The Maltese love pies (‘torti’ is the plural in Maltese, with ‘torta’ being one pie). Apart from being delicious, these baked envelopes of pastry dough containing a number of possible savoury fillings are quite practical, in that they are not only easy to store but also as a means of using leftover ingredients or parts of other meals. Pies can be either sweet or savoury, making them a versatile dish which can be served either as main course or dessert.
Since Malta traditionally favours a number of local ingredients, some of which are seasonal, traditional Maltese pies, especially savoury ones, are another staple of our cultural heritage. Some of my favourites include:
The Rikotta Pie
Rikotta Pie is a tasty and filling dish, which probably origins from Malta’s close historical links to Sicily and Italy. Ricotta, that is, soft crumbly whey cheese, may be either sweet or savoury. It is usually baked in a covered pie together with peas, bacon, eggs and cheese. Another version of the ricotta pie are the smaller ‘qassatat’, which are a very popular take-away street food.
Another pie which showcases Malta’s culinary links with Italian cuisine, ‘timpana’, that is, baked macaroni pie, is cherished by the Maltese especially as a main dish for Sunday family lunches. When preparing ‘timpana’, the macaroni are usually smothered and mixed with a rich red sauce containing minced meat, as well as a number of other possible ingredients such as peas, bacon, ricotta, carrots and beans. This very rich filling is then poured into the bottom crust and baked in the oven. ‘Timpanas’ can be either open or closed pies, in that some prefer to leave this pie open, while others add a top layer of dough.
The lampuki pie, or Dorado Pie, is a fish pie whose main ingredient is the most popular fish caught in Maltese waters, the Dorado, or mahi-mahi. The fishing season for these type of fish occurs from late August to December, so this can be considered to be a seasonal pie. The fresh fish is cleaned, chopped and rolled in flour. They are then fried until golden brown and left to simmer with tomatoes, tomato paste, spinach, olives, capers, onions, and mint, on low heat for some minutes. The mixture is then poured into a dish containing the dough, and covered with another layer of dough, before being baked.
Torta tal-Bulu Bijf
Bulu Bijf Pie, or Corned Beef Pie, is a remnant of the Second World War, when meat was scarce and tinned beef, provided by the British forces, was the second best commodity available. The recipe for this pie is very straightforward. One cooks some onions and carrots in a pan, then adds tomato paste and corned beef. In the meanwhile, potatoes are chopped in small pieces and boiled, and then later mashed and also added to the mixture, which is then placed between two crusts of pastry, and baked.
All these types of traditional pies are usually prepared using puff pastry, which is a type of light flaky pastry containing several layers of butter. This type of pastry is related to the Middle Easter phyllo pastry, which is a very thin unleavened dough mostly used to create sweet pastries in Middle-Eastern and Balkan cuisines.