Two-bite Maltese Pastizzi, two ways

I was half-involved in the conversation. It was my first time at my grandmother-in-law’s house, at one of her fortnightly family dinners, and I was only partially listening to what was happening at my end of the table.

I thought I was hearing things. Maybe I was missing home, or could it have been the wine she kept encouraging? Either way, I swore I was hearing Arabic. Small bits of Arabic, interspersed between other semi-recognizable tones.

She must have known – by that point I’m sure my eavesdropping was too obvious not to notice – because halfway through my next bite, Mum came over and said, “you must recognize some of these words!” It was Maltese they were speaking, which if you have never heard it, sounds like a lovely mixture of Italian and, yes, Arabic. I was not going crazy. At least not that day.

A tiny Mediterranean island, Malta is located just south of Sicily. Due West is Tunisia. The Arabs occupied Malta for 220 years between 800-1000AD, imparting upon them plenty of citrus fruits and, apparently, language.

Though these pastizzi represent far more of Malta’s Italian than Arab side, they are too irresistible not to share. A common street snack on the island, they are puffy little pastries filled either with mild ricotta cheese or lightly curried peas. I’ve made mine a bit smaller than the traditional size… really as an excuse to have more than one.

TWO BITE MALTESE PASTIZZI
Ricotta and Curried Pea
Makes about 16 pastizzi each


Ricotta filling provisions and method:
350g ricotta (light and full fat are both fine, but avoid fat free)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
1 handful parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 sheets (750g) puff pastry
Mix all ingredients in a bowl (except the puff pastry) and set aside until ready to use. If the ricotta becomes watery, place a paper towel on top of the mixture to soak up excess water until ready to bake.
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Thaw puff pastry (or, thaw before starting, depending on your preferred brand’s instructions). Cut 3″ circles using an overturned glass or biscuit cutter. 
Fill each circle with a small teaspoon of the ricotta mixture. Fold one side of the circle into the middle, then the other, folding over at the top to seal (see photos above). Then, pinch each end to seal, and if desired, twist once. Don’t worry too much about how they look when the pastry is still raw. The puffiness will hide any imperfections. 
Place the pastizzi on a lined baking sheet, and bake 20 minutes until the dough is puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve immediately. Or, reheat later in a 180C / 350F oven for 5 minutes until re-crisped.
Curried Pea filling provisions and method:
250g dried split peas
1 small onion
1 tsp mild curry powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 sheets (750g) puff pastry
Rinse the peas well, picking through and discarding any pebbles or irregular bits. Bring the peas and plenty of water (fill about 2″ above the peas) to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 35 minutes until the peas are very tender. Meanwhile, saute the onion until very soft, but not browned. Strain the peas to remove most of the excess liquid (not all). Mix in the onions, curry powder, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.

Thaw puff pastry (or, thaw before starting, depending on your preferred brand’s instructions). Cut 3″ circles using an overturned glass or biscuit cutter.

Fill each circle with a small teaspoon of the pea mixture. Fold one side of the circle into the middle, then the other, folding over at the top to seal (see photos above). Then, pinch each end to seal, and if desired, twist once. Don’t worry too much about how they look when the pastry is still raw. The puffiness will hide any imperfections.

Place the pastizzi on a lined baking sheet, and bake 20 minutes until the dough is puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve immediately. Or, reheat later in a 180C / 350F oven for 5 minutes until re-crisped.

Audio pairing: Alpine, “Seeing Red”

  • Brianna

    Iva (yes!) Maltese is quite similar to Arabic. Counting is almost the exact same (wiehed, tnejn, tlieta, erbgha, hamsa, sitta..etc)

    pastizzi is my favourite!! mmm, hope your grandmother in law makes many more maltese treats for you!