Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Recipes from Malta: Roasted Garlic Ftira

Ftira is kind of like a giant sourdough bagel. According to the Food and Wine Gazette, it's been around since at least the 16th century, when it was baked in the ovens of the Knights of St. John.

Recipes from the Maldives

I wanted to sort of start off easy, so I made only two recipes this time. Both were pretty good and not super time consuming to make, though my husband did walk into the kitchen at one point to complain about the bomb that clearly went off somewhere inside an onion or possibly a jar of turmeric.

Where is the Maldives?

Or is it "Where are the Maldives?" I don't know. Some writer, huh? Based on what I'm finding online, "is" is correct or at least the vast majority of people think it is. If not, then I'm going to spend this entire post sounding dumb.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Recipes from Malta: Roasted Garlic Ftira

Ftira is kind of like a giant sourdough bagel. According to the Food and Wine Gazette, it's been around since at least the 16th century, when it was baked in the ovens of the Knights of St. John. Of course, Food and Wine Gazette also explains that ftira is a flatbread, and the recipe I made had yeast in it so doesn't exactly fit that definition. Evidently, there are variations. Cue someone from Malta emailing me to say I did it all wrong. 

This recipe is a combination of two recipes taken from different Maltese cooking sites. The first recipe told me how to make the ftira, and the second told me how to dress it up. 


For the bread:
  • 4 oz sourdough starter
  • 1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • 3 ½ cups baking flour (give or take)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • For the topping:
    • 2 whole heads of garlic
    • 1 stick of butter, softened
    • ½ tbsp chili flakes
    • Mild cheddar cheese, shredded
    • Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
    • Emmental, shredded
    • Gouda, shredded
    1. Add all the bread ingredients to your bread machine and mix on the dough setting. 

    2. Take the dough out of the machine and shape into a round loaf.

    3. Cut a hole in the middle of the loaf.

    4. Let rise until your loaf doubles in size.

    5. Meanwhile, slice the tops off of the garlic bulbs and place them in a small baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    6. Roast the garlic at 400 degrees until the cloves are creamy. Take out and let cool.

    7. When the bread is done rising, turn your oven up to 425 and bake for 12 to 15 minutes (longer if it isn’t a nice golden color yet)

    8. Take the bread out and let it cool, then slice it in half as if it’s a giant bagel.

    9. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skins and mash with a fork.

    10. Add the butter and chili flakes to the mashed garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    11. Spread the garlic butter over the sliced part of each half of the bread. Accept your fate as a future victim of heart disease.

    12. Mix the shredded cheeses together in a large bowl, then sprinkle over the loaf halves.

    13. Place under the broiler until the cheese bubbles and starts to turn brown

    What we thought:

    Obviously, the bread was the best part of the meal. Mostly because it was slathered in an entire stick of butter with four different kinds of cheese. There were no leftovers. 

    Recipes from Malta: Imqarrum

    Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient ... it has to be simmered for a long time, and then it has to be baked for a long time.

    from the Maltese food blog I Love Food


    • Vegetable oil as needed

    • 1 onion, chopped

    • 18 oz lean ground beef

    • 3 cups tomato puree*

    • 1 level tsp Italian herbs

    • Salt and pepper to taste

    • 18 oz rigatoni, tortiglioni, or penne pasta

    • 3 eggs

    • 3 ½ oz edam or Cheddar cheese, grated


    *The Maltese version of tomato puree is called passata, and it’s generally just an uncooked tomato puree without the seeds and skin. But since it’s going to be cooked with the beef anyway, I think canned tomato puree is a reasonable substitute.

    1. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and add the onions. Saute until translucent. Die from boredom.

    2. Add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain the excess fat.

    3. Add the tomato puree and herbs. 

    4. Simmer for 1 hour. 

    5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, cook the pasta for a couple of minutes less than you usually would. Drain.

    6. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix gently, taking care not to break the noodles.

    7. Stir the eggs and fold them in (you might want to let the sauce/pasta cool down a bit first to prevent curdling)

    8. Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish and sprinkle the cheese on top.

    9. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the cheese is starting to brown a little.

