Maltese Getaway with My 3 Year Old: Olivia eats Ice Cream.
Ewan had the fantastic idea of having Olivia and I share some one-on-one time, as baby Charlotte can dominate the scene. I chose Malta (not because I knew where it was) but because there are non-stop flights from Edinburgh and there's sand and sun. This was our first mommy/daughter adventure and I now know that Oli is certainly my daughter! All hinges on the delicate balance of sightseeing, swimming, napping, eating and playing. We were in sync from the moment we landed on the beautiful island nation of Malta. And decorated with ice cream moustaches from then on.
Olivia has several food restrictions but I had come to terms with the enevitable fact that she was going to be off her normal eating patterns. I just didn't expect to fall off the wagon so immediately. Upon checking in to our hotel, we ordered a platter of Mediterranean dips- with pita, crackers, veggies etc. Seems like the obvious choice as Malta has Lebanese, Italian, French, Arab, and Greek influence (what a gastonomic bouquet!) It was decent. But to my dismay, Olivia fell in love with wheat. Closely followed by the glorious combination of dairy, sugar and pistachios! Who can blame her.
Over the following days, we sampled many tasty treats. The Maltese traditionally serve up golden bowls of steaming minestra, a thick, vegetable soup customarily eaten with Maltese bread and oil. This was delicious, healthy and satifying. The most popular Maltese snack, pastizzi is a savoury pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas. We delighted in a few of these, especially mini ricotta ones at breakfast. Olivia loved bigilla, a thick pate of broad beans with garlic. This is often severed as an appetiser with small water cracker style wafers. It's savoury and rich enough to be a small meal on its own. We often enjoyed two servings, before our meal would even arrive. Oli attempted to lick the plate clean every time!
Fish is an obvious choice. Locally caught swordfish, prepared as a dish called Pixxispad (grilled swordfish steak) fried in olive oil, lemon added. You’ll also find a few species of sea bream, sea bass and grouper, often grilled or al cartoccio (Italian term that means something like baked in foil) with olive oil, lemon, salt/pepper seasoning and sometimes capers and thyme. They’ll often ask you which method you prefer, in fact. My favourite meal was at Gululu in St Julian. The whole, fresh sea bass was stuffed with lemon and thyme and grilled to awesomeness. Don't miss that restaurant if you go to Malta.
Although most people outside of Malta probably think of rabbits as “a nice pet for the kids”, in Malta rabbit is more commonly served as a dish, most popularly fried (sometimes with spaghetti with tomato sauce and peas) or as a stew (Stuffat Tal-Fenek). Unless you're vegan or vegetarian, rabbit is not extremely unusual for travellers to try. It’s actually very tasty- so they say. Often likened to chicken by foreigner it’s a rich flavour and it’s understandable why it’s a popular choice among the locals.
Succulent olives, humongous capers, flakey pastries and beef stuffed eggplant are all common place on the Maltese table. We snacked on juicy yellow nectarines, ripe peaches, vine cherry tomatoes, and dates (not local.) The supermarkets are full of mouth watering produce. Malta is also well renowned for its pure honey. In fact beekeeping in Malta has a long history. Proof of this is the name the Greeks gave Malta. They called the island ‘Melite’ which derives from the Greek word ‘mdli’ that means honey (which happens to be the root of my name too!) In the past, Maltese honey was considered a delicacy. Today it still tastes devine. Local (I'd like to believe) honey happened to be the only souvenir we brought back with us.
And who can resist ice cream stands on every corner? We couldn't! Olivia was treated to a daily scoop: 1/2 chocolate + 1/2 pistachio. That little girl is 100% mine.