Hidden Gozo Gourmet – Eat like a local.
Its only a tiny island, the most northerly of the Maltese Archipelago, Gozo is truly a gem in the treasure trove of the Mediterranean. I've lived here all my life, although Maltese, I do consider myself to be a true Gozitan and having traveled in the name of food for many years I know and understand the importance of finding the indigenous dishes and food of the area you're visiting. When you live and eat like a local you fall in love with the place you visit and the whole experience moves up a level.
I truly believe that a positive experience when travelling abroad starts from good food. Knowing a local can make all the difference when visiting somewhere you're unfamiliar with, it can mean the difference between a positive and a negative experience.
Having someone to guide you, someone who knows the nooks and cranny’s the Little bakeries hidden behind garage doors and down alleyways, the wood fired pizza ovens in the heart of the rural village, the bee keepers' boxes behind gates, the olive groves, the pomegranate and lemon orchards, tucked away behind the large stone walls….things you would miss ordinarily.
When you want to get the freshest produce, like the Fishermen's catch available for the first pick. Boxes brimming with ripe fruits delivered to the wholesalers. Warm aniseed bread rings coming out of the oven. The freshest Milk of a little goat herd, and cheese making. Timing is crucial, and we can take you there.Each of our tours is custom made, created with you in mind, organised to meet not only your requirements, but your time constraints and budget.
Meet up at your property or the local village square, like St George's in Victoria.
Breakfast with the traditional Pastizzi (rough puff pastries filled with either ricotta or a pea mash) and strong black coffee. A good start to the day and a plan of what is to come.
At this point we can establish what to cook later. Usually we settle for a traditional menu. A local platter with Gozitan delicacies, then a typical dish like stuffed marrows, or 'Aljotta' (fish soup), 'Bragjoli' (beef olives), fried Lampuki (September and October) fish, also called dorado or dolphin fish, fried or stewed rabbit, widow soup, 'Kisksu' (bean soup with pasta – March/April), Local Ravioli, Octopus Stew, Qassatat (local cheese and raisin filled pastries typical of Xaghara) or 'Pulpetti tal-Vopi' (Bogue patties which are typical from Nadur). Desert can be a seasonal fruit cheesecake, or a fresh fruit platter, warm figs with walnuts, honey and ice cream, Torta ta San Martin ( a cake baked in November, made for St Martin's feast – made with dates, walnuts and hazelnuts), Kwarezimal (easter biscuits) or sesame and mandarin biscuits.
Next is the farm visit. We go to Marianna and Zeppu's and have a go at milking the goats if it is early enough. If not, Zeppu, very lovingly explains all about the rabbits, his heard and all the hard work that it entails. His wife Marianna makes the local cheese. She makes the fresh Gbejniet that look like small ricottas or thedried ones that come wither plain or peppered. We stock up on cheeses to use later for the typical platter to be made for lunch.
The other option could be to go and visit a close friend of mine who keeps bees. Pure Local Honey is delicious. Perfect to take back home or to enjoy with breakfast during the rest of your stay here in Gozo. Whilst there, we have a look at the pomegranate, olive and lemon groves. Pick a few herbs, like mint, marjoram and parsley or have a go at foraging, then head off to the next destination.
Whilst still in Xewkija, we visit my favourite bakery, Tax-Xiber.Istruggle to find it each time. The narrow winding roads in Xewkija are worse than a labyrinth. However,Ialways manage to find myself a garage door sitting next to a local grocery shop. This is it….. a wood fires bread oven that bakes traditional crusty bread. They have fresh bread every hour starting from 5am and they stay open till about 3pm. The bread is so fresh that it is too hot to hold on to. It still is crackling because of the high temperatures it has just been in. You feel like ripping of pieces and crunching on the dark golden crust. We shall resist temptation.
Off to Qala at tal-Mulejja bakery to grab a few aniseed rings just out of the clay clustered, wood burning oven. The rings are sweet and tasty whilst warm. Nothing like freshly baked goods.
Close to Qala, lies Nadur. Home of two very famous bakeries that specialise in making 'Ftiras'. These are traditional pizzas made with bread dough and filled with either potato and sheep cheese or with potatoes, capers, onion and anchovies. These days they also make more varieties, but these are the two traditional ones. My personal favourite is the cheese one. The intention is to take one home, but it never makes it past their doorstep. We sit in a shady part of the street and eat it on the spot!
Next it is either the fishermen in Xlendi or the fish vendors in Victoria. Bogue, barracuda, amberjack, snapper, octopus, rock fish…… it all depends on the weather and luck of the day.
We need a few groceries and vegetables. Best option is Victoria. My best connection for fruits and vegetables is in Fontana, on the outskirts. There is also a little 'supermarket'
Ta Golina that has most items and deli items. A bottle of wine, some ice cream and off home. We can either continue at your rental place or at my house.
Menu in mind, we start off the cooking. A helping hand is always helpful, but you don't have to do anything unless you want to. You are on holiday after all! Taking notes of the recipes is enough.
Wash, peel, chop, dice….. in goes the onion, a little wine, love and patience. Late lunch is served.
We start with a local platter. A taste of Gozo produce. Olives, capers, sundered tomatoes, basi, mintl and tomato salad, pickled onions, local cheese, local smoked sausage, crusty bread with Kunserva ( tomato paste/concentrate), loads of olive oil and pepper and L-Ikla It-Tajba (Buon Apetit).
Would you like dessert now or later? its up to you!
Yes, I do wash up before I leave. I have been trained well….
wash as you go!
At this point, all smiles, more often that not, a friendship is established…. and a love affair with all food from Gozo!
Welcome to cooking in Gozo.