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Maltese Christmas honey rings: an overflow of goodness

Strategically located in the Mediterranean along major trade routes, Malta has a culinary tradition that has been shaped by a variety of influences. Indeed, Maltese customs (cuisine included) have been inspired by historical transitions, with some traditions passed down through generations and others introduced during the island’s rich history.

Maltese cuisine is thus a delightful fusion of continental European, North African, and Middle Eastern elements, creating a unique Mediterranean blend. The archipelago’s geographical location and historical significance allowed it to incorporate flavors and ingredients from the various cultures that passed through its sea trade and pilgrimage routes. Local restaurants and family tables proudly preserve these culinary traditions, making Malta stand out for its broad mélange of cross-cultural influences.

Grandma’s house comes to mind when walking into many local restaurants, where chefs have been preparing traditional dishes for decades. The pride in using local ingredients, such as goat’s milk ricotta cheese and homegrown tomatoes and herbs, adds a very personal touch to the culinary experience.

Beyond its geographical and historical influences, Maltese cuisine is a testament to its uninterrupted 2,000-year Christian tradition. Many dishes are inspired by Catholic feasts and follow the liturgical calendar. Feast day-inspired delicacies include Christmas’ honey rings, known as Qaghaq tal-Ghasel.

These ring-shaped pastries, filled with a mixture of honey, molasses, anise, cinnamon and cloves, represent the cyclical nature of the liturgical calendar. That is, they symbolize eternity. But the oozing filling signifies the season’s overflow of goodness, in a clear reference to the birth of Christ. Originally a Christmas delicacy, honey rings have become an icon of Malta and Gozo and are available to locals and tourists all year round.

But as Advent appears in the horizon, visitors to Malta can indulge in a delicious fruit cake for St. Martin’s Day in mid-November. A delicious blend of dates, figs and spices, this nut-covered torta is a tantalizing prelude to the festive Christmas delights that await those who explore Malta’s rich culinary tapestry.

Malta: A Mediterranean step on the Way of Saint James

 

This post is also available in: Español

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