Lemon Ricotta Cake ~ a light yet moist cake, flavoured with tangy lemon zest and a covering layer of crunchy flaked almonds.
Located just 95 kms south of Sicily (Italy) and 290 kms from the North African coast Maltese cuisine is strongly influenced by these two regions as well as it’s history.
Having to import most of its foodstuffs, being positioned along important trade routes, and having to cater for the resident foreign powers who ruled the islands, opened Maltese cuisine to outside influences from very early on. Foreign dishes and tastes were absorbed, transformed and adapted. Italian (specifically Sicilian), Middle Eastern and Arabic foods exerted a strong influence, but the presence in Malta of the Knights of St John and, more recently, the British brought elements from further afield.
The Knights hailed from many European countries; particularly, France, Italy and Spain. They brought influences from these countries. Aljotta, for example, a fish broth with plenty of garlic, herbs, and tomatoes, is the Maltese adaptation of bouillabaisse. The Knights’ contacts and wealth brought also food from the New World; it has been suggested that Malta may have been one of the first countries in Europe (after Spain) where chocolate was first tasted.
The British military presence meant a market of a garrison and their families and, later, mass tourism from the UK. British food products, condiments and sauces like English mustard, Bovril, HP Sauce and Worcestershire sauce are still a subtle but pervasive presence in Maltese cooking. Other imports were only nominal. While the Maltese word “aljoli” is likely to be a loan word, the Maltese version of the sauce does not include any egg as in aioli; instead it is based on herbs, olives, anchovies and olive oil. Similarly, while the Maltese word “taġen” is related to “tajine” in Maltese the word refers exclusively to a metal pan.
The national dish of Malta is Fenkata (stewed rabbit). Our choice of dishes to cook from had ingredients more readily available to the masses. Pastizzi ( a savoury pastry), Brodu (a classic Maltese broth) and a Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Flourless Cake.