Today I found a very old recipe book in the library in Ghajnsielem. It dates back to 1958 and it was compiled by Carmen Carbonaro, it is called ‘Maltese Dishes’ and seeing that I cannot find copyright information I am going to use some of the information to share it here. It is a wonderful little book! Apart of the interesting recipes it has also got illustrated advertisings from the time period it was written in, fabulous bit of information for foodies and those interested in traditional facts of twentieth century Malta or Gozo.
Even before I got home and had a good look at it, the little book was the topic of conversation big time. I stopped at the organic vegetable shop in the village across from an ancient church with the nice baroque façade and on the pleasant Piazza Indipendenza. Doris, the young woman that owns the shop (Pomona) started to check the recipes, she told me that in the time of her grandmother people did not use butter in Gozo, only lard and this, she said was reflected in the recipes. In walked Charlie, one of her nice and regular customers and he added more information to the conversation, we had got on to vegetables, artichokes as a matter of fact, which is a vegetable that I have never cooked myself and was rather interested in and luck would have it that they are in season at the moment, so I bought some. I intend to try out the recipe on page 27 of the little book, there it gives the recipe for ‘Stuffed Boiled Artichokes’ or ‘Qaqocc mimli’ in Maltese. Among the ingredients I will need are Olives, Parsley, more Olives, Breadcrumbs, Anchovies and Chives. And of course globe Artichokes.
WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT…… I have to ‘beat’ the artichokes it says!?! Beat them, but well that does not actually surprise me as Doris was telling me that in the ‘olden days’ they also used to ‘beat’ the calamari to tenderise them before cooking! What I am rather surprised of though is that at the end of the recipe it says to serve the artichokes when cool, with mayonnaise, and in those days that would have been home-made mayonnaise, the way we used to make it in Belgium last century. I guess that here it would be prepared using olive oil rather than corn oil like we did.
I cannot wait to try out this Artichoke recipe and, after making more marmalade from home grown bitter oranges today, I feel like a real Gozitan woman, getting into the spirit of this lovely island and enjoying it to the full.
Charlie, Doris and myself then got on to more about wild foods and how we can use the flowers of the artichoke to eat as well as the globe. The globe I presume is the flower bud. I glean so much local information from those two very pleasant people, I just love to shop there.
Other interesting recipes in the little book that I think might be worth trying out are:
• Chestnut soup (Imbuljuta)
• Ministra (a Maltese very delicious soup)
• Vegetable hot-pot (Kawiata)
• Timpana, a most popular dish on the Maltese menu it says.
• Rabbit stew and spaghetti (I have tried this out in a restaurant – very nice)
• Tunny fish stew
• Lampuki pie (a popular fish during August and September.
• Imqaret (date slices)
• Xkunvat – a special Maltese sweet.
• Marmurat, a sweet made with almonds
There are many more interesting looking recipes in the little book. At the end of it there is a menu for the week page, I had a look. Monday it says: Spaghetti, Meat Balls using the meat left over from Sunday dish, cheese and fruit. For Tuesday it says: Meat Soup. Meat from Soup (Buljut) with lemon juice and salad, Custard, Fruit. I won’t give the whole week but interestingly I read that on both Wednesday and Friday fish is recommended, I guess that in those days the church still had two fasting from meat days in the week. All the other days have meat on the menu.
Interesting too is that there are 24 different advertisements in the little booklet, the advertisements themselves are of interest if looking up dietary information of the time.
The little book was published by Empire Press in Malta. It sure is something to treasure. I’m going to have some culinary experiments with it in the next two weeks. I do look forward to learning and to tasty dishes.