With the change of season in Malta from summer to autumn, comes the return of one of the island’s best-loved fruits and vegetables: the pumpkin.
Conveniently, Malta’s pumpkin season also kicks in around the time of Halloween, when pumpkins are traditionally carved out and turned into spooky-faced decorations. But what to do with all that delicious, sweet and tender pumpkin meat that’s been scooped out?
Here are a few local pumpkin dishes that the Maltese swear by at this time of year especially, and that you should look out for and sample during your holiday.
The gold standard of local pumpkin recipes, this vegetable soup is as Maltese as it gets. Made with love in homes across Malta over the generations, many local families have their own variation of this classic recipe, which forms a major part of Maltese culture and heritage. This traditional winter-warmer is jam-packed with fresh, local vegetables, typically using pumpkin as a base, and may also include barley, pasta, potatoes and lentils.
Another vegetable soup but far less famous than minestra, ‘il-kawlata’ is a traditional Maltese dish which also uses a huge amount of fresh local vegetables, but this time alongside beans, pork, and macaroni pasta. With the main focus being the pork, its strong supporting flavours come from the large quantities of yummy fresh pumpkin and cabbage in the dish.
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Staying on the theme of soups, the sheer amount of pumpkin available in Malta at this time of year means it is often found locally as a soup in its own right. Blended with a touch of curry powder for a fiery heat in some recipes, or with sweet potato or carrots in others, its warming and wholesome flavour works well no matter the ingredients it is paired with.
Maltese Pumpkin Pie
Known in Maltese as ‘torta tal-qargha ħamra’, the local rendition of the classic pumpkin pie is more savoury than sweet, unlike the American version that is found in the US around Thanksgiving. This delicious, healthy and traditionally-Maltese dish tends to have a filling of stir-fried rice, black olives and fresh-salted tuna, of course alongside lashings of fresh pumpkin, all mixed inside a sesame-seed-infused shortcrust pastry crust.
Here, the classic local baked pasta dish takes on a wintery feel with extra ingredients added to the tomato passata-based sauce such as lean minced beef, onion, egg, and a generous amount of cooked and diced pumpkin. When topped with cheese and oven-baked, the hearty and luscious pumpkin inside this pasta dish serves to make it the ultimate comfort food as the winter chill approaches.
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Want to try some in-season pumpkin dishes? Check out the seasonal menu at Le Bistro, at Radisson Blu St Julian’s.