St. Martin’s Day is celebrated in Malta on the Sunday nearest to the 11th November. This feast comes at a time when walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, dates and dried figs are plentiful and very popular among the Maltese.
As the tradition goes, small children are usually given a bag full of these nuts and dried figs, as well as oranges, tangerines and apples. The bag also contains a sweet yeast bun decorated with a liquorice sweet. This bag is known as St. Martin’s Bag (Il-Borża ta’ San Martin).
Sweets made with a variety of nuts and dried fruit are very popular.This is a recipe that has been created by my wife’s family. For generations, it has been handed down from mother to daughter.
600g sweet shortcrust pastry
250g mixed nuts
200g pitted dates
150g plain flour 00
grated rind of a lemon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp salt
- Prepare the sweet shortcrust pastry.
- Preheat the oven 1800C, gas mark 4.
- Lightly grease and dust with flour a 20cm diameter, loose bottomed, flan dish.
- Lightly toast any hazelnuts or almonds you intend to use.
- Put aside some nuts to decorate the top of the pie. Chop the rest, together with the dates, in medium sized pieces.
- Roll the pastry out evenly on a lightly floured surface. Line the flan dish with it and trim the edges.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff. Use an electric hand beater for a better result.
- Beat the egg yolks in another bowl and add them to the egg white mixture. Add the sugar and continue beating until it dissolves.
- Sift the flour combined with the salt and baking powder. Add the chopped dates and nuts and mix well.
- Fold the flour mixture with the egg mixture. The folding in process has to be done by hand.
- Pour this mixture into the pastry case. Level the top of the mixture with a palette knife or spatula. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.
- Bake for 30-40minutes. Leave the pie for about 10 minutes in the baking tin, then transfer
- it to a wire rack to cool completely.