The styles and sizes vary, but most food cultures have a filled parcel that you can eat on the street: China has bao dumplings, Japan has onigiri, most Latin countries have empañadas, and so on. The Maltese version is the pastizz, which is somewhere in size between a samosa and a Cornish pasty. Its case is flaky pastry which is made by creating a spiral cross-section of dough and shortening (the same trick, roughly, as used in Portuguese pastéis de nata); the filling can be pretty much anything but is often either based on ricotta cheese or peas.
Starting from a Maltese Youtube video and halving the quantities, I chose a lightly curried pea-and-tomato filling, which is pretty straightforward and comes out rather like one of my favourite Indian dishes, mutter paneer (without the paneer, but I can’t see a good reason not to include that if you want). If you are looking carefully at the photos, you’ll see that I ran out of peas on one of my runs and substituted some mixed veg.
As with all versions of puff pastry, getting the layers right is tricky, and I got it spectacularly wrong on my first attempt, not least because the ratio of flour to water in the recipe is way off what it needs to be. This isn’t the most time consuming puff pastry recipe you’ll ever see: there’s a lot of elapsed time for resting, but it’s not too bad on actual work. But it’s fiddly to get the layers thin enough and roll them up into a good shape without breaking them. If you’re like me, you’ll need practise.
Anyway, the results are well worth it: they make a really good mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, tasty, filling and nutritious.
Although I’m giving the filling recipe first, you’ll almost certainly want to start the dough first and make the filling during the extensive resting times.
You could add any of garlic, ginger or chilies to this if you want a spicier version. I like adding curry leaves, too, which isn’t exactly Maltese but adds aroma.
- Sunflower or other neutral oil for frying
- 2g (1tsp) cumin seeds
- 220g onion
- 7g curry powder (or your own favourite mix of ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder)
- 70g double concentrated tomato paste (my favourite brand is Cirio)
- 350g frozen peas
- Take the peas out of the freezer. You can do this in advance, but you don’t have to.
- Chop the onion finely
- Heat cumin seeds in oil in a wok or medium size pan
- Once the cumin seeds are spitting, add the onion and stir fry for a couple of minutes
- Add the curry powder and continue frying until the onions are soft
- Add the tomato paste and 100ml or so of water, stir until blended.
- Add the peas, bring back to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer until the peas are cooked and the sauce is very thick.
- Turn the heat off and leave until needed.
- 420g flour +40 second time, + 15g sunflower oil
- 250ml water
- 10g salt
- 125g shortening – Maltese recipes specify a vegetable shortening like Trex or Crisco, but you can almost certainly substitute ghee or melted butter if you prefer the taste (or use a mixture)
- A little olive oil
- Mix flour and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer; add water and knead on low to medium speed with the dough hook until you have a smooth but fairly stiff dough. You need enough water that you don’t have lots of uncombined flour, but not so much as to make the mixture sticky.
- Form your dough into a thick cylinder, spread with shortening, wrap with cling film and leave to rest for around 30 minutes.
- Roll the cylinder into a reasonably long and thin rectangle, spread with more shortening on both sides, place cling film over the top and rest again for another 30 minutes.
- Now roll the dough as thin as you can possibly make it – still in a long, rectangle. Spread with shortening over the top.
- Starting from one end, roll your dough into a long cigar shape, pulling the pastry as you go and making sure you get all the air out. You will need to go from side to side and back again, pulling and rolling. Leave to rest for another hour or two. Towards the end of this, preheat your oven to 200℃ fan.
- Pull your cylinder so that it’s now very long. Cut the resulting cylinder into around twelve pieces.
- Have a small bowl of olive oil ready. Dip both thumbs in oil, then pick up a piece of dough, dig both thumbs into one end and shape and stretch it into a cup – this may or may not remind you of primary school pottery classes.
- Flip the cup inside out (so that the bit with the olive oil is on the outside, spoon a dollop of filling into it, and pinch the outside together to seal. When it’s done, put it on a baking tray, lying it roughly flat (don’t try to leave the seam pointing upwards). Repeat for the other eleven pastizzi.
- Bake for around 30 minutes. Take out of the oven when golden (and, we hope, flaky).
- While leaving to cool, attempt to sing Maltese folksongs. Or not.