What's Cooking in... Malta

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 53 of the March 2017 issue.
Ingredients laid out for qarnit moqli (pan-seared octopus). Photos by Sandra Scott

Malta is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. 

The Maltese Archipelago is located south of Sicily, which means it is blessed with a Mediterranean climate. (Think ‘no snow.’) 

And there are many wonderful places to visit. In fact, Malta has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the City of Valletta, the Megalithic Temples and the H¯al Saflieni Hypogeum, with several other sites on UNESCO’s tentative list, awaiting inclusion — impressive for an island that measures only 17 by 9 miles.

My husband, John, and I visited Malta in October 2016. We toured several places in the capital, Valletta, including St. John’s Co-Cathedral, with its golden carved pillars and fabulous paintings on the vaulted ceiling. In the Oratory is Caravaggio’s “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist,” the only painting he ever signed.

I was especially impressed with Casa Rocca Piccola, a unique 1850 house/museum that is still used as a residence by its current friendly owners. They have an extensive bomb shelter in which, during WWII, the family sought safety. I didn’t know that Malta was one of the most bombed places during that war.

Uncooked octopus.

On a “hotel day” that we scheduled at Ramla Bay Resort Malta (Marfa Bay, Mellieh¯a, MLH 7100, Malta; phone +356 2281 2281, www.ramla
, John and I felt that the resort was a good value at $100 a day, including breakfast (and we were upgraded to a sea-view room). 

We lounged around the pool reading, enjoyed the spa and learned how to make a traditional Maltese recipe, Qarnit Moqli, pan-seared octopus. We had seen the chef cooking in the show kitchen and asked if he would show us how to make an octopus dish. He agreed. 

Ramla’s Executive Head Chef, Christian Borg, told us that Maltese cooking is simple, colorful and tasty. He explained further that several countries have invaded Malta over the years, and most Maltese recipes are mixes of Italian and Arabic cuisines. 

The ingredients sautéed.

Qarnit Mogli is usually served as a starter, but we discovered that it was enough for a lunch. The flavor was wonderful, though I found the octopus a little too chewy for my liking. However, John, the seafood lover, declared the dish excellent.

Sandra Scott can be reached by email at sanscott@gmail.com.

Cutting the octopus into pieces.
 Chef Borg with the finished dish.
Qarnit mogli ready to serve.