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With year-round sun, superb scenery and delicious food, Malta is an exciting destination waiting to be discovered
Malta is a holiday destination filled with secrets and surprises. Located near Sicily, this small group of islands is filled with wondrous historic streets and dizzying scenery. It’s a place where you can spend a morning exploring prehistoric temples and be sat back in a Michelin-starred restaurant by evening. It also gets sun all year round, making it the perfect backdrop for adventure sports, trail walking or just kicking back on one of its sandy beaches. It’s something of a hidden Mediterranean gem, and with flights from the UK taking just three hours, this glorious, eclectic destination is easy to discover.
Malta is a small paradise for history and culture lovers. The islands are home to several Unesco World Heritage sites, including the capital Valletta, which was built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century. The fortified harbour city has 320 historical sites, and as you wander its storied streets you’ll cross Baroque cathedrals, 5,000-year-old statues and golden-stoned gardens. But the city has also had a 21st-century rejuvenation and spent 2018 as the European Capital of Culture. You’ll subsequently find world-leading hotels (from boutique hotels to farmhouses), restaurants and museums to explore, along with the City Gate designed by architect superstar Renzo Piano. Elsewhere, the ancient palaces and forts of The Three Cities (a trio of fortified villages) and Mdina provide another window into Malta’s rich religious and sea-faring history – with boats on the harbour still painted in Phoenician style. You can then step back even further in time: the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a subterranean temple that dates to 3,000 BC, while the prehistoric megalithic temples on the islands are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
The islands have plenty to keep adventurers on their toes. Malta and Gozo are considered some of the best diving destinations in the world, while the pristine beaches and clear Mediterranean waters are ever popular with kayakers, sailors and swimmers. Look towards land and you’ll find dramatic cliffs, wild flower-filled valleys and rocky scrubland that’s perfectly suited for day hikes. A number of trail routes are prepared for walkers, which might take you past hidden prehistoric sites and cave chapels along the way.
Malta has been occupied by many civilisations over the centuries, which has had a big influence on local tastes, and today traditional Maltese food is an eclectic blend of rustic Mediterranean cooking. You’ll find plenty of local specialities – Sam Cremona’s Olive Estate in St Paul’s Bay organises olive oil tastings, Crystal Palace serves pastizzerija pastries through the night to locals in the Mdina-neighbouring town Rabat, while the Diar il-Bniet estate in the south offers classes in sheep cheese making and sundried tomato preserving. Looking for something a little more refined? Why not take lunch in the gardens of the 19th-century Palazzo Parisio. Malta’s fine-dining restaurants are also making a name for themselves. The islands now have five Michelin-starred restaurants, which take full advantage of the quality seasonal ingredients that local farmers and fishermen can bring them. You can also join a guided wine tour – where you’ll visit the region’s wineries that grow indigenous varieties Gellewza and Girgentina. Whether you’re looking for delicious food, unique cultural sights or exhilarating adventure, Malta will only exceed your expectations.
Makes 20, V
Hands on time: 20 min, total time: 35 mins
Kwarezimal is a traditional Maltese biscuit. The name is derived from the latin word ‘quaresima’, which refers to the 40 days of Lent, and the ingredients of this sweet reflect the simplicity of food during this time.
340g plain flour
110g wholemeal flour
450g ground almonds
230g caster sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp honey
30g roasted chopped hazelnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4.
2. Sift the plain and wholemeal flours into a bowl. Add the remaining bran from the wholemeal flour into the bowl.
3. Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Once melted, stir into the flours until combined.
4. Add the ground almonds, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, mixed spice and citrus zests to the mixture. Gradually add and knead in just enough water until you have a stiff dough.
5. Form the dough into 20 logs that are approximately 16cm x 3cm x 1cm in size. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
6. While still hot, brush with the honey and sprinkle over the chopped nuts.
For more information go to www.visitmalta.com.