticks.
Widow's soup "soppa ta' l-armla" with vegetables, poached eggs and cheeslets ("ġbejniet"), smooth on soup and cook until warmed.
A traditional good spring soup made with fresh broad beans ("ful"), peas ("pizelli"), potatoes ("patata"), tomato puree ("kunserva"), onions ("basal"), and pasta beads ("kuskus").
Various broth "brodu" were prepared from a choose of - meat ("laħam"), fowl ("tjur") or game-bird ("tajr tal-priża"), and simmer on low heath with celery ("karfus"), tomatoes paste ("kunserva"), turnip ("ġidra"), carrots ("karrotti"), onions ("basal"), and sea-salt ("melh tal-baħar"). Housewives asked the butcher for some extra backbones to cook with the meat broth.
An absolutely good broth was made with flank "falda", stuffed with bread crumbs, beaten egg , parley , garlic and fasten the opening with lace shut.
Chicken broth "brodu" was considered to be health food and often was prepared for the sick and also given to women following delivery as she would be feeble.
Relish cooking - "Iken bnin"
While cooking the soup, a plate was put on top of the pot ("borma"), with same slices of meat, garlic, parsley and salt and let the meat cook slowly by the steam ("laħam fuq il-fwar").
Frequently, some extra potatoes were cooked in the soup to make
croquettes ("pulpetti"). Potatoes were mashed and mixed with a choice
ground meat ("kapuljat"),
corned beef ("bulubif"),
("salamun'"), or mackerel ("makku"),
added with beaten egg ("bajd imħabbat"), garlic ("tewm"), aromatic herbs ("ħwawar"), and salt ("melħ"), slowly spooned in flour ("dqiq"), and fried in deep oil ("żejt"), or lard ("xaħam"), until brown.
Everyone enjoyed a quick lunch made of fried Maltese sausages ("zalzett tal-Malti"), or black pudding ("mazzit"), served with fried eggs and fresh tomatoes.
Some varieties of sausages "zalzett" made of ground pork and flavored with coriander seeds, black peppercorns, parsley and sea-salt are dried and often eaten fresh with Maltese bread.
Beans dip "Bigilla" - boiled mashed beans mixes with garlic, parsley, oil, salt and pepper and served in a bowl surrounded with Maltese delicates - dry tomatoes ("tadam immellaħ"), crackers ("galletti"), cheeselets ("ġbejniet"), and olive ("żebbuġ").
Snails were washed two or three times, boiled in shells and served with tasty "arjoli", a mix of bread creams, garlic, olives, capers, tomatoes, mint, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.
A Maltese dish "capunata", made from aubergines, green pepper, tomatoes, oil, onions, garlic, and celery. It is served cold as a light lunch and goes will, with lamb or fish dishes.
"Balbuljata" a traditional Maltese plate, made with scrambled eggs, ripe tomatoes, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Other ingredients were added - spring broad-beans or corned beef ("bulubif"). "Balbuljata" was eaten with thick slices of fresh bread.
Housewife made their own tasty "ravjul" and served with garlic ("tewm").
Many people enjoyed a good plate of spaghetti with tomatoes sauce, garlic and basil or with rabbit sauce with grated cheese.
Popular Maltese plate was the "fenek", light fried rabbit and simmered in tomatoes sauce, peas, potatoes, bay leafs and red wine.
Cooking with stuffing ("ħaxu"), was very popular. Householders used stuffing ("ħaxu"), in many recipes, as it made food tasty better and had more food to serve. The basic filling ("ħaxu"), for meat flank ("falda"), was made with beaten eggs, bread crumbs, chopped parsley or celery, graded cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Meat edges were fasten together with a needle and tread to hold the stuffing from getting out.
Delicious meal, "bragoli", was made with slices of tin meat filling with beaten eggs, fresh bread crumbs, parsley and grated cheese. Added with fried with onions, peas and simmered with red wine.
