There are photographs we all have imprinted in our brains that represent what seasons looked like whilst we were growing up. These photographs usually capture specific moments , most probably of repetitive actions associated with that particular time of the year.
The picture my mind seems to have saved for my childhood Springs is of me opening the wonky bedroom balcony door, that faced the gardens of our neighbours, these small patches of land were covered in citrus trees which in spring they were in full bloom with citrus blossoms that smelled so insane. Pictures can carry scents with them, and my springs smelled definitely of Orange Blossom. I am still addicted to this staff and try to include it in a majority of the dishes I prepare, It has an ethereal scent that punches a lot of taste in the lightest possible of ways.
There was a small distillery in front of my grandmother’s house in Qormi they used to make all sorts of flavoured syrups to mix with cold milk, they used to sell their syrups in large glass bottles and I remember their logo was a huge maniacal looking sun wearing shorts drinking milk out of a glass with a huge straw. The idea of having the sun cool off with a glass of cold milk is actually genius. Anyways they also used to distil orange blossoms into orange blossom water, and they used to do this exclusively between the months of April and June, the small green bottles with bright yellow caps and type written words of ‘’ilma zaghar’’ printed on a sepia coloured sticker on the front.
Spring time food in Malta is closely tied to Easter, the Lenten forty day period brings with it ironically the most delicious of foods. A lot of fish is consumed, mostly in the shape of calamari and octopus stew, beautiful salted cod and artichoke heart casseroles studded with figs and raisins, plump broad beans eaten on a plate of sheep cheese with plenty of salt and pepper, and all sort of pastries and breads prepared with almonds, carob syrup, citrus zests and as I hinted earlier orange blossom.
I got nostalgic yesterday after I saw a photo of a local journalist munching off a huge kwarezimal on facebook. The word Kwarezimal comes from the Italian word Quarezima, meaning holy communion, maybe they named them as such due to them being as delicious as the body of Christ.
These oblong cookies look pretty simple and to an outsider may look boring but I can assure you there is nothing boring about Kwarezimal, this biscuit is a concentrated mix, of what springtime in Malta tastes like. Their dough is prepared with plenty of almonds and brown sugar, have a balanced mix of spices, orange zest and orange blossom, and then after coming out of the oven they are imbibed with Maltese honey and studded with toasted almonds and pistachios.
They really do taste like an instant spent between an Eastertime church festival coupled with a walk through a citrus garden. Few foods have this much baggage in terms of evoking memories. Kwarezimal does it perfectly.
I will cook a series of nostalgic spring time dishes in the coming weeks, and share with you the recipes for them, and Kwarezimal does indeed deserve to be the first one on the list.
Recipe for Kwarezimal.
The recipe I use for my Kwarezimal belonged to my friends’ aunt her name was Carmen and she did excel in any pastry containing almonds. I incidentally also use her recipe for Figolli which I will share with you later on as Eater approaches.
300g Plain flour
100g whole meal or rye flour
5 g baking soda
Pinch of salt
3 tbs orange blossom water
500g ground almonds
½ minced clementine( skin and flesh)
270g dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ teaspoon cloves.
Zest of one lemon
3 table spoons water
For the top
Runny honey, preferably Maltese
Pistachios and Almonds
Turn on the oven at 180 degrees
Mix together all the dry ingredients ie. Flours and spices
Rub in the butter
Make a well in the middle and add the minced clementine and orange blossom water as well as the zest of lemon
Knead into a stiff dough
Then shape into sausages around 15 cm of length, flatten the sausage with your hands.
Bake for exactly 17 minutes
After taking them out of the oven , give them a couple of minutes to cool off but when still warm drizzle with runny honey and the chopped nuts.
Store in a dry and sealed container.