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.
Meet up at 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. When you want to get the freshest produce, the Fishermen's catch is available for the first pick. We can go to 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 can go to Marianna and Zeppu's farm and have a go at milking the goats if it is early enough. If not, Zeppu, very lovingly explains all about the rabbits, his herd 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 the dried ones that come whether plain or peppered. We stock up on cheeses to use later for the typical platter to be made for lunch.
We can go to 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 Malta. 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. I struggle to find it each time. The narrow winding roads in Xewkija are worse than a labyrinth. However, I always 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.
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.
Learn the secrets of local cuisine
I truly believe that a positive experience when traveling 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.
Cooking and gourmet in Gozo
Enjoy 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.
Raspberry chocolate cake, making and eating this cake is divine
Claire Borg wrote Gourmet in Gozo on her blog. This article and pictures have been edited and republished by BookCulinaryVacations.com with permission. Find delicious Gozitan recipes at Claire’s blog! Join Claire for a great cooking break in Malta.