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Recipe: Kwareżimal - A Maltese Lenten Biscuit

Recipe: Kwareżimal - A Maltese Lenten Biscuit

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Photo by Chris Mallia

the history

It is believed that kwareżimal were introduced in Malta during the reign of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John. They are traditionally baked during Lent and thus one can only find them in the Maltese culinary calendar at this particular time of year. In fact, the name Kwareżimal is derived from the Italian word ‘Quaresima ’which means Lent, and refers to the 40 days of sacrifice associated with the period.

In medieval times sugar was not restricted during Lent like it usually is nowadays, because it was considered to be a type of ‘spice’ due to its medicinal properties. Back then, it was meat and animal products that were not allowed during this religious period, thus making Kwareżimal naturally vegan and dairy free.

the recipe

These chewy biscuits, packed with loads of flavour are made using ground almonds, oranges, lemons, cocoa and spices – all natural products available at the time. This recipe uses oats to increase dietary fibre so as to give a healthy twist to this delicious morsel.

It also uses 100g less sugar than recommended, thus why it is best to use molasses or dark brown sugar as they increase the flavour and allow for such a reduction to be made. Traditionally chopped almonds are used for the top decoration but personally, I prefer pistacchios as they give a pop of colour and flavour as well as that extra crunch.

They are quick and easy to make, and can actually be enjoyed any time of year!

ingredients

100g plain flour (gluten free if needed)
100g ground oats (gluten free if needed)
200g ground almonds
100g molasses or dark sugar
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (increase to 1 tsp if desired)
1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (ilma zahar)
60ml water, approximately (can be increased to 80ml if needed)
Honey and chopped nuts for decoration

method

  1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC.
    Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  2. Add the orange blossom water, vanilla extract and juice.
  3. Slowly start to add the water until a soft dough forms.
  4. Shape the biscuits into flat logs, roughly 4cm by 10cm and around 2cm thick.
  5. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for around 25 minutes.
  6. Once removed from the oven leave to cool for around an hour and then drizzle with honey and chopped nuts.Feel free to use any chopped nut, I used pistacchios for a pop of colour but anything works!

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