Following our magical wedding day last month, we shared a romantic honeymoon on the island of Malta, staying in a lovely hotel overlooking Valetta harbour.
It was our first time to this tiny jewel in the Mediterranean, which received the ‘George Cross’ in 1942 from king George VI of the United Kingdom in recognition of the bravery of its inhabitants during the second world war, and even though the island gained independence from Britain in 1964, becoming a ‘Commonwealth State’ with the queen as its sovereign, and then a republic in 1974, the Georges Cross still features on its flag, and the Maltese are very proud of their heritage.
The distinctive Maltese yellow limestone that gives the island its ‘sunny’ appearance even on a rare cloudy day
It was not only the British who saw the strategic advantage of having a base in the southern Mediterranean, lying only 50 miles south of Italy, 176 miles east of Tunisia and 207 miles north of Libya, but the Island has also been conquered by the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, The Knights of St John, and French (Napoleon requesting permission to pull into port for water and supplies, sneakily disguising his intention to occupy the island!)
Today The port of Valetta is invaded by cruise liners, but elsewhere on the island the distinctive colourful fishing boats rule the waves
All these cultures have left their influence be it on the architectural styles or cuisine, and in fact we ate mainly a mixture of meaty, hearty Maltese stew, with a distinct north African influence and delicious sea food and pasta (hence I have chosen a pasta dish to feature today)
Typically Maltese casement windows in a ‘Spanish / moorish’ style
Of all these, it is the Knights of Saint John that seem to have left the most lasting impression, with the magnificent St John’s Cathedral in Valetta housing a museum displaying a multitude of memorabilia, including armor and richly embroidered costumes which we were not allowed to photograph, I have however taken some pics of the really stunning interior
The sumptous interior of the Cathedral of St Jean the baptist with the original oil painting of the beheading of the saint by Carravaggio
In 1530 the King of Spain, who was at this time ruler of Malta, gave sanctuary to the Knights who had moved from place to place around Europe for seven long years after they were expelled from Rhodes, the only thing asked in return was that they presented the king with a falcon every year.
The knights also bestowed the island with its symbol, the unique 8 pointed ‘Maltese’ cross (of which I received a lovely silver replica on a necklace as a present from my lovely new husband) representing the 8 obligations of the knights:-
To live in truth. Have faith. Repent one’s sins. Give proof of humility. Love justice. Be merciful. Be sincere and whole-hearted. and to Endure persecution”. What a wonderful ideology!
With time, the eight points also came to represent the eight “langues” (national groupings) of the noblemen who were admitted into the brotherhood, namely those of Auvergne, Provence, France, Aragon, Castille and Portugal, Italy, Baviere (Germany), and England (with Scotland and Ireland).
The British naval heritage is also very evident and they ceremoniously fire the cannon on the battlements each day at midday and four in the afternoon.
Cannons seen from the fort and the fort seen from the sea
As it was our honeymoon, we wanted to relax after the frenetic wedding preparations, so we did not see as much of the island as it deserved, so we will definitely be going back sometime in the future……..
Music is the food of love, but pasta comes a close second……..I have a confession this delicious dish was actually created and cooked by my lovely daughter, Natasia, who is following in my culinary footsteps, but I contributed by eating it and loving every mouthful………
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 small medium squash (cut into cubes)
1 medium yellow pepper (finely sliced)
A block of Feta cheese with herbs (crumbled)
4 sheets of fresh lasagne
300 mls of whole milk
1 tablespoon of cornflour
30 gms of slightly salted butter
100 gms of white cheddar cheese (grated)
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
Garlic salt to taste (optional)
Roast the squash in olive oil for 15 minutes until softened and allow to cool a little before mixing with the pepper and feta cheese and season with salt, pepper and garlic salt if required
Put half into a lasagne dish and top with two of the pasta sheets
Cover with the remaining squash, pepper, cheese mixture and top with the remaining two pasta sheets
Make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and add the cornflour, making a smooth paste, then whisk in the milk a little at a time and heat gently until thickens into a sauce, then pour the sauce over the dish.
Top with rated cheddar, cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at
180 degrees / gas mark 6
Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes until the top is golden
Serve immediately with extra fine green beans (and maybe, like us, a little garlic bread)
Delicious – thank you Natasia xx