Week 16 – Malta
Timpana – A Rustic Pasta Pie
How can you go wrong with a pie? Everyone loves pies! In this rustic but decorative version, pasta is baked with Bolognese style sauce further enriched with chicken livers and eggs, in a golden, flakey puff pastry case. Filling and tasty, it’s like lasagna in a pie!
Malta – the place
The Republic of Malta is several islands, part of a ridge once running from Africa to Europe, it’s closest to Sicily. Waves of invaders from the Phoenicians, The Romans, the Knights of St John, the Moors and more, have left it with a unique and varied history. Its strategic position has given it an importance much greater than it’s tiny 316km² size. In fact Malta is one of the worlds smallest and most densely populated countries and has the smallest capital in the European Union.
Despite it’s tiny size, it boasts nine UNESCO world heritage sites. Valetta, the ancient capital called The Fortress City, “a city built by a gentleman for gentlemen” named after it’s founder a Grand Master of the Order of St John with the magnificent Grand Harbour dating from Roman times, it’s one of the worlds most concentrated historic cities.
Other places include an underground temple or necropolis called the Hypogeum in Paola and 7 Megalithic structures which are among the oldest in the world, and plenty of really impressive cathedrals. Plus possibly the worlds best diving site, there are natural features of the stunning Blue Lagoon and Azure Window, an impressive limestone arch on the coast.
During the Second World War, Malta was besieged and endured the heaviest and most sustained bombardment in the entire war. Over 15,000 tons of bombs were dropped from over 3,500 unrelenting raids continuing every day for 154 days and nights. After the war, King George VI acknowledged this debt, awarding to the people of Malta collectively, the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for civilian bravery – “to bear witness to ……..(their) heroism”
Malta – the food
As expected there are many strong influences in Maltese cuisine, notably Sicily and Britain, as well as Spanish and Provençal. Traditionally the food is a hearty peasant style typical of the Mediterranean. Making the most of local seasonal produce, such as olives, cheeses, sausage, breads, seafood and rabbit, fresh vegetables especially tomatoes and garlic, with wild herbs like mint, thyme and oregano.
Sweets are often very sweet with Arabic influences in pastries and sweetmeats like nougat, macaroons and nut and especially citrus flavoured delicacies. Other desserts are more Italian such as Cassata, granita or Kannoli. English classics like bread and butter pudding, trifle and apple pie are made with interesting versions and there is a huge range of biscuits to nibble on.
Locally produced wines from the limestone soils are robust reds and crisp dry whites and beer has been brewed here for centuries. Unusual liqueurs like Prickly Pear, Almond, Honey, Carob and Blood Orange are made and very popular too.
This recipe is adapted from http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/timpana Thanks SBS – we love you!
Timpana – Pasta Pie Serves 8 -10
- 3 tb butter
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 150 g bacon, finely diced
- 150 g minced pork
- 150 g minced beef
- 150 g chicken livers, diced, (optional:substitute with 100g mushrooms sliced + 50g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water 15min, then strained, keeping juice)
- 250 ml chicken/ beef stock
- 1x 4400g can tomatoes/400ml tomato puree
- 2 tb tomato paste
- 300 g macaroni or penne
- 75 g parmesan, grated
- 75 g tasty cheese, grated
- 4 eggs, beaten
- salt and pepper
- 3 x puff pastry sheets approx. 26cm²
- 1 egg, beaten to glaze
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and pork, stirring well to separate, then add the beef and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring every so often.
- Add the chicken livers if using and cook for 5 minutes. (If using mushrooms, add them and juice from porcini now).
- Add the stock, the tomato paste and puree, and season. Simmer 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sauce needs to be quite thin and liquid as pasta will absorb a lot more liquid while cooking.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until little undercooked. Drain, then mix through the sauce. Stir in the cheeses and egg and check seasoning.
- Line a buttered baking dish with the pastry, extending it up the sides. Spoon in the pasta and cover with another layer of pastry. Prick the timpana all over with a knife to let steam escape. Cut strips of extra pastry to decorate the top.
- Beat the egg and brush it over the timpana. Bake for 1–1¼ hours.
- Serve with a nice green salad to balance out the richness, some crusty bread and a glass or two of red! And as they say on Malta – L-Ikla it-tajba!