Not many people could afford to buy meat, nothing of what the butcher offed was wasted. Housewives prepared delicious soaps with bits of meat, bones and pig's feet with lots of vegetables. On Sunday they prepared baked meat with potatoes and onions. They also included brains, liver, tongue and sausages to make good casseroles.
Poultry like chicken ("ħasi"), ducks ("papri"), and turkeys ("dundjani"), ground meat was added to the filling and roasted with carrots, onions, potatoes and garnished with rosemary.
Eggplant ("brunġiel"), and marrows ("qara bagħli"), stuffed with ground meat, onions cooked with tomato paste sauce, grated cheese and baked with onions and baked with potatoes.
Game seasons - "Staġun tal-kaċċa''
In the game season they pluck ("nittfu"), and clean - quails ("summien"), turtle-doves ("gamiem"), and wild ducks ("borok"), and cooked - soup ("soppa"), pies ("torti"), roast ("mixwija il-forn"), or casserole ("stuffat"), with rosemary and wine.
Wild rabbits ("fniek tas-salvaġġ"), were fried with plenty of garlic ("tewm"), or stewed with onions, tomatoes paste, potatoes and plenty of herbs.
A good aroma of lamb fricassee ("frakassija tal-ħaruf"), plate made with - fried onions, garlic and lamb joints, simmer with peas, tomatoes and wine. Served with mashed potatoes.
Fresh Fish- "Ħut fresk"
Many people used to go fishing to get some fresh fish for their family. On Fridays, fish was often cooked due they could not eat any meat dishes. Fish was cooked in many different ways - fried pan, grilled stewed, "aljotta", oven-baked and pies with olives ("żebbuġ"), capers ("kappar"), and fresh herbs - marjoram ("merqtux"), mint ("nagħnieh"), and basil ("ħabaq"). They also picked limpet ("mhar"), and urchin ("rizza"), sprinkled with lemon and eaten with bread.
Other householder bought fish from fishmongers who roam around the village, call out with fresh fish - vogue ("vopi"), bass ("spnott"), stone bass ("dott"), grouper ("cerna"), dentix ("entici"), amberjack ("accjola"), white bream ("sargu"), red mullet ("trill"), sword-fish ("pixxispad"), dorado ("lampuki"), pilot-fish ("fanfri"), tuna- fish ("ton"), octopus ("qarnit"), cuttle-fish ("siċċa"), and moray ("morina").
Exquisite Pastry pies - "Torti tajbin"
They made various shortcrust pastry pies("torti"), with different fillings - cheeslets ("ġbejniet"), or with broad beans ("ful"), spinach ("indivja"), and anchovy ("nċova"), meat ("laħam"), corned beef ("bulubif"), quail ("summien"), rabbit ("fenek"), Dorado ("lampuki"), and pumpkin ("qara ħamra"), which Mellieħa householder were well known for.
Very demanding were the small diamond shape pies ("pastizzi"), or round shape pie ("qassatat"), made with puff pastry and with delicious filling ("ħaxu"),
- cheese pie ("tal-ġobon"),
- pigeon pie ("tal-ħamiem"),
- anchovy ("ta' l-inċova"),
- meat pie ("tal-laħam"),
- peas ("tal-piżelli"),
- quail ("tas-summien"),
- shortcrust cheese ("tax-xemgħa").
Fritters "spineġ" - a small flat round pastry, spooned with spinach or other filling in the center, closed like a pocket and fried in oil. Extra pastry was used in honey fritters "sfineġ", round flat dices, covered with honey or sugar and fried in oil.
Some people eat a simple baked "ftira", ("ftira tal-ħami"), an open flat round unbaked loaf, filled with simple ingredients - onions ("basal"), tomatoes ("tadam"), basel ("ħabaq"), and sprinkled with oil as their only meal ("fattra").
Sundays baking was taken at the bakery. Housewives prepared big dishes to tasteful roast and baking meals for lunch - rise ("ross"), maccaroni ("imqarrun"), marrows ("qarabgħali"), pork meat ("laħam tal-majjal"), chicken ("tiġieġa"), with potatoes, tomatoes and rosemary, sprinkled with oil or put small pieces of lard on top.