Food Culture and Tradition

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Glossary of Foods and Food Terms in Malta


Aljotta: the least expensive and least appealing fish is poached in a court bouillon, reserved and kept warm to be served as a second course. This fish broth (court bouillon) is then enriched with well-fried chopped onion and garlic, and seasoned with tomato paste and fresh marjoram. A handful of raw rice is thrown in twenty minutes before serving. (There is no limit to how much garlic can be added.) This is a meatless Friday specialty. Bread, cheese, wine and it is a meal.

Bragoli: thin pounded slices of beef are stuffed with chopped hard eggs, crumbled bacon, and fresh bread crumbs all lightly seasoned. The beef is rolled over the filling, tied with string, and browned in fat. Wine, browned onions and garlic simmer with the beef rolls. The dish may be served with canned peas or freshly cooked shelled peas.

Brodu: designates a hearty soup with visible chunks of meats and vegetables.

Brodu Tat-Tigiega: a whole chicken is slowly simmered in water with vegetables then removed and browned separately. Rice is added to the rich stock and finally a few eggs are beaten and slowly added. The Brodu is served with rice and chopped vegetables while the chicken makes the second course. This is an efficient way to cook an entire meal when ovens are tiny or not available. A similar Brodu includes the simmering of a whole chicken which has first been stuffed.

Brungiel Mimli Fil-Forn: Brungiel is eggplant, mimli means stuffed, and fil-forn means baked in the oven. This then is a dish of baked, stuffed eggplant, a varied combination of grated cheese, bread crumbs, capers, olives, and ground meat.

Fenkata: literally, a “rabbit dinner,” so popular that rabbits are specially bred for the purpose, although wild hares are traditional. Jointed and well cooked, the tangy rabbit stew is served over rice or pasta and eaten together with Malta bread and red wine.

Ftira: Maltese sourdough bread baked in a flat round disk. It is often eaten split and filled with sliced plum tomatoes, salt and pepper. Other additions might be sliced onions, anchovies, olives, etc.

Kusksu: not to be confused with the Couscous of North Africa. This one is a pasta similar in appearance, coarse and granular. Fresh broad beans and green peas are added to browned onion (garlic and tomato puree if desired) and simmered with water. The Kusksu is added to cook then the soup is set aside. To serve, a poached egg and some crumbled fresh cheese Gbejna and Rikotta) are placed in the soup bowl then the thick pasta soup with peas and beans is ladled over. Again, just add bread and wine and it is a superb meal.

Laham Bil-Patata L-Forn: a lengthy name but instantly recognized by any Maltese as referring to almost any meat well seasoned with onions, garlic, and strips of lard (if needed), and baked in the oven over a bed of sliced potatoes. In Malta, this is a Sunday dinner specialty usually baked in the communal oven.

Minestra: similar in name to the well-known Italian minestrone soup but this one is usually made with a variety of vegetables and legumes but no meat. At least three types of pasta are added near the end of the cooking and the soup is served with big spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese. Marrow, pumpkin, gara tork (lighter but similar to pumpkin), kohlrabi, onions and potatoes are some of the usual vegetables included.

Pastizzi: classic Maltese cheesecake served with tea or coffee. Usually it is made with light puff pastry filled with a mild Rikotta cheese filling. Can also be filled with peas, onions or even anchovies.

Pastizzi Tas-Summien: a circle of puff pastry filled with a quail then folded over, sealed, and baked.

Pulpetti Tal-Laham: meatballs prepared from any minced meat, seasonings, and flour. But they are not ball-shaped, they are round, thick and patted flat, then fried in lard. Served with rice, potatoes or spaghetti with or without a sauce.

Ravjul: tiny pillows of noodle dough stuffed with chopped spinach and cheese, well seasoned and served with tomato sauce.

Ross Fil-Forn: the classic Maltese baked rice. A rich blend of onions, garlic, minced meat (or cut-up tidbits), tomato paste, seasonings, saffron, and grated cheese, plus water or stock with raw rice. The whole mixture is slowly oven-baked to a crusty golden goodness. A Sunday or company specialty.

Soppa: the Maltese term for a smooth creamy soup, not the most popular type by far unless it is Soppa Tal-Qara Bali, a variety of zucchini found in Malta cooked with potatoes and onions, soothed to a puree and served with butter and egg yolks whipped in.

Soppa Tal-Armla: a vegetable-stock soup made with only green and white vegetables. Commonly called “widow’s soup.” A poached egg and crumbled Gbejna and Rikotta are arranged in soup bowls and the hot vegetable soup poured over.

Souffle: not really a souffle, nor is it of French origin. This is actually a dessert that could be described as a trifle with a Maltese accent. Sponge-cake fingers are arranged in a crystal bowl, sprinkled with sherry and layered with candied peels, fruits, and chocolate pudding and finished with a custard or an uncooked soft meringue of whipped egg whites, sugar, and flavoring.

Stuffat Tal-Qarnit or Qarnita: fresh octopus, tenderized by beating well and hard till grayish. After cutting in chunks the octopus is stewed and served with spaghetti or cut-up potatoes. The surprise comes in the seasoning: curry powder or a mix of walnuts and currants.

Timpana: classically Maltese, this dish is made with a deep puff pastry pie shell, layered with minced seasoned meats, tomato paste and grated cheese, and lightly cooked macaroni. Sealed with a top crust of pastry, the pie is well baked then served in slices.

Toqlija: a thick sauce made from well-browned chopped onions and garlic blended with tomato paste. A little or a lot is used to season almost anything.

Torto Tal-Lampuka: a dolphinfish pie. Baked in a pastry shell are layers of honed, breaded, and fried lampuka with assorted well-seasoned vegetables.

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