Dates in Malta’s cuisine
Steeped in centuries of history
Imqaret- Date Slices
Volume 1 Traditional Sweet Recipes from Malta
Malta has always been recognised and coveted for its central location and strategic position within the heart of the Mediterranean. Over many centuries various nations and empires have inhabited the Island, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and the British. Some of whom fought in fierce battle to claim this central real estate for its geographic and strategic advantage.
Throughout Malta’s history there were numerous attempts to conquer it, not all attempts however were successful. Significant historical events which provide excellent examples of this include the Turkish Ottoman who attacked Malta with overwhelming force and numbers during the great siege of Malta 1565, whom were defeated by the knights of St John and the Maltese which occupied Malta during that period, despite the fact that Malta was severely outnumbered by the attack.
During World war 2 (1939-1942) Germany’s infamous ruler Hitler, also did not succeed in his quest to conquer Malta, despite his best efforts by aggressively and relentlessly bombing the island with the highest number of bombs per square kilometre than anywhere else in Europe.
Over the centuries the various nations and cultures that have inhabited the Island bought with them a diverse range of cuisine and traditions.
Dates are a commodity which have been prevalent within the Maltese Culture for hundreds of years. Their introduction can be traced back to the Arab influence during their rule of the Arab invasion from 870 AD to the 11th Century. Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) can still be seen around Malta to this day.
One of the most popular sweets created from this era that still exists today which remains just as popular are Imqaret- Date Slices. The word Imqaret having an Arab origin meaning diamond shaped.
Theses diamond or rectangle shaped pastry are filled with cooked dates that are fried and served hot. Some have adapted this recipe to be baked rather than fried for a healthier option, however the result remains incomparable to the fresh, crisp melt in the mouth pastry cooked by the traditional method of frying. You can find them at every feast occasion and at Sunday markets.
There has been a kiosk outside the Capital Valletta where they have been sold for over half a century. The aroma reaches you long before you arrive at the city centre. Imqaret can also be found at cafes and restaurants served piping hot with ice cream.
The original Valletta Imqaret kiosk seller has now moved from Valletta to the main road in Hamrun, since the introduction of the new bus terminals.
There is still a however a kiosk that sells the Imqaret as well as other foods outside the bus termini in Valletta, so that patrons do not miss out.
Torta tat Tamar- Date Pie
Volume 2 Traditional Sweet Recipes from Malta
Other Maltese sweets that use dates are Date Pie- Torta tat Tamar, a family favourite.
Another traditional favourite is Marzipan filled dates-Tamal Mimli, which were once quite popular and prevalent at many functions, served as part of their petite four range amongst their assortment of fine biscuits.
Dates continue to become more versatile and popular within Traditional Maltese Sweets. Dates may also be used as an alternate filling for the Easter Figoli as a different flavour option for those that are nut intolerant who cannot consume the traditional almond filling.
Another sweet Pasta Frolla is also being made with date filings and readily on offer within confectionary shops as a delicious alternative.
Tamal Mimli- Stuffed Dates
Volume 1 Traditional Sweet Recipes from Malta.
Since its introduction to the Island, dates have never fallen out of favour within Maltese Sweets. In fact, it has only continued to grow in its appreciation and applications which is ever evident within confectionary shops and restaurants around Malta.
Happy Baking until next time.