A Culinary Experience & Recipe From Malta

Malta is a group of islands in the Mediterranean between Sicily and North Africa. Its location means that it has been influenced by a variety of cultures, including the Roman, Moors, French, and British. When John and I visit a location for a week or more, we like to mix up our stays. While in Malta we stayed at a beach resort and also city location. The Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa located in the capital city of Valetta was a wonderful choice.

While at the Corinthia we explored Valetta, including the exquisite 16th-century St. John’s Co-Cathedral with gold ornamentations and a floor of marble tomb slabs plus two painting by Caravaggio in the Oratory. We visited the Upper Barrakka Gardens where there is a panoramic view of the harbor. I loved the colorful houses that lined the streets with picturesque balconies.

We were glad we stayed at the Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa because the accommodations were luxurious, the pools wonderful, and the restaurants outstanding. The hotel was once a 19th-century country villa and many of the features were incorporated into the hotel. It is located near the Presidential Palace and the botanical gardens in a quiet gentrified area of the capital.

One of the best ways to experience the culture of an area is to eat like the locals. The cuisine of the island reflects the tastes of many groups.  Rabbit Pit is considered one of Malta’s national dishes. Rabbits were most likely brought to the island by the Romans or Phoenicians from the Iberian Peninsula.

One of the items on the hotel menu was Maltese-style rabbit and mushroom pie, which Stefan Hogan, the executive head chef, agree to let me watch him make. Rabbit is not a common food in New York State, but there is a meat market near us that sells rabbit and a wide variety of meats.  I think any meat could be used if rabbit isn't available.

Maltese Style Rabbit & Mushroom Pie (Torta Tal-fenek)

3 lbs rabbits ready to cook

2 celery sticks, cut into cubes

2 carrots, cut into cubes

1 leek, sliced

8 shallots

Bay leaf

Sprig of rosemary

6 garlic cloves

1/3 cups olive oil

1 cup red wine

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup mushrooms

1/2 cup peas

Pie crusts  

     Egg wash for brushing & glazing (one egg blended with 1 to 3 tsp milk and a dash of salt.)

Put oil in pan. Add rabbit pieces. Fry until golden brown, transfer to an oven dish.  In a separate pan put some oil; sauté half the celery, half the carrots and the leeks with two garlic cloves until lightly brown, Add to the oven dish with the rabbit. In the oven dish add the bay leaf and the rosemary. Deglaze the rabbit pan with the red wine, add to the oven dish. Cover with the chicken stock. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the rabbit pieces from the stock and pick the meat off the bone – try and leave the meat in large chunks. Strain the liquid and reduce by half.

In a clean pan, heat add some oil and lightly brown the remaining garlic, celery, shallots and carrots, drain off excess oil, and add to the rabbit meat. Saute the mushrooms with a drop of oil until golden brown and add to the rabbit mixture, add the peas. Allow to cool completely.

Lightly brush a circular baking dish with oil and dust with flour, line the baking dish with the rolled-out pastry leaving half an inch of the pastry hanging over the sides, fill with the rabbit mixture, fold the overhanging dough over mixture then cover with the remaining dough. Seal edges of dough. Brush liberally with the egg wash, prick the pastry with a fork, and bake in an oven at 400 degrees for the first 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool before taking it out of the pan; let it rest 15 minutes before cutting. For more information go to www.corinthia.com/en.