What does your traditional Christmas dinner consist of?

Merry Christmas to you, loyal followers of my blog posts.

Have you ever thought how Christmas was celebrated a few decades ago?  What was a traditional Christmas dinner like? On the spur of the moment, I thought I’d have a quick look at Christmas in Malta, not so long ago.

At the time, Malta being a devoutly Catholic country, Christmas centred around ecclesiastical celebrations.  In the run up to Christmas, young children participated (some still do, today) in a procession around the village (il-purcissjoni tal-bambin), carrying a figure of the baby Jesus and singing Christmas carols along the way.

Baby Jesus, black treacle rings and imbuljuta

The Christmas crib and baby Jesus were typical decorations of every household with midnight mass, on Christmas eve, being the highlight of Christmas celebrations.  During this mass, a young boy was chosen to deliver a heart-felt Christmas sermon.  Another tradition that’s still around, to this day.

A tradition which seems to have died over the years is the traditional Maltese Christmas meal.  Turkey was not always on the Christmas menu.  In most  families, the Christmas menu consisted of a fattened capon (ħasi) accompanied with baked potatoes (patata l-forn) and a selection of seasonal vegetables.  Very often, the big bird and potatoes were cooked – kind-of baked but not exactly roasted – in a very large, tailor-made dish. On Christmas day, in the morning, housewives and husbands alike would take their dishes to the local bakery – home ovens were not large enough to cook the traditional Christmas meal. Crusty, local bread was typically served with the meal to mop up the juices from the bird and potatoes.  Usually, vegetables were cooked at home.

The main course was followed by a pastry ring stuffed with black treacle.  Nowadays, these traditional sweets, known as treacle rings (qagħaq tal-għasel), are found at local confectioneries, but they do not necessarily form part of the Christmas meal.  They’re more likely to be served at tea time.

As if that wasn’t enough, the traditional Christmas meal would end with a thick, warm drink of stewed chestnuts and cocoa (imbuljuta tal-qastan).  The warm, thick, chocolaty beverage was also the go to drink after midnight mass and throughout the cold, winter months.

I remember my mother cooking a traditional Maltese Christmas lunch.  What was Christmas lunch like, when you were younger?

My thanks go to

Azure.com – Top 5 Christmas Customs in Malta
A Maltese Mouthful

Image:  Introduzzjoni ghall-ikel u nbid ta’ Malta – Puligraf Publishing





How to make the most of the Lampuki (fish) season

Making use of seasonal produce has a number of benefits, chief among which are, it tastes better and it’s less expensive.  But how do you make your seasonal produce last through the weeks and months to come?

In many countries, autumn brings to mind pumpkins, butternut squash and a number of other vegetables.  In Malta, besides veg, autumn also brings the Lampuki (Dorado fish aka Dolphin Fish) season.


How to choose your fish

When choosing your fish, check that the eyes are bright and bulging.  The gills are bright red and the fish smells of sea water.  If the eyes are sunken in and the fish has a very strong smell, it is not fresh.

Lampuki are pricey after a spell of rough seas.  If you’re buying ‘in bulk’, wait for the seas to calm down for a few days because it will have an impact on the price you pay.

How can you ‘store’ your Lampuki?

You can freeze your Lampuki either raw or cooked.

If I’m freezing raw Lampuki I prefer cleaning them before.  Ask your fishmonger to remove the gills, insides and scrape off the scales.  I find cleaning fish in my kitchen can get messy. My fishmonger is better equipped with large stainless steel sinks, sharp knives and a power jet water hose to wash the insides of the fish – so good!

If you would like to freeze the fish in portions, ask him to cut them for you.  Alternatively, you can freeze the fish whole.

When you get home, pat the fish dry with kitchen paper, put in date-labelled freezer bags and pack neatly in your freezer until needed. Frozen Lampuki can last for at least six months.

If you are freezing the Lampuki cooked in a pie, follow the cooking instructions of this recipe and freeze once you assemble the pie, before baking.

When you need to use the pie, defrost for a few hours in the fridge, then bake as usual, following your oven instructions.

Different ways to cook Lampuki

Admittedly, it may not be the healthiest option, but the tastiest way to cook Lampuki is by shallow frying them.  Do not put too much oil, just enough to cover the bottom of your pan, and fry the fish until the skin is golden brown.  Serve with fresh salad or grilled vegetables and potatoes.

Lampuki can also be oven-baked or served with a tomato caper sauce.  Personally, I like using the caper sauce when the Lampuki season is coming to a close and the fish are quite big.  At the beginning of the season, when the fish are young, it’s a shame to mask their delicate taste with a piquant sauce.

Another alternative is Lampuki pie – a typically Maltese dish.  The Lampuki pie is different from British fish pies in that is does not contain any white sauce.  The Lampuki pie is made from shallow fried fish, cooked cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, capers, olives, herbs and seasoning.  All the ingredients are cooked and cooled before they’re put into a pastry shell.  Once in the shell, the pie can either be frozen or baked.

For those of you who do not live in Malta and would like to try this fish pie recipe, substitute Lampuki with a fish that can be nicely shallow fried without disintegrating.  I have not tried substituting Lampuki myself, but I believe seabass or sea bream will be good alternatives.

Tell us how  you cook your Lampuki.  It would be nice if you share your ideas and recipes.

My thanks go to

Little Rock

I Love Food

Made in Malta Products

Google Images