    10. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

    What we thought:

    First of all, blog meals should not be cooked on weekdays, no matter how simple they look like they might be. I trashed my kitchen, got frustrated, and took terrible pictures. The food was good though.

    Imquarrum is not a difficult dish to make ... it's takes some time, but it passes the picky eater test (I do still have some of those even though my kids are all teenagers now). In flavor, it's really not too far off from a baked lasagna. I did sort of regret not choosing something a little more … how can I say this in the least offensive way possible … not like a typical American pasta casserole? Of course, other recipes would have compounded the “no blog meals on weeknights” problem, so I guess I’m not complaining. 


    Recipes from Malta

    Fort St. Angelo, Birgu Malta. Photo by Spike28742,
    licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

    This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by. One day I went, “hmm, maybe I should just cook another meal from Malta,” so I did … and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by. Third time’s a charm, right? 

    Where is Malta?

    Malta is a beensy little island nation located south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. At just 122 square miles, Malta is so microscopic that Wikipedia Maps had to blow it up so you could actually see what it looks like. It's so small, in fact, you could put 52 Maltas inside the city of Beijing.

    By NuclearVacuum - Own work based on:
    Location European nation states.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0.

    Culturally, Malta is sort of a mishmash of the many places that are in proximity to it, including North Africa and Italy. I did not, however, choose recipes that reflect multiple influences ... both seemed to be entirely derived from Italian cuisines. 

    I did waffle between the dish I eventually cooked and one called Stuffat Tal-Fenek, which is rabbit stew and also the national dish of Malta. I decided against the rabbit stew even though I happen to have a whole rabbit in my freezer, because the rabbit in my freezer was once living in my backyard as a part of my daughter’s 4H project, and whenever I cook any of my daughter’s ex-4H projects I have to lie to everyone about what they’re eating. Except for the daughter whose 4H project the rabbits were, because for some reason she’s the only one who doesn’t care.

    Anyway, here's what I did pick:

    In the past, I have made this whole blogging thing a chore by taking pictures of each step of each recipe and then posting long, verbal descriptions of each step, and you know what, I’m not gonna do that anymore. How many different pictures of frying onions do my three readers need to see anyway? And I’m going to come right out and say that my pictures were never exactly awesome based on me not bothering to use the lights I bought or do proper staging most of the time, so I’m just going to post a picture of the final dish and be done with it. 

    Although, here is a picture of my cat wishing she could eat Imquarrum.

    To get to the recipes, you'll need to click through the links above.


    Wednesday, March 3, 2021

    Recipes from Mali: Fonio Cakes

    See I told you I would post this tomorrow. Lucky for me, every day has its own tomorrow, so it doesn't matter that it was like a week ago that I said that. Right?

    So these little cakes aren't really the sort of thing I would typically think of as a dessert. They're kind of more like something you'd have with a cup of tea in the afternoon, but I gotta say I just wasn't having any luck finding anything deserty to do with this meal and I kind of just picked this in an act of desperation. I don't mind though, because they were good and the whole family liked them.

    At first I was like, great, another weird ingredient I won't be able to find. But fonio flour was actually readily available on Amazon, though it was a bit pricey. Here's the brand I ended up ordering (right):

    You're going to start making the dough by mixing two cups of fonio flour with two cups of regular all purpose flour. 

    Now mix 1 1/2 cups plus two tablespoons of sugar with 1 cup of water (the measurement is a bit weird because I cut the original in half). 

    Add the margarine, egg, milk powder, and yeast. The original recipe said to wait and add the yeast just before putting the batter in the muffin tin, but I'm guessing the recipe authors were using fresh yeast and I converted this to use active dry, and you can't really mix that in at the end.

    Mix in the flours. The recipe says knead, but the dough is pretty wet so just mix it up until it's smooth. 

    Grease your mini muffin tin and then drop the batter in, filling each cup up halfway.

    Bake for 10 or 15 minutes. As you can see from the photo, I burned the edges of mine. I'm pretty sure that's because the recipe told me to start at a higher temperature, bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature and bake for another 10. Instead I just recommend baking at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes. The cakes are done when they're starting to crack a little on top. Let cool on a rack before serving.

