Malta's history and geography had an important influence on its cuisine. Having had to import most of its foodstuffs, positioned along important trade routes and having to cater for the resident foreign powers who ruled the islands, opened Maltese food to outside influences from very early on. Foreign dishes and tastes were absorbed, transformed and adapted. Italian (specifically Sicilian), Middle Eastern and Arabic foods exerted a strong influence, but the presence in Malta of the Knights of St John and, more recently, the British brought elements from further afield.
Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons. Italian influences are probably the strongest, particularly Sicily and the South. Pasta dishes are really popular, but the Maltese them with a softer texture
Mediterranean ingredients such as fresh and sundried tomatoes, parsley and garlic, wine, olive oil and fresh cheese are the base of most traditional Maltese recipes. Traditional cuisine is recognizable by the cheap cuts of meat and dishes that can be served as two meals, which does not make it any less tasty, quite the opposite. The basis of the Maltese cuisine is what is known as the Cucina Povera - the poor man's kitchen.
Maltese desserts have strong Arabic influences with the use of dates and almonds. Traditionally you finish your meal with fresh fruit and some soft fresh Maltese cheese called ġbejniet. An aged version of this hand-made cheese is eaten as a snack or appetizer in a Maltese platter - both have a sweet slightly nutty taste.
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