As with all major religions, Catholicism is awash with rituals linking food to major events in its calendar. And the Mediterranean people sure know how to milk this! (pun intended)
Easter rivals Christmas in the amount of decadent food that is placed on the table, even during the Lenten period. From the pre-Lent Prinjolata (a calorie bomb made with sugar, biscuits and pine-nuts), to Kwarezimal (so called in remembrance of the 40 days of Lent – quaresima in Italian) which encapsulates those bitter smells so associated with this period in taste, to a Maltese traditional sweet known as figolli. Made with what is essentially a sweet shortcrust pastry and filled with pure ground almonds, this delicacy is then iced and decorated in a somewhat garish fashion, marking a most definite end to the period of Lent.
While they do take a bit of work, the recipe* (courtesy of Manuel) is relatively foolproof, so do give it a shot if you want to add another sweet to your repertoire. They’re also a great activity with your little ones, from rolling out the pastry, to throwing on the hundreds and thousands.
Traditional shapes were of course linked to the religious festivity they marked and one would be gifted a fish, a dove, or a heart. Nowadays, one can find pretty much any shape one can dream up, so really, the sky’s the limit.
Here’s my first attempt at making these solo, I’m pretty chuffed with the results, if I do say so myself!
*I made half the filling mixture and that was more than enough, though I did elect to use some of the pastry to make biscuits. The yield I got was as follows: 5 large figolli (see mama fish), 7 small figolli (heart), and 24 biscuits.