    Here's the complete recipe:


    • 2 cups fonio flour
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 5/8 cups sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 cup margarine, melted
    • 1 large egg
    • 7/8 cup milk powder
    • 1 1/8 tbsp active dry yeast
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract


    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Mix the two flours together.
    3. Now mix the sugar and water. When the sugar dissolves, add the egg, milk powder, yeast, and margarine.
    4. Add the flour and mix until you get a smooth batter. Let rest for 30 minutes.
    5. Coat a mini muffin pan with a little bit of oil. Fill each cup halfway.
    6. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a rack before serving.

    Thursday, February 25, 2021

    Recipes from Mali: Tukasu

    Okay so it took me a couple of days to get this one up and it looks like I'll be saving the dessert recipe for tomorrow. Or the next day. That's still better than three years though, right?

    This is tukasu, and I just want to begin by saying that it looks better in person, and when you're using natural light and are actually good at taking pictures of food. Honestly, sometimes I think I just want to have my daughter draw pictures of blog food so it will look like it tasted.

    This dish is kind of like a cross between chicken and dumplings and a really rich marinara pasta, but without the chicken and without the pasta. Here's how you make it:

    Make the dough first. It's a pretty basic dough with just flour, water, yeast, and salt. I just put the ingredients in my bread machine and let it do all the kneading. Note that the amounts listed in the recipe below are less than what the recipe called for (the recipe called for eight cups of flour, which is enough to make two decent sized loaves of bread and I thought that seemed a little excessive).

    Anyway, mix up the ingredients, cover with a damp towel and set aside for now. 

    Then cut up some onions into thin strips. Here some onions, because even though I haven't done many of these posts in the last few years I never get tired of taking photos of onions (actually I am still absolutely sick of always having to take an onion photo, like every single blog meal, because there's no such thing as a culture that does not use onions. I'm  just trying to put on a brave face).

    There are five onions in the ingredient list -- you only need to cut up two of them. The other three you'll just drop whole into the sauce.  

    Now on to the tomatoes. The recipe said to just kind of smash the tomatoes to remove the skins, but it's easier to blanch them. To do this, just drop them in a pot of boiling water and then take them out when the skins start to split. Let them cool and the skins will come right off. 

    Now cut the meat into largish chunks and chop up the tomatoes. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the meat, the two chopped onions, the tomatoes, and some salt to taste. Let the meat brown.

    Next you're going to take all of your sauce ingredients and put them in a blender: water, spices (except the bay leaf), tomato paste, and the whole onions. Puree until smooth. 

    Take the resulting liquid and strain so it's a little less watery. Then put it in a separate pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer. 

    Time to go back to the dough. You'll want to knead it for a few more minutes, then divide it up into small balls. Cover the balls with a damp towel and let them rise.

    Now add four cups of water to the sauce along with the bay leaves. Drop the dough balls into the sauce, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. When they're done they'll look like this:

    Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce reduce down until it is the consistency of marinara sauce.
    To serve, place a few of the bread balls on the plate and top with sauce. Add the meat and onions and serve.

    The verdict: Adults loved it, kids sort of liked it. They were pretty into the dough balls but they didn't go back for seconds or anything. For the record, the sauce was crazily rich -- that's a whole lot of tomato paste for one recipe and it was kind of hard to eat more than a small portion. But eating small portions isn't really a bad thing, is it?

    Here's the printable recipe:


    • 5 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
    • 3 lbs beef
    • 1 cup oil
    • 5 large onions
    • 8 tomatoes
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 cup tomato paste
    • 8 to 10 fresh dates
    • 1 tsp ground anise
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 bay leaf
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • chili powder to taste


