Autumn on the island brings beautiful colours and produce. Before the weather gets cooler best to take advantage of the still very mild weather and make the most of the end of prickly pear season.
I visited a number of farmers this month and I see how passionate they still are about their work. They spend endless hours and days working so hard for so little return. It is vital to choose local produce whenever possible and support the farming community.
Autumn brings many celebrations all around the world.
The kitchen in November starts to smell of Christmas, of roasted chestnuts, cloves and oranges. And with more time at home as a result of the pandemic restrictions, the time is here to start soaking chestnuts and make citrus tarts and start to plan for December’s festivities.
Maltese and Gozitan food is all about using natural, fresh and seasonal ingredients. It is all about preparing meals that allow the natural flavors and appearance of seasonal produce to shine through.
We have just celebrated the feast of San Martin which falls on the eleventh day of the eleventh month and signifies a seasonal change with the end of Autumn and beginning of winter. It is a celebration of the bounty of the land, quite similar to American thanksgiving and English harvest festivals.
Although the feast is celebrated in other parts of both Eastern and Western Europe, the feast day on the island revolves around food and children’s activities.
The feast in Malta is associated with walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts in their shells and sun dried figs and sweet yeast buns studded with colourful liquorish sweets. Traditionally figs were prepared and stored by local families in large wooden chests and preserved with bay leaves, fennel seeds and aniseed.
And on St Martin‘s day, a cloth bag full of these nuts, pomegranates and buns, tangerines and oranges which are at the start of their season were given to children. These bags were expected to be full, bursting at the seams to indicate the abundance of the land.
There are a number of areas on the island named after the saint, one being in the outskirts of St Paul’s Bay and the other just outside the village of Zejtun. Children’s processions take place in the village of Bahrija
In the clip here you can see some of the beautiful Maltese countryside at this time of the year with some tips on how to store pumpkin flesh. Still coming up this month is the wonderful festival of Thanksgiving which although not celebrated here remains one of my favourite days in the festive calendar.