    1. First make the dough. Add the salt and yeast to the water, then add the flour. Mix until you have a smooth dough. Knead for around 15 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and set aside.
    2. Cut two of the onions into thin strips. Blanch the tomatoes in hot water until the skins start to split, then remove and let cool. Remove the skins and discard.
    3. Cut the meat into largish chunks and chop the tomatoes. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the meat along with salt to taste, the two chopped onions, and the tomatoes. Let brown.
    4. Put the water, all spices except the bay leaf, tomato paste, and the whole onions in a blender and puree until smooth. Strain and then add to a separate pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
    5. Knead the dough for another five minutes or so, then divide into small balls. Cover with a damp towel and let rise.
    6. Add four cups of water to the sauce along with the bay leaves. Drop the dough balls into the sauce, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
    7. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce reduce down until it is the consistency of marinara sauce.
    8. To serve, place a few of the bread balls on the plate and top with sauce. Add the meat and onions and serve.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2021

    Recipes from Mali

    I just spent the last hour deleting like 200 spammy comments from my blog, and I accidentally deleted a couple of real comments from actual people. So if you left a comment and are actually one of the like three people who came back here more than just the one time, I'm sorry! Please repost and I promise I won't delete you again. 

    I had to turn on comment moderation because of the ridiculous number of "escort" ads that kept showing up. "Your posts are great! Also here's a link to an escort site." Eye roll. And Mount Everest trekking company ads, what's that all about? I mean, I support my local Sherpa as much as the next blogger but I don't think Travel by Stove is super popular with the "let's climb Mount Everest" crowd. I could be wrong, though, so if you've ever climbed Mount Everest do leave me a comment. But without a link to your trekking company please.

    Mount Hombori, which is definitely not Mount Everest.
    Anyway here we are in Mali, where the highest peak is is Mount Hombori, which at 3,782 feet is roughly 25,250 feet below Mount Everest, so I don't expect any Mount Hombori trekking companies to come dropping into these comments. 

    I have to say it was tough to find Mali recipes. I was determined not to make jollof again and I was also kind of shying away from stuff with peanuts, since that just seems so typically African and I wanted something that was more specifically Malian. So in the end, I found this recipe for tukasu from It's basically dumplings served in a meat and tomato sauce, and it sounds a lot more challenging than it actually is:

    And yeah, I recognize that my photography sucks right now. My photography lights are sitting on a shelf covered in dust and one of them is burned out and I really just don't want to.

    But the good news is, I saved back a couple of these for the next day and took photos of them in natural light, so theylook a lot nicer than the tukasu does. They're called "fonio cakes" after the ancient grain flour they're made with. The recipe comes from

    I'll have the recipes posted tomorrow. I hope. 

    Where is Mali?

    On Sunday, my oldest daughter told me she wanted to try sushi. This girl does not eat seafood, so I was like, "What? Okay let's get some before you change your mind." You know, expanding horizons and all that. Of course we're in a pandemic so it's not like we can go get sushi at a proper sushi boat place or anything, so I had to get some from Raley's.

    Tirelli, Mopti, Mali. Photo by C. Hugues.

    Now, I've never had any problem with the sushi at our local Raley's. It's always fresh. But after eating this particular box of sushi, well, let me just say I was not present at my day job today, and my oldest daughter isn't doing so great either. Instead, I spent my day sitting on the sofa binge watching Worst Cooks in America. And I also redesigned my blog. Sort of. I mean, I uploaded a free template and now the blog looks different. 

    Anyway, for this entry we are in Mali, which is actually the eighth largest country in Africa, yet most Americans couldn't find it on a map or probably say anything about how big it is. It's also the world's third largest producer of gold, which means it must be one of the wealthier African nations, right? Nope. Mali is, in fact, one of the world's poorest nations with an average annual income of about $1,500. The fact that Mali is a unitary semi-presidential republic under a military dictatorship might have something to do with that, though I can't say I'm especially educated in the particulars of the Malian economy. 

    Because Mali isn't a wealthy nation, they eat a lot of cereals and not very much meat. Rice and millet are usually on the menu, and the Malians make sauces out of peanuts, tomatoes, spinach, or some combination thereof. The also eat fufu in Mali, which, no, and jollof rice, which I didn't make this week mostly because I made a version of it when I did the Gambia like eight years ago and I couldn't possibly make the same basic dish twice in any one decade. 

    Instead I chose tukasu. Because I was warned that tukasu was kind of a complicated dish, I selected just one other recipe to make, a dessert called "fonio cakes." How'd it go? I'll let you know in a couple of days.

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